Throughout their careers, scientists spend endless hours reading and contributing to articles published in scientific journals.
Each year, we invite Maine students to take part in this tradition by contributing to Findings from the Field — a new journal of original scientific research by Maine middle schoolers. The goal of Findings, launched in 2017, is to provide an opportunity for students to experience the full scope of the scientific process. After conducting their research, students can now submit for peer review and publication, just as professional scientists do when they seek to publish their work.
With Findings, students engage in three strands of work designed to help them understand the nature of science:
Conducting an Authentic Investigation
Many students begin their investigations through our Citizen Science in Classrooms program, collecting data in and sharing data about Maine’s forests, fields, lakes, streams, wetlands, saltmarshes, and intertidal ecosystems. Students may choose to design their own authentic investigations or engage with ecological and environmental investigations supported by other programs.
Crafting Their Submissions
As they conduct their investigations, students use Findings lessons to outline, craft, review and refine their submissions. Just like scientists writing for a professional journal, the students cite background research and identify their contribution to the field, explain their methods, describe their results, and articulate their findings along with the implications of those findings.
After submission, students from across participating schools engage in peer review. This has proven to be one of the most powerful elements of the project. Last year, 76% of students reported putting forth greater effort because they knew others would review their work. Knowing their work would be peer-reviewed inspired them to take extra care and gave them confidence that they could contribute.
One teacher reported, “This is one of the best exercises I have done this year to engage all my students. It was amazing to see how each student pulled apart the rubric/submission guidelines, and went through the peer’s article with a fine-toothed comb… this is clearly going to elevate their writing…”
Based on their peer review, students refer submissions to the Editorial Board (composed of 3-4 science teachers and GMRI staff). Based on Editorial Board review, final articles are selected for publication. The first issue of Findings was published last spring, and we are poised to engage additional schools across Maine.
Year One Results
In the first year, roughly 200 students from eight schools participated in Findings. In total, the students submitted 67 articles and completed more than 100 peer reviews. In June, we published six articles in Volume 1 of Findings from the Field, and we are currently accepting submissions for Volume 2.
In addition to publishing the journal, our education team is focused on supporting teachers as they embed scientific investigations into their classrooms. More than 20 Maine teachers participated in workshops or professional development centered on Findings from the Field.
Our goal is for this kind of scientific learning to become a regular feature of classroom work for all students. Throughout this work, students are meeting learning standards across disciplines, from the Next Generation Science Standards to the Common Core standards in Math and English Language Arts.
“A student mentioned that I am always talking about ‘peer-reviewed’ sources for their research, but they had no idea what peer-reviewed really meant,” one teacher told us. “They could now see that a scientist would submit to other scientists (their ‘peers’) and be put through rigorous paces in order to be published.”
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