Robin Tinghitella

Sep 132012

Our KBS K-12 Partnership Fall Workshops have been scheduled! Mark your calendars for October 3rd and December 5th. Our October 3rd workshop will focus on the theme of “Communicating Climate Change” and we’re pleased to have KBS Faculty member Steve Hamilton as our guest plenary speaker. We’re looking forward to it! Email Robin and Sarah at for more information.

We’re looking forward to seeing you!

Aug 132012

By Guest Blogger and K-12 Partnership Volunteer Extraordinaire Joelyn DeLima

A magical week of making movies. That is the first thing that comes to mind when I describe the days from June 25th to 29th at KBS. The KBS K-12 Partnership Summer Science Institute was more than just sitting around learning science in input-driven sessions and discussions. This year the teachers, led by the returning fellows (Michael, Tomomi and Tyler), worked on preparing movies based on the three different sets of protocols that are conducted on our BEST Plots Research Network. The aim of this exercise was to prepare 60-75 second videos introducing the protocols in a manner that would spark a student’s interest. They could also be used as an overview for anyone interested in performing these protocols.

The entire endeavor, which took place on Monday afternoon and all day Tuesday, was loads of fun, but a bit challenging too. It kicked off with a short session in which the teachers were introduced to different techniques and methods of storyboarding. After a little practice, they were off to bring some glamour to the landscape, soil and biodiversity protocols. We saw some definite Oscar potential in direction and performances. The biggest difficulty was trying to fit everything into one minute!



Since this was a ‘Science Institute’ we did have some fun Science sessions too. The first plenary speaker was Dr. Sarah Roels from the University of Kansas. She spoke about her doctoral research on mating system evolution in a plant Mimulus guttatus. Over the course of her study, she measured traits of flowers from about 43,000 plants! She also did some cool experiments, including studying bee fidelity to flowers of different color intensity. She also measured the distance between anther and stigma in these flowers and concluded that as this distance decreased, the ability of these flowers to self pollinate increased up to 10 times. Dr. Roels was a good fit for our movie week too, as she worked with UV cameras in part of her research. She used these cameras to take UV photographs of the Mimulus flowers and observe the different patterns of pigmentation that we can’t see, but the pollinators can.

On Tuesday, Tom gave us an update on the “State of the BEST Plots”. Most of the plots were looking a bit brown due to the lack of rainfall this summer. Some had to be reseeded. Tom reminded us that the proposal for our BEST plots was rated to be ‘Outstanding in all respects’ by the NSF. Pretty soon we’ll start another year of data collection – let’s make the NSF proud!

On Wednesday, we heard from the GLBRC educator Leith Nye. He spoke for a short time but made quite an impact with a biodiesel-driven toy automobile. This was followed by the second plenary talk of the week, by our very own Dr. Jenny Dauer (Michigan State University). She spoke about her doctoral research as well, which dealt with calcium nutrition in forests of Oregon. In her talk she referred to calcium as the ‘the king of nutrients’ and ‘the soul of the soil’. Dr. Dauer spoke of nutrient cycling on multiple scales – from the molecular to the ecosystem scale.

After lunch on Wednesday were the MSP lead sessions. Jennifer and GK-12 Fellow Michael lead a session called Snakes on a Glade: Helping students understand the role of disturbance in shaping ecosystems. Using the case study of the giant Burmese Python, which is invasive in the Florida Everglades, they explored how students think about ecosystem disturbances. The great big attraction to this session was the great big python that they brought along!

At the same time, Jenny and Andy explored the question ‘How are inquiry investigations connected to student learning?’. In their session Fizz, burn and grow: Inquiry about Carbon, they conducted experiments that dealt with what happened to the carbon when soda water fizzes, ethanol burns and plants grow.

The elementary teachers meanwhile went on a tour. They first visited the historic Fort Schemske (site of the epic battle between Elaphines and Homo sapiens). While there they interacted with a number of researchers (including our own Liz Schultheis), who spoke about their work on various subjects including genetics, population ecology, invasive species and competition. The next stop on the tour was the LTER forest where the teachers learned about research being conducted on forest ecology.

MSP sessions continued on Thursday. In the morning, in Data analysis in the Biodiversity Leaf Pack Unit, Jennifer and first year Fellow Sara had teachers try new activities designed to tackle working with data in the MSP biodiversity unit. Teachers brought their laptops to the session and explored new Excel templates that will help make data analysis in the classroom easier.

