Sarah Bodbyl

Jul 142014


Interactions are a way of life. All organisms interact with many other organisms on a daily basis. Some of these interactions are positive, benefitting all organisms involved. Some of these interactions are negative, which may cause harm. Plants, animals and all other living things interact, and these many interactions are readily observable in our own backyards. In this activity we will explore these interactions and predict how they will help or harm species when their environment changes (biotic or abiotic changes).

At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Identify interactions between different species (observation)
  • Name and describe the different types of species interactions
  • Recognize that species may develop more than one relationship
  • Predict the impact of environmental changes (biotic or abiotic) on the relationship or individual organism


Lesson Plan created by GK-12 Fellow Susan Magnoli and Partner-Teachers Caleb Fishers and Becky Drayton, 2014


Jun 152014

GK-12 Fellow and ornithologist Cara Krieg and Comstock STEM academy teacher Mary Grintals worked together to get STEM academy students outside and directly observing and recording bird nesting behavior!

In April, Cara Krieg donated 10 cedar bird nestboxes to the STEM academy and helped the students site and install them in good locations to attract birds. Cara researches house wrens at Lux Arbor Reserve, a research property managed by the Kellogg Biological Station. Her research includes maintaining a vast network of nest boxes for the wrens so she was able to give the Comstock students some very practical advice to assist with their nest monitoring experience.


A STEM academy student and parent install one of the nestboxes at the school

Mary Grintals recruited her 5th grade students to participate in a nationwide, citizen science nest monitoring program run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, called Nest Watch. The students learned where birds nest (other than in boxes) and how to find them. They also received training in a set of protocols to monitor nests they found, observing the progression from nest building all the way to fledging young, while being careful not to disturb the nestlings or adults in the process. The students created research accounts online using Nest Watch tools; the data they took became a part of a nation-wide project that Cornell will use to help monitor species specific nest success rates across the country. Updated trends and photos from the Cornell project can be found at

Cornell featured the Comstock STEM project in its June e-newsletter. Click HERE to view the article. Teacher Mary also wrote a piece about the project that was featured in the Comstock communicator – click HERE to read the article.

The students capped off the project by producing a beautiful research poster, with the help of Fellow Pat Hanly. The poster was displayed at the end of year open house and was very well received. Click HERE to open another window to view a larger version of the poster.


The STEM NestWatch project is a great example of GK-12 fellows, teachers, and students all working together to create unique and valuable learning experiences in the classroom. Well done Cara, Mary, Pat, and 5th grade students!


Jun 122014

The 2014 KBS K-12 Partnership, sponsored by the NSF GK-12 and KBS LTER, invites you to join us for our morning plenary research talks at the Summer Institute. Events will run from Monday June 23 – Wednesday June 25. Plenary talks will be in the KBS Auditorium from 8:30 – 9:30 AM each day.

Monday June 23, 8:30-9:30 AM

Dr. Jason Gallant

MSU Zoology

Talk Title: Shocking tails from around the world: electric fish in the genomics era


Brief excerpt from online bio: I completed my postdoctoral research in July, 2013 working in the evolutionary genetics laboratory of Sean Mullen at Boston University, where I studied the genetic basis of mimetic wing patterns in Limenitis and Heliconius butterflies.  I received my Ph.D. in July 2011, working with Carl Hopkins and David Deitcher at Cornell University.  Here, I studied the evolution of signal form and electric organ morphology among the Mormyrid electric fishes of Africa in the genus Paramormyrops, which  have undergone explosive speciation in West Central Africa (Cameroon, Gabon, and Congo). My research has involved the study of a novel vertebrate tissue, the electric organ.  Electric organs have evolved independently in several lineages of fish, and derive (almost) always from skeletal muscle during early larval development.  My thesis projects concerned (1) transcriptional differences between skeletal muscle and electric organ and (2) how evolutionary processes may act upon electric organs (and their transcriptomes) to produce novel signals. Dr. Gallant’s website.

Tuesday June 24, 8:30 – 9:30 AM

Dr. Peter White

MSU Entomology, Lyman Briggs.

Talk Title: Teaching Evolution

petewhiteBrief excerpt from online bio: I have dual research interests in ecology and science education. With regards to the former, I investigate the biotic and abiotic drivers of Lepidoptera assemblage diversity, richness and abundance over moderate temporal and spatial scales. With regards to the latter, I am working on a project with Jim Smith and Merle Heidemann at MSU to develop and test integrative cases in evolution education. The materials we have developed can be found on our evolution education website:

Although I am an ecologist by training, I currently teach Introductory Cell and Molecular Biology along with a senior undergraduate research course in Lepidoptera ecology. Dr. White’s website.

Wednesday June 25, 8:30 – 9:30 AM

Dr. Gerald Urquhart

MSU Fisheries and Wildlife, Lyman Briggs

Talk Title: Diversity in the Rainforest and in the Classroom: Why They Are Both Important to Our Future

urquhartBrief excerpt from online bio: I am a tropical ecologist and an assistant professor of biology at Michigan State University. I teach in the Lyman Briggs College at MSU, a residential, undergraduate program for the study of science and society. I hold a joint appointment in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.

My research focuses on the impacts of globalization on tropical forests and their biodiversity. I have worked for over 20 years on the “Mosquito Coast” of Nicaragua in remote locations that are now feeling the impacts of globalization.

A native of Michigan, I attended Lyman Briggs College (where I now teach) as an undergraduate and received my M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. I held a postdoctoral position at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama before coming back to MSU in 1998. Dr. Urquhart’s website.

Jun 122014
14-15_fellows and teachers

2014-2015 GK-12 Fellows and Partner-Teachers leading sessions at the Summer Institute.

The KBS K-12 partnership cordially invites you to the 2014 Summer Institute! Mark your calendars for this three day event, from Monday June 23 through Wednesday June 25. The schedule will run from 8 AM to 4 PM each day.

Below you’ll find our daily agendas well as details on our plenary sessions and concurrent sessions. Events will continue to update as we develop content. Please rsvp to Sarah at if you plan to attend. We look forward to seeing you!

***Please note: This year we will be capping a $75/day stipend for teacher attendees to the first 60 with an rsvp.***

Agenda Drafts (click to view):

Agenda -DAY 1 

Agenda -DAY 2

Agenda -DAY 3

Concurrent Session Abstracts:

Cosmos, Part Deux!! With Lisa Wininger, Stack 145, EL/MS, Monday at 1 PM

In this session, elementary and middle school teachers will learn about how to use a suite of astronomy lessons and activities to meet earth and space science standards.  We will create and analyze impact craters in order to understand the formation of the planets and their moons.  We will practice classifying objects floating around in our solar system (spoiler: there may be more than you think)! Teachers will tie these ideas into an evaluation tool looking at eight essential questions that should be answered about how science is taught.  If time allows, teachers will be able to select a new lesson to evaluate using the NGSS tool structure. AND, there will be a free DVD with massive amounts of lessons and activities for each teacher, and DOOR PRIZES, both courtesy of the Galileo Educator’s Network!

Science and Decision-Making: How do we support our students in interpreting complex socio-scientific issues in the media? With Hannah Miller and Andy Anderson, Stack 237, MS/HS, Wednesday at 1PM. 

