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, September 26, 2011

Fall SIFT Meeting

On Saturday, September 24 a group of 31 SIFTers made their way back to Shaw Nature Reserve for an eclectic mix of activities. Since this was the first meeting at SNR that involved large numbers of SIFTers from each of the three summer sessions, the day began with a small activity designed to help everyone get acquainted.

Next, everyone was divided into one of three groups and the remainder of the morning was spent examining a single habitat. One group studied a tallgrass prairie, another explored a glade, and the last a forest. Every participant had visited all three habitats during the June SIFT sessions. Their task on Saturday was to compare and contrast the current look of their assigned habitat with the way it appeared in June. Specifically, they were asked to note phenological changes in their habitat. After spending about an hour outside, the groups returned to the Assembly Building where each one was asked to create a short presentation on the changes that they had observed.

After lunch, The SIFTers remained in the same groups for their afternoon sessions. Each of the three groups participated in 2 out of the 3 following activities:

1) monarch butterfly tagging
2) grasshopper netting and identification
3) medicinal plants & how to make cordage

Only two monarchs were caught and tagged on Saturday, but there is no doubt that their fall migration is in full swing. A different group of students was able to tag 50 only 4 days later. Apparently, it's all about the weather...

The grasshopper groups netted and identified as many of the insects as they could find. Based on what the students said afterwards, this was an entertaining and informative session. Luckily, there was a decent variety of grasshoppers to be found.

The medicinal plant/cordage groups learned about plants that can alleviate various skin ailments like rashes, bites, stings, scrapes, and even exposure to poison ivy. In addition, they learned how to transform cattail leaves into cordage (a simple type of rope).

Overall, it was a good meeting and SNR's staff was pleased with the turnout. Many high school students tend to have a lot going on during weekends in the fall, so it was nice to see so many SIFTers finding time in their busy schedules to attend. Thanks SIFTers for another great meeting!