S4-17 Tue Jan 5 17:00 – 17:15 Forests after Florence: a model to engage disaster-impacted students in informal learning through relevant field research Katti, M*; Mulvey, K L; Caslin, M; Joy, A; Orcutt, D; Eseryel, D; North Carolina State University ; North Carolina State University ; North Carolina State University ; North Carolina State University ; North Carolina State University ; North Carolina State University firstname.lastname@example.org http://forestsafterflorence.reconciliationecology.org
Natural disasters such as hurricanes have lasting impacts on a community, especially the youth. Focusing on academics after a disaster is challenging for students. Research has found high rates of stress in students following various natural disasters. Nearly 15% of NC State University students were impacted by Hurricane Florence in Sep 2018, many from low-income or ethnic minority backgrounds. Science learning that is highly connected with local communities and broader societal issues has been shown to improve student success. Students also value applying STEM training to solve real world problems in their communities, including issues of environmental and social justice. We offered 50 hurricane impacted undergraduate students (from a pool of 4797 impacted by Florence) an informal learning experience to assess their persistence, resilience, and STEM identity. In Summer 2019, students worked in pairs over 2 weeks to collect community-relevant forest impact data in their home counties: 360° photographs of hurricane damage to trees for 3DVR analyses, oral history recordings from community, and GIS to map hurricane impacts. We used pre-/post-tests to evaluate changes in students’ learning, science identity, persistence, and resilience. Students reported a growth in science identity, knowledge of trees and climate change, and in perceptions that science can be used to effect change in local communities. Students also experienced a boost in science interest and identity on days when they had positive field experiences. Post-disaster interventions using relevant research learning experiences can thus play an important role in helping students recover from disasters.