How do we help our students 1) “read” websites, news stories, and other information they encounter in the media about socio-scientific issues, and 2) grapple with the information the find to make informed decisions? In this session we want to discuss the first part of this question. We will use a scientific “hoax” website to brainstorm about questions we would want our middle and high school students to ask when searching for information on the internet. Finally, we will discuss how to support our students in understanding a specific contemporary controversial issue: fracking. Our goal is to think about how to help our students use “slow thinking” as a strategy for media literacy in the context of socio-scientific issues.

Fun with plants: understanding the functions of mineral elements. Di Liang and Marty Green, Stack 141, MS/HS, Tues. at 1PM & Weds. at 10AM. 

Plants uptake different mineral elements to grow and develop. Various symptoms, such as yellowing leaves and rotten sprouts, will occur when plants lack necessary nutrition. It is difficult, however, to observe those symptoms in soil because fertilizers usually have been applied. With the help of hydroponics techniques, people will have chances to better understand the functions of mineral elements and watch the specific deficiency symptoms when a particular essential element is absent.In this session of the summer institute, a brief introduction about plant nutrition will be given. Participants will also have opportunities to practice hydroponics. In addition, every participant is cordially invited to adopt a plant to observe deficiency symptoms and record plants growth information. Before the end of the session, we will have a field tour to study how fertilizer and nitrogen affect crops.

Species interactions: the good, the bad, and the ugly. With Susan Magnoli, Becky Drayton, & Caleb Fisher, Stack 145, EL+All Levels, Mon. 10AM & Weds. at 1PM.
Species interactions occur in all systems in nature, and we can observe many interactions in our own backyards. In this session, students will observe and identify species interactions, name and describe the different types of interactions, and make predictions about the outcomes of multiple species interactions. The session includes outdoor observations, games, and graphing activities.

Running the Gauntlet – Finding the Least Cost Path. With Andy Booms, Shaun Davis, & Jaime Bowman, Stack 140, MS/HS (Grades 4-9), Mon. 1PM & Weds. 10AM.

Come join us on an adventure following animals as they move through various habitats. Create a grid map from an actual satellite photo and corresponding habitat map. Use your grid to develop the best path for your animal’s movement. Treats will be provided to those who survive the journey!  🙂

When mountains disappear where do they go? …and why it matters to you! With Bonnie McGill, Meredith Hawkins, & Sandy Erwin, Stack 145, HS, Mon. 10AM & Tues 1PM. 

200 million years ago the humble Appalachian mountains looked more like the Himalayas.  How did that happen and where did all that limestone rock (and inorganic carbon) go?  Limestone is inorganic carbon rock that buffers acidic tummies and similarly provides alkalinity to soils and rivers.  We will go beyond the textbook and talk about how the water and carbon cycles influence each other, why limestone rock is such a big deal in Michigan, and we’ll dig into the acid base chemistry to figure out where the carbon goes.  We’ll study this in the context of agricultural liming, which is the same chemical process as the weathering of mountains.  The main activity involves graphing and analyzing data from a scientific journal article looking at inorganic carbon in the Mississippi River.  We’ll look at how the amount of inorganic carbon at the mouth of the Mississippi River has changed over time and how changes in agriculture in the river basin over that time is driving these patterns.

Does size matter? Investigating the physical properties of soils and their effects on plants. With Emily Dittmar & Russ Stolberg, Stack 141, Mon. 10AM & Weds. 1PM.

Soil properties can often dictate the types of plants that can live in a particular habitat. The composition of soil affects everything from the amount of water available, to the types of nutrients and minerals present, to a plant’s root structure and growth. This lesson will focus its investigation on the particle sizes of various soil types. All soils are made up of different combinations of sand, silt, and clay; and each has very different sized particles. The relative amounts of each of these components in a soil will affect how quickly water flows through it. During this lesson, participants will look at sand, silt, and clay particles under a microscope and use this information to estimate the proportion of these components within various soil samples they have collected. They will also test the permeability of their soil and relate this to its makeup and particle size. Finally, plant adaptations to live in various soil types will be discussed, and a case study will incorporate data interpretation from a plant species that is specialized to live on a unique soil type. This lesson not only addresses both Earth Science and Natural Science curricula, but it also incorporates inquiry based learning, microscope work, and data interpretation.

S.O.S. Sort Our Seeds. With Dani Fegan, Marty Buehler, & Matt Hawkins, Stack 140, Upper EL, Tues. & Weds. 1PM. 

In this lesson, students will practice classification basics by using observations of structural differences among seeds as a basis for organizing them into logical groups. Students will use inquiry to discover characteristics that help seeds to disperse in a variety of ways, and propose explanations as to why it would need to do so. Finally, students will demonstrate and display what they have learned by applying it to an engineering task.

Food Web Control of Beneficial and Pest Species. With Pat Hanly and Marcia Angle, Stack 138, Late EL- Early HS, Mon. 1PM & Weds. 10AM.

A lesson that teaches the importance of understanding how the entire food web can shape whether we find species in an ecosystem or not. We will discuss both the life requirements and controlling factors (abiotic + biotic) that determine where different species such as mosquitoes and frogs can live. Using an existing experiment at the KBS pond lab, we will generate hypotheses about what we expect different food webs to look like and whether or not they will support mosquito larvae. The biodiversity and water chemistry of our different experimental ponds (varied nutrient levels and initial communities) will be assessed to generate food webs and test our hypotheses.

Decomposition: The ultimate disappearing act! With Brendan O’Neill, Jennifer Boyle, & Jodie Lugar-McManus, Stack 237, EL/MS, Tues. 1PM & Weds. 10AM. 

Decomposition is a fundamental ecological process  happening all around us involving the cycling of matter and energy.  Together we will explore what factors matter in decomposition, explain these factors from our own experience, hands on demonstrations and data from long term experiments. Finally we will use this exploration to ask our own questions about what happens during  decomposition and how to measure it.

As the bud blooms… With Jennifer Doherty, Stack 237, EL (Mon. 10AM) & MS/HS (Mon. 1PM). 

Press disturbance leading to many changes in global and local climates is an inevitable consequence of changing CO2concentrations. Students of all ages can participate in observing and monitoring these changes. Project BudBurst ( is a national network of people monitoring plants as the seasons change who have developed resources for teachers and students.  Students as young as Kindergarten can collect data on what day the leaves on a plant in their schoolyard (or BEST plots!) first started to changed color, when most of it’s flowers have fallen off, or other plant life cycle milestones. They can then contribute this information to a national database that is freely available for use by scientists and educators. Older students can use the project’s free, easy to use, web-based mapping and data visualization tools ( to analyze the impact of climate change on Project BudBurst observations.  In these sessions (one for ES and one for MS/HS) we will learn about using Project BudBurst resources to teach students about observation, pollination, fruit development, and plants in our changing world.

Participant List:

Email Sarah Bodbyl ( if you would like to be added to this list.

