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  1. Connie Flanagan
  2. Professor Emerita
  3. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  4. University of Wisconsin Madison
  1. Erin Gallay
  2. PhD student
  3. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  4. University of Michigan

Urban STEM Stewards: Expanding career interests through citizen science with ...

NSF Awards: 1759291

2022 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12

In this collaboration (U. of Wisconsin-Madison, U. of Michigan, SEMIS) we are documenting the efficacy of urban place-based civic science projects. Classes of middle- and high-school students collaborate with teachers and community partners to study and mitigate environmental problems in their communities. Working in teams they use STEM content, methods, tools, technologies and, drawing from their cultural and community knowledge, they gather data on local environmental conditions. After analyzing their data, they choose actions to mitigate the problem and then present their work to others in various public venues. This place-based civic science model is a way to reimagine environmental and STEM education - by focusing on human-nature interdependence in the urban ecology. When students' attention is drawn to how they are using STEM, their stereotypes about science expand from work done in labs to work that they can do to benefit their community. Through projects youth learn to reinhabit communities and reclaim narratives about those communities.

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Discussion from the 2022 STEM For All Video Showcase (38 posts)
  • Icon for: Connie Flanagan

    Connie Flanagan

    Lead Presenter
    Professor Emerita
    May 9, 2022 | 06:09 p.m.

    Eager to view the videos in this showcase and to hear ideas from anyone who views our video about ways to support the voices of youth as they study and address (with STEM) issues of environmental justice. Our project is nearing its end but there is more work to be done and we think our civic science model holds promise.

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Kwame Owusu-Daaku
  • May 10, 2022 | 06:51 a.m.

    Great video and project. You state that the project is nearing its end. What are your plans to keep your efforts and/or impact going?

  • Icon for: Connie Flanagan

    Connie Flanagan

    Lead Presenter
    Professor Emerita
    May 10, 2022 | 03:11 p.m.

    Thanks, Kwame. I'll weigh on and also ask the co-presenter who manages the project to weigh in. We've been working for about 8 years with schools and community groups in the region and will continue to do so. we've recently built on the work to look beyond students' direct action STEM community contributions and introducing them more to how local government policy decisions can impact the local watershed and how they could use the data they collect to inform policy. we're at a really early phase on this work. 

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Kwame Owusu-Daaku
  • Icon for: Erin Gallay

    Erin Gallay

    Co-Presenter
    PhD student
    May 10, 2022 | 04:01 p.m.

    To add to what Connie mentioned, we have been lucky in this project that we, along with our other organizations partners (The SEMIS Coalition, EcoWorks, The Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner's Office) have long-standing relationships with the schools that participated, and in the communities where this work took place. This project is just one example of the great place-based and community-driven environmental science work that is happening in Southeast Michigan. Some of the work in this project has been built on, and other efforts are continuing with these same schools, as well as other schools in the region.

  • Icon for: Sarah Fankhauser

    Sarah Fankhauser

    Researcher
    May 10, 2022 | 06:20 a.m.

    This is so interesting, and such a meaningful way to engage students in research! How are students sharing their research with peers or others? It looked like there was a poster session? Have students considered publishing their work with a youth science journal?

  • Icon for: Connie Flanagan

    Connie Flanagan

    Lead Presenter
    Professor Emerita
    May 10, 2022 | 03:08 p.m.

    Hi Sarah.  I just posted on your video and answered this question there. The students in our projects do present in public via a large forum day in the region where various community science - place based STEM projects come together. we do think the opportunity to communicate has big benefits - with respect to students' getting feedback that they can do science, that they've used STEM toward the benefit of their community, and that they are part of a larger movement of young people engaging in science for public good. I liked your JEI project and we certainly want our students to develop self concepts as investigators. I'll certainly share the info about the JEI more broadly with our team of teachers and community partners.  Thanks

  • Icon for: Catherine McCulloch

    Catherine McCulloch

    Facilitator
    Senior Project Director
    May 10, 2022 | 09:48 a.m.

    Hi,

    I'm wondering how the partners have worked together to ensure that the environmental problems chosen to address are within a reasonable scope.

  • Icon for: Erin Gallay

    Erin Gallay

    Co-Presenter
    PhD student
    May 10, 2022 | 04:27 p.m.

    Thanks for the question, Catherine and you bring up a great point I think teachers doing this type of work with young people struggle with. All of the projects students took on to address environmental problems were based on close collaboration of the STEM community partner, and the teachers. The team from UW and the SEMIS Coalition worked closely with them to help align students' work to the classroom curriculum, and the partners' areas of expertise, as well as the students' interest. So there were some boundaries on what the students chose to do.

