Science on the Move

University of North Carolina-Asheville

Director:   Irene Rossell, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair
Dept. of Environmental Studies
irossell@unca.edu

Project:   Science on the Move: Closing the Opportunity Gap for Migrant Youth with Science, Technology, and Multimedia

Science on the Move addresses the opportunity gap for migrant youth by providing engaging science activities and mentoring by college faculty and undergraduate students over a three-year period.  During the program, thirty middle and high school students recruited through the Buncombe County Schools Migrant Education Program are brought to the campus of the University of North Carolina Asheville for a two-week science enrichment camp each summer. Children of migrant farmworkers are one of the poorest and most vulnerable socioeconomic groups in western North Carolina.  Migrant youth are at high risk of dropping out of school due to frequent moves, repeated absences, and lack of encouragement from schools and teachers.

Students participate in two hands-on investigative activities each day in diverse STEM fields including chemistry, atmospheric sciences, ecology, biology, physics, computer sciences, and engineering.  Students also attend a video production session each day to explore the connectivity between science and art while learning to use filmmaking, sound editing, and animation to create digital storytelling videos.  Videos and science activities are presented to parents and families at an end-of-camp Summer Science Celebration.  Since migrant youth live in very rural areas, students participate in academic year programming via a Virtual Science Club, but gather together for three Saturday Science Expeditions (fall, winter, and spring) at local science venues.  The Saturday field trips provide students opportunities for experiential learning while they meet and interact with professionals with interesting science careers (e.g., astronomer, geologist, ecologist, engineer).  Venues include Hickory Nut Gap Farm (sustainable agriculture), Navitat Canopy Adventures (forest ecology and tree canopies), and the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (astronomy and physics).  Family members are invited to join their student for the final trip of the year.  Up to 90 migrant students will benefit from these opportunities over the three-years of this grant.  Our goals for Science on the Move are to create enthusiasm for science and science-related careers; develop student skills in scientific problem-solving; provide students hands-on experience using scientific equipment; and introduce students to technology that captures their interest while building real-world skill sets.