“When does a scientist become a scientist? It is not when a person knows many facts and even understands in depth some aspect of the natural world. I would suggest the transition occurs when curiosity about a phenomenon leads to an inquiry for new knowledge. This can occur in a person with little or lots of knowledge about a subject. It is an attitude of inquiry.”
– James Bryant Conant, 1947

Science classrooms should 1) make science relevant; 2) give students opportunities to be scientists; and 3) stimulate conservation through appreciation.

The mission of Research Nature is to do all of these by promoting undergraduate research.

This site contains work from our lab, including camera trap projects as well as the study of novel bacteriophages. It also includes information about a summer enrichment program, posts written by out team, opportunities for future students.

This model 1) allows science students to be scientists in the classroom; 2) presents case study and problem-based learning strategies to other instructors through training sessions; and 3) offers science and nature-based programs to the community as enrichment opportunities.

This initiative uses both project-based learning and case-study methods of instruction to allow students not only to learn about science, but to do science. Mitchell Community College students have the opportunity to  participate in ongoing research projects or to create their own projects within specific science classes. A good review of project-based learning research can be found here. Currently, this initiative is successfully incorporating undergraduate research into community college curricula. Mitchell Community College students use lab space as well as the Statesville, NC greenway trails and nearby state parks (i.e. Lake Norman State Park) as their research sites. In addition to performing original research, students also have the opportunity to review current literature in their field of interest and write book reviews for this site.

The following suggestions from Hungerford and Volk (2003) form the foundation of this curriculum:

  1. Teaching biological and ecological concepts that are environmentally significant
  2. Giving learners the opportunity to develop some sort of environmental sensitivity
  3. Teaching in a way that results in an in-depth knowledge of issues
  4. Teaching investigation and evaluation skills
  5. Providing a wider scope that permits investigation of issues beyond the class projects

Hungerford, H. and T. Volk.  2003.  Notes from Harold Hungerford and Trudi Volk.  The Journal of Environmental Education, Winter 2003: 4-6.


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