A PBL Approach to Linking Environmental Awareness with Geoscience Content at a STEM High School

Friday 3:00pm-4:00pm Beren Auditorium
Poster Session Part of Friday Poster Session

Session Chairs

Eva Lyon, Washington and Lee University
Ashley Rosen, Lexington STEAM Academy
Rebecca Freeman, University of Kentucky
The Lexington STEAM Academy is a STEM-focused high school that promotes project-based learning at all levels and in all disciplines. Complementing these efforts, the Earth and Environmental Sciences department at UK works alongside the 9th grade integrated science teacher to craft project-based geoscience learning opportunities. One such effort addresses content related to the Human Impacts on Earth Systems core area of NGSS through pursuit of the driving question: "How can I understand my impact on the environment and our collective impact on the Earth?" The project entry event involves a "dumpster dive," highlighting common mistakes in household recycling efforts. Other components of the project include a benchmark lesson in which students calculate their own ecological footprints, a student-led recycling bin design contest (highlighting the "Arts" aspect of STEAM), and an assessment based on final presentations involving a "Public Service Announcement" to fellow students. The project addresses standards and practices relating to analysis of geoscience data, feedbacks among earth systems, making forecasts based on data, evaluating technical solutions to environmental issues, and relationships among earth systems.
A larger goal of this collaboration is recruitment of future geoscience majors, particularly from underrepresented groups. Our recruiting efforts are grounded in pre- and post-survey data gauging students' attitudes about potential science majors and careers, emphasizing geoscience. Although none of the students surveyed indicated a desire to pursue a career in either geology or environmental science, 61% of them stated that environmentally-friendly employment was important. Whether or not this can be attributed to the success of the project is unclear, but it suggests that most students are concerned with environmental issues. These results may also suggest we can use project-based activities like this one in the future as a targeted approach for recruitment by emphasizing geoscience careers that focus on conservation and environmental cleanup efforts.