Students working on computers with teacher in the background

What are the CHANCE modules?

The CHANCE modules are a set of online, environmentally themed, learning tools that utilize authentic research data. Targeted toward high school science and undergraduate students, each module features a student-as-researcher approach through student manipulation of authentic data contributed by scientists who are currently investigating the conservation topic at hand. These tools are filling the niche in the transition from simple inquiry-based learning (textbooks, less student responsibility) to professional science practice (research, more student responsibility), while at the same time promoting environmental literacy and stewardship.

Data from CHANCE module assessment has shown that supplementing textbook instruction with rigorous and relevant research-based multimedia in American science classrooms enhances high school student performance and sets the stage for a broad shift in 21st century science education (McLaughlin, 2010).Thus far, seven modules have been developed and are already in use in high schools and educational organizations throughout the world.

Minimum System Requirements: The modules utilize Flash Player and Javascript technology; they can be viewed using the following internet browsers: Internet Explorer 8 or newer, Firefox, Safari, or Google Chrome.

CHANCE Modules

Illustration of Golden Toad

Amphibians as Indicators of Environmental Change

After learning about amphibians in general, travel to the Monteverde cloud forest of Costa Rica to learn about the unique biology and habitat of the Golden Toad. Then, using the research strategies and experimental design of Dr. Rick Relyea, Director of the Darrin Fresh Water Institute, analyze real research data to learn how amphibians can act as indicators of environmental pollution, and as such, how pesticides are highly lethal to selected amphibian species, by either direct or indirect effects.

Forest and trees

Invasive Plant Species in Pennsylvania

Under the expertise of Penn State agronomist and researcher, Art Gover, explore ecosystems to: observe, read about, and discover the differences between "native" and "invasive" plant species of Pennsylvania; investigate the invasive Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), from Asia, that is having a devastating impact on many of the natural plant communities in Pennsylvania.

Flying raptor

Raptor Migration: Local, Cooperative and Global

Travel to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, Kempton, PA, and field sites in South America under the guidance of American ornithologist, Dr. Keith Bildstein, to discover the following about raptors: their special adaptations; world-wide distribution and taxonomy; their nesting behaviors and why and how they embark on a semi-annual migration; how their feeding habits in an aquatic food web affect other populations of organisms; and, how long-term migration counts at Hawk Mountain allowed conservation scientists to understand the demise and return of American bald eagle populations.

Turtle Hatchling on beach

Sea Turtle Hatchling Orientation from Nest to Ocean

Set up a virtual field study to collect and interpret real-data from the research of Dr. Kenneth Lohmann, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in order to understand how Loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings use environmental cues to orient themselves from their nests to the ocean. End this activity by examining the hazards that hinder a hatchlings ability to effectively use these cues, and conservation efforts that can work to overcome these barriers.

Aerial photo of a valley and river in a deciduous forest.

Stratification and Biodiversity in Pennsylvania's Northeastern Deciduous Forest

Working with data from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (PA-DCNR) and PA State Forester, Timothy Dugan, learn the following about PA deciduous forests: how temperature and precipitation define this biome; its layers and biodiversity; major deforestation and reforestation events over the last century; tree species abundance and shifts in dominant tree species due to white-tail deer browsing; and, why PA’s deciduous forests are “even-aged."

Close up on Leatherback turtle head

The Biology and Plight of the Leatherback

Marine scientists and conservationists, Karen Eckert and Scott Eckert, of WIDECAST provide knowledge and years of research experience to assist students in learning the following about the leatherback sea turtle: its basic biology and natural history; its life cycle, range, and world-wide nesting sites; its nesting behaviors; how temperature effects gender (male vs. female) of developing embryos; what environmental abiotic factors play a role in determining incubation temperature of a nest; and, specific natural and unnatural disturbances that hinder their survival.

Red globe

Global Climate Change: Turning up the Heat

Turning Up the Heat – Under the guidance of paleoclimatologist Dr. Richard Alley, Nobel Laureate and Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences, The Pennsylvania State University, learn about: the major layers of the earth, and the unique layer that sustains life, the biosphere; and, the carbon cycle, and how humans are shifting carbon from the lithosphere to the atmosphere. Then, travel to Mauna Loa, Hawaii, to gather and analyze data that defines the Keeling Curve, and to Greenland to take ice core samples and look at surface temperatures dating back thousands of years to understand past climate fluctuations. Finally, meet ecologist Dr. Deborah Clark, University of Missouri-St. Louis, then travel to La Selva Biological Research Station in Costa Rica to analyze and study the effect of increased canopy temperature on tropical rainforest tree productivity.
Geared toward AP Biology and AP Environmental Science

PA State Standards

The Pennsylvania Department of Education recommends the use of CHANCE research modules as a way of helping high school students meet the nine state standards in environmental science and ecology. Because most states must meet similar standards, the CHANCE modules and its field courses provide a viable framework for renewing high school biology education nationwide.

Pennsylvania Department of Education logo

For more information on the field course or module use, contact Dr. Jacqueline McLaughlin at:

Editor and Lead Author of All Modules: Dr. Jacqueline S. McLaughlin

Designers/Developers: Daniel Arbeider, Pat Besong, Zac Zidik, Ronald Heft, Jeff Stine & Michelle Lynn