GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 220-6
Presentation Time: 2:50 PM


XU, Cassie, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Education and Outreach Office, Columbia University, 61 Route 9w, Palisades, NY 10964 and BJORNTON, John, The Young Women's Leadership School, 105 East 106th Street, New York, NY 10029,

Without authentic, experiential contact, science exploration loses the vital spark needed to ignite passion and long-term engagement. Consequently, access to natural habitats/research campuses are important resources to science educators. In order to pique and sustain the interest of inner-city students in science, educators must broaden learning and teaching to include place-based environments. Contextual experiences allow students to better understand and connect classroom learning to local environments. The Secondary School Field Research Program (SSFRP) that has operated out of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) since 2005, offers students exactly that.

Piermont Marsh, a wetlands area just north of Palisades, New York, is the centerpiece of the Program. Students have been engaging in a broad ecological study of the Marsh, where each year we have added organizational and scientific capacity. The Program began with 2 research teams (fish diversity and invasive Phragmites australis). This summer, we have projects to study nutrients in streams and soils, sediment accumulation and mineralogy, carbon sequestration, soil bacteria, and methanogenesis. Additionally, the SSFRP offers an interesting duality component to place-based education, and engagement with science that goes beyond the Marsh. As the program has progressed, it is clear that for our students, “place” also refers to their time spent on the LDEO campus, with its nearly 200 PhD-level scientists. Interactions with scientists in their place of work shifts the students’ vision of their future to include higher education, allows them to imagine and move toward a STEM career, and expands their capacity to further similar relationships in other educational contexts.

Having the Marsh and LDEO research campus as classrooms has connected participating students to a location in the community as a starting point to teach important scientific concepts and provided engagement opportunities to active scientists. 100% of our students (approximately 85% Title 1, 60% young women, mostly from African /Latin-American families) have gone to college and approximately 50% of our students are interested in pursuing STEM majors. The Program, has gone a long way to engaging under-served population and promoting entry/retention into studies STEM fields.