Scientific communities of practice: K–12 outreach model around organism responses to repeated hurricane disturbances

July 19, 2023


Kathleen M. Easley

The Learning Partnership

Jess K. Zimmerman

University of Puerto Rico

Steven McGee

The Learning Partnership

Randi McGee-Tekula

The Learning partnership

Collaboration between ecologists and learning scientists can give rise to powerful models for scientific outreach within ecology. This paper presents a process by which learning scientists and ecologists codesigned a science curriculum that invites students to join an ecological community of practice. In the Journey to El Yunque middle school science curriculum, students engage with simulation models generated from data gathered by Luquillo Long Term Ecological Research (LUQ LTER) scientists. Journey to El Yunquestudents can explore post-hurricane population changes in yagrumo (Cecropia schreberiana), tabonuco (Dacryodes excelsa), coquís (Eleutherodactylus coquí), snails (Caracolus caracola), anoles (Anolis stratulus and A. gundlachi), veiled stinkhorn mushrooms (Dictyophora indusiata), and caterpillars (Historis odius). Ecology-based revisions to Journey to El Yunque have included adding models of the effects of repeated hurricanes on limiting factors, based in part on findings from a canopy trimming experiment. Revisions based on classroom testing include simplifying student-facing model controls to allow students to focus on the essential model components. The ongoing collaboration that keeps the Journey to El Yunque curriculum on the cutting edge of ecological and educational advances has been sustained for over two decades. We attribute the longevity of this work to (1) the long-term nature of LUQ LTER, (2) a sustained interdisciplinary collaboration, and (3) our long-term relationships with schools.


Research Areas

Suggested Citation

Easley, Kathleen M.,  Zimmerman, Jess K.,  McGee, Steven, and  McGee-Tekula, Randi.  2023. “ Scientific Communities of Practice: K–12 Outreach Model around Organism Responses to Repeated Hurricane Disturbances.” Ecosphere 14( 7): e4624.

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