Urban Ecology & Evolution:
Symbiosis in the Schools

This curriculum is designed for high school classrooms across the Twin Cities metro area and beyond who are interested in collecting valuable data for an ongoing ecological research project at the University of Minnesota. Teachers can choose to get their students involved for one day of data collection in the fall – or spend multiple weeks in collaboration with university researchers and other schools, tying this work to broader topics of ecology, environmental justice, or climate change. The curriculum also emphasizes the importance of scientific communication and includes several techniques and collaborative opportunities for teachers to engage their students in data visualization, scientific writing, and presentation.

Read more specific information about Symbiosis in Schools:

Curriculum Overview


Sept or October

-1 day for community science data collection

-7-13 days for full mini-unit

Mini-Unit 1:

Urban Ecology & Evolution

Experiment Design



  • Outdoor Urban Ecology “Ponder Wander”
  • Intro to Urban Ecology through multimedia materials
  • Interactive presentations and guided problem solving to discuss sampling, methodology, experiment design
  • Video from the researchers
  • Outdoor data collection (individually at home or in teams) – can be done as a stand-alone community science day
  • Sharing data with UMN
  • Data analysis and discussion; practicing CER
  • Developing and revising models

Late Fall, Winter, or Spring

(Can follow Mini-Unit 1 or stand alone)

-5-13 days per topic

Mini-Unit 2A-2C:

Scientific Illustration

Science Communication

  • Data Visualization
  • Exploration of and interactive presentations on scientific illustration
  • Drawing illustrations of plants in the field
  • Dissecting journal articles; comparing language and value of scientific articles and TikTok videos
  • Exploring writing for different audiences
  • Writing a blog post on research experience
  • Discussion of audience, inclusion, assessing validity and drawbacks of communications

Winter or Spring

(Designed to Follow Mini-Unit 1)


  • Option to share data and/or virtually meet with classrooms participating at other schools
  • Option to contribute student work to a cross-school virtual publication managed by UMN
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