RiSE Center Seminar, January 30 at Noon, Sarah Nelson

Maine Center for Research in STEM Education (RiSE Center)
University of Maine, Orono, Maine


Sarah Nelson

Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Environmental and Watershed Research
and School of Forest Resources

Who’s the expert here?  Collaborative mercury research in the Acadia Learning Project

Acadia Learning is a joint program of the SERc Institute, the University of Maine, and Maine Sea Grant. The program brings scientists, teachers, and students together in partnerships that result in useful research and effective science education. One of the signature Acadia Learning projects is focused on using dragonfly larvae as sentinels for mercury (a global pollutant) in lakes, streams, and wetlands across the Northeast. This project began as exploratory research, where teachers and students helped identify and narrow the focus for subsequent years; after five years, the project has grown both laterally and longitudinally, providing several models for engagement in formal science education (FSE) and citizen science (informal science education, ISE). We have proposed a new model to distinguish ISE from FSE; in our model of engagement, program design and implementation are shared, whereas goals, outputs, and outcomes are distinct between teachers/students and scientists. Consistent with this model, teachers who have participated over multiple years have developed their own networks, materials, funding, and curricula to better focus the project on their own student learning goals. One teacher has designed a novel experimental research project based on the fundamental science question, which involves raising dragonfly larvae from eggs to document patterns of bio-accumulation. In this project, the participating teacher and students have taken the lead on method development and have become the experts in culture and rearing of these biota. In parallel, ISE has developed with participation from 14 National Parks across the US, where park interpreters work with citizen scientists to collect dragonfly larvae and ship them to UMaine for analysis for mercury. Despite success in mastering the subject matter related to the FSE and ISE projects, practitioners in both efforts still struggle with cross-cutting scientific practice topics such as data literacy and research communication and translation to citizen scientists and students. This talk will conclude with examples of these challenges.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013
12:00-1:30 pm
Arthur St. John Hill Auditorium
Room 165, Engineering and Science Research Building


A light lunch will be served at the back of Hill Auditorium at 12:00 pm, and the talk will start at 1:00 pm



Molly Schauffler, University of Maine Climate Change Institute and RiSE Center

Bill Zoellick, SERC Institute

Hannah Webber, SERC Institute

Ed Lindsey, Old Town High School