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THE SCIENCE TRAINING AND RESEARCH SKILLS PROGRAM (STARS): RESULTS FROM THE 2010 PILOT SEASON
Toben Lafrancois, St. Croix Watershed Research Station
The Science Training and Research Skills Program (STARS) is a partnership between the St. Croix Watershed Research Station (SCWRS) and the National Park Service (St. Croix National Scenic Riverway and Mississippi National River and Recreation Area). The mission of the STARS program is to engage students in scientific research, including both field and laboratory settings. During the summer of 2010 this was accomplished through two levels of programming, one geared toward high school students and the other toward college undergraduates.
The programming for high school students consisted of classroom visits during the school year, and short programs held at the SCWRS during the summer. This year, classroom visits to Stillwater High School reached over 180 students, exposing them to research being conducted on the St. Croix River and to careers in environmental science. The three-day short programs at the SCWRS were designed to be an immersive experience with classroom, field and laboratory components; the primary objectives were to have the students design and execute a basic water quality study, and to increase their knowledge of the key ecological issues on the St. Croix River.
Summer internship positions for four college undergraduates were offered at the SCWRS; each student was paired with a research mentor working in either the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway (SACN) or the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MNNRA). The objective of the internship program was to provide students with experience conducting an independent research project. The students presented the results of their research at the end of the eight-week program at a symposium organized by MNRRA. In addition to their research, the students participated in weekly seminars at the SCWRS; these seminars, led by the STARS coordinators, offered in-depth discussions on the process of performing and communicating science as well as career-building topics.
Plans for next year include additional classroom visits to high schools in the Twin Cities metro area, an additional short program designed for students who wish to return to the SCWRS for a more in-depth program and an expansion of the internship program to ten weeks.