Biosphere Exploration in the Classroom

student reaching into tank, photo by Laura JacksonScientific inquiry practices by Jimmy Karlan, Director of the Science Teacher Certification program at Antioch University New England and Hannah Root, ES STC student are the feature story in the most recent issue of Green Teacher magazine. Their article, Next Generation Biospheres: Classroom investigations into climate change, describes classroom utilization of the Biosphere Challenge – where students construct, monitor, and hypothesize about miniature biospheres.

The Biosphere Challenge is part of an inquiry-based curriculum that was first created as part of Jimmy’s doctoral thesis to encourage understanding of ecological concepts. Since his first implementation of it in 1995, it has evolved into a method for teaching students about climate change, systems thinking, and natural cycles.

In this curriculum, students fill a 10-gallon terrarium with soil, water, and vegetation and seal it completely. Over the course of several weeks, they conduct experiments on their controlled space and make observations of their system. These might include adding crickets to the system, changing the amount of sunlight, or adding a spider to a tank with no previous predators. In doing so, the students develop scientific reasoning skills, critical thinking, and environmental awareness.

The full article can be read on Green Teacher’s website.

Jimmy Karlan, Ed.D., excels in crafting science curricula that engage and empower middle and high school students. Jimmy directs the Science Teacher Certification Concentration in the Environmental Studies department at Antioch University New England. Hannah Root is pursuing her Masters of Environmental Studies along with her Science Teacher Certification at Antioch University New England. She studied environmental writing at Middlebury College for her undergraduate and worked with Bill McKibben on a creative thesis exploring place-based education in public elementary schools in Vermont.

Photo by Laura Jackson