Impact of our Outreach to TMCC
Scope of the Outreach
One of the main accomplishments of our Interdisciplinary Renewable and Environmental Chemistry (IREC) REU program was the successful implementation of a community outreach component. Making science accessible to a general audience—especially chemistry—can be challenging in any circumstance. It is perhaps even more so when working with students ranging from kindergarten through the community college level in both cities and on a Native American Reservation in North Dakota. However, with the assistance of NSF's "science messenger training," our REU participants were able to do exactly that by helping create an outreach program with a number of activities, including visits to Turtle Mountain Community College (TMCC), a local day care, and involvement in a Young Scientist and Engineer Academy.
Affecting the Audience
While each of these activities had positive effects, the trip to TMCC was the most impactful not only for our REU students, but also for the people with whom they interacted. This outreach event introduced REU students from primarily undergraduate intuitions (PUI) institutions across the country to the tribal community in rural North Dakota. Our team of REU participants—including two individuals from TMCC—and a group of University of North Dakota (UND) graduate students facilitated a workshop for college education students and K-12 teachers from area schools. The workshop consisted of short presentations on various chemistry topics including aspects not often covered in general chemistry classes, such as the role of computational chemistry or electrochemistry, along with fundamental chemistry facts. This was followed by hands-on activities to show how environmental chemistry concepts can be presented to K-12 students through hands-on learning, as well as a visit to the nearby Metigoshe State Park, ND.
Impact of the Facilitators (REU students)
Besides providing the experience for community participants, we have seen the positive impacts of the activities on our workshop facilitators. Working together to develop and present the outreach activities strengthened their interpersonal skills as a cohort. They also have a better understanding of different audiences and the diversity of the state, as they were provided with the opportunity to observe what kids, particularly Native American students, like about science. One of the TMCC instructors is now a graduate student at UND and is working with ND EPSCoR's Center for Sustainable Materials Science. But, perhaps more importantly, the participating science instructors have started using the activities that our REU students taught them in their own K-12 classrooms, and we hope that the impacts of our outreach will be felt for years to come.