Comstock/STEM: Mark Shenefield, Jan Kiino (M.), Emmy Kimmer, Shirley Gilland, Laurie Anderson, Mary Grintals (afternoons), Kim Sandefur, Caleb Fisher

Delton-Kellogg: Lisa Kellam (T,W), Julie Renauldo


Gobles: Becky Drayton

Gull Lake: Kim Clancy, Ashley Carroll, Jennifer Boyle, Matt Hawkins, Blair Rogers, Kari Freling

Harper Creek: Amy Smith, Meredith Hawkins, Sandy Erwin, Emily Subers (W)

Hastings: Marty Buehler, Jill Withey

Kalamazoo Area Math Science Center: Cheryl Hach

Lawton: Marcia Angle, Dave Williams (T,W)

Martin: Rob Robrahn

Olivet: Marie Toburen, Russ Stolberg

Parchment: Jodie Lugar-McManus

Plainwell: Marty Green, Lisa Wininger (M,T), Heather Damick (M,T)

Thornapple-Kellogg: Beth Bauer, Jamie Bowman, Shaun Davis

Vicksburg: Lisa Harbour, Katherine Kay, Liz Ratashak, Dave Nette

Amy Smith (M,T) – location TBA

Katie McKinley (T)- unassociated

KBS & Staff: Tom Getty, Andy Anderson, Jennifer Doherty, Sarah Bodbyl, Dani Fegan, Emily Dittmar, Susan Magnoli, Bonnie McGill, Andy Booms, Brendan O’Neill, Pat Hanly, Di Liang

WMU Evaluation Staff: Bob Ruhf + 1

Jun 032014

Congratulations to former GK-12 fellows Cara Krieg, Melissa Kjelvik, and Liz Schultheis for receiving awards to further their research.

Cara Krieg received the 2014 George J. Wallace and Martha C. Wallace award, supporting ornithological research, from the Zoology department. Cara’s research focuses on unexpected behaviors observed in female house wrens, specifically female-female aggression and female song. Follow along with Cara’s research at her summer blog. 

Melissa Kjelvik and Liz Schultheis were awarded a grant from NIMBIOS – the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis ( The grant funds will be used to continue to develop and evaluate an exciting educational tool they developed while in the GK-12 program, called Data Nuggets. Check out the Data Nugget website.





May 182014

In mid-May, Gull Lake 8th graders learned about landscaping with native plants with the help of fellows Tyler Bassett and Brendan O’Neill. Friday, May 16 was cool and a bit rainy, but that didn’t stop Jamie Bowman’s 8th grade class from planting nearly 300 native plugs at the Gull Lake Middle school. Tyler and Brendan took turns helping the students settle the plants and teach them about some of the benefits of native plant landscaping, including: improved wildlife habitat, erosion and run-off control, and reduced water use.  Ms. Bowman hopes plans to use the newly planted area in future years as an extension of the BEST plots and the Gull Lake Outdoor Classroom, which includes lake access and a greenhouse. Students have used the outdoor classroom to sample lake water for water quality analyses, learn about aquatic  invertebrate life, and survey the species of plants that inhabit the schoolyard.  The project was a result of a collaboration between the MSU LTER program, Project GREEEN, GK-12, and Ms. Bowman.

1 5 9

May 152014


There has been a significant shift in human populations toward urban areas, which in conjunction with the growing global population has increased the demand for resources like food and energy. In order to satisfy these demands, we must find ways to produce food and energy more sustainably and increase our energy efficiency. Some of the ways we try to accomplish these goals involve taking inspiration from biological systems. This two-part lesson will outline many of the ways that we have applied what we know about nature to make urban systems more sustainable, build in ways that reduce energy demand or increase efficiency, and manage our waste more effectively.

At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Explain why there is an increasing demand for resources in urban areas
  • Explain biologically-inspired strategies for providing food sustainably
  • Explain how biologically-inspired design can increase energy efficiency and reduce costs


Update 11/20/14 – check out this article about a new bus in the UK running on human waste!

Lesson Plan created by GK-12 Fellows Jakob Nalley and Sara Garnett, 2014

Apr 272014


What do pest-resistant corn, antibiotic resistance and pig farm explosions have in common?

Sometimes nature fights back against our attempts at environmental engineering, and we must change tactics accordingly.  Humans spend huge amounts of money and time to improve crops or domestic animals, and increasingly, we are finding that evolution can creatively side-step our intended goals. For instance, pest-resistant crops have resulted in new breeds of insects that are immune to our poisons. Modern farmers must find ways to prevent not only damage to their current crops, but evolution in pest populations that will eat their future fields. This lesson will focus on how evolution can hamper our efforts, and have explosive consequences. Students will learn how evolution happens in pest populations and have an opportunity to think critically about a current problem in agriculture using claims, evidence, and reasoning.

At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Describe how variation can be maintained in a population
  • Explain how evolution by natural selection primarily results from 4 factors: potential of a population to increase in number, heritable genetic variation, competition, differential survival/reproduction
  • Use CER (claims, evidence, reasoning) to think about a scientific question
  • Describe ways that humans have changed the environment
  • How changes in the environment can cause changes in species composition
  • Brainstorm and critique solutions to problems caused by changes in species composition

Length of Lesson

Can be completed in 60 minutes, but would be more comprehensive in 90 minutes

Grade Levels



Lesson plan by Amanda Charbonneau and Sarah Jones, 2014

Apr 272014


Human impacts on the environment are progressively altering ecosystems across the world. In this lesson we explore the dramatic effects of these human impacts on a well-known example, Monarch butterflies, and introduce realistic steps students can take to help address this problem. In the first part of this lesson students will play a game where they will learn the hazards facing Monarch butterflies on their annual migration from Mexico to the Midwest. In the middle of the lesson students will learn how to build a butterfly garden at their schools that will provide critical breeding resources to Monarchs as well as attract and support other butterfly species. We provide resources where you can find milkweed seeds to plant in your own garden. At the end of the lesson we provide a Butterfly Garden Bingo exercise to help students explore other plants and animals that can be found in established butterfly gardens. This exercise can be used with the BEST plots or in your own garden.

At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Explain several reasons why milkweed populations in the United States are in decline and how this threatens Monarch butterfly populations
  • Explain why milkweed is an important resource for Monarchs
  • Construct a butterfly garden as a refuge for Monarchs and other butterflies
  • Identify other plants and animals in established butterfly gardens (or the BEST plots!).

Length of Lesson

Full lesson: 60 min class period

Monarch Migration Game only: 30 min

Butterfly Garden Bingo only: 20-30min

Grade Levels



Lesson created by Dustin Kincaid, Cara Krieg, and Susan Magnoli, 2014

Apr 262014


GK-12 Fellows Anne Royer and Liz Schultheis published a paper in the April issue of American Biology Teacher on the use of the evolution simulation software, BoxCar2D, in the classroom. Many of you will recognize the activity from previous K-12 workshops, where Anne and Liz refined the lesson and received helpful feedback from partnership teachers. Congratulations to Anne and Liz!

Royer, A. M. and E. H. Schultheis. 2014. Evolving better cars: Teaching evolution by natural selection with a digital inquiry activity. The American Biology Teacher. 76(4):259-264

For a PDF copy of the manuscript, please email GK-12 leadership at


Anne assists with testing LEGO car design as a test component of the BoxCar2D lesson.



