Active Learning in a Natural History and Related Courses Using Video Open Educational Resources: Observations over a Decade

Gary D. GrossmanDownload PDF | Volume 14, 2020

The need for open educational resources (OERs) in STEM and natural history education has never been more important given COVID-19 and the continuing cuts in state and federal funding of higher education. Over the last ten years, I have developed active learning-based (see Grossman & Simon 2020), video OERs for natural history and related environmental courses, and in this essay, describe their use as data sources for university classes. I provide examples of an exercise and a grading rubric, as well as a link to a YouTube channel with over 230 video OERs. Experience using OER-based exercises at levels ranging from first-year seminars to graduate seminars, indicates that positive student experiences only occur when assignment rubrics are carefully matched to students’ biological experience, interest, and level of knowledge. First-year non-science majors require substantial detail and interaction regarding how to complete an OER-based research paper, whereas graduate students need only be instructed to develop and complete their own research project based on what they observe in the OER. The increased availability and low cost of high resolution digital video equipment and free video editing software render it easy to film OERs of animals behaving in situ. Given the shift in lecturing modes (classroom versus online) necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, OERs are likely to play an increasingly important role in life science instruction. [full article]

Historia Naturalis

Natural History of a Silent Forest

Haldre RogersDownload PDF | Volume 14, 2020

Natural history is a “practice of intentional, focused attentiveness and receptivity to the more-than-human world, guided by honesty and accuracy” (Fleischner 2002). Some interpret this as an ability to identify to species every wildflower in a field or to keep a lifetime phenological field journal or to recall life history facts about mammals. I understand it best as a commitment to observing a single place across seasons and years. [full article]

Historia Naturalis

Drawing Inspiration in the Eastern Sierra Nevada

Richard J. Nevle and Sara CinaDownload PDF | Volume 14, 2020

Field-based teaching has long been an essential component of natural history education, providing students with spatial, temporal, and sensory context for the study of natural history. The field journal, or nature journal, is used by many natural history educators to augment field-based teaching and help students develop systematic approaches for documenting observations and practicing communication skills. [full article]

Historia Naturalis

Natural History in the City: Connecting People to the Ecology of their Plant and Animal Neighbors

Desiree L. NarangoDownload PDF | Volume 14, 2020

The world is becoming increasingly altered in ways that drastically affect habitat quality for wildlife. Moreover, the majority of people now live in urban and suburban areas (United Nations Population Fund 2007), so this is where primary interactions with nature and wildlife are occurring. Human society is also facing drastic losses of biodiversity and “extinction of nature experiences” in each generation. [full article]

Historia Naturalis

NextGen Natural History: New Technologies for Classical Natural History Questions

Seabird McKeon, Danté Fenolio, R. Andrew Dreelin, David Shaw, Zachariah Kobrinsky, and Christopher MeyerDownload PDF | Volume 14, 2020

Persistent questions regarding the identities of organisms and their relationships to environments have driven natural history through the millennia. Tools to investigate and record findings have changed, with recent innovations in genetic, tracking, and visualization technologies allowing naturalists new insights into long studied systems. These new approaches to classical questions – “NextGen Natural History” – have changed the content of the naturalist’s field bag and enhanced the inherent wonder and appreciation in the discipline. [full article]

Historia Naturalis

Historia Naturalis: Inspiring Ecology

Thomas L. FleischnerDownload PDF | Volume 14, 2020

There have never been people without natural history – the practice of natural history attentiveness is the oldest continuous human tradition. Throughout human history and pre-history, attentiveness to nature was so fully entwined with daily life and survival that it was never considered a practice separate from life itself. [full article]

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