The teachers also got to go to the beach and play with toy buckets and trowels. Marcia Angle (Teacher In Residence at KBS), Becky Drayton and Sara Syswerda conducted a session on Investigating Student Thinking About Watersheds. Aside from the play, they constructed a huge watershed model in the sand volleyball court to help students translate a 2-D depiction of a watershed into a 3-D representation.

It was field trip time again for the elementary teachers! The first stop on this tour was the Farming Systems Center. Bioenergy educator Dennis Penington met the teachers and spoke about Bioenergy in the US. Teachers had some great hands-on experience with the subject – they actually made biodiesel out of canola oil! The next stop was the Bird Sanctuary. Here the teachers explored the possibilities of using the newly opened Lake Loop Trail with their students.

One of the concurrent sessions on Thursday afternoon was Atoms are forever, Energy lasts forever: Carbon Students Accounts. Jenny and Andy built on their previous session. They used models, posters and an activity to think about what students really need in order to advance their understanding of carbon-transforming processes.

The Summer Institute also became a bit of a petting zoo. After the pythons on Wednesday, Thursday was bring-your-dog-to-the-institute-day! In Who Let the Dogs Out? Cheryl Hach, Debi Kilmartin and Liz Ratashak (with the help of Cheryl’s adorable dog) examined the relatedness of various dog breeds. They also explored current research involving the Dog Genome Project and health issues for dogs and their companions.

The afternoon field trips for the elementary teachers saw a few hardy souls brave 100-degree temperatures to go and visit the LTER research site. The group lead by Becky Drayton and LTER Education and Outreach Specialist Julie Doll went on a newly developed walking tour. After a lot of trial-and-error, they also helped Robin complete a part of the landscape protocols for the KBS BEST plots.

And thus we came to the last day of the eventful week. To begin the day we had our last plenary talk of the week. Julie Doll (KBS) spoke about Climate Change Communication. She started by relating her ‘Ah-ha!’ moment, when she saw firsthand the effects of climate change. Even though Climate Change is now widely accepted, the natural variability and the inability of scientists to make perfectly accurate predictions, creates a lot of contention in the minds of the public. This can be resolved by effective communication which should be tailored to the audience. She interspersed her talk with various questions for the audience and group discussions. Julie also followed the theme of the week and used a few videos (!) which could be used as conversation starters.

After the plenary, it was finally time for the new fellows to lead their first sessions, which they designed with the help of their partner teachers based on their own thesis research.  Jake – whose interests include algal biofuel production was paired up with Russ Stolberg from Olivet. In their session A gas tank full of green! What’s lurking in Gull Lake and how it can power our vehicles, teachers took samples from Gull Lake. They observed the different types of phytoplankton present in those samples. The session also involved some input on deriving fuel from algae and a fun game in which the teachers lived a day in phytoplankton’s shoes.

New Fellow Cara is very interested in the aggression exhibited by house wrens. She and her partner teacher Meredith Hawkins led the session Angry Birds – Exploring behavioral trade-offs. They played a game in which they had to exhibit different levels of aggression in order to get the best ‘nesting sites’. The way they balanced the two factors affected how many offspring they were able to raise successfully. The session was made even more fun by having it at Lux Arbor and allowing the teachers to actually hold the baby wrens.

Cannibalism: Is it ever a good idea? was a session that was lead by 1st year Fellow Sara and her partner teacher Sandy Breitenbach. Sara is interested in the way tadpoles maximize their inclusive fitness by balancing cooperation and competition. Teachers collected data in a game that simulated different environmental conditions. They explored various strategies for survival, including cannibalism!

The flux and transformations of nutrients and organic matter in freshwater ecosystems, mainly streams and wetlands is what 1st year Fellow Dustin is interested in. He led the session – Groundwater: When water meets the surface – along with his partner teacher Marty Green. They discussed what happens to surface water once it enters the subsurface. Part of their session was conducted at Augusta Creek where they taught teachers to locate sites of groundwater discharge. They also analyzed samples of well water brought in by the teachers from their own homes.

