The Open IGERT: Outreach

Outreach is an important aspect of any IGERT program. As an educational training initiative, the IGERT is responsible for educating not just students in the program but also members of the local community, other students, and anyone who can benefit from general science education. The Open IGERT will look to provide educational opportunities in the form of live scientific demonstrations, hands-on mentoring, and online educational material.

The most important feature of the Open IGERT is that ALL course material from the IGERT courses will be made available online so that educators from anywhere on the planet could build their own open research focused courses without having to start from scratch. We will also make ourselves available to explain aspects of the courses that work well and those that don’t so that others don’t have to struggle with the growing pains of developing a course from scratch.

The IGERT trainees will also play a major role in the outreach arm of the program. Students will help spread the word of open science and train other students how to be active, efficient, and good open scientists. The IGERT will host workshops to provide students (and faculty) around the University an educational forum for open science initiatives like open notebook science, science blogging, citizen science, crowdfunding for science, etc. IGERT students will lead the workshops and provide details and experiences from the courses, labs, and personal accounts.

In addition to training students, the Open IGERT fellows will work with students in high school, junior high, and elementary school. The fellows will be active participants in science fair projects, student mentoring, and at higher levels may host students in their home lab to develop interest in a scientific career at a young age. The students will also provide scientific demonstrations both in classrooms and at local scientific venues such as Explora!, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, and the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History.

I also have a couple unique ideas that weren’t included in the proposal, but could be worked out later that would be tremendously beneficial and in line with IGERT core outreach values. The first idea would be to develop educational demos/labs in partnership with Vernier. A friend of mine works for Vernier and from what she has told me about the company and their ideals, they seem like a perfect fit to collaborate with the Open IGERT program. The second idea is an extension of another project I worked with, developing educational projects/demos with arduino. In the Junior Lab course I taught, students developed arduino projects completely open and I think this could be replicated much better through the IGERT program and even incorporated into some of the classes (the capstone course or even the weekly seminar).

The final component of the Open IGERT outreach effort will be the Open IGERT Blog. I’ve been blogging for 5 years and science blogging for 1 year (if you include prior open notebooks than 3 years) and blogging can be a powerful form of communication in general and provides a way for science to be accessible to the general public. The Open IGERT blog will provide updates about the IGERT program, new IGERT initiatives, access to education material, details about outreach events, and much more. Mostly the blog will be maintained by myself and perhaps Rob Olendorf. The fellows will also be expected to post information about their projects and whatever tickles their fancy in an effort to keep the public informed about what research is going on at the University and in the IGERT program.

And since the University has hosted several successful IGERT programs in the past, we have access to outreach initiatives that were successful and can build on those. It is my hope that the Open IGERT  benefits more than just the very local community. Because it is an open educational training opportunity, the Open IGERT has a chance to benefit the country and potentially impact the world.