I-Cubed’s FANTASTIC FEBRUARY!

February came and went, but the events that took place to support STEM faculty will certainly not be forgotten. February’s events included a workshop by Dr. MaryKay Orgill from the University of Las Vegas, Nevada and team including Dr. Megan Litster, University of Wisconsin La Crosse and Dr. Thom Bussey, University of Las Vegas, Nevada. Twelve students and twelve faculty from the Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics departments participated in the Advancing Chemistry by Enhancing Learning in the Laboratory (ACELL) workshop. The workshop centered on providing faculty with a better understanding of how to create inquiry based laboratories using the five essential features of inquiry; 1- Engaging learners in scientifically oriented questions, 2- Asking learners to give priority to evidence, 3- Encouraging learners to formulate explanations from evidence, 4- Compelling learners to evaluate their explanations in light of alternative explanations and expecting learners to communicate and 5- Justifying their proposed explanations (From ACELL workshop materials, Adapted from: Volkmann, M. J., & Abell, S. K. (2003). Rethinking laboratories: Tools for converting cookbook labs into inquiry. The Science Teacher, 70(6), 38-41).

The most remarkable aspect of the workshop was the interaction between City Tech faculty and students working together to come up with new ways to engage learners. The presence of students throughout the entire workshop enabled the faculty to hear the students’ perspective and to think about how to incorporate their needs in future new labs. City Tech faculty and students had the opportunity to sit down together to review a chosen laboratory from Biology and Chemistry and to ask whether the five essential features of inquiry based learning were present. Overall, the workshop provided an excellent model for faculty for reviewing current labs which have a more “cookbook” rather than an inquiry based approach.

In addition to understanding how laboratory learning occurs at City Tech, the I-Cubed project is interested in working with similar, outside institutions to find out how their undergraduate research and laboratory projects are created and implemented.

At the end of February, the I-Cubed project welcomed a team of faculty members from the University of Hawaii’s, Kapi’olani Community College. The visiting STEM faculty members included an engineer, a biologist, a mathematician and a physicist. During their visit to City Tech, the KCC group walked the Brooklyn Bridge, explored the Brooklyn Historical Society and stepped back into history with a tour of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. By experiencing first hand, all that the downtown Brooklyn area has to offer the students of City Tech, the KCC faculty were able to better understand how place-based learning, industry partnerships and case study learning are supported at the college. Despite representing seemingly disparate institutions, both institutions have many similarities. City Tech and Kapi‘olani CC have worked hard to integrate undergraduate research experiences (particularly at KCC) and industry-based internships (City Tech) into the STEM curriculum. Both institutions’ I-Cubed projects include emphases on faculty development, student engagement, and providing students with real-world, place-based learning experiences (Brooklyn waterfront, City Tech; Maunalua Bay, KCC). Both institutions also enroll large numbers of non-traditional students and underrepresented students of color. These students tend to have limited travel experiences and minimal exposure to other regions of the U.S. City Tech and KCC are both members of large, complex, comprehensive public systems of higher education. A collaboration between KCC and City Tech will continue the work of I-Cubed at both institutions and will directly address the larger NSF I-Cubed goals; broaden and strengthen minority student participation in STEM, integrate research and education and develop a global workforce.

Our hope is that through this exchange, inter-institutional collaboration will spark interest in future student and faculty exchanges between Hawai‘i and New York. It is interesting to note that the USS Arizona, commissioned in 1916 and proudly built at the Brooklyn Navy Yard now rests as a memorial to those who lost their lives in 1941 during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii not too far from Kapi’olani Community College. We have just begun to scratch the surface of our institutions’ interrelatedness and how we can help each other improve learning for our students. Thus far the exchange has proven to be an invaluable experience. City Tech faculty will travel to Kapi’olani Community College the first week of April, 2013.

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