The highlight of the day, though, was the last session. After hours of laborious editing, the BEST Research Network movies were finally ready to view. We munched on popcorn and enjoyed the movies and many, many laughs! Thanks for another great Summer Science Institute.

Aug 102012

In this lesson, students will explore the basic living requirements of algae (aka phytoplankton) through hands-on experience and an interactive game. We will investigate what algal biofuels are, how they are made, where they can grow, and, most importantly, why this topic should be investigated.  The lesson is constructed with 2 short presentations, an optional water sampling event, identification of common phytoplankton, and a team outdoor game.




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

  • Explain what phytoplankton are and what they “consume”
  • Gain compound microscopy experience
  • Identify some common phytoplankton species
  • Explain the importance of bioenergy in contrast to fossil fuels
  • Describe the benefits of biodiversity, and define community ecology
  • Be excited about microorganisms


This lesson was created by KBS GK-12 Fellow Jakob Nalley

Aug 102012

In this lesson, students explore how different competitive strategies will affect how well organisms survive in a population. Students will play a game simulating several strategies in different environmental conditions (including cannibalism!), collect data from the game, and use these data to draw conclusions about the success of their strategies. The results of the game can be used to discuss how kin selection may influence evolution.




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

  • Graph their data and draw conclusions based on their results
  • Explain how environmental conditions impact the success of different evolutionary strategies
  • Explain how kin selection might affect evolution in a population


The lesson was created by GK-12 Fellow Sara Garnett, 2012


Aug 102012

Animals have limited supplies of energy and often must choose which activities to focus on at the expense of others.  In this activity students will play a game that explores the trade-off between aggression and parental behavior.  In part A, students will explore the role of aggression in acquiring a territory.  In part B, students will explore the trade-off between parental behavior and aggressiveness and learn there are multiple ways to be successful.


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

  • Explain how aggression impacts an organism’s success.
  • Explain how environmental characteristics shape the benefits of aggression.
  • Explain the tradeoff between aggression and parental behavior.


Lesson created by GK-12 Fellow Cara Krieg

May 112012

Tyler just finished up the first of his two years as a GK-12 Fellow. This year, he’s been working in Gull Lake Middle School with two teachers, Kim Clancy and Jennifer Boyle. Read up on some of his work, including work on our BEST plots research network, on page 7 of the district’s newsletter (below). This is the second time Tyler made the news in the Gull Lake Communicator- they must really like him over there!

May 112012

Fellow Tomomi Suwa and Sandy Breitenbach’s AP Biology Students recently travelled to Grand Valley State University to present their 2011-2012 research projects. Here’s the scoop from Tomomi…

April 25th was a big science day for 14 students from Plainwell high school. They each presented a poster on their independent project at the Michigan High School Math and Science Symposium at Grand Valley State University. Among 40 other presenters from Southwest Michigan schools, the students from Plainwell represented their school very well.

These students are from Mrs. Sandy Breiteinbach’s AP Biology class and since last September, I’ve been working closely with them to go through the entire process of science including picking interesting questions, designing an experiment and analyzing the data. They each came up with creative projects such as the effects of spotted knapweed on native plant species, differences in decomposing rates between organic and conventional fruits, and the potential effects of watermill pollution on invertebrate organisms in the Kalamazoo River.

At first, they looked nervous about presenting their work in front of other high school students and teachers. But they quickly warmed up and seemed to enjoy the experience. I was very proud to see them complete their independent project and to share their findings to their peers.  I think the Math and Science Symposium brought the year of independent projects to a successful close. Congratulations!


Apr 302012

By Guest Blogger and KBS GK-12 Friend Joelyn de Lima

April 11, 2012 was a day loaded with fun at KBS. Our GK-12 Fellows outdid themselves developing interesting and informative lessons and games that addressed the topic for the day “Evolution and the Biodiversity of Life” from different viewpoints. Topics ranged from the evolution of beak shape to mimicry and invasiveness.

The day began with Tom Getty giving a brief update we call “The State of the BEST Plots”. Most of our plots are in a good shape, but a few had to be visited by the Round-Up fairy!

