INNOVATIVE EXPERIENCES IN STEM EDUCATION

E. Sparrow1, C. Keill1, C. Breest2, T. Clucas1, T. Moran1

1University of Alaska Fairbanks (UNITED STATES)
2University of Alaska Anchorage (UNITED STATES)
A major goal of the Alaska EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) program funded by the National Science Foundation and the State of Alaska, is to grow Alaska’s research scientific capacity. Alaska EPSCoR conducts biological, physical and social research in Alaskan communities and their adaptive capacity i.e. the mechanisms that enable communities to effectively respond to environmental and social changes. Its Education, Outreach and Diversity (EOD) Group engages students, educators and the general public in STEM (science, technology, mathematics and engineering) learning through involvement in Alaska EPSCoR’s research and findings. The novel educational experiences occur in both formal and informal education settings and use programs such as GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) and MapTEACH (Mapping Technology Experiences with Alaska’s Community Heritage), events such as Discovery Labs, Hikes with Scientists, Icefields to Estuaries Workshop, Adventure Learning Workshop, and, tools such as the Augmented Reality Sandbox. More than 2,500 primary and secondary students and 300 educators have been reached directly and over 5,000 students more through teacher training. Thousands of students have been introduced to concepts of topography, hydrology and landscape change through the Augmented Reality Sandbox. Retrospective surveys of participants over a three-year period indicate high satisfaction with the educational experiences (mean responses for all items was greater than 4 on a scale of 1 to 5) and knowledge/understanding gains from the educational experiences (mean responses ranged from 4 to 4.5 on a scale of 1 to 5). There was increased interest in social-ecological issues and increased ability of participants to engage in activities related to social ecological system research and/or educational activities. These outcomes appear to be stronger for activities such as GLOBE, that have a longer duration (weeks, months) rather than one- day events.