Evaluating the impact of professional science involvement on students at the Marine Academy of Science and Technology at Florida International University Biscayne Bay Campus
Gunn, Bridgette K.
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I teach at The Marine Academy of Science and Technology at Florida International University in Miami, FL. As a dual enrollment, environmental studies high school science magnet, my students are required to take six science credits beyond FL's state minimum to satisfy curriculum demands. In response to this, my upperclassmen have expressed fatigue and a growing disinterest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses. Recognizing the need for promotion of enthusiasm in STEM, the purpose of this research was to investigate the impact of professional science involvement on my 11th and 12th grade honors bioscience students. I hypothesized that through participation in real-world science, students would be able to see the relevance behind their instruction and change their attitudes toward STEM courses and careers. Treatment in this study consisted of student participation in a citizen science project, Growing Beyond Earth (GBE), offered by David Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Agency (NASA). GBE was a competition-based exploration of NASA's veggie unit that gave students a chance to submit their findings to project organizers to be evaluated for implementation on the International Space Station (ISS). As a part of GBE, students built and maintained a plant atrium that mimicked conditions on the ISS during a 90-day growth trial. Students were responsible for monitoring plant health and watering regimes, managing biometric data both digitally and paper-based, harvesting plant tissues, and synthesizing research proposals from their work. Contact time for GBE varied based on the activity and is broken down in the accompanying logic model (See Table 2). Student attitudes, academic performance and retention in STEM were evaluated in response to treatment. Attitudes were measured using the Professional Science Impact Instrument (PSII), academic performance through the Science Concept Quiz (SCC), and STEM career retention was measured through the Student Interest Inventory (SII). I developed all instruments for the purpose of evaluation in this action research project and they do not pull from previously existing instruments. Analysis of the SCC returned statistically significant learning gains posttreatment, while results of the PSII and the SII were mixed.