Apr 202014

11.12.2013_playing at being Phytoplankton and nutrients and CO2_Fall workshop 2013

The KBS K-12 partnership cordially invites you to:

STEM: Environmental Engineering for Sustainability

Wednesday, April 23 from 8 AM to 4 PM.

Below you’ll find our agenda for the day as well as details on our concurrent sessions. Events will continue to update as we develop content. Please rsvp to Sarah at if you plan to attend. We look forward to seeing you!


8:00 AM Breakfast, Announcements, and Introductions

8:30 AM Speaker: Dawn Reinhold (Assistant Professor of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering at MSU) – Auditorium

9:30 AM Concurrent Session Teasers

9:45 AM Concurrent Session 1

MS/HS: Bread Making as Biological Engineering (Kolonich, Lee, Doherty and Anderson) Terrace Room

EL (elem): Bringing Biology to Urban Design: All aboard the Poop Train! (Jake Nalley and Sara Garnett) Stack 140

MS/HS: The Pig Bang Theory: The Implications of Ignoring Evolution (Amanda Charbonneau and Sarah Jones) Stack 139

MS/HS: Connecting Landscapes in a Changing World (Emily Dittmar and Dani Fegan) Stack 145

11:00 AM Break

11:15 AM Plenary with Doug Landis (Professor and Chair of MSU Entomology Department)

12:30 PM Lunch at McCrary

1:30 PM Concurrent Session 2

EL: Building Bliss for Butterflies (Dustin Kincaid, Susan Magnoli, Cara Krieg) Stack 141

MS/HS: Biofuels, Biology, and NGSS (Joyce Parker – GLBRC) Terrace Room

MS/HS: The Pig Bang Theory: The Implications of Ignoring Evolution (Amanda Charbonneau and Sarah Jones) Stack 139

MS/HS: Connecting Landscapes in a Changing World (Emily Dittmar and Dani Fegan) Stack 145

2:45 PM State of the BEST plots and educational opportunities (Auditorium)

3:15 PM Small Group Work by District and Evaluation (Auditorium)

4:00 PM Teacher Advisory Committee Meeting and Adjourn

Concurrent Session Abstracts

Building Bliss for Butterflies
Target Audience: Elementary School Educators
Presenter(s): GK-12 Fellows Cara Krieg, Susan Magnoli, and Dustin Kincaid.
Did you know that there are more than 50 species and subspecies of threatened butterflies and moths in Michigan? Unfortunately, populations of these striking and important creatures are in decline throughout the world. Luckily, you and your students can help by creating habitat for butterflies in your schoolyard. In addition to providing critical habitat, a butterfly garden can serve as an excellent educational tool for you and your elementary students.  In this session we’ll explore reasons why one butterfly, the Monarch, is disappearing using an interactive game.  Then we will share tips and seeds for building habitat for butterflies in your schoolyard. We will also introduce you to several activities you can use with your students in and around these beautiful spaces.

Biofuels, Biology, and NGSS
Target Audience: Middle and High School Educators
Presenter(s): Joyce Parker – GLBRC.
Cost-effective and sustainable production of the biofuel, ethanol, from plant cellulose is the goal of the Great Lakes Biofuels Research Center. How can we use this authentic modern science to illustrate required content? How can we give students opportunities to practice science while learning this content? What do activities that support the Next Generation Science Standards look like? We will answer these questions by exploring new hands-on, minds-on curriculum materials. Bread Making as Biological Engineering Angela Kolonich, May Lee, Jennifer Doherty and Andy Anderson Rising bread is a little ecosystem that is affected by many factors, including temperature, amount of sugar, type of yeast, and bread flavorings. This presents an engineering design challenge: How do your ingredients affect when you need to start making your bread in order to eat it with dinner? In this session we will use this engineering challenge as a way of exploring an interesting biological system and discuss how to incorporate the engineering design process and engineering practices into life science classrooms.

Bread Making as Biological Engineering
Target Audience: Middle and High School Educators
Presenter(s): Angela Kolonich, May Lee, Jennifer Doherty and Andy Anderson
Rising bread is a little ecosystem that is affected by many factors, including temperature, amount of sugar, type of yeast, and bread flavorings. This presents an engineering design challenge: How do your ingredients affect when you need to start making your bread in order to eat it with dinner? In this session we will use this engineering challenge as a way of exploring an interesting biological system and discuss how to incorporate the engineering design process and engineering practices into life science classrooms.

The Pig Bang Theory, the implications of ignoring evolution
Target Audience: Middle and High School Educators
Presenter(s): Amanda Charbonneau and Sarah Jones
What do pest-resistant corn, antibiotic resistance and pig farm explosions have in common? Sometimes nature fights back against our attempts at environmental engineering, and we must change tactics accordingly.  Humans spend huge amounts of money and time to improve crops or domestic animals, and increasingly, we are finding that evolution can creatively side-step our intended goals. For instance, pest-resistant crops have resulted in new breeds of insects that are immune to our poisons. Modern farmers must find ways to prevent not only damage to their current crops, but evolution in pest populations that will eat their future fields. This workshop will focus on how evolution can hamper our efforts, and have explosive consequences. Students will learn how evolution happens in pest populations and have an opportunity to think critically about a current problem in agriculture using claims, evidence, and reasoning.

Bringing Biology to Urban Design: All Aboard the Poop Train!
Target Audience: Elementary Educators
Presenter(s): Sara Garnett and Jakob Nalley
The biological structures that make up our natural world are engineering wonders. From trees that reach several stories in height with such an extensive foundations that they can withstand hurricane force winds to aerodynamic body types to reduce drag and increase speed. These biological systems are inspiring the urban landscape, like stimulating the construction of skyscrapers, underground subway systems, efficient and interconnected roadway infrastructures and more. But as urban settings become increasingly populated these cities have begun to think more and more about a crucial component of their future feasibility and survival: sustainability. Within this workshop we will delve into the idea of urban sustainability through biologically inspired urban design. We will investigate some currently developed techniques that cities are already investing in, from green rooftops to harnessing the power of algae to heat, cool, and generate electricity within buildings. We will then discuss a number of technologies that are on the urban landscape’s horizon, such as photosynthesizing street lamps, industrial scale urban farming, and tapping into our own human waste to generate biodiesel. All aboard the poop train!

Connecting Landscapes in a Changing World
Target Audience: Middle and High School Educators
Presenter(s): Dani Fegan and Emily Dittmar
Changes to landscapes as a result of human activities infringe on the natural habitats of many organisms, often fragmenting their habitat into smaller, unconnected patches. Conserving habitat patches and creating corridors between them are ways to connect and facilitate movement of organisms between patches in order to reduce the negative effects of habitat fragmentation. However, organisms have different requirements for movement, so corridors are not a “one-size-fits-all” fix. To get the biggest conservation ‘bang’ for our buck it is important to understand the biological needs of various organisms so we can design protected landscapes accordingly. The current lesson will introduce students to the biological effects of habitat size and edges on different organisms and encourage them to think about how best to conserve biodiversity under different scenarios. A case study involving wind-dispersed plant species will be explored, and students will be asked to ‘design’ their own seeds to disperse across different types of landscapes.

