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FYRES: The Student Experience - Learn

Research - Learn! - Engage

In the FYRES course, students learn by doing—a teaching-learning method that science educators refer to as active learning, experiential learning or inquiry-based learning.  At the heart of the course are the dune research experiences, including the short studies, assignments and the major research project.

Students presenting their side-view sketch to classmates.The course structure promotes research experiences.  A five-hour lab period each week provides time for research activities.  For many of the lab periods, the time will be used to travel to dune sites, complete several hours of research, and travel back to campus.  Three fifty-minute class periods during each week provide time for class-based activities supporting the research activities:  classes about dunes and the nature of science, presentations by Michigan dune experts, discussions, videos, and more.  Readings from primary sources and a textbook also provide information about dunes and science.  And, yes, there will be a midterm test and a final exam to encourage (and measure) student learning of course material!

Students getting prepared to do a straight line survey of the dune.In the FYRES course, students will learn about dunes, the natural world, science, the Christian calling in the natural world, and much more.  Students will also learn about themselves as they experience doing science.  Some students may decide to pursue majors or careers in the sciences.  Other students may receive clarification or confirmation that they are called to careers other than science.  All students will leave the course with skills and understanding that provide an excellent foundation for future activities at Calvin College and beyond such as:
Students collecting wind and sand movement data on the dune. • how to learn effectively in other courses
• good written and oral communication skills
• research skills
• teamwork experience
• portfolio/resume items of co-authorship on a research report and conference presentation.
These and other learning outcomes will make FYRES students competitive for a variety of subsequent opportunities such as paid summer research positions, graduate school acceptances, employment, etc.


Undergraduate Research Experiences Benefit Students

Seymour et al. (2004) interviewed 76 students about their undergraduate research experiences. The students identified the following kinds of benefits:
• personal/professional gains
• thinking/working like a scientist
• gains in different skills
• clarification or confirmation of career plans
• enhanced career or graduate school preparation
• different attitudes towards learning/working as a researcher, and
• other gains (such as a good summer job).

Work cited:
Seymour, E., Hunter, A.-B., Laursen, S. and Deantoni, T., 2004. Establishing the benefits of research experiences for undergraduates in the sciences: First findings from a three-year study. Science Education, 88(493-534).