Regional Network Development
Goals for changes in the regional network
Our main goal has been to develop a community of Michigan 2YC science educators who teach with or are interested in teaching with environmental connections in their courses.
Geology or geosciences is a very small discipline at most Michigan community colleges, as is environmental sciences. Yet, we do train students for transfer to 4-year programs in both areas, and support students pursuing associates degree programs and certificates related to our disciplinary areas at our college. Additionally, our students demonstrate a strong interest in how geosciences and environmental sciences relate to their everyday lives and communities. We know that connecting course concepts with students' lives supports engagement, motivation, and learning, and understanding human interactions with the natural environment is increasingly important for informed citizens and science experts. Focusing on concepts that are included in many science courses but not usually coordinated (what we've called "crossover" concepts) and engaging students through environmental issues seem like important areas of interest and commonality among our peers. During our 2018-19 regional workshop, we had a discussion about how we are addressing these course concepts and how others are doing the same.
Even prior to the SAGE 2YC project, we had many informal discussions with each other about "crossover" concepts and incorporating our campus and local environment, as well as other environmental issues, into our courses. We continue to discuss our goals with key faculty members in biology and chemistry to gain input on how to incorporate our regional environmental issues into our classroom. Some changes in the classroom have resulted from this connection. We expect to meet on a regular basis in the future to continue this discussion and implementation in our courses.
We facilitated a professional development workshop for 2YC science faculty across Michigan entitled "Building community and supporting student success in environmentally-related science courses at two-year colleges" on May 11, 2019. Ten enthusiastic geology, environmental science, and chemistry faculty from 7 colleges in Michigan participated, and we are planning how to maintain and expand our developing networks for sharing ideas and activities. One goal is to develop a "Michigan environmental issues in the news" website with links to news articles, reports, and research that could be incorporated into a variety of college science courses in different ways. Additionally, participants suggested that at a future workshop, it would be particularly valuable to have representatives from government agencies who could help us navigate online information and databases to find data relevant for each of our local areas.
In addition to the above activities, we both have participated in regional science events hosted at Delta College. Each fall, Delta College hosts the Great Lakes Bay Region STEM Festival where area elementary and middle schools bring their students for hands-on demonstrations and activities related to STEM fields. There is a full day with the students and a full day dedicated to the public. In our winter semester (usually the end of February) Delta College hosts the regional Science Olympiad for area middle and high school teams. We are both volunteers each year and Andrea has recently become one of the co-coordinators of this event.
My (Wendy's) collaboration with other faculty has yielded changes in the structure of lab activities in my course.
Our regional network is in its infancy, but it appears we have identified a need and our initial contacts are very enthusiastic about future collaboration.
Outreach activities such as the Great Lakes Bay Region STEM Festival allow us to connect with both students and our communities. Last year's STEM Festival included participation of approximately 3200 middle school students and chaperones on Friday and an estimate of over 3000 additional visitors to the event on Saturday.