The speaker of the day, Jenny Boughman, took over from Tom and spoke on the topic “The Evolution of Complex Adaptations: The Eyes Have It!”.  She talked about how evolution works by taking existing structures and changing them bit-by-bit.  Since eyes do not fossilize, one way of studying their evolution is to observe present day organisms that have eyes of varied complexity.  So first we have Eyespots, which can detect light but not the direction of incident light. These are found in organisms such as Planaria and Euglena. Eyespots gave way to Cup Eyes. Cup eyes can perceive the direction that light comes from, which aids movement, but they cannot form images. These are found in certain marine worms.


The next level of complexity is seen in Pinhole eyes. Organisms such as Nautilus have pinhole eyes that form blurry, low-resolution images and can also detect directionality and movement. This takes us to the next level, which are Fluid-filled eyes. Along with a simple lens, this allows organisms like snails to see clearer images and detect motion. The last and most complex level is the Camera type eye, the eyes that allow you to read this. The camera type eye enables organisms to form finely focused images, evaluate distance, movement, speed, shape, texture, color and to guide its own movement. Dr. Boughman also spoke about three eye related genes that help in tracing the points in the phylogenetic tree at which the eyes evolved different levels of complexity.

After a short break, the first Concurrent Sessions started. In Geeked about Beaks, Alycia demonstrated how bird beaks might evolve in response to available food resources. She used different sized clothespins (the beaks) and beads (food).  In her session on Adapting to your Environment: Tanning, Camouflage and Evolution, Jennifer spoke about increasing students’ understanding of the word “adaptation” and the difference between how biologists use the word and it’s more colloquial meaning (change within a generation). During the session Carbon Time Systems and Scale, Jenny explored activities which relate to the soon-to-be-released Next Generation Science Standards. Michael and Kate were back with another fun game in The Hunger Games. They used sets of colored Easter eggs to demonstrate how mimicry behavior is exhibited by species to deceive their predators or prey and how the frequency of mimics depends on the costs and benefits of being a mimic.










During the second set of Concurrent Sessions we had an Aphid Buffet in the Terrace Room hosted by Melissa (former GK-12 Fellow). With the help of over a thousand ladybeetles, her session tested the defensive strategies of Aphids. In Carbon Time Ecosystems, Hannah had her audience become carbon atoms which moved between different carbon pools in an ecosystem. Hannah’s game demonstrated how various processes impact the pools and fluxes of carbon. Tyler’s session “If it Ain’t Broke, It Won’t Get Fixed” had us build phylogenetic trees of shoes and local botanic samples collected at KBS. He focused on teaching about common descent and traits that are shared because of common ancestry – as opposed to analogous. Finally, using tons and tons of ping pong balls, Liz and Marcia conducted a session called Evolving to Invade in which they demonstrated the types of evolution that lead species to become invasive, and how invasive species interact with other organisms in new habitats.


After a delicious lunch, we went fishing with Christine and Nick. In their session on Humans as a Selective Force, they used a fishing simulation to discuss how humans act as selective forces, for instance, changing the size and personalities of commonly fished species. Meanwhile in her session What Time is It? When Plants Bloom and Die, Leila explored the effect of changes in environmental temperatures (climate change) on plant phenology. Her audience froze leaves to study the effect of – well – freezing. In The wonderful World of Biosynthesis Jonathan explored how organisms reorganize organic molecules within themselves. He used molecular models and charts (including a fabulous one of a cow) to demonstrate flow of materials through a food chain. Finally, during Fertilization Protocol for the BEST plots, Leilei brought us back to the BEST plots and explained a simple fertilization protocol for students to perform on their own BEST plots. The audience also went outdoors and practiced by spreading Osmocote on a plot just like our BEST plots. We should see a patch of really lush lawn soon!

A new feature of this Workshop was the session ‘What did my Fellow do this year…. Outside of the Classroom?’. During this session, each Fellow had an opportunity to share major achievements that occurred this year in their research. We were pleased to hear more about grants from the National Science Foundation, papers submitted to scientific journals, completed experiments, and gains in communication and confidence.

And thus ended a truly fun-filled day!

Apr 252012

Here you will find the protocol for fertilizing the GK-12 BEST fertilization treatment plots. We want to test hypotheses about how fertilization influences plant productivity and diversity and how fertilization treatment effects might relate to soil properties and to invertebrate abundance and diversity on the plots.  Each block has 8 plots, 4 of which will receive fertilization.  Fertilization begins in year two after establishment (Spring 2012).

