As a Scientist, a Mother, and an Educator, I often see the disconnect between youth and the world around them; between problem solving skills, observation skills, critical thinking, natural curiosity and the more traditional formal teaching programs experienced by many students. Youth are innately curious and tremendously creative, yet we often squash this curiosity and creativity early on their lives. My aim with all of my outreach efforts is to leverage these traits for their own educational advancements in a fun and engaging manner. I believe that organismal biology can facilitate improved observational skills, increased interest in and understanding of science, and can be used as a means to build community, especially when the organisms of focus are ubiquitous and charismatic animals such as arachnids. As such, the Hebets Lab is heavily involved in the development, implementation, and assessment of effective informal science education using arachnids, especially programming targeted towards middle school youth and community science events.
With The Community
This course bridges the gap between educational institutions in Lincoln, NE, by connecting university undergraduates with middle school students – ultimately utilizing university students as a vehicle by which middle school students can be introduced to inquiry-based science programs. The course is run in collaboration with the Lincoln Community Learning Centers (CLCs) (http://wp.lps.org/clc/), which serve children, families, and neighborhoods through collaborative partnerships that lead to smart kids, thriving families, and strong neighborhoods. The CLCs use local schools as hubs of service, including after-school programing. In collaboration with the CLCs and school-specific site-coordinators, this course facilitates the development and implementation of after-school science programing, in the form of local middle school after-school science clubs, by University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) students.
COURSE OBJECTIVES: The objectives of this course are to: (I) introduce students to inquiry-based learning paradigms and practices, (II) introduce students to critical thinking regarding effective strategies for communicating science to general audiences, (III) aid student in the development and implementation of inquiry-based outreach programs for middle school after-school science clubs, (IV) introduce students to assessment and evaluation strategies for measuring the impacts of their educational efforts, and (V) increase student enthusiasm for and interest in developing informal science curricula. I use peer-assisted learning to achieve these objectives. Peer-assisted learning has been shown to result in higher levels of cognitive reasoning, improved interpersonal skills, enhanced self-worth, increased motivation for learning, greater active learner engagement, improved group discipline, and development of teaching skills.