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Natural Sciences Education Abstract - K-12 Education

Impact of an Ecohydrology Classroom Activity on Middle School Students’ Understanding of Evapotranspiration


This article in NSE

  1. Vol. 39 No. 1, p. 150-156
    Received: Dec 3, 2009

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  1. Juan Camilo Villegas *a,
  2. Clayton T. Morrisonb,
  3. Katharine L. Gerstc,
  4. Carole R. Beald,
  5. Javier E. Espeletae and
  6. Matt Adamsonf
  1. a Grupo GIGA, Facultad de Ingeniería, Universidad de Antioquia. Calle 57 No. 53-108, Medellín, Colombia; (send correspondence to: School of Natural Resources and the Environment, Univ. of Arizona, 228 Biological Science Building East, 1311 E. 4th Street, Tucson, AZ 85721); and Biosphere 2, Univ. of Arizona, P.O. Box 8746 Tucson, AZ 85721
    b Dep. of Computer Science, Univ. of Arizona, P.O. Box 210077, Tucson, AZ 85721
    c Dep. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Univ. of Arizona, P.O. Box 210088, Tucson, AZ 85721
    d Cognitive Science Program, Univ. of Arizona, P.O. Box 210025, Tucson, AZ 85721 and Dep. of Computer Science, Univ. of Arizona, P.O. Box 210077, Tucson, AZ 85721
    e Tropical Science Center, P.O. Box 8-3870-1000, San José, Costa Rica and Biosphere 2, Univ. of Arizona, P.O. Box 8746 Tucson, AZ 85738
    f Biosphere 2, Univ. of Arizona, P.O. Box 8746 Tucson, AZ 85721


ABSTRACT Current trends in ecological research emphasize interdisciplinary approaches for assessing effects of present and predicted environmental changes. One such emerging interdisciplinary field is the discipline of ecohydrology, which studies the feedbacks and interactions between ecological and hydrological processes. However, interdisciplinary science, which includes ecohydrology and other fields, has not yet been effectively translated into many K–12 curricula. We adapted an ecohydrological research project, originally conducted at the Biosphere 2 research apparatus, for use in a middle school classroom. The experiment focuses on describing the effects of changes in landscape vegetation cover on the partitioning of evapotranspiration, the major component of the water budget, into plant transpiration and soil evaporation. The 1-week long experiment was conducted by Grade 6 students (n = 82) in classrooms in Oro Valley, AZ. Students completed pre- and post-experiment tests designed to assess their general understanding of the components of evapotranspiration as well as the scientific procedures that can be used to differentiate them. Our results show significant improvement between the pre- and post-experiment evaluations on the understanding of the water cycle concepts, particularly those associated with evapotranspiration. This improvement illustrates how the incorporation of experimental knowledge can constitute a key instrument to successful delivery of scientific information in the classroom. We discuss how current scientific research can be effectively incorporated into the science curriculum, which in turn can be used as an instrumental tool to produce scientifically relevant data.

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