Where Students Are Scientists
Classroom Cultivation: Exploring Plant Ecology is a project that brings plant science and interactive plant ecology exploration to classrooms and on school grounds. Thanks to your partners we will engage students in the Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, Wilmington, Delaware, and Kenai Peninsula of Alaska regions, along with the current Washington DC and Maryland regions. Students in each region will work with plants native to their community to collect and analyze data all while learning about plants and their importance, gaining research experience, and storytelling through science. Native plants are an imperative part of local ecosystems and provide food and habitats for surrounding wildlife. Building a connection with plants that are vital to your community through science allows students to see themselves as scientists making a positive impact where they live. The tools gained in this project, such as problem-solving skills, science and social literacy, ethical awareness, and sensitivity to the relationship between humans and the environment, aren’t just limited to the classroom. After the experiment students will have the opportunity to cultivate school gardens, using the plants they have nurtured along with other native plants. Hands-on STEM engagement can help students build stronger science identities, often encouraging more interest in school, and building confidence. These engagements also benefit teachers, increasing their scientific identity and their confidence in their ability to teach genuine research and experiments. Students will get to share their data and stories during the end-of-the-year symposium where they present their findings to their friends, schoolmates, family, and community. Through partnerships with the Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Mt Cuba Center, North American Orchid Conservation Center, and Smithsonian Garden we have developed ways for middle school students to make real contributions to SERC science.