The Witness Tree Teachers’ Study is part of the next phase of The Witness Tree Social Media Project, an initiative at the Harvard Forest to explore how a wired tree might influence climate awareness and action at a local to regional scale, and what learning outcomes and climatic effects on tree eco-physiology might we see across a gradient of human influence. Sensors installed on the tree, known as a “Witness Tree”, interpret incoming data 24 hours a day, and key conditions (e.g. a heatwave, heavy rainfall, a new flush of leaves) trigger posts to Twitter in real-time about its growth, seasonal change, and other climate-related factors. Since its launch in July 2019, the Witness Tree bot has pushed out more than 1000 tweets and attracted almost 10,000 followers on its Twitter account.

Our team will study the experience of a small group of educators in the Harvard Forest Schoolyard Ecology program who choose to include real time data from a network of three Witness Trees deployed by the Harvard Forest team in the City of Cambridge, Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm Sanctuary in Lincoln, and The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. Our findings will build understanding around how teachers respond to and leverage real-time data on social media to more effectively engage learners around climate issues and nurture pro-environmental behavior and attitudes in young people. We also hope to capture vivid accounts of shifts in teachers’ epistemology and practice that will inform and inspire educators interested in using real time data in their contexts.

Project Info

Funder: Harvard Climate Change Solutions Fund