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.

Monday, June 9, 2008

SIFT Session 1 Day 1

The Shaw Institute for Field Training (SIFT) is officially underway!

There were a few transportation glitches this morning, but with use of cell phones and a lot of patience we were able to get everyone on the bus with only a 30 minute delay by the time we arrived at Shaw Nature Reserve.

The 25 Session 1 participants enjoyed perfect field conditions at ~80˚F, with partly cloudy skies and a light breeze. The morning was spent getting to know one another (Lydia), getting to know more about field biology (James), and getting information on safety in Missouri natural areas (Tim). Tim led an activity to help the SIFTers identify their "comfort zone," "challenge zone," and "panic zone" related to spending time in the outdoors. Flying insects and ticks were the most common outdoor hazards that fell into the "challenge zone" for most teens.

After lunch, skill building sessions introduced map reading, compass use, GPS, and a variety of field measurement tools.

The SIFTers spent the afternoon in collaborative groups, exploring Shaw Nature Reserve using map, compass, and GPS units to navigate their way from the Dana Brown Center to the Trail House, and completing field observations along the way.

We finished the day by revisiting the idea of the "challenge zone" to see if any of the SIFTers had changed their minds after spending time in the field. While the flying insects and ticks were still considered a "challenge," some SIFTers shared that they had moved their thoughts about them away from the border of the "panic zone." I witnessed several incidents of the SIFTers working together to check each other for ticks and help those with phobias remove the ticks from their pants legs. Strong work for teens who had just met that morning...