This educational collaboration between Washington University's Tyson Research Center and the Missouri Botanical Garden's Shaw Nature Reserve is designed to engage St. Louis area high school students in scientifically-based exploration of the natural world. Linked programs of field training (SIFT) and field research (TERF) provide teenagers with experiences that realistically reflect research in environmental biology. Participating teens learn a variety of field investigation skills and then have the opportunity to put those new skills to work assisting career scientists with real research projects.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

48 Applicants!

As of this moment I have 48 application files!

Not all of the application files are complete and I am hoping to receive the last of the teacher recommendations shortly. I need to decide whether to call applicants to let them know that their files are complete or not. There is the possibility that they do not realize a teacher has forgotten to submit a recommendation. I would hate to penalize the teen for the (in)action of a teacher... Since we are in need of as many applicants as possible, I guess I will be making some calls.

There are 12 male applicants and 36 female applicants. While this is very heavy on the girls, it is not unexpected. Jon and I had discussed this possibility. The field of ecology is actually doing fairly well in terms of participation by women. However, the engagement of underrepresented minorities is one thing we hope to impact with this program.

It is time to start the applicant database and see what the demographics really look like...

On another note, I am finally working from my new computer! The new Leopard OS on my MacBook Pro is a bit different from my last OS and it will take some time to discover and master the new functionality. Looks like some cool stuff, though. Hopefully the excitement of the new bells and whistles will offset the loss of some of my files and e-mail...

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Apps Are Coming, The Apps are Coming!

More phone calls, some faxes, one scanned app via e-mail, one app dropped at SNR, and even a run out to the parking lot for a hand delivery! The applications are coming in. Time to start a database, I think.

I'm not sure that we will have 60 participants, but we will certainly be able to have good sized groups in each of the two summer sessions. And I think we will have a diverse group of teens in regards to ethnicity, home location, and public/private school. However, the girl applicants are outnumbering the boys at this point.

I am taking quick looks at the applications as they come in, but we will not make any decisions until Friday, April 25, 2008. I will have an acceptance e-mail ready to go for after the selections are made that morning. Time to get going on the enrollment package materials...

Based on the preliminary numbers, Lydia and I have decided to have a single orientation session on May 18, 2008 at 2:00 pm. The Assembly Building at the Dana Brown Overnight Center is plenty large to handle the selected SIFTers and 1-2 parents each. This session will serve several purposes.
  • Final check of the enrollment forms
  • Communication about what to bring and what to expect for the SIFT summer sessions
  • Tour of the SNR facilities, especially the overnight cabins
  • Pre-program surveys and interviews with our evaluator Kathi Beyer
  • Introduction of SIFT program staff
  • General parental reassurance and get acquainted type activities
It is so exciting to finally be at this point in the planning. Connecting with the applicants, parents, and teachers is really bringing the project into reality.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Arrival of Applications

I am beginning to feel better about the recruitment efforts over the last few weeks. My phone is starting to ring quite a bit. Calls from both parents and teachers wanting more information and to know if it is too late to start the application process. Even a couple of calls from the students themselves. (Gold star!)

Right now I have 19 files started and have some additional names to look for as more applications come in. We will definitely fill the two summer sessions. Whew!

One of the lessons we are learning about recruitment for K-12 students is that the word gets around after the first programming year. The piles of applications coming in for the Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp right now! We struggled to fill some of our participant categories in the camp's first year and now we can't keep up with the daily mail drop.

So, I anticipate really hitting the jackpot with applications next year at this time. Or we won't, and I'll be out at different schools every day grabbing kids out of biology classrooms and making them fill out applications... :)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Another Day, Another New Technology

So after getting this blog up and running I decided to try my hand at creating a wiki on

The reason for this is that while a blog is a good communication device, it is mostly one way, with new information only coming from the bloggers. For this project, that will be good for immediate posting of program information and photos. However, we do want the teenage participants to have the ability to input and communicate. And a wiki should be able to do that. It is a much larger collaborative (that word again!) space. And there can be different pages for the SIFT and TERF programs, and even for each participant or SIFT summer collaborative. And we can completely control access to the wiki and set differing levels of permissions for adding content to the site. So, it should meet our needs in terms of handling the teenagers, who may be significantly more computer literate than we are!

