Sierra Nevada Sub-Alpine Wetland Student Designed Research Project

Academic Enrichment Grant 2019-2020 Project Summary

Lori Sindel-Wawro

John Barrett Middle School • Fair Oaks, CA

The objective of this project is to foster scientific learning, and to sharpen observational, inquisitive, and critical thinking skills of the 7th grade students at Barrett Middle School in Sacramento while meeting national science standards. Headwaters helps Barrett MS teachers meet this objective by mentoring students through scientific research projects over the course of four sessions.
Students start in class learning about the Sierra Nevada Mountain ecosystem, creating their own research questions, and designing methodologies to answer their questions. Next, the class takes a full day trip to a sub-alpine wetland in the Sierra Nevada to conduct student-designed experiments to test their hypotheses. During the next session instructors guide students through analyzing their data and creating a presentation that synthesizes their project. The students learn and apply math, writing, and technology skills to complete their multidisciplinary project. Students will present their research projects to the class during the final day of the program. This session allows students to practice public speaking while demonstrating comprehension of their projects in response to audience questions.
Select students are chosen to present their research at a Sacramento-area Headwaters Celebrate Science event. Parents and local media are invited to join other community members at the event to learn about the research the students have conducted. This program follows Headwaters 3-year professional development progression. Over the course of 3 iterations of this program Barrett Middle School teachers will gain the skills to implement these student research projects without Headwaters. The final iteration of this trip will be a 2-day, 1-night overnight trip to the Sierra Club’s Clair Tappaan Lodge. The Sierra Club is able to lodging scholarships for regional low income schools that can go towards offsetting lodging costs. Project members feel strongly about the value of bringing thier students to the Sierra Nevada Mountains because they want their students to understand that they play a vital role in solving environmental problems that affect us locally and globally. Many of the students have limited outdoor experience and some have never left our local region. Due students’ low socioeconomic status (SES), they lack opportunities to explore, and understand, the watershed they live in. Even though the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range is so close to Carmichael, California the students have not had the opportunity to explore them. With exploration comes long term understanding of how ecosystems work and the effects of human activity on them. When combined with conservation lessons students will have before and during the trip from the instructors, the goal is to create student citizens that have a strong sense of stewardship and respect for the environment.

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