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  1. margaret smith
  2. Associate Professor
  3. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  4. Iona College
  1. Benjamin Gaines
  2. Assistant Professor of Mathematics
  3. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  4. Iona College

Developing an Interdisciplinary Urban Environmental Science Curriculum as a R...

NSF Awards: 1950159

2021 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades 9-12, Undergraduate

This project aims to improve STEM education by increasing the recruitment of science teachers and by engaging STEM teacher candidates in interdisciplinary urban environmental science. To improve recruitment and persistence of STEM teacher candidates, this project investigates the challenges for becoming a STEM teacher in Westchester, NY area schools. Additionally, to inspire potential STEM teacher candidates, urban ecology is being presented to connect theory with meaningful and engaging learning opportunities.

One potential avenue of inspiring students to pursue careers in education is to develop engaging and relevant STEM learning modules. This project engaged

undergraduate science students in an interdisciplinary urban ecology module. Engagement in this module was designed to help students apply their science skills in a real world context.

 Continued work aims to use information learned to enhance existing STEM teacher preparation and, in turn, to provide STEM teachers with engaging experiences to share with their students.

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Discussion from the 2021 STEM For All Video Showcase (9 posts)
  • Icon for: margaret smith

    margaret smith

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 11, 2021 | 05:46 a.m.

    Welcome to our project site!  My colleagues and I are very excited to share our work with everyone.  While you are here, we would be grateful for any feedback on how urban ecology could be used to motivate undergraduates science majors to become teachers.  We began this project by thinking of ways to encourage students who are interested in science to become teachers. Our hope is to foster students' initial enthusiasm for science so they will continue in the sciences and then teaching.

     
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    Catherine Horn
  • Icon for: Meghan Marrero

    Meghan Marrero

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 11, 2021 | 10:00 p.m.

    Hi Margaret!  I live in New Rochelle and am a science ed professor at Mercy College--we should talk! I have done a bunch of urban ecology work with both undergraduates and our teacher candidates. 

     
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    Catherine Horn
  • Icon for: Christine Royce

    Christine Royce

    Facilitator
    Professor
    May 12, 2021 | 04:18 p.m.

    Hi,  It's nice to see different strategies for how labs were adapted to do at home during the pandemic.  In regards to your question posted above, I think that anytime science topics can be connected to and made relevant to the student's daily lives it creates an interest in the topic.  Can you describe what additional follow up discussions were held regarding how acid rain impacts the local area?  I would think that there could be many connections students could make to this topic.

    An additional question I have is related to the students enrolled in this class -- are all of the students science majors or science majors with education as well?  Thanks for sharing your video.

     
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    Janelle Johnson
    Catherine Horn
  • Icon for: margaret smith

    margaret smith

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 14, 2021 | 05:08 p.m.

    Thank you for your feedback.  Our students are beginning science majors.  We wanted to focus on students who already wanted to major in science for a few reasons. (1) we thought that it would be helpful to engage students in science into teaching and (2) in NY the science requirements for being a science teacher make it easier for a student to major in science and then get an advanced degree with a teaching certificate.  We thought that getting more of our students to remain enrolled in science would increase the likelihood that students would choose teaching.

  • Icon for: Catherine Horn

    Catherine Horn

    Facilitator
    Moores Professor and Chair
    May 12, 2021 | 04:59 p.m.

    Thanks for the introduction to your program. Given the pivot that the program had to do as a result of the pandemic, I wonder if there are aspects of those changes that you see as potentially beneficial to continue in subsequent semesters (even without the barrier of COVID)? Said differently, I wonder what important curricular and design learnings you had from this undesired but real experiment. 

    I also wonder whether the university is partnering with schools/districts as part of this effort toward longer term questions/explorations that connect undergraduates and K-12 students. 

    Appreciate your work!

    cathy

  • Icon for: margaret smith

    margaret smith

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 14, 2021 | 05:10 p.m.

    Thank you for your feedback. We will definitely consider this in the end of term debrief.  I think like everything else covid related, there are things that "being forced into" helped us learn how to use them more effectively.  I could imagine how the video tutorial might be useful in non-covd times.

  • Icon for: Jill Berg

    Jill Berg

    Facilitator
    Leadership Coach, School Improvement Consultant & Author
    May 12, 2021 | 07:04 p.m.

    This project addresses and important problem with a place-based solution, and cleverly worked around the constraints of Covid to stay on track.  Bravo!

     
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    Janelle Johnson
  • Icon for: James Callahan

    James Callahan

    Informal Educator
    May 14, 2021 | 11:44 p.m.

    In our experience, you are certainly on a fine track. Urban ecology can be a great subject in encouraging undergraduates to become science teachers. 

    Thank you for the work you are doing.  Thank you for bringing it to the Showcase.  I am so glad you are here.

    Our Mobile Climate Science Labs program works alongside many urban ecology education and conservation programs in California -- at events and in schools. Events include: science festivals, field trip hubs, Earth Day events, youth summits and conferences such as the NSTA.  We see undergraduates follow the path to become formal teachers regularly. As we have been in the communities as educators for over 20 years, we've been able to witness the progress going even further back. People who we first met as middle school students who are now successful science teachers.  Urban ecology often played a very important role.

    Sharing one thought: As we all know, there are so many challenges to be faced.  Among them, how do teachers gain the experience and confidence to be excellent leaders in hands-on science labs and demo presentations?  That can't really be learned in a book, or a university class (with rare exceptions). 

    Science festivals and field trip hubs can be valuable opportunities for experience.  Undergrads and early career teachers are able to get experience leading labs and demos with us at such events.  It's a very supportive environment.  Sharing experience, backing each other up. One can first start trying the lab as a participant, then step by step move into being a solo presenter. As a presenter, one is able to lead hands-on labs with dozens or even 100's of students in a day.  One is then well prepared to take the labs into the classroom.  The kids won't eat you alive because you're not inexperienced. (Fear of that is one reason many teachers hesitate from wanting to teach science.) Instead, the young teachers are now favorites in their school -- the ones who provide fun, engaging labs and demos.  The kind of science teachers that the students and school communities love.

    Big thank you to our colleagues at Iona College in New Rochelle!

  • Icon for: James Callahan

    James Callahan

    Informal Educator
    May 14, 2021 | 11:51 p.m.

    Further note, supporting the approach of urban ecology as a path toward becoming science teachers. Several of the best hands-on STEM events in the San Francisco Bay Area are actually held in urban ecology parks. Often alongside the park's visitor centers.  Berkeley, Marin County, the SF peninsula, San Jose/Santa Clara.  In our video, you'll see an event held at the foot of the Golden Gate bridge. It's a mass scale event hosted by the Girl Scouts.  The location is Crissy Field, which is part a national park, and has its own visitor center. At Crissy Field are two centers for NOAA, one for the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.

    Urban ecology and STEM education -- including inspiring young people to become STEM teachers -- definitely go well together!

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