Environmental Activism in Central PA

Amanda Wooden, Nicole Bakeman, and Jaclyn Tules (Bucknell University)

Over the past five years, Bucknell University has made a strategic investment in integrating GIS and digital scholarship across the undergraduate curriculum in teaching and research.  We believe that applying GIS and digital scholarship methods broadens and deepens the learning experience for faculty and students alike – and greatly facilitates connections between research, coursework, and scholarly engagement that extends beyond Bucknell. We believe that giving students multiple opportunities to use GIS and digital scholarship in varied, different learning settings helps them develop critical spatial thinking skills that go deeper than mere technical proficiency.

In this poster, we will present a faculty research project on “Environmental Activism in Central Pennsylvania” which involved summer research students in field work, data collection and statistical and spatial analysis. Materials created during the summer research project were later converted into a series of labs that gave students in the Environmental Studies 302 – Environmental Research Methods class a hands-on, real-world experience in applying GIS and spatial analysis as a research methodology. We will examine the ways in which involving undergraduate students in the cycle of research, teaching and scholarship can be boon for faculty and studens alike – but that it is not without its challenges. Faculty gain eager, highly trainable collaborators who can help share the workload involved in identifying and developing the raw materials and ideas involved in producing research, course materials and scholarly publications/presentations. In the context of a liberal arts college with very few graduate students, having access to student researchers makes a huge difference in faculty members’ willingness and ability to integrate GIS and digital scholarship methods into their teaching and research. Students get one-on-one mentorship from a faculty member and an opportunity to develop hands-on, real-world skills that give them a deeper investment in their own learning (and at the same time, make them much more attractive to graduate school programs and potential employers). Interestingly, error-checking and verifying reliability of students’ work is both a challenging, somewhat problematic issue in the context of faculty-led student research and also an opportunity in that it supplies many teachable moments (in both the ‘research lab’ and the classroom) that reinforce the importance of these types of faculty-student partnerships.