Student Author(s)

Sasha Balcazar
Katelyn Dickerson

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Brian Bodenbender, Jason Hunter

Document Type


Event Date



This project presents curriculum designed for a high school unit focused on Michigan sand dunes. The centerpiece of the curriculum is a field research project that is planned, deployed, and conducted by high school students and teachers so that they can examine changes in local open sand environments. The curriculum is aligned with Next Generation Science Standards and incorporates experimental design, analytical interpretation of data, and real world application of research. This curriculum model begins with the exploration of content, including such background information as the origin of Michigan’s sand dunes, processes that affect sand movement, and seasonal weather patterns in the region. The curriculum includes several modules that prepare students for field exercises along the West Michigan shoreline, including field data sheets and recognition of both dangerous and endangered plants. The fieldwork relies on digital images to capture data at the site. Once students have acquired photos of the field area, they perform data collection and interpretation in the lab. They build as many as several hundred digital images of the site into a panorama that is hosted online, and then analyze changes revealed by comparing panoramas taken at different times during the year using on-screen measurement software and a spreadsheet for data collection and analysis. The real time data the students collect along West Michigan shorelines can be used by public and private institutions to aid in research and restorative practices in order to better understand and protect Michigan’s fragile fresh water dunes and dune ecosystems.


This research was supported by a Hope College Howard Hughes Medical Institute CSI Grant.