Week 5-6 recap: Perseverance

The class is continuing in its mostly remote format. I am learning there are new challenges trying to instruct students on research remotely that I did not necessarily anticipate. The scaffolding of the course continued, with us learning about jumping, climbing and clinging in lecture during Week 5. On Monday we had a Scientist Spotlight with Ms. Elizabeth Mendoza, a PhD student at the University of California, Irvine. We read her recent paper in Functional Ecology, and she talked about her journey as a scientist and her current work. I’ll keep saying it, but these scientist spotlights are the highlight of the week for me, and I think they are really inspirational for the students. I have students turn in a Reflection after the Spotlight, and many have commented how they are amazed that most researchers really didn’t know what they wanted to do as an undergrad. I think the students can really identify with that and gives them hope when they are still not sure. It’s also been great to hear from other researchers how animal’s don’t always want to cooperate and the struggles that we may encounter. However, with patience and perseverance great science can come out of it.

Week 5 had us submit our initial hypotheses we hope to test this semester. I did this assignment previously, and while it is difficult to discuss in class together we did talk about it virtually and I used the discussion board for them to submit their hypotheses. Week 5 also had their paper summaries due. This is a small assignment designed to make sure students know how to find scientific articles related to their research. I did this assignment earlier last time, but think it worked better during the same week as the initial hypothesis, as most students had a paper related to their proposed research.

Three students have been coming in regularly to work and its the same 3, which is good. We went out to the Glen Arboretum on campus, caught some insects and practiced filming.

Week 6 saw us continuing on. Students submitted a revision of their project idea for Monday. We had another Scientist Spotlight with Ms. Ophelia Bolmin who talked to use about her journey in science and click beetles. Those that came in continued to collect from the Glen and practice filming to refine their project ideas. Those at home were doing the same. I sent out more kits to students to be able to work from home, which seem to be coming in handy. On Wednesday of Week 6 we had our last formal lecture, learning about flight in animals.

Teaching this CURE this semester has been interesting. The first iteration I was stressed about the success of the students because I didn’t know if we could collect, film and analyze data. This time around I’m still concerned about student success, but it’s a bit different. I’m still stressed whether they can capture and film animals to collect data. It’s also really difficult trying to instruct students in research when I am not in the room with them. I can’t directly see what they are trying to do, I can see what the animals are doing either so it’s hard to offer advice. I learned I needed a third revision of their project idea, really to see how they were trying to capture the animal’s movement. This has been useful, but it is much easier when I am in the classroom with them. I’ve also spent time revising the second half of the course. While the first half is scaffolding, the second is suppose to be in class time to conduct research. However, most are doing it from home. So I’ve been modifying assignments, which I’ll update later, to reflect this and ensure students are collecting data.

Up next week, another scientist spotlight, our only midterm and final revisions of project ideas. Although it has been challenging so far, I have been impressed with what the students are coming up with, their questions, videos they’re getting at home, and their motivation to succeed.