    This also differed by class, with some of the projects being more student driven than others. Some classes discussed options, others used a form of criteria based decision-making, borrowing from organizations like Earth Force, to help students narrow down choices of what they wanted to do and what problems to address, and those criteria included things like "is this doable". Still others connected what they were doing to work already happening in the community, which helped to keep the scope and actions reasonable, and to address larger issues than the students could have done just by themselves. And all of the issues students worked on were things they saw in their own schools and communities, so even a large issue like water quality could be narrowed to a smaller scope when they looked more closely at how their neighborhoods were being impacted and how they might tackle just one aspect of the problem.

    I hope this helps!

  • Icon for: Kevin Cuff

    Kevin Cuff

    Higher Ed Administrator
    May 10, 2022 | 03:01 p.m.

    Hi: Very impressive video and work. I'm wondering whether or not and/or how you assist the youth in connecting the environmental issues addressed with pressing social justice issues. 

  • Icon for: Erin Gallay

    Erin Gallay

    Co-Presenter
    PhD student
    May 10, 2022 | 06:23 p.m.

    Hi Kevin, I would say that similarly to your work with EBAYS, from what I got from your video, much of the student work in our project is driven by the connection between environmental and other social justice issues. Since our program differs from classroom to classroom, and the expertise of each community partner differs, the focus given justice these connections also differs from classroom to classroom. But all of the teachers and partners participate in professional learning in place-based education, with a focus on ecojustice, which seeks to address the same root causes of social justice and environmental issues. In these projects, teachers and partners both ask students to think critically about why some areas in their city, for example,  have sewage backups caused by flooding, or higher asthma rates, than others. In two projects students were interested in air quality and investigated the impacts of a nearby oil refinery and trash incinerator on levels of air pollution. The community partner working with these classes is an organization with an environmental justice focus, and introduced students to other similar environmental justice issues that the students connected with. We wrote a little about this, and about what students have to say about their learning around these issues, in this piece, if you are interested: https://doi.org/10.3389/feduc.2021.693455

  • Icon for: Kevin Cuff

    Kevin Cuff

    Higher Ed Administrator
    May 10, 2022 | 06:42 p.m.

    Hi Erin: Thank you for the article. Indeed, our work has generated findings that are similar to those described in the article, particularly with regard to students becoming more aware of the connections between environmental and social justice issues. 

  • Icon for: Erin Gallay

    Erin Gallay

    Co-Presenter
    PhD student
    May 10, 2022 | 06:45 p.m.

    That's great! We would love to learn more about your work and what you are finding about student learning, especially around issues of justice. What is the best way to follow your work?

  • Icon for: Kevin Cuff

    Kevin Cuff

    Higher Ed Administrator
    May 10, 2022 | 07:15 p.m.

    We recently submitted an invited paper to JRST that is currently under review, which describes some of our work and related findings. Until it is published, I suppose the best thing to do is remain in contact via email.  

  • Icon for: Connie Flanagan

    Connie Flanagan

    Lead Presenter
    Professor Emerita
    May 10, 2022 | 03:15 p.m.

    Thanks for this question, Catherine. The answer is sometimes the problems are of reasonable scope to tackle in one school year and sometimes not. Regarding the former, students have mitigated flooding problems on their school grounds by installing a rain garden. Regarding the latter, students have identified abandoned properties in their neighborhood and worked with the city and community groups to reclaim the area into a public park. For the latter, the teachers at the school and various community partners have been working over several years but each year there is a new phase of the work. Whether short or long term, students seem to feel that they're contributing to a legacy in their community.

  • Icon for: Andrew Dayton

    Andrew Dayton

    Graduate Student
    May 10, 2022 | 03:54 p.m.

    Hi Connie,

    Thank you for this beautiful Program and video!  We are working with rural schools on a collaborative watershed project in the Cherokee Nation (although not at nearly this scale. just, wow!).

    I wonder if rural, remote participants will conceptualize the problem sets and design solutions very differently from participants in programs in or near densely populated areas?  I'm curious about the relative weighting of "natural" versus "engineered" framing when considering a watercourse.

     

  • Icon for: Connie Flanagan

    Connie Flanagan

    Lead Presenter
    Professor Emerita
    May 12, 2022 | 10:28 a.m.

