Supporting Biodiversity Research in the High School Classroom

When we talk about BHL’s impact on global science, we often focus on how our collections support the work of scientists, researchers, and post-docs. Our collections are also an invaluable tool for students as well, and not just college students either. Middle and high school students can use our primary source material to conduct research for classroom assignments. Additionally, students of all ages can benefit from the wealth of plant and animal illustrations that we make available in Flickr as well as our online exhibitions highlighting topics like Latino Natural History and Early Women in Science.

Michael R. Blake, Associate Director and Head of Instructional Services at Phillips Academy Andover, provides support to high school students researching the natural world. He graciously provided us with the following testimonial on his experience with BHL, including its use as a resource for class assignments and research.


“I have been a science/medical librarian for more than 30 years. I retired from Harvard University two years ago and am now working with high school students focusing on the natural sciences. My avocation is exploring the out-of-doors and fishing the rivers, lakes, ponds, and streams within a reasonable driving distance. To fuel the librarian in me, I am also an avid collector of first edition fly fishing books printed in North America.

I first discover BHL during its early days of existence. I had worked with two of the parent organizations, Harvard University and the Smithsonian, and knew some of the people involved in bringing this amazing resource to the public.

I frequently use the BHL to learn about regions of the world I am unfamiliar. In helping students with writing assignments and their own research, the BHL’s resources provide answers not easily found using other databases. Recently, after reading “John Muir and the Ice that Started a Fire,” I searched the BHL for any correspondence that John Muir might have written. I discovered a few items that then lead me to explore George Engelmann and Paulus Roetter.

I usually am looking for specific items in the BHL when I use it. As an Instructional Librarian, I try to teach students how to find their needed information and enjoy some new aspect of natural history. I also go to the “Recent Additions” link to find the latest and greatest additions to the BHL; even though the latest addition might be a breviary from the 15th century. My favorite features and services provided by the BHL are the beautifully digitized images that add so much to any work. Seeing how a plant was illustrated in the 1800’s and then gathering all of the research on the item keeps me coming back.

If I could change one thing about BHL, it would be the financial support of the organization. I would love to see an endowment that ensured the existence of the organization for the future.”

Thanks so much for sharing your testimonial with us, Michael! Ensuring BHL’s financial future is, not surprisingly, a top priority for us as well. You can help ensure that BHL continues to support research about the natural world at all levels, from scientist to elementary school student, with a tax-deductible donation.

Do you have experience with or examples of using BHL in classroom settings? Tell us about it by leaving a comment on this blog or emailing us at

Avatar for Grace Costantino
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Grace Costantino served as the Outreach and Communication Manager for the Biodiversity Heritage Library from 2014 to 2021. In this capacity, she developed and managed BHL's communication strategy, oversaw social media initiatives, and engaged with the public to excite audiences about the wealth of biodiversity heritage available in BHL. Prior to her role as Outreach and Communication Manager, Grace served as the Digital Collections Librarian for Smithsonian Libraries and as the Program Manager for BHL.