Growing Roots is a 2-year pilot project with the objectives of 1) attracting under-represented students from the middle, high school, and community college level into Geoscience degree programs at Florida International University (FIU), 2) promoting the success of those students at FIU, and 3) improving the quality of Earth Science teaching at Miami's middle and high schools through education of in-service teachers and teachers-in-training. The project has two main components. One component is designed to inform 11-12th grade students and in-service teachers about the Geosciences, Geoscience careers, and the Geosciences degree programs offered at FIU, which are include a new BA in Earth Science Education and a BS in Geosciences, with separate Geological and Atmospheric Science tracks. A multi-pronged approach is being taken. 1) A one-week summer workshop is being offered to middle and high school Earth Science teachers, featuring Geoscience information, activities and teaching resources. 2) A two-week summer Geoscience Experience for high school students is being offered, featuring realistic hands-on activities and visits to Geoscience professionals at work. 4) The PIs are also working with Geoscience-related student clubs to embed Geoscience career-related discussion trains aimed at middle, high school and community college students in their Facebook pages. Since the Miami-Dade County Public School and community college system has a high proportion of students from under-represented groups (62% Hispanic-American, 26% African American for MDCPS), this project provides a system-wide approach to attracting a diverse population; participation by other schools with significant minority student populations is also being pursued.
The second component of the project is focused on articulating components within FIU's Geoscience degree programs and ongoing science education projects. 1) An introductory Geoscience Field Lab course is being developed to provide advisement, orientation and support to freshman majors and transfer students in their first year. 2) Students enrolled in the new Florida State-certified BA in Earth Science Education, conducted by faculty from the FIU Earth & Environment Department and FIU's College of Education, are observing and experiencing Earth Science teaching as Learning Assistants in the Summer Teacher Workshop, the Geoscience Experience and the Geoscience Field Lab. The Learning Assistant concept has been developed in two ongoing FIU science education projects: GEMS (Get Educators in Math and Science) funded by NSF/DUE to FIU's math and science departments, and PhysTEC (Physics Teacher Education Coalition). Through GEMS, promising minority Learning Assistants are eligible for Robert Noyce Fellowships to complete their education degree. Minority students in the Geosciences BS program will be able to compete for Louis Stokes Alliance (FGLSAMP) undergraduate fellowships, which are administered through FIU's Engineering College.