University of Kentucky College of Agriculture



About Community-Based Science (CBS)


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The MRLS project was funded by USDA and the work was designed and implemented in Fayette County Schools.  In subsequent years, significant funding was secured from the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Our NSF project gave students and teachers opportunities to use remote sensing and three-dimensional (3-D) visualization to study real-life natural resource problems in their own communities with researchers from the University of Kentucky and other members of the community. Middle and high school students and teachers learned how to use remote sensing technology to collect data on community-based natural resource problems and create 3-D computer models to simulate the issues.
Our community-based projects are a form of project-based learning or PBL. PBL is a more learner-center paradigm than a teacher-focused approach. It encourages participants to develop deep understanding within a content domain and develop problem-solving skills by engaging them in activities to solve authentic problems (Duffy & Cunningham, 1996; Hmelo & Evensen, 2000). Our program adheres to commonly cited characteristics of PBL: the use of real-world problems as the learning context and motivator for participants; participant-driven questions and learning goals; participant access to multiple learning resources; and participants as active problem solvers; and teacher as facilitator (Schwartz, et al, 1999; Hmelo & Evensen, 2000). PBL has been used in conjunction with technology and spatial thinking to motivate learners.
The program combines two necessary components: long-term, job-embedded professional development with student explorations of real-life science problems in their classrooms alongside their teachers and a dynamic supportive partnership of research scientists. Research consistently suggests that pre-college students do not develop an understanding of the nature of science and scientific inquiry (Aikenhead, 1973; Bady, 1979; Lederman & O’Malley, 1990). Moreover, the National Science Education Standards emphasize the efficacy of learning science content within the context of real-world problems and phenomena (NRC, 1996). According to the National Science Education Standards, science students must have the abilities and understandings necessary to do scientific inquiry and should be involved in at least one major investigation. By experiencing the “messiness of doing science,” science educators hoped that students would go beyond learning science content to experiencing and learning about the processes of science. Hodson (1993) advises that “the only effective way to learn science is by doing science, alongside a skilled and experienced practitioner who can provide on-the-job-support, criticism and advice.”