HOW STUDENTS LEARN ABOUT BIODIVERSITY THROUGH SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATION ("INQUIRY") IN OUTDOOR ECOSYSTEMS
Concepts: One of the most important things for students to learn is that ecosystems vary in their degree of naturalness depending on the amount of human activities that occur in them and which have modified them over time. Denver and other major metropolitan areas have large amounts of terrestrial ecosystems, including some wetland and riparian areas, which are becoming considerably less natural as a result of dispersed human development. Subtle changes of this sort can significantly decrease the naturalness of these ecosystems by decreasing their native species diversity. Students can learn to observe nature by spending some solitary time in at least a seminatural ecosystem (see glossary), thinking about what they see, and composing questions based on their observations. Observations of this sort in a study area can then be used to design and conduct a more extensive research project, the results of which may be presented in class, shared with others on a website, and/or presented to a community-based conservation (see glossary) group. Additional projects that pertain to native species and natural or seminatural terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems can be conducted by advanced students, either in classes or as individual projects or internships with natural resource agencies/organizations and environmental education organizations. The subject matter chosen for all such projects should involve important concepts related to biodiversity conservation.