Connected while distant Networking CUREs across classrooms to create community and inspire students

January 3 – Febuary 28, 2021

Meeting Abstract

S4-12  Tue Jan 5 15:15 – 15:30  Connected while distant: Networking CUREs across classrooms to create community and inspire students Lanier, HC*; Connors, PK; Varner, J; Dizney, L; Duggan, JM; Erb, LP; Yahnke, CJ; Flaherty, EA; Hanson, JD; University of Oklahoma; Colorado Mesa University; Colorado Mesa University; University of Portland; California State University, Monterey Bay; Warren Wilson College; University of Wisconsin Stevens Point; Purdue University; Biodiversity Research and Education

One hallmark of learning during COVID-19 is the feeling of isolation experienced by many undergraduate students. As classes pivoted online, many high-impact, high-touch teaching practices in STEM (e.g., Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences, CUREs), have been lost. Over the last 5 years, CUREs have increased due to their potential to broaden opportunities for undergraduate students to gain research skills. However, many CUREs require specialized equipment or space, and are difficult to implement remotely. Here, we present an overview of Squirrel-Net, a network supporting ecology-focused CUREs that we have successfully transitioned to distance-based delivery. These CUREs engage undergraduates in authentic, course-based research focused on the ecology of squirrels. Because squirrels are easily seen and abundant in a range of habitats, they are an ideal system for students to develop their own scientific questions. Moreover, because our CUREs are performed outdoors, most without specialized equipment, they are easily transitioned online. Finally, the network connects classes and people; students contribute their data to national datasets to develop a shared resource, and courses from different institutions are connected through presentations and discussions. This project shows the positive student outcomes that arise from connecting classes and people, and from building a sense of scientific community around an integrated study system.

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