Nurturing Biophilia: Merlin and Sanderling

Don BurgessDownload PDF | Volume 11, 2017

The author develops a narrative of Merlin predation to illustrate the growth of biophilia. Initially descriptive, the story evolves by following an iterative process of questioning and relationship building, which leads to an informed and purposeful application of biophilia. [full article]

What if Your Father Were a Chickadee: What I Observed Today

Don BurgessDownload PDF | 2014

In any attempt to make sense of the natural world, field naturalists are subject to observational bias and must consider their own interpretive process as they record and interpret field notes. Recounting a narrative about fledging chickadees, the author utilizes a six-step model for analysis of field experience. The five levels of representation are experienced recursively and involve a primary experience that is first attended to, shared, transcribed as field notes, analyzed, and finally offered for others to collaboratively read and respond. [full article]

An Invitation for Engagement: Assigning and Assessing Field Notes to Promote Deeper Levels of Observation

John S. Farnsworth, Lyn Baldwin, and Michelle BezansonDownload PDF | Volume 8, 2014

This paper explores current practices for teaching the discipline of keeping field notes within academic natural history courses. We investigate how journal projects can be structured to promote engagement with the natural world while emphasizing the importance of recording accurate and honest observations. Particular attention is paid herein to the assignment of field notes, and to the process of assessing the results of these assignments. Our discussion includes results from an informal survey of best practices among colleagues representing numerous natural history disciplines. [full article]

Natural History of Spain: Teaching Students About Nature and Culture in a Foreign Country

Gorka Sancho & Deborah A. BidwellDownload PDF | Volume 8, 2014

An ideal liberal arts and sciences undergraduate education in the 21st century should expose students to the natural world as well as to different human cultures. Unique to the College of Charleston’s semester abroad program in Spain, our Natural History of Spain course is designed to provide students with both immersion in natural history, as well as simultaneous immersion in foreign language and culture. Lengthy field excursions focus on basic nature observation and field annotation skills, exposing students to the unique flora and fauna of Spain across multiple ecosystems. An integrative approach comparing and contrasting environmental, cultural, and rural land use issues in Spain and the United States promotes conservation and emphasizes critical thinking skills. During semester-long offerings, Spanish language coursework and cultural immersion through lodging with host families rounds out the interdisciplinary course of study. Our approach allows for an in-depth and truly internationalized perspective, resulting in an integrative immersion in Spanish nature and culture that is grounded in time and place. Students responses highlight the importance of field trips and extended time spent immersed in natural settings as essential to their learning and overall experience. One hundred percent of students rated their international experience positively. [full article]

Toward Transformative Natural History Education: A Few Principles

Thomas L. Fleischner, Tom Wessels, R. Edward Grumbine, and Saul Weisberg Download PDF | Volume 7, 2013

Four long-term teachers of field natural history discovered that their insights on critical aspects of success in natural history education were convergent. Here, they share nine principles related to pedagogy, management of group dynamics, and the fostering of emotional receptivity to learning. The authors suggest that these principles are applicable to a wide variety of age groups and program lengths. [full article]

Why Practice Natural History?

Mount Auburn Cemetery

Clare Walker LeslieDownload PDF | Volume 5, 2011

Today, I have come to Mount Auburn to see what is here – no lions, no tigers. Just minutes away from the daily business of my usual life, I enter a world so different from where I have just been – into the calming presence of chickadees, robins, a catbird, bumblebee, turtle, fall asters, and drone of cicadas. Nothing special – everything special …
[full article]

Listening to Children: Perceptions of Nature

Donald J. Burgess and Jolie Mayer-SmithDownload PDF | Volume 5, 2011

This exploratory study investigates children’s perceptions and experiences of nature during a residential outdoor environmental education program and contributes to an understanding of how nature experiences arouse biophilia, a love of life and all living things. Using interviews, naturalistic observation, and artifact collection, we studied children’s responses to nature during and following their participation in a residential environmental education program known as Mountain School. We explored how an examination of biophilic sensibilities can help researchers and educators focus on the vital intersection between the individual, environment, and action. Our study suggests that children’s perceptions of nature are varied and dependent on prior experiences. Our study indicates that after spending time in the wilderness program at Mountain School, children’s perceptions of nature changed. Children formed connections with the fauna and flora of the North Cascades. Our use of biophilia as a framework for inquiry demands that we consider what it means to include the larger biotic community in our discussion of educational reform. This research contributes to an evolving understanding of the relationship between people and the natural world. [full article]

Revitalizing Natural History Education by Design

Matthew Kolan and Walter PolemanDownload PDF | Volume 3, 2009

We are wired to learn. Anthropologists (Hall 1977, Wells 2004) remind us that learning is one of our most basic evolutionary survival mechanisms (we don’t jump particularly high or run very fast). Over the last 60,000 years, humans have inhabited every continent and thousands of different ecosystems – from desert to arctic. Yet our biological make-up has changed very little in this time (Glantz and Pearce 1989). Humans have learned to survive in these extreme environments – creating knowledge, stories, myths, languages, and ways of life deeply connected to and reflective of the unique features of a given place. [full article]

Editorial

Five Myths About Writing About Teaching Natural History

Stephen C. TrombulakDownload PDF | Volume 2, 2008

Yes, the title of this editorial is a mouthful. Yet it makes an important point. Over the past year and a half since the Natural History Network launched the Journal of Natural History Education, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with numerous people about developing articles for the journal. … Without exception, all of them had interesting and important stories to tell about teaching natural history. But also without exception, my conversations with them … revealed that teachers are enormously intimidated by and uncertain about telling their stories. [full article]

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