A STEM EXPERIENCE FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS JOINING THE UNIVERSITY THROUGH A PROJECT ON AGRICULTURE
Universities are increasing their offer of activities targeting high school students: science fairs, contests, open days offering workshops and short courses are the most commonly offered activities. The main objectives of such activities are enhancing science and research vocations, approaching society for science communication and dissemination of research activities, and showing the catalogue of undergraduate and graduate courses offered by the Universities. However, high school institutions and Universities can collaborate in a better planned and defined framework such as a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) project. STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — in an interdisciplinary and applied approach. The Universidad Miguel Hernández de Elche (UMH) has recently launched a program called OSMOSIS in order to provide a framework for this type of collaborations. The present work shows a case in which the Science Departments of the High School Jaime de Sant-Ángel form Redovan (Alicante, Spain), the AgroFood technology Department of UMH and the Didactic and Interactive Museum of Science Vega Baja (MUDIC) work on an agricultural STEM project under the OSMOSIS program. The University prepared a proposal based on the main agricultural activity of Redovan which is citrus cultivation and commercialization designed for students on 4th grade (15-16 years). The project combines knowledge on agricultural engineering (cultivars and irrigation systems), using of GIS (geographic information systems), collecting representative samples from cultivated plots, analyzing samples at the University laboratories. Results are further analyzed and compared with European Union (EU) standards for citrus commercialization so students may decide on harvest time, commercial uses and labels according to EU rules. Finally, students may present a map of Redovan locating the citrus farms, showing citrus cultivars spread, explaining irrigation conditions and relating agricultural practices and location with fruits characteristics (diameter, color, sugar content, acidity, juice content and seed contents).
The activity was organized in 6 blocks of activities:
1) Work program preparation by the University and presentation to IES science teachers,
2) Presentation of the working schedule to students who should run some autonomous work (contacting farmers, running tests on agricultural practices and sampling) and well as group work directed by science teachers,
3) the students come to the University and analyze collected samples,
4) data is processed back at High School and corrected in the University supervised by both University and High School faculty,
5) the students visit a citrus company,
6) the students present the project in a science fair.
OSMOSIS Redovan project, Universidad Miguel Hernández 2017