Bozeman, MT/Online
Jul 20-Jul 24, 2015
Credit: 2 graduate
Tuition & Fees: $827.00
Instructor(s): John Winnie, Jr.

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Course Description

Our primary goals in this course will be to understand how altitude affects the structure, function and evolution of plants, animals and the communities to which they belong, and to create ways to bring this understanding into the grade 6-12 classroom. Through a mix of online, class and field work, students will move rapidly from basic concepts, to hands-on field work and data collection, to the synthesis and presentation of those data. During class time, students will work on ways to integrate the material we gather in the field into multimedia presentations that can be used in teaching modules. In the field, students will collect data that can in turn be analyzed and interpreted later by their own students. Students will present and share data and teaching module components with each other on the last day of class, Friday.

For us to progress smoothly during the class week based out of MSU, 2 to 3 weeks of background reading and study are necessary. Pre-class week materials, including homework assignments, will be posted on the course’s Desire to Learn (D2L) website beginning June 15th.

Field class will be based out of the Jack Creek Preserve. During the day, students will work cooperatively to gather data, photos and (optional) video clips in the field, then in the evenings will work together to link visual materials back to the data. The goal here is to create a virtual field trip for primary and secondary level students, illustrating every aspect of a simple descriptive natural history study, from initial observations, to hypothesis generation, to data gathering, to data summary and finally to drawing overall conclusions. In addition, there will be nightly lectures on concepts and topics relevant to alpine ecology, including island biogeography theory and climate change.

Grading: Grades will be based on a combination of pre-class homework (1/3); mid-class progress and discussion (1/3); final wrap-up discussions and presentation of teaching module components (1/3).

Physical Fitness Requirements: Field days will be long (up to 10 hours) and sometimes strenuous. Students must be prepared to spend the better part of 5 days hiking and doing field work in rugged terrain at high elevations (7000 to 9000’+). Those coming from low elevation areas are encouraged to arrive 7 to 10 days early and spend that time at or above 5000’ to acclimatize before class begins. (Most of Yellowstone Park is above 6000’.)

Course Syllabus

Meeting Place and Times

Online portion of the class: June 15 to July 15: Online portion of the class. Visit the course website on Desire2Learn (D2L) for specific assignments and deadline dates.

Field Trips:We will spend all or part of 5 days in the field (M-F) regardless of weather. During these trips, students will study field craft, data gathering techniques, and take digital photographs and (optionally) video clips to be used in teaching models to illustrate the process of doing science, and basic ecological concepts.

Field portion of the class:We will be based out of Jack Creek Preserve. Days will be devoted to field work and discussions in the field. Evenings will consist of lectures and break-out group work.

Field Class: MTWRF 6:00 am - 8:00 pm
Location: Monday 6 am meet van at MSU Strand Union Building, South Entrance


John Winnie, Jr., PhD. is an adjunct professor in the Ecology Department at Montana State University. His research centers on predator-prey ecology, conservation ecology, and trophic interactions driven by predators. When he is not in the field doing research, he enjoys being out hiking, climbing, biking and taking photographs. His nature and wildlife photographs have been widely published, and he is a recent winner of USAID’s Environment Photo Contest.


  • Teachers should be enrolled in the Master of Science in Science Education degree program at Montana State University, or permission of the program director is required;
  • You should be a science educator with at least 2 years of successful teaching experience;
  • You must have a Bachelors degree in science or science education;
Email Diana Paterson at the email listed below if you need to seek permission.

Target Audience

The course is designed primarily for practicing science teachers with at least two years of teaching experience, seeking graduate credit in Biology.

Tuition and Fees

 Program Fee $287.00
 Computer Fee$7.00
 Distributed Learning Fee$0.00

A $30 registration fee is also charged once per semester.

The costs above assume that you are taking only MSU Extended University courses during the semester that the course is offered. If you also registered for courses through the MSU Registrar, the regular MSU fee structure may apply.

A $40 late fee will be assessed if payment is not posted to your account by 3 pm (Mountain Time) of the course start date (or the business day before if the course starts on a weekend or a holiday).

To learn more about tuition and fees, please see the University Business Services' Student Accounts Web page.

Required Books/Materials

  • Readings and Online Material: Reading assignments, exercises and supplemental materials will be posted on the class D2L website beginning June 15th, and provided during class week at MSU.

The course requires 20-30 hours of assigned online readings and exercises prior to the week of classes and field work based at Jack Creek Preserve. These readings and assignments will be posted to the learning management system, Desire2Learn.

This course uses a learning management system. You will learn more closer to the course start date.

For More Information

contact Diana Paterson at or 406-994-5679.

How to Register

Register Online