Assistant Research Professor Janice Dawe welcomed the enthusiastic students. "Thanks for helping us take scientific data," she said. "You're going to do research today by taking data points for us."
Working in the UAF Institute of Arctic Biology greenhouse, the budding scientists measured birch seedlings for the OneTree Alaska program.
"This is fun and interesting and you can learn new things," said third grader Ella Marchesseault. The children measured tree heights, sketched seedlings and toured the tropical room. Some wrote poetry about the field trip.
Teacher Ronda Schlumbohm said she wants her students to see what they are doing in class is real science. "I hope they see the connections and see that real scientists at the university and our students are doing the same thing," she said. "The data is similar."
|Ella Marchesseault takes seedling measurements in the IAB greenhouse.|
"I believe children should learn backyard science and learn about this place so they take care of it and appreciate it," Schlumbohm said. "They should know they are in the boreal forest and everything is connected."
Zachary Meyers, OneTree Alaska's instructional designer, has been visiting Salcha every two weeks for the past three years. He and Dawe customize OneTree activities to the students' interests. One year, the focus was seed germination; this year it's plant communication.
|Ronda Schlumbohm is a champion for children learning about the boreal forest.|
|Janice Dawe explains the methods the children should use.|
"The point is to pay close attention to something accessible in their home environment. If they like working with birch trees, they could become natural resource managers or any kind of field scientist. If they like working in greenhouses they could specialize in plant production. But no matter what career path they take, we're hoping this work helps them become lifelong learners, critical thinkers and good stewards of the environment."
|Aubrey Johnson enjoyed visiting the greenhouse's tropical room.|
She praised the young scientists for their careful approach in taking consistent measurements and documenting their observations on data sheets. "One girl made a great comment about the two seedlings she was observing," Dawe said. "She wondered why one plant has so many more leaves than the other plant in the pot.She's taking the first step in turning observations into testable questions, the first steps in the scientific process. She's coming to this naturally, through her own powers of observation, and hands-on learning opportunities.
"The students demonstrated a firm grasp of science inquiry process skills in the greenhouse."
|Mark Wright of the IAB greenhouse, showed the tropical plant collection to Salcha students.|