Redesigning Agricultural Landscapes  for Multiple Ecosystem Services

Douglas A. Landis, Professor of Entomology, Department of Entomology and Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, MSU

 Globally, agricultural landscapes support plant, animal and microbial communities that provide humans with a variety of ecosystem services. In the past, agricultural science focused almost exclusively on maximizing the provisioning services of agriculture, i.e. increasing the yield of food, feed and fiber. More recently, the critical role of supporting services such as nutrient cycling and soil formation, regulating services including pest suppression and pollination, and cultural services including the recreational and aesthetic qualities of landscapes have become increasingly evident. To sustainably produce food and energy for a rapidly expanding human population, scientists and land managers will need to think creatively about how to maximize the mixture of ecosystem services we can derive from agricultural landscapes. It is likely that future landscapes will need to be explicitly designed and managed to optimize the blend of ecosystem services that each can supply. The advent of cellulosic bioenergy cropping systems provides an opportunity to rethink and potentially redesign agricultural landscapes in the Midwestern US.  Increasingly, studies suggest that perennial and polycultural bioenergy crops can increase agricultural landscape diversity yielding positive impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services, including pollination, biological pest suppression, water quality, and greenhouse gas mitigation. How society chooses to value the complement of ecosystem services derived from agriculture will ultimately determine the structure of these working landscapes.

Participant List

Email Sarah Bodbyl ( if you would like to be added to this list.

Comstock: Laurie Anderson, Shirley Gilland, Jan Kiino, Emmy Kimmer, Maren Tillman, Kim Sandefur, Jenny York, Caleb Fisher, Canaan Groff, Mary Grintals, Mark Shenefield (11)

Delton-Kellogg: Connie High, Dale Grimes (2)

Galesburg-Augusta: Mary Sutter Moreland (1)


Gull Lake: Kim Clancy, Michelle Mahar, Blair Rogers, Ashley Carroll, Margaret Ells, Jennifer Boyle, Laurie Klock, Beth Keller (8)

Harper Creek: Meredith Hawkins, Sandy Erwin, Alissa Renner, Thom Shipley, Amy Smith, Steve Barry, Mason Converse, Erik Crooks, Joe Yurisich (9)

Hastings: Marty Buehler (1)

Kalamazoo Area Math Science Center: Cheryl Hach, Chris Chopp (2)

Lawton: Marcia Angle, Dennis VanWeelden (2)

Martin: Rob Robrahn (1)

Olivet: Marie Toburen, Michael Boehmer, Charles Bucienski, Terri Morton, Elliot London, Russ Stolberg (6)

Parchment: Jodie Lugar-McManus (1)

Plainwell: Lisa Wininger, Marty Green, Noel Muselin, Maggie McGregor, Jackie Warners (5)

Thornapple-Kellogg: Jamie Bowman, Shaun Davis, Mike Rynearson, Beth Bauer, Aubrey Hendricks (5)

Vicksburg: Lisa Harbour, Liz Ratashak, David Nette (3)

KBS & Staff: Tom Getty, Andy Anderson, Jennifer Doherty, Sarah Bodbyl, Cara Krieg, Dustin Kincaid, Jake Nalley, Sara Garnett, Amanda Charbonneau, Emily Dittmar, Dani Fegan, Sarah Jones, Susan Magnoli, Joyce Parker, May Lee, Angela Kolonich, Dawn Reinhold, Doug Landis (18)

WMU Evaluation Staff: Bob Ruhf, Eva (2)

T (57), SS (20)

77 total

Mar 242014

The research of GK-12 Fellow Cara Krieg was recently featured in Grad. at a Glance, part of MSU Today. Read the article HERE and be sure to congratulate Cara on her accomplishments if you see her!


Mar 062014
2013-05-13 08.59.42

Stolberg and Olivet students release salmon fry into the Red Cedar River

On February 27th, Russ Stolberg, a GK-12 partner teacher from Olivet Middle School, was awarded the 2013 Educator of the Year award from the Calhoun Conservation District at their annual meeting held at FireKeeper’s Casino Hotel. This past year, Russ partnered with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to bring the “Salmon in the Classroom” program in his 8th grade Earth Science classes where students helped rear almost 100 King salmon throughout the school year. This project culminated in a student led fish release into the Red Cedar at Michigan State University where Michigan DNR and MSU Fisheries and Wildlife representatives spoke with students about what life after release would be like for the salmon, including discussing river ecology and identifying aquatic invertebrates. Russ also has a strong partnership with the Calhoun Conservation District, this year they provided the 8th grade class with hundreds of saplings that students were encouraged to plant at home as carbon offsets. Russ is also an active member of the KBS GK-12 program and within the classroom he actively fosters an inquiry-based environment through bringing in hands-on labs, carbon time activities, and Data Nuggets. Congratulations Russ!


– Story by GK-12 Fellow Jake Nalley

Feb 182014


Although winter may seem like a life-less frozen wasteland here in Michigan, many birds spend the winter here.  Some arctic birds even come down to Michigan to escape the cold!  Many of these winter birds can be easily attracted to backyard feeders, particularly since food is in short supply.  In this lesson students will learn how to identify the 16 most common feeder birds in Michigan and will be introduced to 8 other less common species.  Students will learn how scientists classify and identify species.  This lesson also provides materials necessary for students to collect data from their own bird feeder and tools to contribute their data to citizen science efforts like the Great Backyard Bird Count or Cornell’s eBird tracking program that help scientists monitor bird populations across the United States.

At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Correctly identify the 16 most common birds that visit Michigan feeders in winter
  • Recognize 8 other less common species
  • Explain how citizen science information on birds can help scientists


Lesson plan by GK-12 Fellow Cara Krieg, 2014

Feb 142014

A few of the bird species commonly observed during Michigan winters

Students in Comstock have been having some strange encounters of the feathered kind.  Fifth graders at the STEM Academy have been learning about the kinds of birds that will visit winter feeders.  Although the world might seem like a harsh polar-vortex tundra this time of year, many native birds stay here in Michigan.  Some arctic birds even migrate down to Michigan for the winter to escape the cold temperatures!  GK-12 fellow Cara Krieg taught Mrs. Grintal’s students how to identify the different Michigan birds common at this time of year.  The class was so excited about this lesson that they were identifying birds outside the classroom window the next day.  Students will use the skills they practiced in this lesson to count birds at a feeder outside of their classroom.  The data they collect will contribute to citizen science efforts to track bird populations world wide.

Citizen science efforts such as these are incredible resources for scientists that study birds.  Every year thousands of citizen scientists contribute their bird counts to the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, the Great Backyard Bird Count, the North American Breeding Bird Survey, and the Cornell run monitoring program eBird.  These programs allow scientists have access to much more data over a much longer period of time than they could ever hope to gather on their own.  These long term records can be used by scientists and resource managers to tell which bird populations are growing or shrinking or whether species ranges and the timing of migration are responding to climate or other environmental changes.


