- Year 2016
- NSF Noyce Award # 1240006
- First Name Linda
- Last Name Rayor
- Discipline Biology
Linda S. Rayor
; Cornell University
There is a national need for more quality STEM teachers, children who can see STEM careers in their future, and a science literate population. Formally training undergraduates how to do effective scientific outreach greatly enhances the probability that these students will go on to become STEM teachers or to continue to do informal science education that communicates the value of science to the public through their careers. Doing science outreach directly benefits college students’ engagement and skill in providing STEM education. The outreach and teaching experience allows student presenters to recognize the value of being accessible role-models to the children they teach. The outreach experience is empowering, especially when perceived as a form of civic engagement.
Since 2005, Dr. Linda S. Rayor has taught the Naturalist Outreach Practicum (http://blogs.cornell.edu/naturalistoutreach) an innovative, experiential community engaged service-learning course on how to do effective scientific outreach in environmental biology. The goals of her course are 1) to train the college students to speak about science with passion and clarity, 2) to give them experience doing science outreach in different contexts, 3) learn about the diversity of careers in informal and formal science education, and 4) to provide the ethos to help develop civically engaged outreach leaders of the future. As a major portion of their training, Cornell’s Naturalist Outreach students participate in what is effectively a STEM speaker’s bureau where teachers request hands-on science presentations for their classes. The outreach program is designed to help children connect with nature through better understanding of ecology, biodiversity, and behavior. The college students represent “role model scientists”, and specifically emphasize the joys of going to college and the accessibility of careers in science.
Training college students how to do effective science outreach as a gateway into STEM teaching has been approached in four ways by Dr. Rayor’s program. First, the college course and Naturalist Outreach program is offered every Fall semester at Cornell University. Second, Naturalist Outreach students write and star in high quality educational science content videos similar to their presentations in classes that are posted on youtube (http://www.youtube.com/naturalistoutreach) to reach a broader national and international audience. The increasingly high quality STEM videos are designed to be shown in classrooms, as well as individual explorations. Third, for the last 12-years Cornell Entomology has hosted a large community STEM outreach event, Insectapalooza, with the goal of engaging children and the broader public in insect biology. Insectapalooza is hugely popular with the entire upstate NY community, as well as an engaging training ground where Cornell students learn to love communicating with the public about science. Fourth, Dr. Rayor hosted an NSF-Noyce funded 2.5 day workshop, Improving undergraduate education through science outreach, in October 2015 to train faculty from around the USA on how to develop similar outreach and teaching training programs.
The program has had a multiplying effect that reaches well beyond the university, with over 41% of 318 students going on to become teachers, taken leadership positions in existing outreach programs, developed their own outreach programs, or redirected their careers into informal or formal science education.
The entire program translates into broader impacts. Significant numbers of Cornell University students regard STEM teaching as their civically engaged responsibility which continues through their careers in teaching or through other venues. In the last 17 years, Dr. Rayor and college students in the Naturalist Outreach Program have given 2500 STEM presentations reaching over 106,000 people. Children throughout upstate NY have had enthusiastic college students come into their classrooms to share a passion for biology and careers in science. The Naturalist Outreach STEM video series has posted 27 science content videos on the “naturalistoutreach” channel on youtube that have been viewed 470,000 times. Insectapalooza, the 1-day insect fair started by Dr. Rayor, is now in its 12th year with an annual attendance of 3,000 people. Finally, professional development workshops are helping other people develop science outreach programs with civic engagement approaches.