Friday, August 7, 2009

PS 84-94: Field ecology at Black Rock Forest with high schoolers from an urban-suburban-rural gradient

Angelica E. Patterson1, Terryanne Maenza-Gmelch1, and William SF Schuster2. (1) Barnard College, Columbia University, (2) Black Rock Forest Consortium

Background/Question/Methods Black Rock Forest (, an educational and experimental forest located in Cornwall, NY, launched its first ecology research internship for high school students in July 2008. The goal of the two-week, residential program is to help science-interested students gain exposure to future careers in the sciences, while learning the skills needed to participate in scientific investigations. The 2008 interns participated in real-world environmental research projects for the full second week of the program. Prior to partnering with scientists, interns learned about forest ecology and investigative methodologies, from data collection and analysis to the use of technologies for monitoring and measuring biological processes. While living at the forest, students were also exposed to sustainable living in the Black Rock Forest Lodge, a “green” building, which features its composting facilities and solar energy panels. Results/Conclusions This unique program combines an interdisciplinary group of trained scientists from Columbia University and Black Rock Forest staff that enable students to understand current issues of ecology management at the local and regional scale irregardless of the students' background or exposure to the environmental sciences. The program also creates an opportunity to observe students' perceptions and attitudes about the environmental sciences and the influences the sciences has on different aspects of their lives. This summer (2009), plans to partner with Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning is underway in order to create a social survey to quantify students' attitudes while incorporating factors like socioeconomic and racial backgrounds with the backdrop of the students' living experiences along the urban-suburban-rural gradient. Creating an assessment of the Black Rock Forest research internship will enable us to evaluate the curriculum while learning what type of influences it incurs on its interns before and after the program has concluded.