A related concern is how we, as educators, develop the education of undergraduate students who choose to pursue STEM disciplines and follow in our footsteps. If the accepted paradigm in academia is that professors perform three primary goals, including research, teaching, and outreach, then current best-education practices are not optimized: research, education, and outreach are rarely taught in an integrated fashion. Why create artificial distinctions, and why delay training in the methods of outreach and teaching?
To address these concerns and seed a cultural change in STEM education that places early, consistent, and simultaneous emphasis on research, communication, and education, we will engage a cohort of 15-20 first-year students annually from three colleges at Boston University: the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Communication, and the School of Education. The interdisciplinary team of students will work together with faculty advisors and student mentors throughout the year-and-a-half long program that is designed to engage students in climate-change research and link STEM research with science communication and science education.
There are four components to the program: a university-wide seminar series on climate change; a hands-on laboratory course in BU's Experimental Permafrost Lab; a summer internship program, and fieldwork in Antarctica - either through direct deployment to Antarctica or through real-time, virtual fieldwork in BU's Digital Image Analysis Lab ' this latter component is analogous to NASA's mission control during the Apollo Program.
The seminar series highlights STEM research in climate science, but it also includes lectures from specialists in science communication and science education. Ultimately, in the summer, the students may intern with any of the speakers.
The laboratory course unites research, science education, and science communication. It contains three modules. In the science module, students build stem skills by conducting experiments on geological samples from Antarctica. In the communication module students develop outreach products that translate their experimental findings into products understandable to the general public. In the education module, middle-school teachers come to the lab and, together with the students, translate the experimental results into workable lesson plans. The students then travel to participating schools and help administer these lessons.
The expedition to Antarctica, whether virtual or real, is the capstone element of the program. Students interested in atmospheric evolution might find themselves drilling into ancient buried ice or documenting terrestrial evidence for tundra extinction 14 million years ago. These students will experience the full integration of technology, spatial reasoning, problem solving, and application of geological concepts to real-world problems in climate-change research.
The mission control team back at BU plays an equally important role in this research. Because these students have access to real-time satellite imagery in BU's Digital Image Analysis Lab, they can help the field team in Antarctica by assisting with sample strategy and field traverses. Importantly, they will analyze raw data and return their results to the field team for subsequent discussion and data collection. The chief goal is to develop a community of scholars across two continents engaged in real-time field research. In addition, the team will produce virtual field trips of Antarctica and virtual field labs for introductory courses in earth science for global distribution.