Science Teachers Destabilizing Environment
A survey presented in Portland at the national meeting of the Ecological Society of America claims that one out of the four teachers in the United States and Canada use live animals as part of their science curriculum and release them into the wild after classroom teaching.
The study, funded by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, found that only 10 percent of those teachers released the animals as part of a planned release program which suggests that the other 90 percent of teachers released animals that could potentially cause harm to native environments.
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"Live organisms are a critical element for learning and we don't want to imply that they should not be used in the classroom," said Sam Chan, an Oregon State University invasive species expert and a principal investigator on the study. "But some of our schools and the biological supply houses that provide their organisms are creating a potential new pathway for non-native species to become invasive. We need to work through the whole chain and educate both the teachers and suppliers about the potential damages both environmental and economic that invasive species may trigger,"
The survey that was conducted on nearly 2000 teachers working in eight U.S. states, as well as those in Ontario and British Columbia found that nearly 1000 different organisms were used in classrooms, and many of them were potentially invasive aquatic species, such as crayfishes and amphibians, that carry diseases or parasites.
About 50 per cent of the species used in classrooms are provided by biological supply houses, with the remainder usually coming from pet stores and aquariums, Chan said.
"Many of the teachers were mortified when we pointed out they may be exacerbating the invasive-species problem," Chan said. "They want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. But it is a complex issue. We don't want to discourage the use of live organisms in teaching because they can provide focus, enhance student interest, and foster responsibility and care."
Chan decided on a way to start moving forward is by making educators and suppliers aware that the problem exists in the first place, and to encourage them to use native species in lessons whenever possible.