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5:28 AM Sun, Nov. 18th

College and elementary students team up to study ecological communities

The Daily Courier/Jo.L.Keener 
Derek Parker, left, and Shyann O’Brien stand by their display presentation Thursday morning at Prescott College. The Skyview school students studied Prescott’s biotic communities and presented their findings at Prescott College. Parker’s and O’Brien’s work centered on the growth of the forest and the chaparral.

The Daily Courier/Jo.L.Keener Derek Parker, left, and Shyann O’Brien stand by their display presentation Thursday morning at Prescott College. The Skyview school students studied Prescott’s biotic communities and presented their findings at Prescott College. Parker’s and O’Brien’s work centered on the growth of the forest and the chaparral.

PRESCOTT - Studying ecological communities, taking soil samples, creating charts and graphs, researching biomes; this sounds like the making of a college thesis or research project. Yet it was a group of fifth-and sixth-graders who spent the past several weeks conducting these activities.

It was all part of the "Convention of Prescott's Ecological Community" this past Thursday. Students from Skyview School teamed up with juniors and seniors at Prescott College who were working on their "Environmental Education Practicum" and formed various groups - one college student to a few elementary students.

They spent a few weeks in the field trying to answer the question, "Why does Prescott have three ecological communities in such close proximity: forest, chaparral, and grasslands?" Each group came up with and proved its thesis.

Skyview School fifth- and sixth-grade teacher Scott McCreery said his students incorporated mathematics and used the scientific method while conducting their studies; created visual images such as graphs and charts of their results; and utilized teamwork and collaboration.

Skyview is a charter school in Prescott that, like Prescott College, uses an expeditionary learning model to teach its students.

"We were studying the ecological community and the biomes and the different places in the biomes," said Shyann O'Brien, a sixth-grader at Skyview. "We got to really see it and feel it and be there. (Going into the field) helped us learn it better."

Fifth-grader Gaelan Parker said he learned the most about "the biotic and abiotic. Abiotic is non-living and biotic is living. They both need each other to survive in the ecological community."

Shyann and Gaelan were part of the same team, along with Ealen Brinkhurst. Their leader was 28-year-old Mark Huebner, a junior at Prescott College.

"Arizona is very unique because we have all these places so close together," Huebner said. "We wanted the kids to be aware of the uniqueness of Arizona."

As part of his practicum, Huebner learned some new aspects of teaching.

"What I took away from this experience is understanding effective interactions and teaching methods with students," he said, adding he also learned what his strengths and weaknesses are as a teacher.

Students studied six different reasons for the three ecological communities: aspect, slope, precipitation, temperature, soil, and vegetation. All the groups compared their results Thursday at the convention.

Contact the reporter at slopatin@prescottaz.com