Connecting Youth with Science through Mentored Experiences in Nature - Collaborative Research
The goal of Connecting Youth with Science through Mentored Experiences in Nature is to provide rich STEM activities and research experiences for 600-700 high school students through the existing EnvironMentors (EM) program.
Intellectual Merit: This is a collaborative scale-up project between Colorado State University (CSU) and the National Council for Science and Environment (NCSE). The goal of Connecting Youth with Science through Mentored Experiences in Nature is to provide rich STEM activities and research experiences for 600-700 high school students through the existing EnvironMentors (EM) program. EM is a national program supported by NCSE that focuses on preparing underrepresented students for college degree programs and careers in STEM disciplines related to environmental science and the emerging green workforce. To help achieve the goal of scaling-up and organizational capacity building, the number of college and university affiliates will be increased from six to 14 to help reach more students. Additionally, traditional mentoring strategies will be reassessed and improved, cyber-learning activities integrated more fully, and research opportunities increased significantly. Students will engage in credit-earning experiences through a structured independent research element of an existing high school science class about issues related to the environment (e.g. global climate change, measuring public acceptability of alternative energy uses, monitoring water quality upstream and downstream from livestock operation). Students will also participate in field trips, compete for college scholarships, and engage in one-on-one mentoring. Each participating EM chapter will provide 10-15 mentors that will include faculty members, graduates and undergraduates students, working professionals, and retirees. Incentives will be provided for participating high school students and their teachers. The main research questions are: (1) What combination of the EnvironMentors program components is most effective in engaging youth to environmentally-related STEM programs? How do those combinations differ based on type of institution (e.g., land grant, minority serving) and student demographic (e.g., ethnicity, gender, year in school)? and (2) What combination of the training and development efforts are most effective in building capacity for a university based outreach program that targets underserved audiences? Evaluation will involve qualitative and quantitative methods, measures and modes of analysis including classroom observations; interviews (teachers, students, chapter directors/coordinators, mentors, and partners); focused group sessions; online journaling; and descriptive statistics at each site. Data will be analyzed within and across sites to explore the extent to which any identified differences reveal a pattern that can inform program implementation and scale-up. A cyber-learning community will be developed to network the EM affiliates and other partners (e.g. Boston University, TamarackMedia, ManuOne, DigitalUniverse, and Encyclopedia of Earth). A direct link to Encyclopedia of Earth will allow students to present what they learned from their projects in the same venues used by some of the world?s leading environmental scientists. Each chapter will be provided toolkits (e.g. digital cameras for capturing photo/video, GPS units for collecting geographic data, and basic digital air and water quality sampling tools) to augment EM?s university affiliates expansive collections of lab and research facilities. Students and mentors will have access to social networking sites from their home base to help develop personal relationships, facilitate connectivity and community-building as part of today?s social norm. Broader Impacts: This project will advance discovery and understanding through a collaborative that will offer rich STEM opportunities for students, investigate how to increase participation of underrepresented students in STEM careers related to environmental science, and study the best combination for accomplishing these tasks. Large land grant universities, minority serving institutions, private colleges, and technical institutions, and schools in rural and urban areas that serve the targeted population are currently onboard. The University of California-Davis, which serves nearly 100% Latino students and Arkansas State University-Jonesboro, which serves nearly 100% African American students, have already agreed to participate in the program. Nationally-recognized college preparation activities on or near participating EM affiliates (e.g. Upward Bound, College Summit, LSAMP, the National College Access Network) are also partner-supporters of the proposed collaborative. These partners will be instrumental in helping to disseminate information learned from this effort. NCSE's participation in Encyclopedia of Earth, will provide students access to a repository of over 4000 authoritative, peer-reviewed articles written by over 1000 science and environmental professionals worldwide (www.eoearth.org).