Cara teaches about MI winter birds in Comstock

If you are interested in the Michigan Winter Bird Guide or more information about these citizen science efforts, check out “What’s in my backyard?: Identifying winter birds in Michigan” on the lessons page!

By GK-12 Fellow Cara Krieg, 2014

Dec 192013

JakeEmily11.12.2013_playing at being Phytoplankton and nutrients and CO2_Fall workshop 2013

This lesson consists of 3 activities, all interrelated yet can be split into individual lessons as well. The overall theme of the lessons are to investigate the effect human introduced contaminants into aquatic systems have on individual organisms, populations, communities, and ecosystems. We will investigate how farming in the “Bread Basket” of America can contribute to a growing “Dead Zone” in the Gulf of Mexico and then create our own dead zones in lab. Students can then become a participant in the formation of dead zones in an interactive simulation/game. The final component of the lesson focuses on investigating the effect a novel (or never before seen) contaminant has on vulnerable frog populations.

At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Describe how a dead zone occurs – from the human sources of pollution to how it sparks blooms of life resulting in death
  • Simulate the formation of a thriving ecosystem and dead zone
  • Be able to describe how human sources of pollution can impact population dynamics
  • Understand the flow of energy through aquatic ecosystems


Dead Zone Lab Activity/Simulation

Frog Contaminants Lesson

Lesson Plan created by GK-12 Fellows Emily Dittmar, Sara Garnett, and Jakob Nalley, 2013

Dec 192013


Every organism, large and small, is affected by weather.  Some organisms like plants are affected directly by rainfall.  Others are impacted through their food chain relationships.  In the hot-dry tropics found in some parts of Africa, seasonal patterns of rainfall drive one of the most impressive animal migrations in the world.  This activity uses the great African migration to review the water cycle and emphasize how food webs are strongly impacted by rainfall patterns through a hands-on activity.  The food web portion of this exercise can be used independently as a hands-on alternative to pen-and-paper models to review food webs, food web vocabulary, or the importance of biodiversity in ecosystems.  The food web exercise also contains additional scenarios that explore: 1. The importance of taking food webs and animal behavior into account when planning wildlife reserves, 2. How human-animal conflicts can change with rainfall, and 3. What happens when key species go extinct

At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Explain how changes in the water cycle cause the wet and dry season in Africa
  • Understand/review water cycle and food web vocabulary
  • Illustrate how every animal ultimately depends on rainfall/water availability using an African food web as an example
  • Illustrate how rainfall changes result in changes in the African food web
  • Explain how these food web changes can lead to changes in behavior (migration, increased conflict between carnivores, etc.)
  • Explore how human-caused changes can strongly impact food web patterns


Lesson Plan created by GK-12 Fellows Dani Fegan, Sarah Jones, and Cara Krieg, 2013

Dec 192013


Wetlands are a ubiquitous part of the southwestern Michigan landscape and provide numerous important ecological services.  Wetlands allow water to slowly filter into the ground, which cleans water, provides a buffer against flooding, and re-charges groundwater supplies. They also provide habitat for many animal and plant species. Wetlands provide an opportunity for students to explore parts of the water cycle, food webs, and many other ecological processes. In this lesson, students learn about different types of wetlands and how they work through a series of presentations, games, and hands-on activities.

At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Understand how wetlands affect water, wildlife, and ecological processes
  • Understand how wetlands help prevent pollution and erosion
  • Recognize that wetlands are complex systems that support many different forms of life, from top-predators to microscopic organisms


Lesson Plan created by GK-12 Fellows Amanda Charbonneau and Susan Magnoli, 2013

Dec 192013

chi-square_photoResearchers often need to decide if the results they observe in an experiment are close enough to predicted theoretical results so that the tested hypothesis can be supported or rejected. For example, do a series of coin flips match what you’d expect to get by chance, or is their evidence the coin is unfair? Does the number of women interviewed for a job position match the proportion of women in the applicant pool, or is there evidence of bias? Does the number of white-eyed fruit fly offspring match the number expected if the white-eyed trait is recessive, or are white-eyes inherited in some other way?

In this lesson, students will able to:
  • Decide when it is appropriate to use a chi-square goodness-of-fit test
  • Use a chi-square test, interpret the results, and create evidence-based conclusions
  • Use a chi-square test on real data collected from the house wren population at the Kellogg Biological Station


Lesson Plan created by GK-12 Fellow Cara Krieg, 2013

Dec 082013

This week, GK-12 PI and Zoology department chair, Tom Getty, was interviewed by WKAR (PBS, NPR affiliate from MSU) for a radio broadcast highlighting the GK-12 project at the Kellogg Biological Station. You can listen to the broadcast by clicking the link below.


K-12 partnership teachers representing 15 school districts gather at KBS for a workshop this summer

Dec 052013

The KBS GK-12 Bioenergy Sustainability Project is now accepting applications for graduate student fellowships for 2014-15.  This graduate training project is funded by grant from the NSF Division of Graduate Education. Fellowships are intended for students who have completed their first year of graduate coursework.   

Fellows_2013-2014The NSF GK-12 program is meant to advance the professional development of STEM graduate students while they continue to make good progress on their dissertation research.  NSF stipulates that fellows will spend a maximum of 15 hours per week directly involved in GK-12 project activities, with approximately 10 of these hours devoted to activities in K-12 partner districts or at KBS.  KBS activities will include a one-day orientation in May, an intensive summer science institute in late June, two one-day school year workshops and weekly Friday fellows meetings associated with a course focused on the professional development of fellows.

Stipend support is $30,000/year, plus benefits, including tuition.  The eight available NSF fellowships are limited to citizens, nationals or permanent residents of the United States.  The MSU Graduate School will provide one additional fellowship that does not have this restriction.  Appointments will run from the beginning of Summer semester 2014 through the end of Spring semester 2015.  Applicants who have established research and residency at KBS will have priority.*

To apply, please submit (1) a statement of interest, (2) your current CV, and (3) a letter of support from your faculty advisor. Your statement of interest and your advisor’s letter of support should demonstrate a familiarity with the general goals and expectations of the NSF GK-12 program and the KBS GK-12 project.  Questions and application materials should e-mailed to Tom Getty and Sarah Bodbyl via .  Review of applications will begin December 20, 2013.  

* We anticipate that a few fellowships will be available to EEBB/ESPP students whose research is not established at KBS.  Campus-based fellows will need to be prepared to spend up to 15 hours per week working at KBS or in nearby K-12 districts. 

Nov 252013

On Thursday, November 21, Gobles Public Schools announced that it would be launching a special Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics education program (STEM) that will increase student exposure to cutting-edge science. GK-12 Fellow Cara Krieg (second from left, below) took the stage at the middle/high school assembly to represent the MSU KBS K-12 Partnership, along with Michigan Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, Representative Aric Nesbitt, Senator John Proos, and school leaders.


Gobles announces a new STEM program

The K-12 partnership would like to thank Gobles for the recognition at this important event and look forward to continuing to work with the teachers and students to improve science education at Gobles in the years to come. Coverage of the announcement can be viewed by clicking the image above (Channel 3 video story) and visiting the Gobles district homepage here.

