Vice President of Education E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation Potomac, Maryland, United States
The Half-Earth Map, (map.half-earthproject.org) is designed for conservation planners. It makes use of global datasets on species distribution, human impacts, and protected areas to present 3 map layers that can then be used to present a spatial conservation priority layer. We’ve developed a Species Protection Index to generate report cards on how well a place (nation, state, park) is doing in protecting the species is has particular stewardship over. Our driving question has been to understand if the Half-Earth Map can be also be used to engage instructors and learners in GIS skills, guided biodiversity-oriented inquiry, and conservation decision-making. A resulting objective is to probe how important supplementary educational materials are to support instructional use of the digital map. To enable our research we developed a hands-on conservation mapping design challenge (half-earthproject.org/half-earth-project-educator-ambassadors/#resources) and initiated an educator ambassador program (half-earthproject.org/half-earth-project-educator-ambassadors/#join). Methods have included field-testing activities, pre- and post-workshop surveys, and monitoring of engagement, sharing and communications among the educator ambassadors. We’ve correlated Half-Earth Map-based lessons to prevalent education standards such as NGSS, Common Core, and AP Biology and Environmental Science. We have also developed materials aimed at appealing to Language arts, Social Studies, and Humanities instructors.
The ambassador community has over 1000 members, 6% from outside the US. That educators sign-up in such numbers is a fundamentally important finding. The network is 55% high school instructors, 20% MS, 13% higher-ed, and 12% non-formal educators and “other.” It’s remarkable such a range of educators seek interdisciplinary content and community. Because the needs and behavior of K12 educators and college educators differs, we are exploring different strategies to expand those networks. We’ve conducted 42 workshops and institutes in-person and online, reaching 3318 educators. Results of pre/post workshop surveys on a 5-point scale: 97% reported biodiversity and conservation content to be very important in their teaching (5); 95% scored workshop content as highly useful (4 or 5); 84% reported being more confident (3-5) to teach about conservation decision-making from the workshop. However only 51% found the Half-Earth Map intuitive to use. Importantly 99% of respondents reported that they would use the map with their students in the future, but follow-on surveys have indicated only 60% have actually done so. We work to improve the useability of the Half-Earth Map while continuing to develop curricular materials to support and supplement use of the digital map.