Oakland youth from the Lawrence Hall of Science East Bay Academy for Young Scientists (EBAYS) presented their environmental research at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) 2014 Fall Meeting, the largest Earth and space science meeting in the world.
Nearly 24,000 people attended the meeting to hear about the latest discoveries, trends, and challenges in the field. EBAYS student scientists in grades 8-11 worked together for 6 months conducting research, analyzing their data, and creating posters to present their findings at the conference.
“Some of the students were resistant at first, because preparing for the AGU meeting is a lot of work,” said EBAYS educator Adam Turréy. “They had to push themselves, and be pushed, but in the end they were captivated by the process and presented work that was impressive to actual scientists.”
Adam Turréy has a master’s degree in urban planning and is focused on improving the environmental impact of urban communities. “Low-income areas bear the burden of irresponsible development, and youth in those areas grow accustomed to seeing the pollution that results from industrialization. EBAYS provides them with a chance to develop a broader perspective about what is going on and see themselves as part of the solution.”
EBAYS participants develop science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills by examining environmental issues in their communities through scientific research and exploration. Traditional approaches to presenting science content can turn off a lot of youth, but this gives them a connection that makes it relevant. EBAYS students are finding success, with about 80 percent of participants going on to college-level science studies.
At the AGU meeting, students mingle and talk with scientists and other students, learn about the research they are doing, and discuss their findings. “It was interesting meeting people from around the world, and seeing how many people like science” said Francisco, an EBAYS student who attended the meeting. Another EBAYS student, Dante, said “Someone asked me if I could live without research, and I answered no, I would get bored.”
EBAYS students have presented research at the AGU fall meeting for the last seven years. It provides an opportunity for them to develop skills in research and investigation, perhaps find their place in the international scientific research community, and have a positive impact on their surroundings.
In East Oakland, EBAYS students contribute to the city by reporting spikes they find in water quality results, and helping to remove invasive plants and trash from parks. Still, many of the issues are longer term and require cooperation between industry and local populations.
“Change won’t occur overnight,” said Program Director Kevin Cuff, who established the Lawrence Hall of Science EBAYS in 2005, “but student scientists are part of the solution. When kids are engaged, their parents get informed and involved as well. Science empowers them to take ownership of their communities and partner with others to achieve both short- and long-term improvement.”