Exploring GbCC Models with Fifth and Sixth Grade Students in Nashville, Tennessee

The eradication of wolves from Yellowstone National Park in the early 1900's triggered a major ecological shift, affecting hundreds of species, which ultimately changed the geography of the park. Sustainable Human, a non-profit organization focused on telling the story of historically rooted sustainability crises, produced a YouTube video titled How Wolves Change Riverswhich explains how the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone stimulated the reproduction of a healthy ecosystem.

This topic and anchor video were of interest to two middle school science teachers in Nashville, Tennessee. University of Texas graduate students Max Sherard and Jason Harron developed a 4-day unit utilizing the GbCC Wolves and Sheep Predation model to explore the complex relationship between predators, herbivores, and the plant community. By partnering with the two middle school science teachers, over 400 fifth and sixth grade students were able to extend their understanding of food webs, species interactions, and ecological shifts. 

Over the course of the week, students developed proposals to explain the ecological necessity of protecting wolves from hunters in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Teachers collected pre- and post-surveys which will be used to gather a greater understanding of how students interact with GbCC models. Interviews with teachers will allow researchers to understand how better to modify GbCC models for teachers' specific content goals.