BRUSH PRAIRIE — Last month, three teams of students from teacher Irene Catlin’s CASEE II Environmental Science class placed in the top 10 at the Mount St. Helens Institute’s High School Field Ecology symposium at Washington State University-Vancouver (WSUV).
CASEE teams placed second, fourth and fifth at the competition. In all, about 50 teams comprising 200 students from seven schools presented their research findings at the competition.
Prior to the competition the students spent two days at the Mount St. Helens Institute collecting data to use in their research project for the competition. They analyzed soil, calculated ground and canopy cover ratios, and identified, measured and catalogued tree species.
After harvesting the data, the teams designed and created posters showing data in support of specific research questions and then presented them to a panel of experts and scientists from the Mount St. Helens Institute and WSUV faculty and staff.
“This project covers so many of the Washington State Learning Standards for science,” Catlin said. “Collecting and analyzing data, formulating their research questions, the scientific writing that’s involved, and researching background questions provides the students with excellent preparation for future college-level science courses.”
Catlin said the project is valuable for teaching other essential skills as well. By working in small groups to create the research posters, students learn teamwork, problem solving, and time management skills. This project is also excellent practice for learning computer skills because it requires formatting and manipulating data using tables and formulas.
“This is a unique and valuable experience that challenges the students to think like professional scientists,” Catlin said, who has asked her class to participate in the project for the last three years. “Presenting their projects to a panel of scientists who look at their work and ask questions is a very challenging but equally rewarding experience for our students, and I’m very proud of their accomplishments.”