Mar 292012

Report from Tom: Nick, Marcia, Alycia, Tomomi, Robin and Liz presented and represented our GK-12 Project at the 2012 Annual Meeting for GK-12 Project Teams, held at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 16-18.  I cheered them on, took pictures and took great pride in they way they represented all of us.  Nick’s roundtable discussions about fostering quantitative reasoning skills were well-attended and well-received.  Our BEST Team presentation on Building Long-Term Research Projects and Collaborations was a big hit, even though it was at the worst possible time (early Sunday morning) and location (a room hidden behind the bar).  Participants were very enthusiastic about our presentation and activities and full of questions and suggestions.  It was especially gratifying to learn that other projects are studying our website and adopting some of our innovations.  There were 103 projects represented at the meeting and many of them are doing very interesting things, but I liked ours the BEST!  I also liked the crab cakes at Clyde’s the best, but the crab cakes at My Brother’s Place were very good and much cheaper.  Additional information about the meeting, the agenda and abstracts of presentation are available at .  At out GK-12 publications page ( ) there are links to our poster ( ) and the slides from our presentation ( ).  Now it is time for me to step out of the way and let the BEST Team share their experiences.

Report from Nick: Attending my first GK-12 conference was both exciting and encouraging.  I was fortunate to interact with numerous partner teachers and fellows who were bubbling over with enthusiasm and motivation to improve science education.  This was especially true at my roundtable discussions on fostering critical thinking and at our BEST team presentation.

During my roundtable discussions I explained a lesson structure that I have created that focuses on developing the core critical thinking skills required to perform many essential tasks in science, such as engaging in argument from evidence and making claims and supporting them with evidence. My audience engaged me in fruitful discussion and provided me with ample positive feedback and insightful suggestions throughout, which left me feeling that my presentations were a success.

Despite The BEST team’s presentation time and room placement, we attracted an audience that was so engaged with our presentation on building long-term research projects that we ran out of time while trying to address all of the positive comments and feedback we received. It seemed that each time that we transitioned from one speaker to another, a group discussion would spontaneously occur where several audience members would ask questions and praise our work.  In fact, we had several participants stay behind after our presentation ended to continue to discuss our project further with us, which to me is always a sure sign of genuine interest in a presentation.

Report from Robin: This year I attended my third (and probably last L) GK-12 Annual Meeting. This was the second time our project has been chosen to present a workshop for PIs, Fellows, and K-12 Partner Teachers in attendance. I was honored to share our experiences, and your hard work over the last two years, building the BEST Research Network, and I truly enjoyed watching our Fellows shine as they described their own research and how they bring their work to the BEST Research Network and K-12 classrooms throughout SW Michigan. They are amazing! But, you all know that already. There is definitely a lot of enthusiasm in the GK-12 community about the work we are doing and the opportunities that long-term research networks offer for doing open-ended inquiry in K-12 schools. Keep up the great work, everyone. It’s an honor to represent you!

Marcia and I attended a fun workshop to learn about using 1 minute videos to quickly introduce teachers to the content included in lessons that GK-12 projects post on their website – the idea is that short videos are not only engaging, but save teachers the hassle of reading through paragraphs to text to figure out whether they want to use a particular lesson. We think this would be a great way to introduce our BEST plots protocols, so be on the look out for quick videos that introduce the Biomass and Biodiversity, Soils, and Landscape-level protocols this summer. You could even use these to introduce the protocols to your students and get them excited about going outside. We’ll keep you posted…

Report from Liz: I feel very lucky to have been able to attend the final GK-12 conference – I know our project has accomplished great things so far, and it was great to learn about the amazing work others are doing as well. It was clear everyone had ample enthusiasm for their work and that the connection between the universities and K-12 classes will continue long after funding runs out for this program.

During our presentation, it was easy for me to share the ways in which being a GK-12 fellow has helped me in my graduate career. Not only has my time as a fellow given me more confidence as a public speaker and educator, but also more clarity in the main ideas behind my dissertation research. It was a lot of fun to present my Invasive Species Game with the audience, and to share how it related to my research and basic ecology principles that teachers are discussing in their classrooms. I received many great suggestions of ways to expand the reach of my Invasive Species Game, and I can’t wait to try them out at our next KBS Workshop!

Report from Alycia: Our presentation went amazingly well! Some participants said it was the best workshop they attended all weekend! Another GK-12 project is eager for us to publish the Data Nuggets because they use them for their project. Everyone also loved the invasive species game Liz presented. Definitely a success!

I attended one session about skipping lecture and using active learning techniques in the classroom. It was great to see familiar and new techniques in action. One useful tool was constructivism – having students construct their understanding instead of having information given to them. The presenter used an example with significant figures where she providers her students with a series of examples and gets them to construct the rules for determining the number of significant figures. I also attended a session on evaluating GK-12 projects. One idea I’m keen to try out is to have all of the fellows share their research gains at the next workshop. We can do a “year-in-review” both for our experiences in the classroom as well as our progress on our research. It would be great to share this with the teachers and put our communication skills to the test.

It was great to interact with everyone at this conference that was so enthusiastic about improving science education. It makes me feel good about the work we do in the classroom. I can also see the benefits of our professional development and how that will prepare us for careers in science.

Report from Tomomi: This was my first time participating in the GK-12 conference and I had a lot of fun sharing our GK-12 project with an enthusiastic audience. During our 75 minute presentation, six of us each spoke a little bit about our project. Alycia and I talked about how we practice inquiry at all stages of the scientific process in the classroom using the BEST plots. Then I summarized the benefits and challenges of our GK-12 project. While we had some logistical challenges (e.g. low germination, weedy plots and data management), it was a really great experience for all of the fellows to exercise inquiry-based science with students at different levels. We also feel more confident as scientists and educators, and comfortable talking about our research to a wide audience.

Overall, our presentation was pretty well received – participants had a lot of constructive comments and suggestions. I’m happy to report that we represented everyone’s hard work well and that the people were really interested in our project! I feel very lucky to be part of the KBS GK-12 network.

Next year, I will continue to be involved in the GK-12 program at KBS, so I look forward to keeping the momentum going! I’d also like to incorporate some of the ideas I learned at this conference in the classroom next year.

Report from Marcia: Having the opportunity to attend my first GK-12 Conference was both amazing and bitter/sweet.  I was so proud of our BEST team and their dedication to the things we do here at KBS.  The commitment to the program and enthusiasm for science and science education K-12 was certainly apparent.  I had a wonderful time getting to know the Fellows better and am certain all have fond memories of Washington DC in 2012.

Science teaching strategies, STEM topics in K-12, mini-grants, and watershed games were some of the topics I paid attention to during other workshops.   I thought our poster was one of the BEST at the conference, but enjoyed reading many others and often took pictures of ideas or concepts.  When the author of Life in the Treetops, Dr. Margaret Lowman spoke during lunch on Saturday I was totally enthralled. Having traveled to Central and South American rainforests myself I found her stories extremely entertaining. Studying the diversity of life by swabbing belly buttons is certainly something I never thought of!

The GK-12 program is strong and has certainly touched more lives of teachers and students than I ever imagined.  I spoke from the heart when I said at the conference that our Fellows make a difference in our classrooms and with the teachers they work with.  May these relationships continue for years to come, officially or not.

Closing comments from Robin:

As I’m sure you’ve gathered, we learned a lot, shared our experiences and expertise, and enjoyed each other’s company at the GK-12 Annual Meeting in Washington D.C. this year. We were sad to hear that it was the last meeting of all the projects nationwide, but buoyed by the fantastic work that’s happening across the country, the pride that GK-12 Fellows and Partner Teachers take in their work, and the efforts of all involved to sustain GK-12 in K-12 schools and universities beyond the life of our grants. Keep up the great work!


Mar 192012

KBS GK-12 Fellows spend at least a year in the classroom of a KBS K-12 Partnership Partner Teacher. Over the course of the year they design and present lessons to students in their partner classes with guidance from their partner teachers, and present concurrent sessions to teachers at our KBS K-12 Partnership school-year workshops. We’ve posted some of our favorite fellow-produced lessons for you to enjoy. They may be related to fellow research, based on a suggestion or request made by one of our partner teachers, or produced for use on our BEST Research Network schoolyard plots. Lessons can be viewed either individually, by scrolling down this page, or by using our New Interactive Table. Feel free to contact the fellow who designed the lesson with further questions and for lesson-related materials – you can find their contact information here.

