College of Education
Kimberly Brisby STEM Capstone Project Video

Kimberly Brisby STEM Capstone Project Video

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Kimberly Brisby STEM Capstone Project Video

Video Transcript

Kimberly Brisby:
Hi everyone. Welcome to the Solon Prairie. My job this summer was to take an inventory of all of the plants that live here in this roughly three-acre space. So my job was to basically go square by square, through this prairie and find all the different plants and record them. After I recorded them, I had to compare them to previous lists that Johnson County had surveyed in the past and tried to find a percentage of loss. So what they know is this prairie hasn't been burned in, I believe, three years and it hadn't been surveyed since 2011. And before that, it had been many, many years. And so my job was to kind of see what was happening. At just a glance, you can see that it's got some sections that are covered in invasive species that are taking over and kind of losing some of that biodiversity that used to be here. From what I found from my studies was that there's significant loss. There were some pretty rare plants on the list that was surveyed in 2011 and also in '19. I think '85 was when they surveyed it for before 2011. And for example, the tall green milkweed used to live here, and now as far as I could tell from my searching, it does not, it's not here anymore. There's huge sections that I'll show you in just a little bit that are full of sumac and honeysuckle.

It was kind of sad to see, but at the same time, it's positive too, where it hasn't been degraded for so long that it's unfixable. So we can come in here and take out the sumac, we can find the honeysuckle and remove it and hopefully that seed bank that's there will come back and restore some of that habitat. So this is an example of a section that is full of the Sumac, and this is one of five pretty large sections of the invasive species that kind of cover the better plants that are underneath it. But the positive thing is, if you look above and back there beyond the sumac, you have beautiful, beautiful, beautiful what's called cup plants, such an interesting plant that I learned about. If you look at it, their leaves form these, basically, cups. And on days that it was raining or right after a rain, though, all of these plants were just filled with water, and it was fun to see. Another thing, when I first came in the spring, this section over here was full of spider wart, and then these cup plants were starting to grow around them, and I had no idea what they were for a while, just because I was new to identifying the plants. And then all of a sudden, they just, boom, flowers popped out and it's just been really fun to see all the plants change. Oh, we got a little friend visiting, will be. This has been my project and my unit that I created that you guys can look at, is this.

I want students doing what I did, not so extreme, but I want them to get in here and see what's in a prairie safely, obviously. And then get involved with Johnson County to help mitigate some of the problems that are happening here. Maybe get in here and remove invasive species. Maybe create an education center here for people passing by to make it more obvious that you should not be stealing plants here. Another thing I noticed was, there's tons and tons of trash that I found while I was walking around, which was very surprising. You wouldn't have thought that I would find trash in the middle of the prairie, but I definitely did. So those things students can get engaged in. And then the end of my unit is actually having students take what they've learned and create an education center at the school to teach fellow students about what they learned and then also the community, invite the community in and see it. I'd like it to be an outdoor garden space where they present this, that's going to cause issues. Currently just with our buildings and grounds director not wanting to mess with the land. But for the time being, my principal and I agreed that it could happen inside. And then when my buildings and grounds director retires, then maybe we can move it outside. Anyway, so that's kind of in a nutshell of what I did this summer.

And then that's a little bit of a preview of what my unit was. So the other question that was asked is, Why did I choose this career path? So when I first started teaching, I had no idea what STEM was. I was introduced to it by my superintendent wanting me to help out. And so I started an afterschool program called, just a STEM club that got my students engaged in, well, one stuff that's after school, and then things that will help, I don't know, show them what they can do. A lot of my students were minority students, they had low confidence. Teachers would say things that make assumptions about the students that I had when I moved in, like, "Oh, well, that student's this, and that student's that. And so I decided to erase all of that and make a STEM club. And all it consisted of was small engineering design challenges where, make a boat that goes with the wind and see how far it can go out of recycled material. Let's do that. And then can you make this boat float with pennies? [laughter] And just anything that I could think of design challenges, and I've come to learn that, although that's good, like problem solving, I've learned that STEM is much deeper than that. The connection between science and tech and engineering and math go deeper than that.

And in the two years that we were in this program, one thing that was very eye-opening to me was how minority students or students that, I know we don't wanna say underserved, but those students are getting left behind. There are not as many students of color in STEM. There aren't as many women in STEM, so we need to be more aware and help engage students and show them that it's fun and that you can do it and get them motivated to try. So, since then, since my first year teaching, every year I've tried to add a little bit more. And now that I've gone through this program, I now know that it's better to just incorporate STEM and what I'm already doing because everything that I'm doing is technically STEM, just to be more meaningful about it. When I teach science, talking about the nature of science, I can show them that math is incorporated. I don't know how many times I've heard we don't learn math in science, we don't do language, arts in science, those are different classes that we're taking. Why do we have to do this? Showing them that you can't have one without the other. They're all a part of each other. And I think that will help solve some of the economic issues that we're having.

If we want students in STEM-related fields, then we need to show them what STEM is, authentically. One of the reasons why I chose this master's program was because of those experiences my first year teaching. When I saw students light up when we did things that were different than the traditional science classroom, when they were excited that their car went farther than anyone else's because the wind blew it farther because they made a better air catcher. And I just think when I experienced that and I saw that there's a different way that we can go about how we're teaching science where we can incorporate all of those pillars into one thing and students can see the value of it, that's why I chose this master's. 'Cause I could have gone into administration, I could have done a master's in science education, but this program has been wonderful for me to get some more information about the importance of STEM and then how I can better support my students in my science classroom. It's very, very powerful. And so anyway, if you could just take a minute and hear this beautiful prairie, you're gonna hear cars in the background.

I could not have been luckier. This was awesome, to get to spend time outside in the summer in this prairie, learning and being able to not just learn, but know that I will be able to use this in my classroom. I appreciate everyone and thank you so much for a great two years. I hope that we stay connected and I'd love to hear about how you guys are in the future. Okay. Thank you. Take care.

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