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Knowledge of species - ­a cornerstone of ecological understanding

10.05.2007
Outdoor teaching and knowledge of different species are necessary for students to be able to understand and interpret nature. This is demonstrated by Ola Magntorn, instructor in biology and geoscience at Kristianstad University College in Sweden, in his dissertation Reading Nature­Developing Ecological Literacy through Teaching.

Ola Magntorn has done research on how different groups of students develop their ability to read nature, that is, the ability to feel at home in nature and to interpret what they see from an ecological perspective.

"It's a matter of recognizing organisms and using knowledge of their ecology to explain and describe nature, both at the species level and at the level of system ecology. It's also a matter of being able to see the impact of humans on the ecosystem," says Ola Magntorn.

"Findings from previous research show that that ecology teaching is often theoretical, without any direct connection to the organisms and nature that students encounter in their surroundings," Ola explains.

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The point of departure for his study is therefore to carry out a major portion of teaching out in the ecosystem and to focus on just a few species. With knowledge of these species, students can develop an understanding of the ecological system, according to Ola.

Carl Linnaeus' great focus on species and his fascination with their ecology is a cardinal principle that underpins Ola's dissertation, where the notion of "Maxima in minimis"­-seeing the great in the small-­remains important today.

"With knowledge of how our ordinary ecosystem looks and functions, students can also react to how nature is impacted by humans in various ways," says Ola Magntorn.

*Ola Magntorn is an instructor in biology and geoscience at Kristianstad University College and a doctoral student at Linköping University in the National Graduate School in Science and Technology Education Research (abbreviated FoNTD in Swedish).

Contact information for Ola Magntorn Phone: +46 (0)44-203440; e-mail: ola.magntorn@mna.hkr.se

Lisa Nordenhem | idw
Further information:
http://www.vr.se

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