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Darby Orcutt

Director of Interdisciplinary Partnerships

D.H. Hill Jr. Library (East Wi G107A


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Date: 02/01/19 - 1/31/21
Amount: $199,721.00
Funding Agencies: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Focusing on formal schooling and academic commitments following a disaster can prove challenging for any student. Prior research, for instance, has demonstrated high rates of stress amongst students following a range of different types of natural disasters. In particular, after a disaster, research in K-12 settings notes the importance of providing mental health support for students and notes that teachers can play a key role in helping students to process their loss (Le Brocque et al., 2017). Much less research has been done on how engaging in informal learning in disaster-impacted areas can aid student learning, recovery, and persistence following such losses. North Carolina State University (NCSU), along with many schools in North Carolina, has a high number of current students who have been impacted by Hurricane Florence (and Tropical Storm Michael). Many of the disaster-impacted students at NCSU are also low-income or from ethnic minority backgrounds. These students may already be vulnerable to dropping out of college, and experiencing the trauma of a disaster may only propel these students towards leaving school. Research documents the importance of science learning that is highly connected with local communities and broader societal issues for student persistence (Campbell et al., 2014; Jaeger et al., 2013). Further, disadvantaged students value being able to apply their STEM training to solving real world problems affecting their communities, including issues of environmental and social justice (Puritty et al., 2017). Intellectual Merit: The proposed research aims to engage students (N = 20) from North Carolina State University whose home communities have been impacted by Hurricane Florence (and Tropical Storm Michael) in an urban ecology informal learning exploration during the late Fall and Winter of 2018/2019. This project has two aims: To promote science learning, resilience, and persistence amongst students whose home communities have been impacted by the recent storms through an informal learning experience. To collect vital, time-sensitive data on impacts of the hurricane on urban forests in order to inform future urban ecosystem management in Eastern North Carolina and beyond. Broader Impacts: This research will have broader societal impacts in two important ways: 1) it will provide a focused, informal learning experience that will foster learning, resilience, and persistence for a vulnerable population of students, those whose home communities have been devastated by recent hurricanes; and 2) it will directly benefit communities impacted by Hurricane Florence, providing important data to identify best practices for urban forest management to be implemented during the recovery from the hurricane, and to foster long-term resilience in the urban forest social-ecological system. This project will create rich, relevant opportunities to engage in informal science learning for participants, and will provide training in cutting-edge, transdisciplinary approaches to answering many questions at the forefront of environmental biology, climate science, and ecological studies. Recognizing the central role of the NCSU Libraries in supporting both learning outcomes and fostering student success, the project will leverage the Libraries?????????????????? infrastructures for acquisition, training, and circulation of technology. Additionally, participants will share the outputs of their research experience with the larger NCSU community through an exhibit of the documentary material that they develop, using NCSU Libraries spaces for high-definition visualization, simulations, ideation, and innovation, which will inspire other students to recognize how science can help to address issues of local concern and relevance. Finally, the data from the informal learning projects will be analyzed and prepared for publication and presentation, in order to reach local and global academic and non-academic audiences as they plan for forest management in an era of frequent and highly destructive hurricanes.

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