April 24, 2012 | 10:47 a.m.
By Nicole Finsaas '14
Sara Wyse, assistant professor of biological sciences, had an article published recently in the prestigious Science magazine. She and her co-author, Tammy Long of Michigan State University, wrote “A Season for Inquiry: Investigating Phenology in Local Campus Trees,” which was awarded the Science Prize for Inquiry-Based Instruction.
Wyse says she and Long wrote the article “in response to numerous national calls to improve undergraduate biology education—to make it reflect more accurately the process of science and how science is practiced rather than a regurgitation of facts.” Their article outlines the Campus Trees Phenology Lab, a hands-on lab that allows students to develop skills necessary for working as a scientist outside of the undergraduate program.
The Campus Trees Phenology Lab instructs students to observe a specific tree as the leaves change colors. Students need to problem solve, analyze changes, and collect data. Part of what makes this lab progressive is that students work independently on the experiment. “We must allow students opportunities to wrestle with real problems,” state Wyse and Long, “and be rewarded for conceiving creative strategies for solving them. Our students have shown us they are ready for the challenge.”
Students in Wyse’s course Introduction to Biodiversity, Ecology, and Adaptation take part in the Campus Trees Phenology Lab. Wyse says the lab helps students engage in God’s creation: “Comments and reflections from Bethel students about this project include how amazing and creative He is, how attentive He is to details, and how incredible these phenological events are that take place around us all the time without our awareness. The praises rising from my students and I as we study what He has made is a highlight of teaching for me!”