US Long-Term Ecological Research Network

Opportunities for Students

Enrichment Programs

North Temperate Lakes LTER and the Center for Biology Education offer academic year and summer enrichment programs for K-12 students and we participate in the Grandparents University.

NTL-LTER graduate students, the NTL Research Experiences for Teachers program, and education outreach have led to a variety of ecology and limnology 3-week workshops for middle and high school science students who participated in UW-Madison's Pre–College Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence (PEOPLE) since it began in 1999. Each summer, 3-4 of the 8-9 biology themed offerings have been developed around NTL research and activities. Information and application materials are at the respective sites.


Activities for Families

Make a Mini-Lake

Try this at Home! Limnology research at North Temperate Lakes often includes field and laboratory experiments to determine patterns, relationships, causes, and effects. You can do limnology at home with our Make A Mini-Lake materials. Download instructions here to find all of the background information that you need to set up your own limnology experiments using recycled containers like quart jars or 1-liter water bottles.

SchoolYard Science: A Learning Model for K-12 Life Sciences

Download the slide show

Econauts Curriculum

Econauts Curriculum is a set of stand-a-lone lessons that can be situated in a single class period or that can be combined into a multi-week unit. Econauts features an iPad Game described below complemented by a desktop game, Citizen Science, and field trips and scenario investigation.

Econauts was developed collaboratively by game designers at Gear Learning and limnologists and science educators at UW-Madison's North Temperate Lakes LTER and WISCIENCE. The game and curriculum have been extensively tested with: middle and high school science classes, after school science clubs, Boys and Girls Clubs, professional development workshops for science teachers and workshops for scientists, science educators and graduate students.

Lakes are sometimes thought of as discrete ecological bodies, detached from surrounding landscapes and contained within basins bound by shorelines. However, lakes are dynamic systems with many abiotic and biotic variables affecting varied spatio-temporal scales. Video games have the potential to teach players how these systems operate.

Econauts immerses players in a rich environment, making difficult-to-observe ecological phenomena visible in a living landscape that players explore and examine to explain the relationships between choices that humans make and their ecological consequences.


Partnerships with Schools

NTL-LTER establishes long-term relationships with schools and districts in Wisconsin. Unlike many outreach and education activities that are dependent on relatively short-term partnerships, our guiding philosophy is much like our commitment to ecological research – we develop long-term relationships. NTL-LTER and the Center for Biology Education at the University of Wisconsin Madison have collaborated since 1998 on the development, implementation, evaluation, and dissemination of outreach and education.

We partner with schools in the Arbor-Vitae Woodruff area of northern Wisconsin near the Trout Lake Field Station. Scientists and other staff at the Trout Lake Field Station work with area elementary teachers and middle school teachers to involve students in winter limnology activities that introduce students to scientists, LTER research done in their area, biological diversity, and limnological methods. The Trout Lake Field Station also hosts Research Experiences for Teachers participants.

LTER-school partnerships in southern Wisconsin include the Madison Metropolitan School District, the Middleton Cross Plains School District, and Milwaukee Public Schools. Activities in southern Wisconsin, include workshops and courses for K-12 teachers, precollege activities for elementary, middle, and high school students, and research experiences for teachers.

We have also partnered with science education reform research projects in Wisconsin, California, and Tennessee. These efforts are part of the System-wide Change for All Learners and Educators project and with faculty at Peabody College in Vanderbilt University on Supporting the Development of Model-based Reasoning to understand progressions of learning K-undergraduate in ecology and evolution. Researcher from UW Madison and Vanderbilt University collaborated with K-12 teachers in the Verona Area School District to help children develop their understanding of ecology.


Professional Development Resources and Instructional Materials

Learn about the early history of limnology and research of the North Temperate Lakes LTER program on the website of the Center for Limnology. See a large collection of historical photos from the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections.

Inquiry based learning in the classroom

Teachers can help children develop conceptions of the role and functions of questions, supporting evidence, and convincing argument. We trace the development of skills of scientific inquiry in a classroom where students designed sustainable aquatic environments and attempted to account for their successes (and failures). (download pdf)

This paper describes research on how to motivate students to ask scientifically productive questions and provides background for teachers for classroom applications. (download pdf)

Pond Study Curriculum

Most teachers include some form of field study in their curriculum. Many teachers use pond investigations. We created a set of resources for teachers to use with their students that incorporate longer-term field and laboratory investigations of aquatic systems. These resources may be used as a series of investigations beginning in the fall and continuing over several class periods throughout the entire year or teachers may selectively use parts. The resources include background, a bibliography, recommendations for classroom use, worksheets that may be directly used or modified, and rubrics for assessment. Download zip folder.


Summary of Past NTL-SLTER Activities

NTL Keyword