The Lamont-Doherty Secondary School Field Research Program brings High School teachers and their students together with scientists from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory to work on scientific research projects. The program was founded in 2005, and currently works with teachers and students from 5 New York City public high schools. The goal is to give teachers and students a hands-on understanding of the scientific process at the same time that they engage with the content of a particular area of Earth Science. Participating in field work and seeing their students work alongside professional scientists changes teachers’ sense of what is possible for the students. For teachers and students alike, the Program validates science as a career choice and helps bridge students into science majors in college.
For the Lamont-Doherty scientists involved, the program is both educational and pragmatic—certain studies are mainly limited by the labor involved in collecting large numbers of samples in the field, and the Program targets this sort of work. Our main research site has been the Piermont Marsh, a salt marsh on the Western side of the Hudson within sight of the Observatory. We have conducted a baseline census of plants and nekton and begun time series of hydrographic parameters both within the marsh and nearby, in the Hudson estuary. Data generated by the teachers and students is being used by an NSF-funded project to study nutrient fluxes in the Hudson watershed. In the upcoming year, students will also be involved in collecting and processing air samples for pollution studies as well as rock and soil samples for studying the end of the last ice age in the Hudson Valley.
During the summers, we have collaborated with the Harlem Children’s Society, Columbia University and the National Science Foundation to provide stipends or part-time work for students. Financial support makes the Program a viable summer activity for students from a diverse range of economic backgrounds. Several of our students have used their experience in the Program to get ongoing part-time jobs as laboratory technicians. So far, all of our participants are in college or college-bound.
The program currently partners with The Young Women’s Leadership School, The Manhattan-Hunter Science High School, and The Harbor School, The High School of Environmental Leadership and The Henry Street High School for International Studies. The summer field program is a NYC Department of Education accredited Field Science course offered by the Young Women’s Leadership School.
Each participating school has assigned a science teacher to act as liaison with the program, typically someone who is also participating in the field work. The teachers are responsible for selecting students to participate along with them. There are no formal requirements for student participation, but the teachers have been encouraged to select a diverse group. During the first three years, 50 percent of the students have been young women; 80 percent have been from traditionally underserved ethnic groups. 90 percent have been Title I eligible.