I was able to secure a similar web address for the wiki:

The site does not look like much yet, but hopefully I'll get access to my back up files soon and will be able to add photos and program descriptions. I tried to set up links to external sites for Shaw and Tyson yesterday (like I have here on the blog) but they seemed to only want to redirect to pages within Wetpaint. Hmmm. I'll have to figure that one out.

The Wetpaint wiki design interface is not as intuitive as Blogger, so I'm not picking it up as quickly. But, that could just be because a wiki is a more robust bit of web-ing. It can do more, so it takes more work to get it to do its thing...

I think the lesson learned is that this stuff is not hard to do. (I didn't even have to pull out my HTML training book and try to remember how to use HTML!) But, it does require some time for the initial set up. Maintenance should be a breeze. (Of course I say that now, before summer programming has

Promised to make a blog for the BHSSC next. I'll go secure the site address right now...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Digging Deeper into Blog Design, Plus Project Status

Today I'm going to try to spend some time figuring out all the bells and whistles on this thing. It does not seem too hard to navigate between all of the features and options.

I would like to have a permanent description of the ISE project on the front page so I'll try to make that happen first. One major challenge will be getting to my files for the text. (The barrier of the stolen computer yet again. New one is now on order!)

I would also like to get links to both Tyson and Shaw up here somewhere and so I will need to learn how to make hot links. Shouldn't be too difficult. Blogger seems to have thought of everything needed for a blog build and it looks like they are adding new options all the time.

So, what is the status of the ISE project itself?
Definitely off and running, especially since the funding came through. I was rather pleased that all of the partners in this project were committed to moving forward in the absence of external funding, but it sure will make our lives easier to have the funding! Hopefully the excited vibe will continue to exist as we get closer to summer and the first bit of student programming at Shaw.

The first two curriculum development meetings for the Shaw Institute for Field Training (SIFT) component went very well. The Shaw instructors appear to understand exactly what needs to be included in the week-long summer experience to embody the project vision and meet the project goals. And they have come up with a strong schedule of linked activities and investigations. There was a good feeling of synergy and collaborative spirit in the room during both meetings. We have decided that the word "collaboration" is the underpinning theme for the week and we are going to try to remember to refer to the participant groups as "collaboratives" rather than teams. I'm impressed by the Shaw collaborative (!) and can't wait to see them in action this summer.

I am starting to see applications come in before the deadline of April 18, which is a good sign that the recruitment strategy (e-mail blitz) worked. I am seeing responses from schools in St. Louis County and St. Louis City, and have gotten a couple from MICDS. And I fielded my first parent phone call this morning from Central VPA HS (SLPS). The word is definitely out, but the question is, are there students interested in the program? Fingers crossed... Lydia and I will talk tomorrow to decide if we need to make another recruitment push.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Jumping in to the Blogosphere

GERONIMO!!! I'm jumping into the blogosphere without even a set of floaty wings...

Funny thing. Despite being somewhat computer savvy and overly verbal, I've never blogged before. Read a few, even made a few comments. But never taken the plunge until now.

I think this will start out as a way to document the process of our NSF ISE project and eventually morph into a way to communicate with and facilitate communication between the project participants. We'll see...

It suddenly occurs to me that starting this blog is a direct result of the theft of my computer. I am feeling lost without my 3 1/2 year old shiny silver friend filled to the brim with documents, lists, curricula, contacts, and calendars. Maybe by casting this blog out to the ether, I am trying to secure my work in a more secure place? A place that has no need for cable locks?

Would a wiki be better? Hmmmm