This OEDG Planning Grant award is being used to establish a collaborative partnership between Brooklyn College, the Prospect Park Alliance, and local Brooklyn middle and high schools. The program under development will provide mentored, inquiry- and place-based research experiences for participating students that center on processes occurring within the Prospect Park Lake vicinity. The planning phase of this project includes two planning workshops and a 1-week field research experience demonstration for a sampling of students. This 1-week demonstration will provide immediate feedback to the planning group regarding the efficacy of proposed strategies that might be incorporated into a fully-implemented program. Project content is being aligned to New York State Regents exams, increasingly the likelihood of more widespread adoption. This project expects to specifically recruit among Brooklyn's diverse population in order to broaden participation of underrepresented students in the geosciences.
Under this NSF award, we planned, conducted and assessed a week-long research experience in Prospect Park, Brooklyn for 22 local high school students. The students were from underrepresented groups in the geosciences. The partners in this project were Brooklyn College, teh Prospect Park Alliance (a quasi-government organization charged with the operation and management of Prospect Park) and the Brooklyn Academy of Science and the Environment High School. The research experience allowed us to assess the impact of different program elements on the motivation of underrepresented urban high school students to pursue geoscience careers. From this work, we found that the following elements in an urban science curricula can have positive impacts on students: Students should address relevant research questions The research problems should be identified by managers and organizations with direct responsibility for the environment and its resources in New York City. The students responded positively to having the Prospect Park resource managers articulate the research questions rather than their teachers or the scientists from Brooklyn College. Near-peer mentors need to be included. The high school students built strong relationships with their undergraduate mentors. Surprisingly, we found that the undergraduate mentors were also strongly affected by this interaction in a positive way, though we did not deploy assessment tools to capture this. Students should present the results of their research. They were highly motivated by the fact that they were reporting on their work to the park managers and not just the research team. By creating an atmosphere of a collaborative research team, the students felt that they were contributing to the research in a meaningful way, and responded strongly to having access to the Brooklyn College scientists. Students were more connected to the projects because they collected the data themselves in the field. Students were motivated by having some access to equipment and instruments that are not typically available in their school. The program was effective because the school, the park, and the college all made significant investments (time, space, resources, access). All the partners were equally engaged in the success of the program. For sustained success, a program must have specific benefits to all stakeholders. For example, fulfilling organization missions for education, providing publishable results, providing useful data, etc. A novel element of our program was the inclusion of students in the planning process for the research experience. Their feedback into the research themes shaped the research questions and activities that we planned for the research experience participants. At the conclusion of the project, the stakeholders, including students from the research experience, gathered to discuss lessons learned and plan for a future place-based science curriculum for Brooklyn's students.