Nov 202013

Earlier this year at the spring (March 21) KBS K-12 Partnership workshop, we partnered with Project GREEEN, a collaborative initiative to ‘develop research and educational programs, ensure and improve food safety and protect and preserve the quality of the environment.’ Project GREEEN funds sponsored the plenary talk, the concurrent session “Big Roots for Big Problems”, and follow-up projects utilizing native plants at three different schools.


Graduate Fellows Tyler and Jake get ready to demonstrate soil erosion in the K-12 workshop Project GREEEN session.

As an extension of the workshop, the Graduate Fellow-led “GREEEN team” chose to use the remaining funds to sponsor community schoolyard native plantings. A call for proposals was sent out to the teachers participating in the March 21 workshop.

The first funded proposal was led by Russ Stolberg, 8th grade science teacher, Olivet Middle School. Russ reports that his 8th grade students planted 400 Eaton Co. native grass seedlings, from Hidden Savannah, in two rain gardens on the school campus.

The second proposal was led by Genevieve Sertic, a student of the Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center (KAMSC). A portion of the funds were used to plant Clematis virginiana, Phlox pilosa, Rudbeckia hirta, Echinacea purpurea and Aster cordifolius in the KAMSC schoolyard gardens. These gardens are maintained by the KAMSC Earthlings environmental club and are used to provide hands-on science experience to KAMSC’s Sizzlin’ Summer Science students (elementary through middle school), and to KAMSC’s high school students through the regular school year to study native plants and interactions with the insects and birds which they attract. The Project GREEEN contribution to the gardens has been highlighted on the KAMSC Earthlings group website at , and in two issues of their student newspaper (Fall and Halloween 2013), found here.


Olivet 8th graders plant native grasses in schoolyard rain gardens.


KAMSC schoolyard garden

The remainder of the funds allocated to KAMSC were used to further Sertic’s own plant-based rooftop agriculture research for the KAMSC Research Team. She presented  Mathematical Modeling of the Benefits and Drawbacks of Rooftop Agriculture at the Southwest Michigan Science and Engineering Fair, spring 2013 and used GREEEN funds to test her mathematical models of plant production given different soil volumes.

The third proposal, led by Jennifer Boyle of Gull Lake, is slated to be completed late Spring 2014. The Gull Lake proposal will improve the native plant community in the Gull Lake Community Schools Outdoor Classroom, a certified Natural Habitat, serving up to 1800 students per year.

Thanks to all who submitted proposals for funding, and congratulations to Olivet, KAMSC, and Gull Lake on your new native plantings, courtesy of your GK-12 Fellows and Project GREEEN!


KAMSC rooftop agriculture experiment

Oct 242013


KBS volunteer Bill Krasean contributed to this lovely article about our K-12 partnership which is published in the Kalamazoo Gazette and on MLIVE! A special thanks to Plainwell schools partner-teacher Sandy Brietenbach and GK-12 Fellow Cara Krieg for their contributions!



GK-12 Fellow Jake Nalley, partnered with Olivet Middle School and KAMSC, was featured in the November KBS Station to Station November newsletter here. The article describes some of the projects he’s been leading this fall in his partner schools; his students have been experimenting with with termites, algae, and even brewing root beer in class!

Oct 012013


Understanding the landscape surrounding our school districts, cities, and homes can help us understand how the landscape is impacting our local environment and watershed. This lesson uses the Google Earth application to gain a better understanding of how a parcel of land has changed through time. This exercise offers a unique opportunity for any classroom to take part in BEST plot research even if BEST plots are not present or accessible.

At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Develop a better understanding of how the land surrounding the school district, or area of interest, has changed through time.
  • Students will develop skills using Google Maps, reading maps and satellite images, and recognizing Michigan landscapes/landforms.


Lesson Plan created by GK-12 Fellow Jakob Nalley and partner-teacher Cheryl Hach, 2013



Sep 162013

Fall 2012 Plant Biodiversity Lawton3

The BEST plots are an excellent system for introducing more opportunities for scientific inquiry into the classroom. While there are many teaching opportunities that arise from simply carrying out the data collection that allows us to address our broad questions (can we maximize productivity while still maintaining biodiversity?), students should ideally also be using the plots to develop research questions and experiments of their own. This lesson and the accompanying worksheet provide a useful tool for helping students and teachers (who may not have much previous experience) identify interesting questions and develop hypotheses using the BEST plots.  This lesson also allows students to practice the steps of the scientific method prior to physically carrying out an experiment and can easily be used even if students can’t access a BEST plot.

At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Place their work on the plots in the context of the larger project
  • Identify additional questions about the plots
  • Develop new questions and hypotheses
  • Identify the data needed to address a specific scientific question


Lesson Plan created by GK-12 Fellows Cara Krieg, Sara Garnett, Dustin Kincaid, and Jake Nalley, 2013




Sep 162013


Variation is all around us in nature and genetic variation underlies these phenotypic differences among individuals. Natural selection acts on this genetic variation. It is important for populations of organisms to have genetic variation so that they are able to respond to changing conditions such as climate or predators. In this lesson students will learn why genetic variation matters if selection changes through time and get a hands on demonstration on how alleles make up the genotypes in a population.

At the conclusion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Understand genetic drift
  • Understand why genetic drift has larger effects on small populations than large populations
  • Explain the terms “heterozygous” and “homozygous”
  • Be able to calculate genotype frequencies from allele frequencies using the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium equation
  • Explain why genetic variation is important for a population’s long-term persistence


Lesson Plan created by GK-12 Fellow Emily Dittmar, 2013


Sep 152013

Monarch Photo - Lisa Stelzner

NGSS are about the art of teaching rather than just content expectations.  In this lesson, we will teach an ecology lesson about biodiversity this particular way.

Biodiversity is discussed in many objectives ranging from genetic variation, ecosystem dynamics, functioning and resilience, to interdependent relationships in habitats.  We will capture insects, an activity related to the BEST plots biodiversity protocol, as a vehicle to discuss differences in biodiversity among natural and disturbed habitats.  A follow up discussion in Landscape Restoration can be included.

At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Define ecosystem and biodiversity
  • Design and carry out standardized protocols for conducting biological surveys
  • Use a simple dichotomous key to identify organisms
  • Graph data and interpret results


Lesson Plan created by GK-12 Fellow Dani Fegan and Partner-Teacher Marty Buehler, 2013

Sep 152013

2013.6.24_Summer Institute Day 1 - 17

We’re excited to announce our first school-year workshop of the 2013-2014 K-12 Partnership!

KBS is celebrating 50 years of aquatic ecology (join us for the celebration in October); in solidarity, our workshop theme will be: Integrating Water Cycling and Ecosystems.

Below you’ll find our agenda for the day as well as details on our concurrent sessions. Events will continue to update as we develop content. Please rsvp to Sarah at if you plan to attend. We look forward to seeing you!


