Plants are far more than a mere “green background,” as our projects funded by the American Society of Plant Biologists will attest!
Over the fifteen years that I have been a teacher, two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and fourteen years as a parent, I have become increasingly aware of a profound disconnect in modern society. As we have become more and more heavily dependent on technology in nearly every aspect of our lives, we have lost our ancient contacts with the natural world. This need not be the case; my experiences teaching science both full time and part time have consistently shown that children are hard-wired to take an interest in other living things. This is also quite necessary for our own survival, since we unquestionably depend on other organisms for food, shelter, clean water, and oxygen. When humanity eventually takes the big leap and decides to colonize other worlds, surely many of these organisms will go with us, since nature has a three and a half billion year head start in adapting to new environments when compared to the best our civilization has to offer.
At the same time, technology offers so many possibilities for learning that these new tools can’t be ignored, and their usage shouldn’t necessarily be discouraged. To reject technology as a “distraction” is as nonsensical as our widening disconnect with nature. In fact, technology offers ways to link studies on wild areas across the planet, which is something I hope this website and my other websites (plantsandstudents.com, bugeducation.com, and connectedwildlife.com) are able to accomplish.
These musings have led me to consider ways to use technology to reconnect with our natural roots, and fortunately, it appears that at least two funding organizations agree.
Over the past few months, I’ve been applying for a series of grants; each of which I am hoping to incorporate into an integrated whole that will increase student contact with the natural world, and support links between students over a wide geographic range. Two of these grants have come through so far, and I am hoping to use them to generate engaging content that is based on the upcoming Next Generation Science Standards, which will be implemented in New Jersey over the next two years and have been adopted by 16 states so far. Even better, thanks to the generous support of these funding agencies (and others, if they approve my applications), I will be able to offer all of this content for free!
Looking forward to working on some great science projects, and I am so very grateful for the support.