Wednesday, August 6, 2008

PS 45-110: ESF in the high school: Integrating scientific research into high school classrooms throughout New York State

Katherina B. Searing, Nicole A. Werner, Anna M. Stewart, Yazmin Rivera, Megan Brady, Virginia B. Collins, Lindsay Cray, Neil Patterson Jr., Jason Townsend, Donald J. Leopold, Richard Beal, Charles Spuches, S. Scott Shannon, Dudley J. Raynal, and Terhi Majanen. SUNY- College of Environmental Science and Forestry


Incorporating scientific research into high schools is a major goal of the outreach program, ESF in the High School (ESFHS).  Through this program a college level course offered at ESF, The Global Environment, is also offered for credit at 24 participating urban, suburban and rural high schools throughout New York State.  The goals of this course are to teach students about the scientific process and to cover a range of environmental issues, including human population growth, sustainability, natural and urban environments and energy.  This ESFHS program is the foundation for our NSF GK-12 project, which enriches student science learning and engagement, and enhances the professional development of teachers, graduate and high school students.  Through this project, nine graduate Fellows are partnered with nine local high school teachers at “home schools” to infuse their research skills and expertise into the Global Environment course.  Fellows bring research into the classroom, by incorporating their own research as examples of the scientific method and by guiding students in developing and completing independent research projects.  In addition to working with their “home schools,” Fellows lead inquiry- and research-based activities called “road shows” at other high schools participating in ESFHS.


During the 2007-2008 school year, graduate Fellows mentored 84 students in the research process at the “home schools.”  Examples of projects conducted this year include: 1) analysis of the ecological footprint of a high school cafeteria and the establishment of an action plan to reduce the footprint; 2) analysis of the amount of deforestation in the developing tropics and correlations with economic indicators of development; and 3) differences in diversity of zooplankton from lakes that differ in their degree of pollution.  This research project culminates at the end of the academic year with a science research symposium, The Environmental Summit, held on ESF’s campus.  At least 50 research projects from participating high schools will be presented by students to peers, teachers, graduate students and faculty.  Through the research process students become familiar with the scientific method by learning how to locate and assess peer-reviewed literature, employ statistical methods and perform field and laboratory techniques.  Over the past school year, Fellows engaged over 240 students at 15 schools through the presentation of more than 50 “road shows.”  Ultimately, the ESFHS and the NSF GK-12 programs aim to produce scientifically literate, well-informed young adults who possess the skills required to meet society’s immediate and future challenges.