In The Classroom: Biology

Gabe Boisseau takes his class’s lesson in Ecology to the great outdoors.
One of the aspects of The White Mountain School most unique to our School is our unfettered access to the lush and fascinating natural environment of the White Mountains. Most teachers at WMS make an effort to integrate our environment into their courses, using examples in the world around them to fuel science experiments and writing exercises, but Biology teacher Gabe Boisseau takes the concept to the next level and his classes into the great outdoors.

When Gabe set out to teach a unit on Ecology, he didn’t want to go over different concepts of ecology in the classroom in front of a whiteboard or computer screen; he wanted the students to explore those concepts firsthand. In the early weeks of this unit, Gabe took his class to on-campus natural areas, like the pond and the Bio Loop, as well as Pine Hill Park in Littleton. With a huge subject in front of them and not a lot of time to explore it in, Gabe wanted to give his class as much freedom as possible in addressing these concepts.  He’s giving them free reign to build their own topic. Gabe provided the students with a set of questions and guidelines revolving around the ways in which certain local species have evolved and adapted over time to survive in their environment, but he’s letting the students study and develop the specifics of the project.

“I think one of the things that, after growing up and living in this area, I sometimes take for granted is the outdoors. Sometimes I’ll take a class outside and ask “Have you ever been to the pond?” and none of them have. Some of them have never been on the Bio Loop before and some of them are not used to this environment. I like going off of what they’re interested in, so I present information, and if they ask questions, I like to explore those questions. Sometimes I’ll have a very broad framework of what I want to cover in class, but I really feed off of their interest. We were at the pond the other day, and students were bringing back some dragonfly larvae and we were looking at those. We didn’t expect to find them, but we had a whole discussion about them and how they’re surviving in that environment. I like to let them explore as much as possible. Just get them out there and appreciating, and I think a big part of it is just appreciating the environment. I don’t feel like they can really learn about it unless they appreciate it.”

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