Campus as Conservation Classroom
Wednesday 12:05 PT / 1:05 MT / 2:05 CT / 3:05 ET Online
Oral Session Part of Oral Session I: Student Learning
Place-based learning develops a sense of belonging for the student and an investment in the local community. By drawing upon regional history, ecology, issues, and data, learners are shown clear ties between curriculum and their lives and experiences. At Red Rocks Community College, the Honors Program has a focus on interdisciplinary problem solving and student leadership development. The students look at a wicked problem, like climate change, from many different lenses as it is woven into the honors courses. Embracing the PBL framework for the honors curriculum has been the inspiration to build up our campus as an ecological classroom to explore climate change. Several long-term conservation projects centered on our campus are underway. The first project to launch was an investigation of invasive plant species on campus. Students took part in a service-learning project with a community organization to do invasive species removal at a local park. When we returned to campus, the students noticed that we have the same plants invading parts of our campus as well. There is now a long-term effort to map and remove invasive plant species and restore natives to those spaces. This launched a camera trap project to monitor the wildlife. The wildlife images are being utilized in a number of ways, including as a data set for a machine learning class. The Honors students have now expanded their focus to include the campus community gardens, helping to build new beds, a greenhouse and a native plant demonstration garden. Involvement in these campus projects has led many students to focus on similar projects and themes in the capstone course. Some students have gone on to transfer into environmental four-year programs. Our next step is to expand these projects through undergraduate research opportunities through programs like LSAMP, to further engage underrepresented students in STEM.