NSF INCLUDES Early Engagement in Research: key to long-term STEM retention
DESCRIPTION: This is a two-year "Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science" (INCLUDES) Design and Development Launch Pilot targeting high school students in the Hudson Valley, including the New York Metropolitan Area. It will support a network of institutional partners that are committed to providing internship and mentoring opportunities to youths interested in authentic research projects. The proposed work will build on a current research immersion program--the Secondary School Field Research Program (SSFRP) at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. SSFRP serves high school students, mainly from underrepresented and underserved communities, who work with college students, science teachers, and researchers around a specific science problem. Over the past decade, the program has had demonstrable impact, including attendance to college, and students' selection of STEM majors. Tracking data indicates that retention rates of its alumni in four-year colleges are well above the norm, and a significant fraction of early participants are now in graduate programs in science or engineering. The program has surpassed all expectations in its effectiveness at engaging underserved populations in science and promoting entry into college, recruitment into STEM majors, and retention through undergraduate and into graduate studies. Hence, the project's overall goal will be to extend and adapt the research-immersive summer internship model through an alliance with peer research institutions, school districts and networks, public land and resource management agencies, private funding agencies, informal educational institutions, and experts in pedagogical modeling, metrics, and evaluation. Focused on earth and environmental sciences, the summer and year-round mentoring model will allow high school students to work in research teams led by college students and teachers under the direction of research scientists. The mentoring model will be multilayered, with peer, near-peer, and researcher-student relationships interweaving throughout the learning process.