Broadening Diversity in the Geosciences Through Teacher–Student Workshops That Emphasize Community-Based Research Projects

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Murray, K. S., Napieralski, J., Luera, G., Thomas-Brown, K., & Reynolds-Keefer, L. (2012). Broadening Diversity in the Geosciences Through Teacher–Student Workshops That Emphasize Community-Based Research Projects. Journal of Geoscience Education, 60(2), 179-188. DOI: 10.5408/10-215.1
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The Geosciences Institute for Research and Education at the University of Michigan–Dearborn has been an example of a successful and effective model in increasing the participation of underrepresented groups in the geosciences. The program emphasizes involving middle school and at-risk high school students from the Detroit area public schools, along with their teachers in geoscience research projects, through a series of spring and summer workshops. The workshops introduce students to the geosciences by emphasizing how geology can be used as a tool to solve community-based environmental problems. Students work alongside their teachers and university faculty on projects ranging from an assessment of brownfield sites in southwestern Detroit to the installation of groundwater monitoring wells to the evaluation of how former land use is impacting groundwater and surface water quality. Spring workshops focused on students from three African-centered middle schools in Detroit, while the summer workshops focused more on middle school and high school teacher training, but included a small group of middle school and high school students. Instruments used to evaluate the effectiveness of the workshops included the Science Teaching Efficacy Belief Instrument, the Geoscience Concept Inventory, and survey questions from the Watershed Task. Pre- and postworkshop questionnaires and separate teacher–student focus groups demonstrate that we have not only increased student awareness of the geosciences, but we have also motivated students to pursue career opportunities in science. For example, more than half of the students completing the workshop (boys and girls alike) have expressed a strong interest in pursuing a career in the geosciences. Since its inception in 2005, we have reached over 100 middle and high school students, and 75 teachers. During this same period, the Earth Science major at the University of Michigan–Dearborn has tripled in size, and we have quadrupled the number of minority students taking introductory geology courses.

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