Brad Reynolds and Tom Wilson received a Beyond the Classroom ThinkAchieve grant to fund an experiential learning activity in a general education non-laboratory science course. During fall 2012, students in Bio/ESC 1100 (Conservation of Biodiversity) were given the option to participate in a hands-on field experience and reflection activity in lieu of taking the final exam in the course. Instead of just listening to a professor talk about conservation, these student volunteers actually practiced conservation and contributed to a real-life conservation-based research project. The conservation project, still ongoing, seeks to monitor the impact of upland deforestation on local amphibian populations.
The instructors, Brad Reynolds and Tom Wilson, took the student volunteers to a local wetland where the students helped sample and process frogs and salamanders. Once in the field, students checked pitfall traps for animals and learned how to properly identify, sex, and measure the frogs and salamanders they discovered. They were likewise taught how to properly record scientific data, before releasing the animals into the wild.
Critical thinking was fostered in the student volunteers through active, experiential learning and critical reflection. Students were expected to keep reflective journals before, during, and after the experience as a means of documenting the transformation that had taken place within them. These journals also served as a vehicle through which critical thinking and the challenging of preconceived assumptions was encouraged. According to Brad Reynolds, “We challenged the students to actively combat the biodiversity crisis by participating in a real-world conservation-based amphibian monitoring project. The end result was that the students developed a greater respect for reptiles and amphibians, and at the same time, had their overall conservation ethics impacted in a positive way through experiential learning and reflection.”
Brad Reynolds is a faculty member in the Biological and Environmental Sciences. In addition to the Conservation of Biodiversity course, he teaches Introduction to Environmental Science I and II.
Thomas Wilson is also a faculty member in the Biological and Environmental Sciences. He teaches Herpetology, Ecology and Amphibian Conservation.