Science and society fellows program: partnering with rural schools in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
Most Fellows were part of the project for two years, during that time they participated in a unique graduate level course that stressed scientific communication as well as teaching skills and principles, summer workshops with Teachers and project research personnel, and monthly evening meetings with Teachers and project personnel. These different meeting venues helped to continually improve the Fellows communication and teaching skills, and enhance Teachers knowledge and confidence in performing active learning science classes. The whole process was a very positive learning experience for all involved and this energy culminated each year in a “Science Day” where each class was able to demonstrate one of their projects as a poster with props to all the other schools and classes involved. The energy and enthusiasm at the Science Days left everyone with an understanding how much Fellows, Teachers and students had all benefited from the interactions.
Each Fellow/Teacher pair developed at least one lasting project per year designed to impact the classroom beyond the tenure of the Fellowship. Teachers found the lasting projects to be extremely useful for continuation of research activities in the classroom after the Fellow had left. For example, one school established four eco-sites (wetland, forest, meadow and riparian) adjacent to the school for ongoing environmental data collection. The Teacher and Fellow successfully wrote for outside funding to support the continuation of the project. Another partnership developed a series of culturally relevant, science-based lesson plans to be used throughout the school district to infuse Native American culture into the science curriculum. One team revamped the school’s old greenhouse and used it to grow native plants to transplant at an ephemeral pool located near the school in an on-going restoration project. When they started the project the pool was over-grown and weed infested. The Teacher is now evaluating different native species with her class to determine their potential for the on-going restoration effort. The Wind River Reservation team wrote a successful EPA grant to start an after school science club.
Another Fellow developed a complete snow science curriculum for the 5th grade at Ophir School that successfully demonstrated links between civil engineering concepts and snow science – using topics and examples from his own research. With snow prevalent on the Montana landscape during winter, his curriculum was highly informative and relevant to the students whose community is located in a mountainous region. This curriculum was presented at the 2008 International Snow Science Workshop in Whistler and has been distributed in Montana. In addition, two fifth grade students from Ophir School presented an avalanche awareness poster they developed during the same scientific meeting. The students’ expenses were covered through external funding including the Office of the President at MSU, exemplifying the commitment of the University to the success of the GK–12 program.
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