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.