Home Teachers | Mentors | Discussions | Research | Find
   Mentors' Area Projects     
the Pathfinder Science Collaborative Research Network
 Mentors' Area


What is Pathfinder Science?

The Pathfinder Science is a community of researchers, teachers, and students interested in conducting collaborative research. This community is working together to create an instructional model that demonstrates that doing science is a better way of learning science. The community of Pathfinder Science seeks to expand to nationwide participation and is committed to promoting the processes of scientific research among students and amateur scientists.

The basic activities of Pathfinder Science include:

  1. Structured research projects with open invitation to participate are found on the Pathfinder Science web site. These posted research ideas include; background information on specific themes, protocols for conducting experiments, data submission forms, databases linked to the web site for storing collected data, display of school data via the web site, dicussion forums for talking about the research, and form based web pages for submitting personal research work.
  2. Teachers, students and research mentors communicate about research projects using discussion forums on the Pathfinder Science web site.
  3. Students conduct their own research on spin off research topics of their own choosing and post this research on the web site.
  4. Mentors provide feedback to students and teachers about the research questions they generate, about the experimental procedures they use to investigate, about the data they collect and about the conclusions they reach.
  5. A culminating student research conference will be held annually in the spring for students to present the results of their research in a "professional conference" atmosphere.

Current and Developing Projects in Pathfinder Science

Ground level Ozone - Ground level ozone is believed to be the most ubiquitous air pollutants and the cause of most of the injury to sensitive biological resources. Using a combination of ground level testing and a bio indicator students will determine the extent and impact of ozone on local ecosystems. Common milkweed is sensitive to ozone injury and can be used as a biological indicator of air pollution stress in both urban and remote rural ecosystems.

This project is intended for elementary, middle and high school students

SO2 and Lichens - Research indicates that lichens and the tardigrades living on them can be used to access atmospheric levels of SO2. Lichens are unique organisms composed of either an algae or a cyanobacteria living in a symbiotic relationship with a fungus. When they are exposed to some kinds of air pollutants, especially to sulphur dioxide (SO2), lichens are injured and die. They therefore make good indicators of air pollution. The effect of these pollutants may be observed on the distribution and diversity of a simple community living on the lichens.

This project is intended for high school only.

UV and Yeast- Human activities, including the production of chlorofluorocarbons, have reduced the concentration of stratospheric ozone. Ozone molecules in the stratosphere filter biologically harmful ultraviolet radiation (UV-B)coming from the sun. The reduction of ozone may lead to increased levels of UV-B incident radiation on the surface of the planet. A possible biological UV dosimeter is a ultraviolet sensitive strain of yeast. This potential bio-indicator could give us a much deeper understanding of this global change.

This project is intended for middle school and high school students.

Amphibian Biomonitoring - Because amphibians have a biphasic life cycle and permeable skin, and are exposed to pollutants and other environmental stresses on a daily basis, they can serve as an early warning indicator, or "bio-indicator," of potential drastic changes in the ecosystems. There has been a worldwide decline in amphibian populations since 1989 and may be an indication of declining environmental conditions.

This project is intended for upper middle school and high school students.

Stomata Density - Leaf stomatal densities can be determined by a simple laboratory technique and yet have wide application in understanding environmental change. Several researchers have evidence which indicates that stomatal densities change in response to changing atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide. Stomatal densities can be determined by a simple laboratory technique and yet have wide application in understanding environmental change. Because this investigation involves climatic variations, it requires that many geographically dispersed sites collect and share data.

This project is intended for elementary, middle and high school students.

Stream Monitoring - Monitoring streams is a simple but effective way to involve students in doing hands-on, "real life" science. Stream monitoring can provide a quick check on the health of the entire watershed. Streams can be monitored for many traits and in many ways. The Pathfinder Science Stream Monitoring Project involves four main components. Groups and individuals monitoring streams will complete a visual survey, perform nine chemical tests, conduct a biological inventory, and determine the amount of flow.

This project is intended for middle school and high school students.

Natural Dyes and Stain Removal - This project invites students to participate in using the scientific research methods to explore introductory Biochemistry. Using local plant species the students will hypothesize about the colors the that will be generated. Questions to be investigated include: Are natural dyes more enviromently friendly than synthetic dyes? Do natural dyes resist stains? Do the natural dyes hold their color?

This project is intended for elementary and middle school students.

Using STELLA to Model Network Growth- Systems Thinking is the art and science of making reliable inferences about behavior by developing an increasingly deep understanding of underlying structure. One of the purposes of using a systems thinking approach to problems is to improve the performance of systems. Systems in most schools which could benefit from modeling and systems thinking are the computer and data networks. This project seeks to provide the opportunity for students to create and evaluate working models of school network systems using a systems modeling software known as STELLA.

STELLA is a powerful and flexible package for building and simulating models of dynamic systems and processes. Using a simple set of building block icons, you can construct a map of a process or issue of any kind. The diagram automatically generates equations, used for simulation, allowing you to bring your map to life. Output can be viewed as graphs, tables, diagram animation or QuickTime movies. Multi-run sensitivity analysis allows you to explore a variety of what-if scenarios as you (or your students) explore the interdependencies of the system under scrutiny.

   top 1999, Pathfinder Science Collaborative Research Network