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Nina Mason Pulliam Ecolab

June 8, 2014

Following my visit to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum I dropped by the Nina Mason Pulliam Ecolab. Situated in Marian University, the NMP Ecolab is designed as a living laboratory for local students to study the ecology of the Indiana prairie’s, woodlands and freshwater streams. Wandering the network of trails along the site you could almost forget that you were 15 minutes from downtown Indianapolis, especially looking across the lagoon and into the forest.

NIna Mason Puliam Ecolab at Marian University

Throughout the NMP Ecolab there are markers for students to take note of the surrounding topography and biota. I liked the addition of signs that detail the carbon soaked up by the canopy trees as well as interpretive signs indicating the presence of local fauna species.

Lagoon in the Nina Mason Pulliam Ecolab

Lagoon in the Nina Mason Pulliam Ecolab

The Nina Mason Pulliam Ecolab also runs video conferencing from a dedicated workshop room next to the natural landscape. A large variety of science education services are offered for remote school sites, whereby 22 video conferences ranging from 5 senses human body workshops for kindergarten students to ecological investigations, forensics and genetics for students up to grade 12 are available.The strength of the video conferencing lies in the interactivity; classes are sent materials to interact with which means the distance lesson is not a ‘talking head’. The dissections can be guided by a document camera and experiments are shown up and close wherever possible.

Being on the grounds of a University the NMP Ecolab is able to draw on local experts for focused video conference sessions with older students. Speaking with Janice, the director of the NMP Ecolab, she recalls how a visiting cancer researcher visiting the University on a Vera Bradley scholarship spoke with high school students to talking about her research, future University career pathways that students could take as well as guidance on healthy living. Again, this highlights the strength of video conferencing for schools to access experts with great ease.

Skull comparisons at the Ecolab

Skull comparisons at the Ecolab

The NMP Ecolab also offers a variety of summer STEM camps, whereby local kids spend the day with educators to learn hands on experiments such as dissections, bird spotting, chemistry and physics. I spent some time with the local team as they prepared for this summer’s influx of kids. It was fun contributing to the brainstorming of lessons as well as join in on the role play scenarios that allowed educators to look at best practices for classroom management – I got to be the Aussies kid being bullied! Some lighthearted fun, especially when we debated the merits of metric system 🙂

My visit to the Nina Mason Pulliam Ecolab wraps up this leg of the journey around North America for my Winston Churchill Fellowship. Next up will be a visit to Cleveland to visit the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the Cleveland Museum of Art. A lot more to learn, this trip is not over by a long stretch!

All the best,

Ben

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