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Making a Case for Hands-Off, Student-Lead Research in Alternative Settings
  • Amy Barfield
Amy Barfield
The GLOBE Program

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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This summer, The GLOBE Program brought 56 students from 13 different countries to Howell Nature Center near Detroit, Michigan for a camp-like experience. The majority of the students in attendance had been chosen to attend and received funding for receiving top scores from local US and international virtual science symposia and presented their research at a poster session prior to attending the nature center experience. Between campfire s’mores and nature walks, the students were asked to collect data and create research projects. Having little more instruction than “use the equipment provided and stay within sight,” the students self-selected mixed age (10-19), gender, and nationality groups; formulated their own research questions to examine the local environment (a small lake, the surrounding trees, and contaminated tap water); and created high quality presentations using the data they collected over two days. The diversity of the questions that the students researched reflected the diversity of the groups themselves and explored topics surrounding water health, land use, and human health. The success of this experience lends itself to make a great case study for allowing students the creative freedom and control to create their research projects, especially in non-classroom settings such as summer camps and outdoor education centers. By combining data collection with recreational activities, in this case kayaks and canoes, removing the structure of a traditional classroom setting, and giving the students complete control over their projects, the students had fun and engaged in their research in a more memorable way.