Paper No. 8
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM
RESEARCHING THE COASTAL DUNES OF LAKE MICHIGAN WITH FIRST-YEAR STUDENTS
Involving first-year undergraduate students in research can be a challenge due to many factors, especially a lack of content knowledge or research experience. At Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan, the First-Year Research in Earth Sciences (FYRES): Dunes project is a course that immerses first-semester college students in authentic dune research with upper-level student research mentors. Early in the fall semester, the FYRES students learn research skills through guided activities in the classroom and at Lake Michigan coastal dune sites. The FYRES Mentors assist in guiding the student activities and complete background research on topics they will present to the students in mid-October. Then teams of students led by Mentors design and carry out research plans to investigate the topics. At the end of the semester, the FYRES students present their results in conference-style poster and oral presentations. The FYRES Mentors continue the research projects into the spring semester to write the final reports and present the results at a regional conference. By the end of their FYRES involvement, both first-year and upper-level students had started or expanded their professional portfolios with authorship on posters, oral presentations and written reports.
The FYRES: Dunes experience was offered for the first time in Fall 2011 with 13 first-year students and five upper-level student mentors participating. The effectiveness of the experience was evaluated using a pre/post design involving interviews and surveys. The self-reported science and non-science students valued the inquiry-oriented instructional approach and gained confidence in their abilities. Faculty observers noted that the first-year student research presentations at the end of the semester had the quality of presentations to that of an upper-level college student.