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School-based Ecology and Environmental Discoveries (SEEDS)

School-based Ecology and Environmental Discoveries (SEEDS)

Given the key role of ecology in sustainable development, we are committed to educating K-12 Teachers, a critical cohort who carry forward the work of sustainable development. The wellbeing of youth and the wellbeing of our planet are intrinsically connected.

During the 21st century, today’s youth will become adults who face some of the greatest environmental challenges: adapting to climate change; conserving remaining biodiversity; protecting and accessing clean water, developing innovations in renewable energy; restoring the urban infrastructure and the natural systems upon which the built environment rests; preventing emergent infectious diseases while simultaneously engineering better medicines; and finding the balance of the requirement to feed the planet, while maintaining healthy ecosystems.

Thus, today’s secondary school students need a robust education to help them address these multifaceted and complex challenges that have critical environmental, socio-economic and political impacts. Their eventual quality of life and economic wellbeing is directly linked to their academic success, and this success is deeply connected to excellent education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

At Columbia University, Earth Institute’s current K-12 Programs include three National Science Foundation (NSF) funded initiatives: The Technology, Research, Ecology and Exchange for Students (TREES) Program, the Learning through Ecology and Environmental Field Studies (LEEFS) Program, and the School-based Ecology and Environmental Discoveries (SEEDS). One additional program is the Earth Institute Professional Development Program in Environmental Sustainability.

The Program

Schoool-based Ecology and Environmental Discoveries (SEEDS) is a collaborative program between two research units at Columbia University – the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) and the Earth Institute Center for Environmental Sustainability (EICES) – and four New York City public high schools – The Young Women’s Leadership School, The New York Harbor School, Frederick Douglass Academy, and Curtis High School. The four participating high schools host environmental research projects investigating conditions in local wetlands, water bodies and the atmosphere. School buildings, grounds and laboratories are the “home base” for the individual projects. LDEO and EICES provide scientific leadership, technical expertise, mentoring, and access to analytical equipment that cannot be installed in the high schools. As part of the program, Columbia’s Summer Research Program provides collaborative professional development oriented to hands-on, inquiry- and data-based instruction. One teacher and two students from each school participate full-time over the summer months; two to four classes at each school participate, albeit less intensely, during the school year. During pilot projects based at LDEO during the past 4 years, teams of research scientists, science teachers and high school students produced novel research-quality datasets. Emphasis on generating high quality data enhances the pedagogy of the participating teachers, draws NYC public school students into STEM careers, and improves the academic success of participating students.