Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Broadening Diversity in the Geosciences through Teacher-Student Workshops That Emphasize Community-Based Research Projects

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Broadening Diversity in the Geosciences through Teacher-Student Workshops That Emphasize Community-Based Research Projects

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The Geosciences Institute for Research and Education at the University of Michigan-Dearborn has been an example of a successful and effective model in increasing the participation of underrepresented groups in the geosciences. The program emphasizes involving middle school and at-risk high school students from the Detroit area public schools, along with their teachers in geoscience research projects, through a series of spring and summer workshops. The workshops introduce students to the geosciences by emphasizing how geology can be used as a tool to solve community-based environmental problems. Students work alongside their teachers and university faculty on projects ranging from an assessment of brownfield sites in southwestern Detroit to the installation of groundwater monitoring wells to the evaluation of how former land use is impacting groundwater and surface water quality. Spring workshops focused on students from three African-centered middle schools in Detroit, while the summer workshops focused more on middle school and high school teacher training, but included a small group of middle school and high school students. Instruments used to evaluate the effectiveness of the workshops included the Science Teaching Efficacy Belief Instrument, the Geoscience Concept Inventory, and survey questions from the Watershed Task. Pre- and postworkshop questionnaires and separate teacher-student focus groups demonstrate that we have not only increased student awareness of the geosciences, but we have also motivated students to pursue career opportunities in science. For example, more than half of the students completing the workshop (boys and girls alike) have expressed a strong interest in pursuing a career in the geosciences. Since its inception in 2005, we have reached over 100 middle and high school students, and 75 teachers. During this same period, the Earth Science major at the University of Michigan-Dearborn has tripled in size, and we have quadrupled the number of minority students taking introductory geology courses. © 2012 National Association of Geoscience Teachers. [DOI: 10.5408/10-215.1]

Key words: geoscience, teacher, students, workshop, institute, community, research, environment, fieldwork

INTRODUCTION

The Joint Society Conference on Increasing Diversity in the Earth and Space Sciences (IDEaSS) was convened in June 2003 to address concerns of declining student enrollment in the geosciences. The conveners, however, also recognized that broadening participation should be a "critical strategy in the battle to strengthen and revitalize the geoscientific workforce." Today, as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) jobs continue to increase, it is becoming more important that we change our strategy on how we recruit and train students for careers in the STEM fields. Nowhere is this more important than in the geosciences, which continues to have the lowest participation rate of underrepresented minorities than all of the other sciences, particularly at the bachelor's and master's degree levels (Karsten, 2003; Czujko and Henly, 2003; Huntoon and Lane, 2007; Levine et al., 2007; Riggs and Alexander, 2007; Velasco and deVelasco, 2010). As a result, the United States is losing its ability to prepare for natural geohazards, to assess and manage our natural resources, and to recognize and mitigate environmental issues. Demographic studies clearly show that to remain a leader in science and technology, the United States will have to rely on a diverse workforce.

Although the IDEaSS conference focused more on the role that scientific societies can play in promoting diversity in the geosciences, there has been considerable dialogue on the role universities play in increasing diversity. The National Science Foundation (NSF) created the Opportunity to Enhance Diversity in the Geosciences Program (OEDG), which provides funding to projects, particularly outreach projects that encourage the recruitment of students from underrepresented groups into the geosciences. …

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