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.

Friday, June 29, 2012

SIFT & TERF National Dissemination Workshop - June Session

During the last week of June, Shaw Nature Reserve hosted the first SIFT & TERF National Dissemination Workshop for Year 5 of the NSF Informal Science Education project (second workshop coming in July). The purpose of the 3-day workshop is to showcase the SIFT and TERF program models, share lessons learned from working with high school students, and present the results of the informal science education research.
June participants of the SIFT & TERF National Dissemination Workshop in the forest plot at Tyson Research Center

Participants were invited from all around the country and from a variety of professions related to environmental biology and education. The June group consisted of five high school teachers, one graduate student, and four faculty research scientists interested in learning more about engaging pre-college students in authentic field research. (The July group will have a different mix of participants.) The workshop was designed to lead the participants through activities to get them thinking about the logistics of having a similar project back at their home institutions. Throughout the three days they had unlimited access to Project Director and TERF Program Director Susan Flowers, SIFT Program Director Lydia Toth, Evaluator Kathi Beyer, and Shaw education staff. There were also moments for discussion with other people who have been engaged first hand with both programs.

The workshop opened at noon on Wednesday with lunch, introductions, and goals. During the afternoon there was an overview of the SIFT & TERF programs followed by a tour of SIFT programming sites at Shaw. Later on in the early evening, the workshop group made their way to Tyson Research Center for two special seminars with the Tyson community. The two presenters for the night were workshop participants Dr. David Wise (University of Illinois-Chicago) and Dr. Stephen Blake (Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and Washington University).

Once the Wednesday evening seminar was over, the group made their way back to Shaw to have dinner with SIFT & TERF alumni and Dr. Tiffany Knight, who shared her journey from skeptical scientist to enthusiastic mentor of high school students. Former TERFers were invited back to serve as a panel for the teachers and scientists to get the participants' perspective. All the responses we received showed that the participants really enjoyed meeting with alumni of the program and hearing about their personal experiences.

TERF alumni out on the deck of the Shaw Assembly Building: (l to r) Sarah Harrington, Emily Stein, Brendan Hellebusch, Alex Samuels, Taylor Rohan, Cassandra Gallupi, Tess Rogers, and Alicia McCabe

The Thursday morning agenda included group work sessions designed to address program logistics, barriers to implementation, and budget issues.

Travis Plume (Jefferson City High School, MO) and Steve Juliano (Illinois State University) talk about what kinds of research tasks may be appropriate for high school students.
Kay Gamble (Ada High School, OK) and Brant Reif (Valley High School, IA) discuss the use of tablet technology with high school students.

The afternoon included a tour of Tyson during which participants were introduced to large-scale Tyson research projects that have had support from SIFTers and TERFers.

Dr. Jonathan Myers gives the workshop participants an overview of the Forest Ecology and Dynamics Plot at Tyson.

The workshop participants were welcomed in by the Tyson community for the usual Thursday evening seminar and barbeque dinner. The two presenters for this night were Dr. Steven Juliano (Illinois State University) and Dr. Emily Minor (University of Illinois-Chicago).

Friday included a final work session, reflection, and survey before the participants made their way back home. The surveys results were very positive and showed that the teachers and scientists are interested and willing to create similar programs back at their institutions.

Kay Gamble, Brant Reif and Cori Coate (Georgetown Day School, DC) share their action items for when they get back to their high schools.
Dr. Emily Minor, Dr. David Wise, and graduate student Kellen Marshall-Gillespie talk about ways that they can engage more high school students with their research projects at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

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