Natural History Collections as Emerging Resources for Innovative Education

August 14th, 2014
By Gitzendanner, Matt

University of Florida undergraduate biology students on a museum field trip to collect plant specimens at the Ordway-Swisher Biological Station.

University of Florida undergraduate biology students on a museum field trip to collect plant specimens at the Ordway-Swisher Biological Station.

Cook, J. A., S. V. Edwards, E. A. Lacey, R. P. Guralnick, P. S. Soltis, D. E. Soltis, C. K. Welch, K. C. Bell, K. E. Galbreath, C. Himes, J. M. Allen, T. A. Heath, A. C. Carnaval, K. L. Cooper, M. Liu, J. Hanken, and S. Ickert-Bond. 2014. Natural History Collections as Emerging Resources for Innovative Education. BioScience 64:725–734. [Link to abstract on publisher’s site]


Abstract:
There is an emerging consensus that undergraduate biology education in the United States is at a crucial juncture, especially as we acknowledge the need to train a new generation of scientists to meet looming environmental and health crises. Digital resources for biology now available online provide an opportunity to transform biology curricula to include more authentic and inquiry-driven educational experiences. Digitized natural history collections have become tremendous assets for research in environmental and health sciences, but, to date, these data remain largely untapped by educators. Natural history collections have the potential to help transform undergraduate science education from passive learning into an active exploration of the natural world, including the exploration of the complex relationships among environmental conditions, biodiversity, and human well-being. By incorporating natural history specimens and their associated data into undergraduate curricula, educators can promote participatory learning and foster an understanding of essential interactions between organisms and their environments.

 

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