    Hi Andrew. Thanks for your question. I think you are right to consider the relative weighting of "natural" vs. "engineered" figuring in any project. We feel that students' place-based experience - both in terms of how their knowledge learned from their community and culture and in terms of how they can contribute to their local community with their learning - have to be at the center of any learning experience. The fact that you use words like "collaborative" suggests your commitment to learning from students' lived experiences. I do think there are some common learnings that students gain from place-based approaches - concerning human-nature interdependence, respect and responsibility for the 'more than human' world, and some principles about the Environmental Commons that they carry with them after participating in projects - rural or urban. Here's a paper that our team wrote based on a project in a rural area that may be relevant. 

    https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/016...

     

  • May 11, 2022 | 09:15 a.m.

    Thank you for sharing this project! I appreciate your focus on place-based civic science, especially in an urban ecology context.

    I'm curious about your process of connecting with middle and high school teachers and community partners to participate in this program. We're in the process of co-designing environmental education programs with members of a local community and understand that building relationships and trust can take time.

  • Icon for: Connie Flanagan

    Connie Flanagan

    Lead Presenter
    Professor Emerita
    May 12, 2022 | 10:42 a.m.

    HI Nicole.  I totally agree that building relationships and trust are the foundation. The fact that you're committed to co-design of programs suggests that you're already on sound footing. We've been working with the schools and community-based partners for a number of years. The fact that we keep showing up has educated us about the challenges teachers and students are constantly negotiating (even before Covid). We also have participated for the past 8 years in a regional coalition of place-based educators - SEMIS - which has been a conduit for connecting with teachers and community partners - and sometimes we have recruited new educators to the SEMIS coalition. Our team has presented results from projects that we have documented over the years - at the annual SEMIS professional development - those presentations shine a light on the great work that teachers and community partners do and members of our team also have collaborated with teachers and partners in presentations to STEM educator networks and professional meetings. So there has been a reciprocity built over the years from which all of us have benefitted. 

  • Icon for: Russanne Low

    Russanne Low

    Researcher
    May 11, 2022 | 06:09 p.m.

    This is a really powerful video and program- Thank you for putting Dante's voice at the end of the video- It brought home all the points made my the project leaders in a very tangible way. It looks like this project has a large reach in the area- how many schools and educators are participating in this project, and what mechanism do you have in place to foster teacher engagement? Thank you!

  • Icon for: Connie Flanagan

    Connie Flanagan

    Lead Presenter
    Professor Emerita
    May 12, 2022 | 09:44 a.m.

    thanks for your question, Russanne. We agree that Dante's voice captures a major goal of the project. Regarding numbers of classes, etc. - We collaborate with the Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition (SEMIS), a regional coalition of formal and non-formal educators dedicated to place-based education. They have built relationships with schools throughout SE MI and have a large and constantly growing group of educators who participate in their professional development annually. The teachers and community partners for Urban STEM Stewards were recruited through these connections and we have been documenting what students do and learn and how adults collaborate with them in projects in schools located in urban communities. Over the past 7-8 years about 500 students have been involved in the projects we have documented. The results of our documentation are shared during the annual PD to foster and inform further teacher engagement - and also are shared by our team and SEMIS with various STEM practitioner networks. Thanks again for your interest.  

  • Icon for: Mike Szydlowski

    Mike Szydlowski

    Facilitator
    K-12 Science Coordinator
    May 11, 2022 | 09:11 p.m.

    I love that you have brought place-based and environmental opportunities to an urban school!  Now that the project on water was tackled, what do you hope to do with your students next year? Also, wereany of the solutions implemented? This is very exciting!  

  • Icon for: Connie Flanagan

    Connie Flanagan

    Lead Presenter
    Professor Emerita
    May 12, 2022 | 09:35 a.m.

    Thanks for your interest, Mike. We have been working for several years with the teachers and community partners and work with SEMIS, a regional coalition of place-based educators. Our collective efforts will continue and we find that the projects evolve with each new cohort of classes. Students' solutions are implemented in various ways - some solutions can be done within the school year - i.e., installing rain gardens or bioswales; alerting local residents about bad air quality days. other solutions (getting rid of abandoned properties and replacing with public space, for example) take many years but dedicated teachers and community partners keep working with new cohorts of students to make those happen. since you mentioned urban schools, you may be interested in this publication: 

    https://doi.org/10.3390/su13147736

  • Icon for: Nichole Gosselin

    Nichole Gosselin

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 11, 2022 | 10:56 p.m.

    What a powerful program. I love that the students identified environmental concerns in the community and became invested in solving those problems. How were the projects managed and assessed along the way?

