Day 4 started with a bit of additional excitement as the SIFTers arrived with their overnight gear. Knowing that they would be spending the night in the lodges definitely added a spark to the day's experiences.
The first activity was finishing up the aquatic investigations data posters from the day before. Each group presented their findings and then we analyzed the data sets to see if there were trends for the lentic (still water) and lotic (flowing water) sites.
The rest of the day was spent on terrestrial investigations, similar to those on SIFT Session 1 Day 4. However, this time around the SIFTers were not given much background information on the different ecosystems. Rather than have an introductory presentation on prairies, glades, and woodlands, each small group conducted scientific investigations of each terrestrial area, and used this information as the basis for their knowledge of the area type. This inquiry-based approach allowed them to compare/contrast different data sets, draw their own conclusions, and then take ownership of the new knowledge. And, not surprisingly, it worked out really well!
Discussing observations of different plant growth forms
After a much needed afternoon break, the SIFTers had dinner with some visiting field ecologists from Tyson Research Center and a paleoethnobotanist. The teens did a great job of interacting with the scientists and were able to get some insights into careers in field science.
The evening ended with a night hike, black light insect show, and s'mores around the campfire.
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.