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Workshop Overview: Undergraduate Research in Earth Science Classes- Engaging Students in the First Two Years

Advocate and provide support for replacing standard laboratory courses with discovery-based research courses. Traditional introductory laboratory courses generally do not capture the creativity of STEM disciplines...engag[e] students in experiments with the possibility of true discovery...explore the unknown...Expand the use of scientific research and engineering design courses in the first two years (PCAST, 2012) .

Jump down to: Application & Selection | Workshop Goals | Examples | Dates | Expectations | Venue | Costs | Contacts

Workshop Rationale

Many faculty teaching at the introductory level have used authentic research experiences to get their students excited about the geosciences. Access to Earth data, information technology, lab and field-based instrumentation, and field experiences provide unprecedented opportunities for students to engage in authentic research at early stages in their careers. Early exposure to research experiences has shown to be effective in the recruitment of students, improved retention and persistence in degree programs, motivation for students to learn and increase self-efficacy, improved attitudes and values about science, and overall increased student success.

This workshop will bring together educators from a wide variety of institutional settings and backgrounds with the common goal of sharing ideas about providing authentic research experiences for students in introductory Earth Science courses.

Workshop Application And Selection

Applicants for this workshop must hold a faculty position at a two- or four-year college or university and have experience in conducting research projects in the context of regularly scheduled classes. The workshop is limited to 35 participants, and the final list of participants will be established with the goal of assembling a group of experienced faculty, representing a wide range of experiences, educational environments, and specialties.

The workshop application deadline is March 1, 2013. Notification of acceptance to the workshop will be made within two weeks of the deadline, and participants will then confirm their acceptance via an online Registration Form.

Workshop Goals

As a part of this workshop, participants will:

Some Examples:

To start the discussion, here are a number of strategies that may be further developed to support undergraduate research in lower division courses in the Earth Sciences:

Measuring water displacement
Two students measure the density of different rock types by first measuring water displacement of the irregular pieces. Details

Dates: August 10-13, 2013

Participants should plan to arrive in Bozeman in time for the first workshop event at 5 pm on Sunday, August 10. (Arrive earlier if you plan to attend the optional field trips.) The workshop will be over on Wednesday evening, August 13, and participants should plan return travel on Thursday, August 14 (those who stay an extra day can attend optional field trips or hikes). Pre- and/or Post-workshop field trips will be arranged in response to participants' interest. Options include: visits to local field sites to observe student research projects, hikes to popular geologic locations surrounding the MSU campus and/or a regional field trip to Yellowstone National Park


By applying to the workshop, participants agree to do the following if accepted:


The workshop will be held at Montana State University located in Bozeman, Montana. All scheduled workshop events will be on the Montana State University campus, either in the Student Union Building ballrooms for whole group meetings and meals, or in Earth Science classrooms. We will arrange surface transport from the motel to campus, or parking for those who will be driving their own vehicles.


Continental breakfasts and buffet lunches will be provided as part of the workshop registration. The opening reception (Sunday) and two dinners (Monday and Tuesday) will also be provided. (We typically have an evening BBQ dinner at near by Hyalite Reservoir in the Gallatin Range to watch sunset over the mountains). Accommodations will be made for dietary restrictions.


We will offer a low-cost option to stay in the dorms at MSU (spartan, but meeting basic needs; convenient walk to meeting spaces). Alternatively, we will make reservations at a local motel and reserve a block of rooms (single or double occupancy) where we will have a group discount. Rooming rates for this workshop have not been set yet, but in past workshops the MSU dorm option was ~$28/night single occupancy and the hotel option was ~$120 + tax per night. More information on the lodging options will be made available as soon as arrangements have been finalized.


Our National Science Foundation grant provides funding for most of the operational costs of this workshop. To be supported by these funds, a participant must be either a US citizen, a permanent resident, or in the employ of a US institution. If you don't meet these requirements and are interested in participating in this workshop at your own expense, please contact the workshop conveners. Costs of the workshop not covered by the grant are outlined below.

Workshop registration fee: $300 ($250 for NAGT members). Learn more about becoming a member of NAGT (opens in a new window) and how your registration fees are used (opens in a new window).

Travel, lodging. Participants or their home institutions must cover costs of lodging plus travel to and from the workshop.

Optional field trips: There will be a separate fee for the pre- and post-workshop optional field trips. That fee has not yet been determined, but will cover transportation and food on a break-even basis.

We will be able to offer small stipends to participants from institutions unable to cover the costs of travel and participation in Cutting Edge workshops. The deadline for applying for one of these stipends is March 28, 2014.

For More Information

Questions? Contact Dave Mogk (

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