S&T helps local teachers integrate hands-on science into classrooms

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On December 1, 2021

Biology students at Missouri S&T’s Ozark Research Field Station in the Bohigian Conservation Area. Photo by Michael Pierce/Missouri S&T

Local high school teachers and 4-H leaders may see the area’s streams, lakes, caves and springs differently after undergoing training with geoscientists at Missouri S&T.

A new Missouri S&T program, titled “Getting your feet wet: Advancing geoscience education using water-based field experiences,” aims to increase recruitment of students into this field and overcome an awareness gap by training high school teachers on how to integrate geoscience field activities into the classroom. Thanks to a National Science Foundation grant, these educators will become more aware of geosciences as a potential career pathway for their students.

S&T faculty in geosciences, geological engineering, and teacher education and certification will work together to build relationships between educators and geosciences professionals, including citizen-science organizations connected to local field work. The geosciences faculty are creating student activities similar to what geoscientists would do on the job, while the teacher education faculty will create lessons that will be effective at the high school level.

“In Missouri, there are a lot of places that students can visit and complete field work in these areas, so we wanted to create activities that would utilize these spaces,” says Dr. Michelle Schwartze, assistant teaching professor in teacher education and certification at S&T. “The lessons we create will have students actively engaged in solving a ‘problem’ related to water. By using more of a hands-on approach, the students should be able to make better connections to the lesson because they will be based on real-world situations.”

Research areas such as water security and climate change are becoming more common topics of interest, and 27% of the existing geosciences workforce is predicted to retire over the next decade, according to Dr. Katherine Grote, associate professor of geological engineering at S&T.

“We’re trying to show high school students that geological engineering and geoscience is about a lot more than just rocks,” says Grote. “Some of the activities we expect teachers to do most often are learning how caves are made by taking water chemistry measurements, monitoring the health of aquatic macroinvertebrates and measuring how much groundwater flows into a stream.”

With water as the theme, the researchers hope to overcome the awareness gap that the geoscience community currently faces. As more environmental science needs arise, the U.S. geosciences workforce will grow along with it. There may be no better way to show students the importance of science than by presenting education in their own backyards.

About Missouri University of Science and Technology

Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) is a STEM-focused research university of over 7,200 students and is part of the four-campus University of Missouri System. Located in Rolla, Missouri, Missouri S&T offers 101 different degree programs in 40 areas of study and is ranked by CollegeFactual as the best public university to study engineering. For more information about Missouri S&T, visit www.mst.edu.

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