Kristen Szpak

Document Type

Internship Report

Publication Date

Spring 2016


Experiential learning is knowledge gained through experience. Evidence shows that certain knowledge and understanding is best acquired through experiential learning. National and state education standards strongly promote the application of inquiry-based learning objectives inside the formal classroom. However, students are rarely provided full exposure to credible scientific investigation. Providing high school students the opportunity to work alongside scientists and researchers will teach them the rigors of data collection, analysis, and communication. It also creates the opportunity to engage students in the management of local ecosystem and resources. The purpose of this project was to develop and implement a Field Studies Program at Gulliver Preparatory School. The Field Studies Program (FSP) helps build academic connections between scientists, teachers, and students in a collaborative effort to engage in local marine and coastal research and conservation activities. The pilot project for the FSP was an on-going photo-identification study of the resident bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) population in Barnes Sound between Biscayne Bay and Florida Bay. The ten high school students that were accepted into the Field Studies Program spent five months training as research assistants for the photo-identification study. During the following four months, students conducted field surveys in Barnes Sound. These research activities proved to be a valuable learning tool for science education as students integrated skills taught in the field into their traditional science classes. Some of the students have even declared a new college major in the sciences based on the Field Studies Program experience. This study shows that fieldwork can be an engaging way to learn science and that giving students ownership of their learning process promotes academic and personal development to become a life-long learner.


Department: MBE

MPS Track: MMS

Location: Gulliver Preparatory School

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