Encouraging science learning and the local environment

Faculty member collecting water samples outside with two students.

Published October 16, 2019

Alexandra Schindel, associate professor from the Department of Learning and Instruction (LAI), is partnering with Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper to support their youth-centered education programs. Waterkeeper recruits high school students from Buffalo Public Schools to participate in these programs, which encourage environmental science learning. This collaborative project, with LAI faculty members Ryan Rish and Sameer Honwad and UB Department of Geology faculty member Christopher Lowry, is part of the Graduate School of Education Faculty in Residence Program.

“Waterkeeper is a local nonprofit that protects and restores the waterways and ecosystem of Western New York,” says Schindel. “Their youth programming accomplishes this through community-focused science learning and advocacy in partnership with Buffalo Public Schools high school teachers.” The environmental science programs include participation in an emergent after-school class that provides youth the opportunity to earn college credit and a paid summer internship.

The overall goals of this project are to: (1) research and strengthen pathways into science for and with historically marginalized communities; (2) explore ways youth author science identities, engage in placemaking within science, and leverage science for self and community; and (3) support Waterkeeper with learner outcome assessments, digital tool development, and grant identification and applications to support future education programming.

“By engaging local students in science that is important to the community, youth can develop powerful views of themselves as science learners and advocates for the environment. This project is a win-win for our community, particularly given the pressing issues of climate change and sustainability,” says Schindel.

“Our hope is that students will embrace the relationship between environmental science and the local community to make a positive impact on our environment.”

The Faculty in Residence Program is an initiative designed to engage GSE faculty and local community-based educational institutions in site-based, mutually beneficial research-based projects. These projects must demonstrate clear benefits to the community and may include a wide range of researchable topics.