The major goal is to develop a program that will greatly increase the number
of people gathering reliable data on species and their distribution. Such
information will be integrated into our existing technology that will be far
more accessible to scientists, students, and the public than any other. A
very important aspect of this program is to train a cadre of young people who
can not only contribute to this data gathering, but who will also learn the
basic principles of scientific inquiry in the process and contribute to the
long term goals of improving and maintaining the conservation of our
Despite the efforts of many scientists, there is still nothing close to an
inventory of the species on our planet, much less an understanding of their
behavior and adaptation. Millions of species are yet to be discovered,
named, and studied. An especially urgent task is to mobilize the large
number of people it will take to assemble the essential knowledge necessary
to save many species from extinction.
We see this effort proceeding on many fronts simultaneously: trained
scientists, naturalists, concerned citizens, and children from early
elementary through high school. Such "citizen scientists" can be guided to
understand the environment, set up study sites, and contribute findings that
are scientifically valid. From these efforts will flow photographs,
illustrated guides, school activities, nature expeditions, and fundraising
Strategic Goals: Science - Conservation - Education - Enjoyment
We believe that by using Polistes and Discoverlife, the technology and
resources will be made available to disseminate information that is useful in
resource management, science, conservation, education, and recreation. By
taking an active role in the research, school and community participants will
get hands-on experience with scientific methods and state-of-the-art
technology. Students will use science and technology to learn valuable
skills such as how to collect, process, and present information in a
To achieve this goal, lesson plans will be developed that depend in large
part on the species and the environmental features that exist in the
student's own community. Our aim is to develop curiosity about the natural
world, and to introduce scientific ways of coming to an understanding of it.
Beginning in kindergarten, study plans will progress to Grade 12 in
reasonable steps. We believe that by Grades 9- 12 students will to do
high-quality, discovery-based science of the world around them. Lesson
plans, research protocols, teacher training, and logistical and technical
support plans will be developed around the environmental concerns at issue
in the local area.
Goals for Grades K-3 - Beginning the Process of Discovery
Teachers will begin with a planned activity that is focused on local plant
and animal species and their relationship to environmental issues in the
Students will be encouraged to explore their school yards, local parks,
gardens, and their own back yards to find their local "feature creatures,"
bring them in for show-and-tell, and rear them to study metamorphosis,
germinating seeds, and generally develop an interest and love of nature
As appropriate, teachers will introduce charismatic species (tigers,
pandas, strangler figs, dandelions, etc.) as a means of learning the basic
principles of climate, environment, adaptation, and conservation issues. The
aim will be to explore these principles in major habitats that lend
themselves to easy understanding: tropical forests, savannas, tundra, etc.
Once these principles are understood, the teacher would then narrow down the
study to the micro habitats of the species the students are beginning to
study in their own community.
Goals for Grades 4-8 Learning the Principles of Scientific Inquiry
Curricula will focus on learning the most basic principles of scientific
inquiry: discovery, posing questions, experimentation, and how to fit
information gained into a larger web of the other species in the environment.
Who eats whom? How far up and down can you trace the predator/prey chains?
What condition determines blooming and seed times in plants? Why do most
plants thrive only in certain places?
Where should I go to enlarge my personal collection of species?
How do I collect and document these species in a way that will be of
genuine scientific interest?
How do we tell a birch leaf from a maple? Or one bumblebee from another?
Lessons will be built around skills such as measurement, mathematics,
graphing, mapping, elementary probability theory and statistics. The
questions raised through nature studies will feed into skills being taught in
The goal here is to build on student interest to take them from
unstructured observations towards the principles of inductive and deductive
reasoning. At the least we anticipate that the students will begin to have
an appreciation of simple experiment and the comparative method. It is even
possible that some will begin to distinguish ultimate and proximate causation.
Above all, at every stage of discovery, it will be fundamental to maintain
and build upon the joy of hunting caterpillars (and watching them
metamorphose), discretely watching bird nests from courtship through egg
laying to fledging, looking at pond-water and other hidden worlds through a
microscope. Recent discoveries about human infants have revealed that, even
in the first weeks of life, they are inquisitive and have "basic hypotheses"
about the world around them. To appreciate how this deep curiosity can be
developed in early years, we would supply readings to teachers, e.g.,
sections of E. O. Wilson's Naturalist.
Grades 9-10 Guided Research
Students will participate in class research projects that provide
information of value to local land managers and the broader scientific
community. These structured studies will develop additional scientific and
At this stage, the major goal will be to teach data quality, management,
analysis, and ethics. A goal will be build a knowledge base that will be
needed to progress to independent research in later grades. For this level of
research to be most effective, it would be ideal to build new networks of
teachers, environmental educators, scientists, mentor naturalists, land
managers, and other citizens and support organizations.
Providing support, training and funding for teachers will be critical.
Implementing nature research in the curriculum should be perceived by
teachers as challenging and fun - not something to be feared, or seen as an
additional burden on their already pressing workloads.
Throughout all of these years, it is essential that curriculum developers
work closely with testing and teacher-training organizations. Revolutionary
as we would like this approach to be, it would be foolish to ignore the
reality that most teachers are constrained by mandated textbooks and lesson
plans. For this reason (and many others), Master Teachers will be recruited
to guide and inform every stage of curriculum development.
Grade 11-12 (and college) -- Independent Discovery Research and Analysis
Specific Implementation Goals
By this stage, it will be clear which students are becoming dedicated
naturalists. Ideally, they would be gathered in small seminars of three or
four members, taught by a high school teacher, and whenever possible
supplemented by one or more experts in the community. We anticipate that
their long exposure to the biology and conservation of the natural world will
carry over for many of these students into the college years, influencing
their choice of major, term papers, etc.
Scientific methods learned can be realized at state Science Fairs, college
term projects, and undergraduate theses. It is our goal to extend the
educational benefits of independent, original scientific inquiry into high
school and undergraduate curricula, preparing students to develop their
skills as problem solvers and thinkers.
Within 5 years, develop at least 10 statewide programs that implement major
features of the curriculum as described above.
Within 10 years, expand to most school systems in the Americas practical
methods for them to contribute valuable data to their local land managers.
Extend "Nature Days" from the Massachusetts model spearheaded by Peter
Alden into international outreach events to celebrate nature, collect
extensive data, and "hook" society on our goals; --involving and training
nature mentors (e. g., Master Naturalists) and providing support to both
school programs and "Nature Days".
Continue to further develop Polistes technology to provide the capability
for all web users to identify species
(with IDnature guides) and report their
observations electronically (into personal "Life Lists").
Continue to enhance
<www.discoverlife.org> as a gateway to associated web
sites and databases that will serve the information needs of land managers,
scientists, teachers, students and other citizens seeking knowledge about
Pioneer the endorsement of both Linnaean and "Easy Names". Implement
unique Polistes "GNEET"
identifiers where standardized tracking of specimens
and information is required.
Polistes will make detailed information on the natural history and ecology
of all species available to the wider non-specialist audience. Free
interactive identification guides and Web pages for each species will be
developed and available through Discoverlife's All Living Things.
will be developed, personnel trained, public and private partnerships formed,
that will facilitate the link between school systems, community groups, and
inventories of other parks and conservation areas.
Strengthen the public's appreciation of nature, conservation ethics, and
enjoyment of outdoor recreation through the education and scientific
activities described above.