Mar 092012

We’re looking for a few good teachers! In 2012-2013 our GK-12 project will support 9 Graduate Student Fellows who will spend approximately 10 hours per week in one of our KBS K-12 Partnership school districts. Fellow-Teacher partnerships offer graduate students an opportunity to bring leading-edge research practices and findings to K-12 learning settings. Graduate Student Fellows are meant to serve as role models to K-12 students and help stimulate their interest in STEM disciplines. We are currently accepting applications for the role of “Partner Teacher”. Partner Teachers are paired with a Graduate Student Fellow and are responsible for managing project and fellow activities in their district for a given semester or year. The general expectations are that GK-12 Partner Teachers be active participants in the KBS K-12 Partnership, including workshops and institutes, and in research and educational activities associated with the BEST (BioEnergy SusTainability) Schoolyard Research Network.  To learn more, contact Robin Tinghitella and Tom Getty via Applications are available here. Review of applications will begin April 12th, 2012.

Oct 262011

Fellow Tyler Bassett is spending his year working in the classrooms of two Gull Lake Middle School teachers, Jennifer Boyle and Kim Clancy. Their partnership and work with the BEST plots research network was recently highlighted in an article in the Gull Lake Communicator. Check it out here! The article is on page 8.

Oct 262011

In October, Robin Tinghitella, our Project Manager, gave a talk about our GK-12 project at the 2011 National Outreach Scholarship Conference, which took place in East Lansing this year. It was a joint presentation with the Lynn Sametz, Project Manager at UNC Greensboro’s GK-12 program. Both projects just finished their first year of funding. The two shared the goals of the National GK-12 Program, presented details about both GK-12 projects, and shared preliminary findings about the science communication skills of participating graduate students. We look forward to participating in NOSC in the future and to many more presentations about the success of our program. You can view the talk slides here.

Sep 192011

Data collection in HastingsIt’s official – data collection has begun! Students in 13 SW Michigan school districts are busy learning how to sample plant biomass, insect and plant biodiversity, characterize soil and measure soil chemicals, and survey landscape-level characteristics of their schoolyards as part of the BEST Plots Research Network. Their data will become part of a large database that students and teachers can use to address questions such as:

  • Do plants yield more biomass when they are grown as a mixture of plants (prairie) rather than a monoculture (switchgrass)?
  • Does the soil composition affect plant biomass when we compare across schools?
  • Does fertilization impact species diversity in the mixed prairie plots?
  • Does the amount of pavement near the plots versus forest or grass impact insect biodiversity?
Schoolyear workshops will continue at KBS this year to support our GK-12 activities. Our all-day workshops are planned for October 5th, December 7th, February 29th, and April 11th this year. We look forward to seeing you!
Sep 142011

Here you will find resources for teachers and students conducting BEST Plots research.

Sep 142011

Here you will find the small-scale and large-scale landscape level protocols and materials to support your use of those protocols.

Sep 142011

Here you will find our plant biomass and plant and insect biodiversity protocols as well as materials that support your use of those materials.

Aug 232011

In the fall of 2010, students and science teachers working with graduate students at KBS planted the seeds for the “BEST” BioEnergy SusTainability Schoolyard Research Network. The network includes > 300 research plots at 22 schools across 15 districts in six counties in southwest Michigan.

The research plots mimic long-term, collaborative research at the KBS Long Term Ecological Research site and Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center. KBS faculty, staff, and graduate students are collaborating with teachers on experimental design, research protocols, and curriculum development for the research network. Students planted switchgrass and native prairie seeds on their research plots. Both are crops that researchers at KBS are studying for their potential value as bioenergy crops. Over the next five years, students will make observations and take measurements about the biodiversity, productivity, and soil quality on these plots to answer the question,

“Can we grow our fuel and our flowers and butterflies too?

Below you will find the electronic versions of the contents of our BEST Plots Research Network binders, including introductory materials, protocols, lesson plans, and resources. Please click on one of the following six posts to access these materials.

If you are a K-12 Partnership teacher whose school has BEST plots and you would like to receive a binder, please contact Sarah at

Jul 292011

DataNuggetsExercises in Evidence-Based Claims and Graphing

 Click here to be taken to the new site where you can access new and updated Data Nuggets!

