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.
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.
The 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
• 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.