Pathways in Ecological Research (PIER)
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The Pathways in Ecological Research (PiER) program promotes women in science in leadership positions. The program focuses on mentoring a diverse group of high-achieving female high school students in 10th and 11th grades. The objective of PiER is to not only promote women in the sciences, but to also promote women as leaders in the sciences.
The program is focused on hands-on workshops in which the students work with professional in the field. The program begins with an orientation and team-building workshop, followed by four hands-on, active learning workshops, and completed with a final workshop that gets all the students and the workshop mentors together for focused discussion on educational and career goals, pathways, and strategies.
Each of the four workshops includes hands on field and/or laboratory experiences at Lacawac Sanctuary Field Station. Workshops take place on Saturdays during late spring / early summer and last for approximately six hours each. Time is allotted for each student to experience first-hand numerous ecological techniques by using relevant field and laboratory equipment. Leadership is promoted and encouraged by 1) showcasing mentors as leaders, 2) small group formations during workshops with rotating team leaders, 3) fostering confidence in the sciences, and 4) describing different leadership styles and being supportive of each style.
The program leverages Lacawac’s diverse natural habitats, new state-of-the-art laboratory facility, and Lacawac as an informal learning environment. A recent report by the National Research Council entitled Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits noted that, “There is mounting evidence that structured, non-school science programs can feed or stimulate the science-specific interests of adults and children, may positively influence academic achievement for students, and may expand participants’ sense of future science career options”. Informal education is also highlighted as critical for STEM education by the Academic Competitiveness Council and the National Science Board.
The topics below represent a short sample of the potential areas for workshop focus: