Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:05 PM
AIR QUALITY AS THE FOCUS OF A COMMUNITY-BASED FRESHMAN RESEARCH EXPERIENCE IN GEOSCIENCE
The Geology Department at
Brooklyn College has revised its freshman courses to emphasize place-based learning that focuses on the immediate urban environment and places authentic research at the core of the freshman curriculum. Traditional survey-style introductory courses have been replaced by research-based environmental topics. In Fall 2009, incoming freshmen (geology and non-geology majors) examined Brooklyn air quality with respect to particulates. This full semester theme provided a relevant context for students to learn about minerals, rocks, weathering, local geology, weather, geology-health connections, and to develop skills in using GIS, Google Earth, spreadsheets, basic statistics, and microscopes including the scanning electron microscope (SEM) with EDS. The first half of the semester focused on project-essential content and skill development, whereas during the second half of the semester, students designed, implemented, analyzed, and presented a collaborative community-based research project. The overall research question upon which the class decided was “How is the air quality on the Brooklyn College campus affected by features of the diverse neighborhoods that surround it?” As a class, students formulated a sampling strategy, and then worked in small groups to collect particulate samples with portable personal samplers, and weather data with handheld electronic anemometers. In pairs, students analyzed samples from specific sites: particle counts with binocular microscopes, particle size composition analysis with SEM. Each group shared the data and interpretations for their own sites through oral presentations, thereby providing every class member with a full set of particle counts and mineral identifications to allow everone to interpret air quality patterns across the full study area. As with most research, the experience led to further refinements of methodology, and suggestions for future lines of research, thereby closing the loop in the scientific process. Details of research results and student experiences will be presented.