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FYRES: The Student Experience - Engage

Research - Learn - Engage!

The FYRES course invites students to engagement with peers and faculty, with a subject of study, and with the community.  Students benefit from each type of engagement.

Students performing a straight line survey of the dune.For students in their first semester of study at Calvin College, the FYRES course is an opportunity to be part of a community with a common purpose: studying coastal dunes.  The community includes up to 24 first-year students in the course, 6 upper-level students (the research mentors), a faculty member (Deanna van Dijk), and various dune managers, dune researchers, scientists, and others who will work with the class.  The shared research experiences provide a fertile environment to build connections with other students and faculty, connections that may continue long after the course is finished.

Students using the total stationThe FYRES course provides an opportunity for deep engagement with a topic of study:  Michigan coastal dunes.  This extended focus on a topic is uncommon in first-year courses, many of which cover a variety of topics to provide an introduction to a discipline.  Deep engagement with a topic is a satisfying experience, and it enables students to follow through with work that has significant outcomes, such as the research project with a report and conference presentation as results.

The short and extended research experiences in the FYRES course provide opportunities for students to be engaged with a community beyond Calvin College.  (Educators refer to this as service-learning, in which learning occurs while students are serving the community.)  Research projects completed by FYRES students will be used by
Students looking up at the dune they are about to survey. • dune managers making decisions about activities in their dune environments
• educators such as park naturalists providing interpretive programs and materials in national, state and county parks
• scientists investigating dune processes and history
• other people with dune interests, such as property owners, policy makers, state agencies enforcing dune policies, etc.
Even the shorter studies during lab periods will provide data for use in ongoing studies by scientists and dune managers.


Dune Study Helps Management

In 2004, Calvin geography major Kristy Jamieson and Deanna van Dijk investigated the activity of the North Beach Park dune in Ottawa County. The study results showed that the dune was advancing towards an important local road. In 2005, the Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Commission began implementing many of the study's recommendations about how to slow the dune movement.

FYRES students will collect data at North Beach Park during one lab period to investigate the effectiveness of the management activities.