Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 9:30 AM


VAN DIJK, Deanna, Department of Geology, Geography and Environmental Studies, Calvin College, 3201 Burton St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546 and BRUXVOORT, Crystal, Department of Chemistry, Calvin College, 3201 Burton St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546,

Many of the support structures afforded to the student in a typical apprenticeship model of an undergraduate research experience (faculty mentor paired with one or several students) are not possible when a substantive research experience is embedded in a general-education science course. The First-Year Research in Earth Sciences (FYRES): Dunes project takes on the challenge of nurturing 24 first-semester undergraduate students through an authentic scientific research experience focused on the coastal dunes of Lake Michigan. Both science and non-science students are attracted to the atypical science-course format. Participation is limited to first-semester college students to foster a sense of shared experience as well as provide an early opportunity for some students to discover an Earth science major.

In designing and implementing the FYRES research experience, we adapted best practices from research on undergraduate research experiences and science education to build a variety of support structures into the student experience, including research teams, near-peer mentors, a research community, required reflection, scaffolded activities, a structured research process, and authentic research questions. Two iterations of the course have resulted in 36 first-year students mentored by 11 upper-level geoscience majors completing 9 original research projects. Evaluation of the program’s effectiveness included semi-structured interviews and pre-/post- tests.

Evaluation results indicate that the first-year participants feel strongly that support structures incorporated into the course are both essential and successful to mitigate the challenge of designing and carrying out an authentic science investigation on dunes. Particular support structures which the first-year students self-identify as vitally important include the undergraduate research mentor devoted to guiding the research process of one research team, participation on a research team (rather than an individualized project), and scheduled time together as a research team. FYRES project successes demonstrate that embedding an authentic and substantive research experience into the curriculum can benefit a larger number of students than would be possible with more traditional faculty-student research pairings.