8:00 AM Breakfast, Announcements, and Introductions

8:15 AM Speaker: Elena Litchman (Associate Professor of Zoology at KBS) (Auditorium)

9:30 AM Concurrent Session Teasers

9:45 AM Break

10:00 AM Concurrent Session 1

12:00 PM Lunch

1:00 PM Concurrent Session 2

3:00 PM Break

3:15 PM Announcements and Small Group Work by District (Auditorium)

4:00 PM Evaluations, Teacher Advisory Committee Meeting, and Adjourn

Concurrent Sessions

Sex Changes, Drugs, and Rockin’ Dead Zones: Effects of Human Contaminants on Aquatic Organisms
with Sara Garnett, Jake Nalley, and Emily Dittmar, MS/HS
Aquatic organisms can be very sensitive to changes in their environment. Increased human activity has led to large loads of contaminants being introduced to aquatic ecosystems, many of which have not been previously encountered at those levels. In addition to challenges at the individual level, these contaminants have the potential to alter ecological interactions at the community level. In this session, we will explore how over-fertilization of crops in Michigan can lead to changes in food webs and growing dead zones in Lake Erie and the Gulf of Mexico through a lab and an interactive game. We will also explore how a variety of novel contaminants can impact amphibian population dynamics.

Where the Wild Things Are: How Rainfall Drives Food Web Interactions
with Sarah Jones, Cara Krieg, and Dani Fegan, EL/MS/HS
Why would a wildebeest risk crossing a crocodile-infested river? Why does the African savannah have a wet and dry season? In this workshop session we will use the African Serengeti as a case study to examine how weather patterns explain these two seemingly unconnected phenomena. First, we will examine why the water cycle changes between the wet and dry season in Africa. Second, participants will take on the role of African animals and build a living food web. When the dry season comes each player will have to make a choice- will they follow the rain or can they survive until the rains return? For the elementary session we will emphasize the water cycle and food chain relationships and vocabulary. For the high school sessions we will go a step beyond and investigate what happens to the food web interactions when we add human disturbances such as wildlife reserve boundaries or domestic cattle herds.

Wonders of Wetlands (WOW!): improving water quality
with Dustin Kincaid, Susan Magnoli, and Amanda Charbonneau, advanced MS/HS 
Wetlands serve as sources, sinks, and transformers of materials transported across our landscape; thus, wetlands alter the chemistry of surface and ground waters in southwestern Michigan. In this workshop session participants will explore the role that sediments and microorganisms play in retaining sediments and nutrients. The specific objectives will be to explore (1) how wetlands trap organic materials and sediments, and (2) how microbes decompose these materials and cycle nutrients in the absence of oxygen. Participants will accomplish these objectives by observing sediments from several wetlands in the region. Teachers will also learn how to set up a long-term lab experiment that demonstrates how physical and biological features of wetland sediments transform materials and cycle nutrients over time.

Wonders of Wetlands (WOW!) for elementary levels
with Dustin Kincaid, Susan Magnoli, and Amanda Charbonneau, EL 
Wetlands are a ubiquitous part of the southwestern Michigan landscape and provide numerous important ecological services. Wetlands allow water to slowly filter into the ground, which cleans water, provides a buffer against flooding, and re- charges groundwater supplies. They also provide habitat for many animal and plant species. Wetlands provide an opportunity for students to explore parts of the water cycle, food webs, and many other ecological processes. In this session, we will introduce students to different types of wetlands and how they work with a series of presentations, games, and hands-on activities.

Telling the Story of a River
with Sara Syswerda, KBS, and Lisa Wininger, Plainwell Middle School, MS/HS
This session will describe a model for teaching about watershed dynamics, with this particular session focusing on the Kalamazoo River. We will look at maps of the Kalamazoo River and think about the dynamics of this particular watershed. We will talk about issues like evaluating water quality, river morphology, land use change, pollution from industrial sites, and dam removal. We will also work with ArcGIS Online to construct and interpret data in a geographic context.

Tools and Activities for Teaching About Global Carbon Cycling
with Hannah Miller and Andy Anderson, MS/HS
This session focuses on how to use animations, videos, and activities to help middle school and high students calculate how global carbon fluxes are connected with our daily activities and affect the global carbon balance.

Bioprospecting for Better Biofuels (In Your Backyard!)
with John Greenler and Leith Nye, GLBRC, MS/HS
Researchers at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) are investigating microorganisms living diverse environments that can efficiently breakdown cellulose, the primary component of plant cell walls. The enzymes produced by these microbes could be used to more efficiently convert fibrous, plant materials, such as switchgrass, into sugars and then biofuels. GLBRC researchers have made exciting discoveries studying microbial communities living in both unusual environments, such as tropical leaf-cutter ant colonies, and in more familiar places, such as cow poop. Join us to learn more about this fascinating area of biofuels research. We present a simple, classroom-tested lab activity for students to bioprospect for cellulose-degrading microbes in their local environments and share their findings directly with GLBRC scientists.

Participant List

Email Sarah Bodbyl ( if you would like to be added to this list.

Comstock: Shirley Gilland, Elizabeth Kimmer, Laurie Anderson (STEM), Karen Rodwan, Canaan Groff, Caleb Fisher

Delton-Kellogg: Connie High, Dale Grimes

Galesburg-Augusta: Mary Moreland

Gobles: Becky Drayton

Gull Lake: Kim Clancy, Michelle Mahar, Blair Rogers, Laurie Klock, Beth Keller, Matt Hawkins, Beth Rhodes, Michelle Mahar, Doug Hoover, Ashley Carroll

Harper Creek: Meredith Hawkins, Alissa Renner, Amy Smith, Joe Yurisich, Sandy Erwin, Nicole Ailes

Hastings: Marty Buehler, Jill Withey, Jamie Dixon, (Ann Beemer?)

Kalamazoo Area Math Science Center: Chris Chopp, Cheryl Hach


Martin: Rob Robrahn

Olivet: Terri Morton, Marie Toburen, Cheryl Worden, Sara Baker, Charles Bucienski, Mike Boehmer, Elliot London

Parchment: Jodie Lugar-McManus

Plainwell: Marty Green, Sandy Brietenbach, Noel Muselin

Thornapple-Kellogg: Shaun Davis, Jamie Bowman, Beth Bauer, Aubrey Hendricks, Michael Rynearson

Vicksburg: Lisa Harbour, Katherine Kay, Liz Ratashak, Dave Nette

KBS: Tom Getty, Andy Anderson, Sara Syswerda, Sarah Bodbyl, Cara Krieg, Dustin Kincaid, Jake Nalley, Sara Garnett, Amanda Charbonneau, Emily Dittmar, Dani Fegan, Sarah Jones, Susan Magnoli

WMU Evaluation Staff: Bob Ruhf +1


Sep 122013


Using a critical reading exercise and discussion, students will explore the perceptions and realities of sex differences in behavior, the causes of these differences. They will then use spotted hyenas, an unusual African mammal with a primate-like social system, to explore how scientists learn about individual and sex differences in aggressive behavior. The lesson will end with an activity that allows students to act as behavioral researchers. The lesson can be divided into three portions which can easily be made to stand alone, so teachers can do any and all portions as time permits.

At the conclusion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Read science presented in the media with a critical eye
  • Consider the causes of variation in animal and human aggression
  • Become more familiar how scientists study behavior
  • Learn about current research in spotted hyena behavior


Lesson Plan created by GK-12 Fellow Sarah Jones, 2013