Project Leadership: D. Raynal, C. Spuches R. Beal, D. DeSiato*, S. Tankersley
· State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry
· Syracuse City School District, 725 Harrison Street, Syracuse, New York, 13210
Project Goals: Bringing research into the classroom, teaching critical thinking, and incorporating inquiry based learning.
As the only institution in the United States with programs focused exclusively on the study of natural resources and the environment, SUNY-ESF provides New York State students and educators a unique opportunity for environmental education through the ESF in the High School program. ESF in the High School provides qualified students with the opportunity to earn college credit while still in high school through enrollment in an introductory course at ESF: EFB 120 - The Global Environment.
The NSF GK-12 grant facilitates the synthesis of graduate teaching fellows with a select number of high school teachers participating in ESF in the High School. Together, teachers and fellows are challenged to incorporate inquiry-based learning, teach critical thinking, and infuse contemporary research into the classroom experience. The graduate teaching fellows chosen to participate bring to the table a simultaneously rich and heterogeneous mix of skill and perspective that provide high school students with unparalleled opportunity to experience the natural world.
Fellows incorporate knowledge of research to get students involved in fieldwork, and they bring creative activities into the classroom to illustrate complex scientific principles. Such activities include designing sustainable cities, conducting energy audits of the high school, foraging for Skittles to illustrate The Best First Principle and Energy Return on Investment, initiating debates relating to current environmental and political issues, and discussing hypothetical management strategies implicit in urban development. Additionally, students have engaged in interactive library activities that expose them to current scientific literature, conducted a lead mapping experiment, and performed assorted sampling efforts such as soil coring, water quality sampling, ice coring, and electroshocking fish. Students have performed experiments to determine the effects of different wavelengths of light on fast-growing plants and have evaluated the ecological footprints stratified by age, gender, and economic status.
These activities, in conjunction with exposure to refereed publications and the development of both individual and group research projects, provide students with a novel and exciting approach to scientific education.
A student science research symposium hosted annually by SUNY-ESF highlights student research and serves as ESF in the High School's culminating event. Students will participate in professional poster sessions exhibiting their work and a select subset will explain their research projects in publicly attended oral presentations.
Students conduct individual research, and topics vary widely. Some examples of independent projects include:
Skaneateles Lake Watershed
Students evaluate watershed management and controls on water quality in the Skaneateles Lake Watershed, an unfiltered water supply system for the city of Syracuse, NY. A variety of topics are being examined, including the economic, social, and ecological implications of invasive plant species, the potential for Hg, DDT, and PCB contamination, and the effect of jet skis and motorized vehicles on water quality.
"Fowler Environmental Monitoring Station" connects high school students with their urban environment. Students design and implement research projects that explore local issues relating to aquatic, terrestrial, agricultural, atmospheric, and energy issues.
Students conduct original research regarding the influence of humans on the environment using the concept of the ecological footprint and compile results in a scientific research paper.