- Year 2023
- NSF Noyce Award # 1950312
- First Name Steven
- Last Name Fletcher
- Discipline Chemistry, Life Sciences, Mathematics, STEM Education (general)
Catherine Campbell, Jonathan Hodge, Kim O’Keefe, Casey Sherman
The mental and emotional aftermath caused by the recent COVID pandemic has left many college students disconnected and shaken. Global issues like the war in Ukraine, global climate change, and US political polarization have not helped. There is a need for experiential coursework that reconnects our students with the physical world. One solution is to build experiences that can re-connect students with basic applied skills by building a tool or piece of equipment that can then be used to study nature. This project combines the exploration and study of wetland ecosystems with the construction of a canoe for use in ensuing field-work. Developing basic woodworking skills can build pride, self-confidence and grit. The goal is to create a transformative experience for STEM students to become confident and engaged learners who see the value of work as a tool for personal and professional growth. For the STEM educator, an additional goal is to consider and apply this type of learning to their own secondary science or math classroom.
How does the integration of craftsmanship and the construction of practical equipment for study of the natural world in STEM education align with current educational trends and policies, and what implications does this have for the preparation of a STEM teaching and domestic STEM workforce? What specific applied skills are most effective in enhancing the self-efficacy of STEM student teachers, and how can these skills be effectively taught and integrated into teacher training programs?
This work is driven by a mixed-methods research design, situated between constructionism, craft theory, and social learning theory. This combination provides a rich and dynamic conceptual framework for exploring the value of learning basic craftsmanship as a conduit for meaningful learning. This framework emphasizes the importance of hands-on construction activities, the development of manual skills and tacit knowledge, and the role of social interaction and collaborative learning in the creation of knowledge and understanding. By applying this framework to the study of boatbuilding, we can gain insight into the ways in which this ancient craft can promote innovation, creativity, and sustainability in contemporary contexts and be used to investigate the impact of applied skill development on the self-efficacy of STEM student teachers. Using surveys, interviews, and classroom observations to collect both quantitative and qualitative data, the research methodology is grounded in constructivist grounded theory. Surveys will be used to gather self-efficacy ratings from STEM student teacher educators and STEM students before and after the applied skill development training, and semi-structured Interviews will be used to gather more in-depth insights into the experiences and perceptions of STEM student teachers /students regarding the training. Classroom observations will be used to assess the impact of the training on beginning STEM teacher self-efficacy and the development of inquiry-based lessons.
This project will be implemented in Fall 2023 as an ongoing class and semester project for two groups- an environmental science course for STEM majors, and a series of weekend workshops for both preservice and in-service Noyce Scholars from St. Edward’s University. Potential findings could include: Student Learning Outcomes: The project could reveal how building and using the canoe affects student learning outcomes in STEM fields. For example, the project could help to improve students’ understanding of physics, biology, and environmental science. Teacher Preparation: The project could provide valuable insights into how preservice STEM teachers can be prepared to incorporate hands-on, project-based learning into their own classrooms. The project could identify effective teaching strategies that help to engage students and promote learning. Research Findings: The project could lead to new scientific findings related to wetlands ecology and environmental science. For example, the researchers could use the canoe to study water quality, sediment composition, and the impact of human activity on wetlands ecosystems. Curriculum Development: The project could serve as a basis for developing a curriculum that integrates canoe building and wetlands research into STEM education. The curriculum could be designed for use in K-12 schools and could help to engage students in STEM fields. Community Outreach: The project could promote community outreach and engagement with STEM education. For example, the project could be showcased at local events and used to promote environmental awareness and conservation efforts.
Asking STEM educators and students to build a canoe and then use it in scientific research could have several potential broader impacts: Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration: This study could foster cross-disciplinary collaboration between STEM educators from diverse backgrounds. By working together to build and use the canoe, students from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds can learn from each other and bring their unique expertise to the project. Hands-On Learning: Building a canoe requires practical skills such as woodworking and design, which can help STEM educators to develop a better understanding of the scientific principles they teach. The hands-on nature of the project can also model how to teach and learn science and math in more tangible and engaging ways for K-12 students. Environmental Awareness: Using the canoe for scientific research can increase awareness of environmental issues and the importance of conservation. For example, the students will use the canoe to study water quality and wetland health, which will improve conservation efforts and highlight potential pollution. Community Outreach: Building a canoe and using it for research can also serve as a means of community outreach. By involving local schools and organizations in the project, researchers can help to promote science education and encourage more people to get involved in scientific research. Innovation: Building a canoe requires innovation and problem-solving skills. This project can challenge STEM students and educators to think outside of the box and develop new ideas, which can have applications in other areas of STEM education. Overall, the potential broader impacts of a study that asks STEM students and educators to build a canoe and use it in scientific research are numerous and can help to promote collaboration, hands-on learning, environmental awareness, community outreach, and innovation.