Establishing a relationship between content and the real-world in introductory science courses is vital for increasing student persistence. In response, the American Chemical Society Committee on Professional Training (ACS-CPT) advocates for the incorporation of research into undergraduate chemistry curriculum. Recently, course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs), where whole classes of students address a research question, have been implemented to bring research into the classroom. CUREs provide a means to expand involvement in STEM research to a broader population and with a lower demand on resources, compared to traditional mentoring in individual PI research laboratories. The integration of environmental topics in the classroom can also provide a connection between the undergraduate chemistry curriculum and the natural world.
To increase the accessibility of environmental chemistry research experience, the Pratt Lab designed an environmental chemistry research-based laboratory experiment for the high school classroom that uses basic laboratory equipment and easily accessible authentic environmental samples. This environmental chemistry experiment was conducted with high school teachers in a series of workshops as a part of the Inter-Professional STEM Learning Community (STEM-IPLC) founded by collaborators Dr. Ginger Shultz, Dr. R. Charles Dershimer, and Dr. Leah Bricker. The goal of this work is to increase the connection between authentic scientific research practices and content learning at the high school level through the development and implementation of workshops with high school teachers, with evaluation by qualitative methods. Together Prof. Pratt Pratt Lab PhD student Nate May taught a three-week research module to pre-service teachers in Winter 2016 and most recently PhD student Nate May co-organized a two-day high school teacher workshop in August 2017. Together PhD student Nate May and Pratt Lab undergraduate researcher Alexa Watson are using qualitative data to investigate best practices to implement chemistry research into the high school curriculum in collaboration with Prof. Ginger Shultz.