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Research Shows Transformational Value of Science Field Research Trips

Newman substantiated what he’s long believed by conducting research for the capstone project for his third master’s degree – a Master of Science in Science Education – earned at Montana State University.

The research included pre, post and delayed assessments of 55 current O’Dowd students who participated on Ecology Project International (EPI) science field research trips to Belize, Costa Rica, Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands last spring. He also interviewed 12 of the students at random to gain more detailed insight.

Questions explored included:

  1. What is the effect of a science research trip experience on learning, applying and retaining main evolution and ecology concepts?

  2. What is the effect of the science research trip experience on instilling confidence to do field science and motivate students toward learning science?

  3. What is the impact of the science research trip experience on a student’s personal connection with science and the natural world as well as influencing educational or career pathway choices?

“There was a significant increase in knowledge gained from the pre and post assessments and a jump in kids who felt confident in being a field scientist and motivated about how fun it was to do science,” Newman said. “It was what I expected, but I didn’t expect it to be quite so significant.”

Additionally, Newman reached out to alumni who participated in science field research trips as students via Facebook, asking them to take a survey. Nearly 150 responded, allowing him to gain important insight on the lasting impact of these trips. “I was really pleased with the response from our alumni,” he said.

“To me, what stood out was 92 percent of alumni noted that EPI trips had a major impact on their lives,” Newman said.

One alum wrote, “the EPI trip made me more environmentally conscious, more in tune to my everyday impact here on planet earth, and more hope filled.”

Newman is now focused on promoting more opportunities for science field research, including expanding current science course curriculum to include more field components as well as field research opportunities for students within the Living Lab, and develop more substantial financial resources so that more students can participate.

“I’m looking into getting certified as a wilderness first responder so that we can do independent, local trips to compliment the EPI trips,” Newman said.

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