  • Icon for: Connie Flanagan

    Connie Flanagan

    Lead Presenter
    Professor Emerita
    May 12, 2022 | 09:21 a.m.

    Thanks for your interest, Nichole. Erin Gallay, the project manager, works closely with the teachers, community partners, and the SEMIS staff to manage the projects. Our team also has assessed the projects by collecting feedback from participants using multiple methods - open-ended reflections from students on what they learned; pre-post surveys; and interviews. Here are some representative publications. https://doi.org/10.1080/13676261.2021.1994132.   https://doi.org/10.3389/feduc.2021.693455.  https://doi.org/10.3390/ su13147736. 

  • Icon for: Anita Crowder

    Anita Crowder

    Informal Educator
    May 12, 2022 | 10:02 a.m.

    Amazing program with so many layers of impact, from teachers to students to families to communities.  I love the video and seeing how the students feel so much agency and empowerment to make change.  Thank you for your work and for sharing it! 

  • Icon for: Connie Flanagan

    Connie Flanagan

    Lead Presenter
    Professor Emerita
    May 13, 2022 | 09:18 a.m.

    Thanks, Anita. The fact that Dante took what he learned to another community group and convinced them to implement a similar project suggests that there are some ripple effects, often hard to capture.

  • May 13, 2022 | 01:04 a.m.

    What an impressive and important video!  This work has a lot of power, and I can see that it is making a difference in the world and in the students' lives and understanding.  Thank you team for these contributions!  Barbara

  • Icon for: Connie Flanagan

    Connie Flanagan

    Lead Presenter
    Professor Emerita
    May 13, 2022 | 04:09 p.m.

    Thanks, Barbara.  These students reinforce my (sometimes waning) faith in humanity and hopes for the future. Best, Connie

  • Icon for: Connie Flanagan

    Connie Flanagan

    Lead Presenter
    Professor Emerita
    May 13, 2022 | 09:16 a.m.

    Thanks, Barbara.  These students reinforce my (sometimes waning) faith in humanity and hopes for the future. Best, Connie

  • Small default profile

    Catie Wytychak

    Informal Educator
    May 13, 2022 | 03:00 p.m.

    This video does a wonderful job of showcasing such an inspirational project. I'm so impressed when students are brought out to solve real world problems and get involved in improving the landscapes around them. 

  • Icon for: Connie Flanagan

    Connie Flanagan

    Lead Presenter
    Professor Emerita
    May 13, 2022 | 04:08 p.m.

    Thanks for your remarks, Katie.  I couldn't agree more.

  • Icon for: Clara Cogswell

    Clara Cogswell

    Community Support Hydrologist
    May 13, 2022 | 03:20 p.m.

    Amazing project! Engaging young people in citizen science data collection is so helpful to translating findings into real impact in communities. Are there plans to monitor whether these students choose to pursue stem careers in the future? Or is that beyond the scope of the present work

  • Icon for: Connie Flanagan

    Connie Flanagan

    Lead Presenter
    Professor Emerita
    May 13, 2022 | 04:08 p.m.

    Thanks, Clara. We do have pre-post data on students' interest in careers where they could use science to benefit their community, family, and people. that's the way we have framed a STEM career in the study. Currently we are working on a paper to summarize those results. We do not have any possibility of following students long-term to actually find out what careers they pursue.

  • Small default profile

    Anita Flanagan

    May 14, 2022 | 09:23 a.m.

    Very impressive. Obviously the students are invested and the work is critical.  That says success to me. I hope that is seen by the folks funding the project and they keep it going.

  • Icon for: Connie Flanagan

    Connie Flanagan

    Lead Presenter
    Professor Emerita
    May 14, 2022 | 11:52 a.m.

    Thanks for your reflections, Anita. The work is critical in light of the environmental challenges younger generations face. They restore my faith in humanity.

  • Icon for: Georgia Bracey

    Georgia Bracey

    Researcher
    May 16, 2022 | 12:34 p.m.

    Wonderful video and project! It's great to see students engaging in relevant scientific work and to see the resulting increase in confidence and agency.

  • Icon for: Erin Gallay

    Erin Gallay

    Co-Presenter
    PhD student
    May 16, 2022 | 01:41 p.m.

    Thanks Georgia, I'm glad the confidence and agency of students comes through, that is definitely one of the biggest take-a ways for us from this work!

  • May 17, 2022 | 11:18 a.m.

    This is such an inspiring project! Thank you for sharing and for providing a guide for connecting students to environmental science (and science in general) in ways that are meaningful and relevant to them. 

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