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 8, 2012

Week 1 of TERF is Over

Week 1 of the June session of TERF has now come to an end. Susan and I began the week off with a short meeting during the morning. After going over logistics and safety information, we gave the TERFers a chance to get to know one another with some fun ice breaker games. Once they became comfortable with each other, they were sent off on the "Tour de Tyson Challenge" to become familiar with the area. This hardworking group of high schoolers jumped straight into work with their teams after lunch on Monday afternoon. And it wasn't until Thursday afternoon that this group of 11 came back together for the weekly debrief and paper discussion.

Jackie, Alex, Tyler, Adil, and Maddie enjoying lunch with the
 rest of the Tyson community

We all sat around in the classroom as Susan checked in on how everyone's week went. The general consensus was that the weather was beautiful all week and ticks and chiggers were not a huge problem, yet. There were a few questions we asked to see how each of the students were adapting.
  • Has it been uncomfortable or awkward working with not only college students, but professors and post docs as well?         Not really, working on the SIFT projects helped us build a connections with the mentors, so I knew my mentor before TERF even began.  – Maddie W.
  • Has this been like you thought it would?                                          It’s even better than I thought it would be. Being on the Turtle team is fun because you're always getting to mix it up. Some days I get to ride my bike through Forest Park and others I get to visit middle schools to talk to kids.  - Amber S. 
  • Have you encountered tedious work? If so, how did you deal with it?                                                                                           Sorting prairie grass would get boring after a little while, so we would start listening to the radio. - Tom C.                                                       Out in the glade you get tired real quick, so we would keep it fun by making up games like who could find the most lost pencils. - Julia S.
 Meredith and Amber as they discuss their week tracking turtles 
in Forest Park.

 After going around the room discussing those topics, Lauren Woods, the TERF T.A., joined us for this week's paper discussion. Every Thursday afternoon TERFers as well as undergraduates read a scientific paper written by an author who will give a presentation later that day. This week's paper was on conservation of bee populations. Along with reading that paper, TERF students must also read a chapter or two from their books "How to do Ecology."

Lauren talked with them about the set up of scientific papers as well as actual methods of conducting ecology research. Those methods included observation, manipulation, an model building. During the discussion TERFers had to think about which of those methods their projects fell into.

Meeting together like this with a few hours to talk about their week gives the students a chance to reflect on the experience and share with their peers. From talking to the mentors and TERFers, it's safe to say that the TERFers are adapting well to life in the Tyson community.

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