GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 305-9
Presentation Time: 4:00 PM


HEIM, Noel A., Department of Geological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, SALTZMAN, Jennifer, School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, Stanford Univeristy, Mitchell Building, 397 Panama Mall, Stanford, CA 94305 and PAYNE, Jonathan L., Department of Geological Sciences, Stanford University, 450 Serra Mall, Building 320, Room 118, Stanford, CA 94305,

The chasm between classroom science and scientific research is bridged in the History of Life Internships at Stanford University. The primary foci of the internships are collection of new scientific data and original scientific research. While traditional high school science courses focus on learning content and laboratory skills, students are rarely engaged in authentic scientific research. Even in experiential learning environments, students investigate phenomena with known outcomes under idealized conditions. In the History of Life Internships, high school youth worked full time during the summers of 2013 through 2016 to collect body size data on extinct and extant Echinoderms, Ostracods, Nematodes, bacteria, measuring more than 40,000 species in total. These data are contributed to the larger research efforts in the Stanford Paleobiology Lab, but they also serve as a source of data for interns to conduct their own scientific research. Over the course of eight weeks, interns learn about previous research on body size evolution, collect data, develop their own hypotheses, test their hypotheses, and communicate their results to their peers and the larger scientific community: each year the interns have presented posters on their research findings at the AGU annual meeting. Through pre- and post-internship surveys, we are able to show improved positive attitudes towards science and a better understanding of how to conduct scientific research compared. Conducting novel research inspires both the students and instructors. Scientific data collection often involves many hours of repetitive work, but answering big questions typically requires big datasets. Our teams of 20 used calipers and data-rich compendia of fossil and living species to collect copious amounts of data. Our interns experienced the joys, frustrations, tedium and excitement of being scientists and discovering something new about the natural world for the first time.