Lessons learned from OnRamps Earth Wind and Fire, a dual-enrollment geoscience course

Monday 3:15pm TSU - Humphries: 203


Joel Johnson, The University of Texas at Austin
Alison Mote, The University of Texas at Austin
Bryce Henderson, The University of Texas at Austin
Enrique Reyes, Akins High School
Jennifer Porter, The University of Texas at Austin
The proportion of Hispanic U.S. geoscientists lags far behind the proportion of Hispanic U.S. citizens. Students from underrepresented minority (URM) groups may not be attracted to geosciences for many reasons, including student and family unfamiliarity with geoscience knowledge and geoscientists, and a geoscience community culture in which URM students feel out of place. OnRamps Earth Wind and Fire: Introduction to Geoscience (EWF) is a dual-enrollment course now in its 4th year. In the current academic year, EWF is being taught to over 1600 HS students across Texas. The course provides high school students with their first in-depth exposure to Earth science and an opportunity to engage in college experience and earn college credit from The University of Texas at Austin. Teaching university-level geoscience to Texas HS students is also educationally significant because scientific topics including the age and evolution of Earth can be contentious within Texas.

From 2015-2018 in the first three years of the course, 56% of OnRamps EWF students self-reported as Hispanic, 28% white, 7% black, 5% Asian, and 3% as two or more races. These proportions are broadly consistent with the diverse school-age demographics of Texas in general. For the 2018-2019 cohort of students alone, 52% of OnRamps students self-reported that they are a "First Generation College Student" from their family, signifying that neither parent has earned a bachelor's degree. These data demonstrate that Onramps EWF effectively reaches groups underrepresented in Earth sciences. We present results from student entrance and exit surveys to explore student perceptions of course content, structure, and how enrollment in EWF has influenced their education and interests. We also present our experiences in planning, administering, and teaching EWF, including challenges, areas for improvement, and future plans to develop mentoring opportunities for UT Austin geoscience undergraduates and dual-enrollment EWF students.