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Ecologists Educators and Schools:Partners in GK-12 Education

What is ECOS

The ECOS Program is a partnership between the University of Montana’s Division of Biological Sciences and College of Forestry and Conservation and the Missoula County Schools Curriculum Consortium. ECOS is funded by the National Science Foundation's GK-12 Program.

Ecologists Educators & Schools: Partners in GK-12 Education

ECOS is a partnership program for enhancing teaching skills of graduate students in the sciences and promoting hands-on science education in K-12 schools. We use the schoolyard and adjacent open areas in western Montana as outdoor laboratories for learning about the environment. Graduate and undergraduate students in ecology and environmental sciences from the University of Montana are showing K-12 students and their teachers how to use an ecological lens for viewing their schoolyard. Instead of a playground, they learn to see an ecological laboratory filled with organisms with interesting adaptations and interactions. The ECOS teams model what ecologists do by immersing themselves in ecological investigations in their schoolyard and classroom laboratories. Working as a team, science graduate students and teachers learn how to develop and evaluate new techniques and resources for teaching ecology in a practical and cost-effective way which is sustainable within a K-12 school setting.

ECOS Objectives:

To meet the need for enhanced understanding of environmental sciences in the northern Rockies, the ECOS Program will:

  • develop scientific ways of thinking and understanding in K-12 students through authentic research experiences in their schoolyards and adjacent habitats;
  • promote teaching practices focused on “learning by doing” and inquiry instruction for both teachers and future science faculty (ECOS Fellows);
  • develop and model linkages between educators in the K-16 continuum;
  • identify project indicators to make the program sustainable at UM, and facilitate transfer to other sites in Montana and around the country;
  • ultimately, ECOS will contribute to a national model of how authentic research can be introduced into the K-16 curriculum to enhance the teaching and learning of science.

Who is on an ECOS Team?

ECOS Teams are comprised of two Ph.D. candidates and one undergraduate from the environmental sciences at the University of Montana and two lead teachers from the partner school. Each year ECOS supports five partner schools with "ecologists in residence".

What does an ECOS team do?

The team works together for an entire academic year to mentor students in ecological investigations both inside and outside of the walls of the classroom. Teams work together to develop ecological curriculum materials that are well-matched to the habitats in and around the schoolyard, and that meet the recommendations of the National Science Standards for science education. And, the teams provide support for enhancing general science instruction in a school by consulting with all interested teachers in a school.

Learn more about becoming an ECOS fellow.

The ECOS program is sponsored by the University of Montana's Division of Biological Sciences, and the College of Forestry and Conservation.

Carol Brewer Program Director, Division of Biological Sciences Paul Alaback Program Co-Director, College of Forestry and Conservation

Funded by the National Science Foundation
ECOS is supported by the GK-12 Program of the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.