Data Nuggets bring current research into the classroom, giving students the chance to work with real data – and all its complexities. Data Nuggets are activities designed to give students practice interpreting quantitative information and make claims based on evidence. The standard format of each Data Nugget provides a brief background to a researcher and their study system, along with a small, manageable dataset. Students are then challenged to answer a scientific question, using the dataset to support their claim, and are guided through the construction of graphs to facilitate data interpretation. Graphing and content levels allow for differentiated learning for students with any science, math, or reading background. Because of their simplicity and flexibility, Data Nuggets can be used across grades and throughout the school year as students build their quantitative skills.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions regarding these Data Nuggets please e-mail Liz Schultheis at

2011 KBS Summer Science Institute a Hit!

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Jul 032011
Apr 262011

On March 31, 2011 more than 500 students and parents attended the fourth annual, district-wide Science Night at Plainwell Middle School.  The event was a great success! More than seventy students presented their scientific work in the form of science fair projects, research posters, and artwork.  Additionally, twenty-four local and community groups brought science to the fingertips of kids of all ages through informational booth and hands-on activities. Several organizations brought live animals, including The Kalamazoo Nature Center, which brought an American Kestrel, Binder Park Zoo with a red-tailed hawk and box turtle (both Michigan natives), and the DNR Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery, which brought a lake sturgeon.  Additionally, the Kalamazoo bee club had lives bees on display as they taught kids and parents alike about the importance of bees and the art of bee-keeping. Science topics at the event ranged from biology and ecology to physics and chemistry. In one corner, Jerry Pahl of the Kalamazoo Air Zoo used his magnetic gun and coil cannon to ‘shoot’ with metal objects, demonstrating the physics of electromagnetism. In another corner, Western Michigan University’s Chemistry club made sparkly silly putty with kids using simple chemical reactions. Iurii Shcherbak and myself, Kali Bird, both Michigan State University graduate students and GK-12 fellows, worked together with Plainwell Community Schools’ teachers and staff to coordinate the event. We would particularly like to thank Sandy Breitenbach, Marty Green, Lisa Winiger, Lisa Smith, and Paul deMink, as well as the thirty-five enthusiastic and tireless elementary, middle, and high-school students who volunteered their help for the evening.  If you weren’t able to come this year, be sure to watch for next year’s event in March 2012!

By GK-12 Fellow Kali Bird


Mar 232011

At the 2011 GK-12 Annual Meeting in Washington D.C., three of our current Fellows (Lauren Kinsman-Costello, Melissa Kjelvik, and Leila Desotelle) and two of our Partner Teachers (Connie High and Sandy Breitenbach), shared a presentation called “Preparing Fellows for the Classroom: What works and what doesn’t?” in which they highlighted lessons learned in the first year of our GK-12 Bioenergy Sustainability Project and over the course of an earlier GK-12 Project at Kellogg Biological Station. We also presented a project poster highlighting our BEST Schoolyard Research Network and ways in which we bring Fellow research to K-12 classrooms. Check out our project poster, powerpoint presentation, and a handout prepared by our fellows.

Feb 242011

KBS’s K-12 Partnership Workshops have been scheduled for Spring 2011. Teachers from partner districts should plan to join us on March 1, 2011 and April 19, 2011 for all day workshops at Kellogg Biological Station. Please

rsvp to Robin ( or Sara ( if you plan to attend. In March we will be joined by MSU researcher Louise Mead who will share her experiences in Evolution Education with the group. Louise recently moved to

MSU where she is the Education Director for the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action ( You can find more information about our Spring Professional Development Workshops for partner district teachers at .

Feb 062011

Last fall, students and science teachers working with graduate students at KBS planted the seeds for the “BEST” BioEnergy SusTainability Schoolyard Research Network.  The network includes > 300 research plots at 22 schools in 11 districts in six counties in southwest Michigan. The research plots will mimic long-term, collaborative research at the KBS Long Term Ecological Research site and Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center. KBS faculty, staff, and graduate students are collaborating with teachers on experimental design, research protocols, and curriculum development for the research network. Students planted switchgrass and native prairie seeds on their research plots. Both are crops that researchers at KBS are studying for their potential value as bioenergy crops. Over the next five years, students will make observations and take measurements about the biodiversity, productivity, and soil quality on these plots to answer the question, “Can we grow our fuel and our flowers and butterflies too?”