Throughout 2022 and 2023, Melissa Frost, biology and chemistry teacher at Buchanan High School, joined the KBS LTER through our Research Experience for Teacher (RET) program. The NSF-funded RET program partners teachers with scientists to assist in ongoing research in the lab, as well as providing the teacher the opportunity to develop their own research project. Melissa joined Sarah Evan’s lab, and worked with scientists Jennifer Jones and Caitlin Broderick.
Melissa embraced the RET as a chance to integrate more research and data into her teaching. “Participating in a RET program allowed me to work closely with scientists, attend lab meetings, transform my teaching, create new educational materials, and become part of the scientific community. I contributed to the lab’s operations, designed experiments, collected data, and learned new skills. It was an exciting and valuable experience for me, and the following projects highlight my experiences.”
Guided by her research experience and the prairie strip plantings that are part of the KBS LTER, Melissa collaborated with her students to design and establish a schoolyard prairie restoration. The Buchanan High School prairie uses the same diverse plant mix as are found in the KBS LTER. Her goal was to have a lifelong impact on the environment by improving soil and water quality, and biodiversity, while increasing students’ connections with their environment. This prairie creates a space for students to learn from, as well as enjoy.
This prairie captures Melissa’s passion for conservation, hands-on learning, and engaging her students in real research. Students from biology, ecology, and chemistry came together to design protocols for data collection and long-term data storage. The project also included the design and installation of signage and pathways that allow the local community to explore and learn more about their research.
As a culminating experience for her students, Melissa orchestrated a field trip to the KBS LTER and Kellogg Bird Sanctuary. This field trip gave students the opportunity to talk with scientists and visit the prairies that inspired their work. KBS staff and volunteers shared different career pathways and interests of the biologists and ecologists at the station, as well as provide necessary background information to help students think deeply about questions they could address using the prairie restoration project at their school.
In her own words, “My field trip to KBS reminded me that I am more than just a “classroom science teacher”. I have a much larger role to fulfill: It is my responsibility to decrease the distance between science, people, and nature. Bringing my students to the KBS and its Bird Sanctuary supported my efforts, and helped form a unique bond with my students.”
For more information about the KBS LTER RET program and to apply for future opportunities, visit our page here. If you are interested in a class field trip to KBS, check out the field trip information page here, or apply to one of our travel scholarships. For more ways to get involved with the KBS LTER, follow the K-12 Partnership and sign up for their newsletter.