Students become scientists through SIUE’s STEM programs

EDWARDSVILLE – The STEM Research, Education and Outreach Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville inspires area middle and high school students to think of themselves as scientists, to become critical thinkers, problem solvers and innovators , providing them with opportunities to engage in genuine scientific research .

The STEM Center, along with the Environmental Sciences Department of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Applied Health Department of the School of Education, Health and Human Behavior, East St. Louis Center (ESLC) Upward Bound Math and Science (UBMS) Collinsville High School Program and a colleague from the University of Southern Maine Public Health Program, spoke with students during hands-on learning sessions held in June and July.

“Through these programs, we aim to support students’ interest in science by engaging them in authentic science experiences,” said Carol Colaninno, PhD, associate research professor and program director for the SIUE STEM Center. “We have also focused on supporting students’ identities as scientists.”

The summer programs were made possible through support from two national grant programs – the National Science Foundation Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (NSF ITEST) and the National Institute of Science’s Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA). general medical services from the National Institutes of Health

With funding from the NSF ITEST grant, the STEM center and its partners offered the Y-CITYSCI (Youth-Led Citizen Science Network for Community Environmental Assessment) program. The participating students were from ESLC’s UB Math and Science Collinsville High School program, a competitive academic initiative designed to prepare students for a four-year degree in a STEM field.

“The program provided high school students who belong to historically underrepresented groups in STEM fields, the opportunity to lead and participate in scientific research,” Colaninno said. “Students studied community issues related to air quality, noise levels, soil pollutants, and human changes to the environment. They focused on the community and incorporated technology into their surveys. We have empowered students to take ownership of their research projects by making the program student-centered and student-driven.

Scientists and science teachers guided participants through the process of data collection, analysis and interpretation.

“My project was about air quality throughout SIUE and I was wondering if it was unsafe for people with various health conditions,” said Alejandra Alcala, a senior at Collinsville High School.

“Our research project involved going to different randomly selected buildings to assess the number of recyclable materials in the trash cans, said Brian Castro, a junior from Collinsville High School. “Based on our research, we suggest the University add more outdoor recycling bins to improve convenience.”

“The STEM Center wants students with an interest in science to have the opportunity to pursue a career in science,” added Colin Wilson, SIUE STEM Center Instructor and Outreach Specialist. “We want science to be engaging for students and for students to feel empowered to do science. When students have the opportunity to investigate questions that interest them, they become even more engaged and confident in their abilities as scientists. »

The Environmental Health Investigators program ran concurrently with the Y-CITYSCI program with support from the NIH SEPA grant. The program aimed to prepare students who identify with historically marginalized groups in STEM to pursue careers and studies focused on the health sciences.

“Students learn and develop knowledge about the effects of the environment on human health,” Colaninno said. “They then develop a research question related to the topic of air, noise and soil pollution and determine ways to answer this research question.”

Participants in the Y-CITYSCI and Environmental Health Investigator programs participated in a poster symposium, showcasing their work to friends and family to wrap up the summer programs.

“The U.S. Department of Education requires that all UBMS programs provide participants with exposure to STEM teachers, students, and hands-on science lab experimentation,” said Desiree Tyus, UBMS program director. “Thanks to this partnership, our students were able to fulfill these requests. Moreover, having authentic experiences like this allows students to recognize that they can conduct college-level research and, inevitably, encourages them to pursue their own scholarly pursuits in the future. Their confidence was further boosted when nearly 80 people came to view their showcase and inquire about their findings.

“The SIUE STEM Center is a master at developing and delivering programs that positively impact youth and educators,” said research partner Ben Greenfield, PhD, assistant professor in the Public Health Program at the University of Southern Maine. “The vastness of what is studied in these programs is extremely exciting. The STEM Center is a perfect place not only to implement these projects, but also to see their impact scientifically. Its academics and collaborators then analyze the results to inform their colleagues nationwide.

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