Broadening Participation through Disruption and Technology

Poster Session Part of Wednesday Poster Session


Lisa Doner, Plymouth State University
Mary Earick, New Mexico Highlands University
Amy Villamagna, Plymouth State University
Eric Kelsey, Plymouth State University
Rachelle Lyons, Plymouth State University
Sarah Turtle, Plymouth State University
Tracey Lesser, New Hampshire Technical Institute
Ye Tao, Harvard University
From 2018-2022, Plymouth State University, a predominantly undergraduate institution with no geology program but strong B.S. and M.S. programs in meteorology and environmental science ran a GeoPaths EXTRA project "Engaging Students in the Geosciences Using a Lake Watershed Geosystems Path" aimed at building critical cognition and technical skills beneficial in geoscience careers. We recruited first year college students in cohorts of up to 10 students enrolled in Environmental Science and Meteorology majors and introduced them via field trips, mini-projects and workshops, invited speakers and internships to research design, monitoring instrumentation, and data analysis.
Evaluated results reveal increased retention and academic success across the GeoPaths cohorts, and shifts in thinking from (1) local- to global-scale environmental concerns and applications (2) place-based to technology-enhanced perspectives on environmental studies and (3) a general desire to develop global networks of peer changemakers.
COVID-19 forced the 2019-20 cohort to delay internships by a year or two, and student participants initially presented with disengagement and stress. We maintained weekly contact with group Zoom meetings, and adapted the GeoPaths program to take advantage of remote technology to increase our mentor diversity. These modifications, applied by the faculty in 'real time', emerged as impact themes in participant surveys and interviews.
The disruption of the pandemic, and rapid implementation of remote meeting technologies created opportunity to develop a supplemental OPEN STEM project that added climate mitigation instrumentation, monitoring and education to the GeoPaths project. The next-generation of this project is a multi-institutional effort that brings together in-service teachers, K-12 educators, citizen scientists, and university and college students, and the local community in experimental implementation of a ground-based, low-cost climate mitigation project involving sensored mirror arrays. Direct learning outcomes include applied use of physics, geometry, surveying, programming, electronics and science communication.