There are two critical objectives for undergraduate science education in the United States: to train the next generation of STEM scientists to perform innovative research and to produce a scientifically literate public who can understand important scientific issues. The current paradigm is not optimized to reach these goals: research, education, and outreach are rarely taught in an integrated fashion. Science is more than gaining field or laboratory experience and skills – it is asking scientific questions, communicating scientific results to the wider public, and educating the next generation of scientists to do the same.
This program is designed to use climate-change research as a catalyst to link STEM research with science communication and science education by educating first-year students across three colleges at Boston University: the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Communication, and the School of Education.
The fall seminar series is designed to highlight STEM research in climate science, but it also includes lectures from specialists in science communication and science education. The students read materials before each lecture, deconstruct the lectures via videotape, and then visit the labs of each speaker. They also may intern with any of the speakers during the summer months. See videos of all seminar speakers here or on our Youtube channel. View a PDF list of all Speakers here.
The spring laboratory course 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. Then 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 the lessons.
The students further what they have learned in the seminar series and hands-on laboratory courses by participating in summer internship opportunities.
The expedition to Antarctica, whether virtual or real, is an exciting element of the program. The students traveling to Antarctica will use a vast array of scientific instruments and techniques, including ground penetrating radar, LiDAR terrain analyses, time lapse imaging, strain analysis, and so on. In using these techniques, and in developing STEM skills, the students experience the full integration of technology, spatial reasoning, problem solving, and application of geological concepts to real-world problems.
The mission control team back at BU plays an equally important role in this research. They students have access to real-time satellite imagery in BU's Digital Image Analysis Lab, and they will assist the field team in Antarctica with sampling strategy, planning locations for field traverses, and highlighting key areas to avoid or visit based on seasonal snow cover. Importantly, they will also analyze raw data, returning to the field team finished products for subsequent analysis and discussion in the field.