Increasing STEM Interest through a Placed-Based Interdisciplinary Field Course for TRIO High School Students

Monday 4:30pm-6:00pm Quad
Poster Session Part of Monday Poster Session


Sharon Bywater-Reyes, University of Northern Colorado
Chelsie Romulo, University of Northern Colorado
Andrew Creekmore, University of Northern Colorado
Sarah Johnson, Wild Rose Education
Shirley Vincent, Vincent Evaluation Consulting
We piloted a field-based summer bridge program for Upward Bound enrolled high school students (a federal TRIO program). Longterm, our goal is to recruit, support, and retain historically underrepresented and underserved populations (HUU) into Anthropology, Geoscience, and Environmental Sustainability (AGES) programs. These outdoor-based disciplines are some of the least diverse STEM fields, with graduation rates of HUU students below the national average. Factors impacting HUU enrollment include lack of exposure to the disciplines and negative perceptions of "field" work. As such, we implemented our program to engage HUU students and their families in AGES disciplines through a place-based AGES course that included undergraduate student peer mentors and a family event. Over two weeks, our team conducted AGES programming for 18 HUU students with curriculum and activities ranging from a geology "walk through time", a fire ecology activity at a national park, and historic and modern hunting practices with our state wildlife agency. We assessed project impacts through a combination of observations of participants during activities, student products including text and images in journals, and student responses to formal surveys. The data indicate the project increased student confidence in science and AGES skills, interest in STEM, and sense of belonging in AGES disciplines, and improved student understanding of the role of science in society. The journal excerpts demonstrate the joy of discovery that students experienced as they engaged the natural world in an AGES context. It is difficult to measure the long-term impact of such experiences, but hands-on, field-based learning builds memories, understanding, and relationships that extend beyond the pedagogical goals of specific activities. Future work will consider participants' college matriculation and impacts on AGES enrollment.