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Alumna and Professor Publish Article on STEM Learning in New York City

November 04, 2019
  • Biology alumna Emma Kamen ’18
  • Urban Ecosystem freshman seminar 2017
  • Urban Ecosystem freshman seminar 2017
  • Urban Ecosystem freshman seminar 2017
  • Students in the Urban Ecosystem freshman seminar learn to identify water-tolerant native species lakeside in Central Park.
Biology alumna Emma Kamen ’18 and Prof. Alessandra Leri have published an article describing a unique application of place-based learning in undergraduate STEM education.

Alumna Emma Kamen ’18 and Professor of Chemistry Alessandra Leri have published an article in this month’s issue of the Journal of College Science Teaching. The paper, “Promoting STEM Persistence through an Innovative Field Trip-Based First-Year Experience Course,” describes the freshman seminar that Prof. Leri developed for Natural Sciences majors at Marymount Manhattan. The course, entitled “Urban Ecosystem,” implements an experiential learning approach with a curriculum based on visits and experimentation at various NYC sites relevant to the local ecological landscape and its unique environmental issues. Field trips in the course include visits to aqueducts and reservoirs to learn about the challenges of urban water supply, a local recycling facility to learn about urban waste management, a wastewater treatment plant to learn about water quality issues, a green roof to learn about green infrastructure, and repeated visits to Central Park to study biodiversity and measure water chemistry.

The interactive learning environment in the Urban Ecosystem seminar contextualizes science and technology in NYC while targeting the learning style of this generation of college students. It also addresses the low peer interaction reported nationwide among STEM students, as the field trips accelerate cohort formation while giving students real-world context for learning scientific concepts. The article is available to read on the Journal of College Science Teaching website and at this link.

The first author of the article, Emma Kamen ’18, served for two years as peer mentor for Prof. Leri’s Urban Ecosystem course and carried out a learning assessment of the course as part of her senior Honors Thesis in Biology. Emma has continued her work at MMC post-graduation–she currently works in the Admissions Office and travels all over the world for student recruitment.