Schoolyard Biodiversity Exchange (SBE): Student Scientists Data Network for Schoolyard Global Biodiversity Habitats
Wilson, Shari L.
Ecological Society of America Annual Conference
O'Neil, Joy Kcenia
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Imagine what could happen if students acting as citizen scientists interacted with others around the world, sharing data and designing biodiversity projects. Then imagine how many species could be supported if school grounds served as habitat islands. The Schoolyard Biodiversity Exchange (SBE) addresses these two visions. Middle and high school teachers and students across the globe will use experiential learning to unleash the potential of school grounds to serve as habitat islands, increasing biodiversity. The SBE consists of three parts: A curriculum module of place-based learning activities focused on school grounds, including mapping, species identification, data sampling methods, and inventorying plant and animal species on school grounds; an online database currently in development where schools will enter their species inventory data; and web-based data visualization tools that will help students manipulate the data and share it with schools around the world. Students will be able to set up their own projects; for example, a school in Kansas and a school in Ukraine could design a project to study butterflies. A prototype will be ready in Spring 2020. It has been field-tested by 10 teachers in Kansas, who completed a survey in September 2019 asking how they would use the module. A survey completed in September 2019 by the 10 middle and high school teachers field-testing the curriculum module shows that all 10 would use the Schoolyard Biodiversity Exchange (SBE) as part of their classroom curriculum for environmental science, environmental education, field biology, wildlife biology, outdoor education, and ecology club. The prospect of connecting students with those from other states and countries is noted as a positive attribute of the SBE by these teachers, and has also been cited by teachers in Vietnam, Laos, China, Ukraine, and Belarus, through work done by the author in those countries. Teachers state that uses for the data include students discovering the differences in species variety on different school grounds, the benefits of biodiverse habitats, and the potential for school grounds to mitigate habitat fragmentation. With the data generated through the SBE, students could make a case to school leaders to replace asphalt, concrete, and monoculture grass with habitat areas for wildlife on school grounds, resulting in wildlife connectivity corridors between larger areas of habitat that are being encroached on by development. These citizen scientists could also provide data that assists wildlife agencies in spotting movement of species due to climate change.