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Abstract Detail

Education and Outreach

Iriart, Veronica [1], Forrester, Nicole [2], Ashman, Tia-Lynn [3], Kuebbing, Sara [4].

The Plant Science Blogging Project: a curriculum to improve undergraduate science communication skills and interest in STEM coursework.

Scientists exercise communication and writing skills daily, making the development of these skills imperative for undergraduate students pursuing future careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). To address this demand, we created the Plant Science Blogging Project for an Introduction to Plant Biology undergraduate course at the University of Pittsburgh in 2018 and 2019. Students wrote posts emphasizing their personal connections with plants while incorporating basic plant biological topics for the popular science blog Plant Love Stories, which aims to increase plant awareness and appreciation by publishing stories about the role plants play in everyday life. In the process of writing, students also practiced primary scientific literature into more accessible messages and shared botanical knowledge with the general public. We found that the overwhelming majority (~80%) of students both enjoyed the assignment and felt that it improved their understanding of plant biology. Importantly, we also found that attitudes towards science writing significantly improved as a result of the Plant Science Blogging Project: while only about a quarter of students (26%) indicated that they read science blogs prior to participating in the project, 40% agreed that they would read and write more science blogs in the future after completing the assignment. In total, 19 student-authored blogs (~20% of all blogs produced for the class) have been published. These stories have been notably well-received; two have even topped the list of the most read posts on Plant Love Stories since the website was created in February 2018. By analyzing themes in student writing, we also found that this assignment has the potential to broaden the scope of topics that are addressed on science blog websites, especially the cultural diversity of stories shared. We conclude that the Plant Science Blogging Project is an effective exercise to teach science communication skills and engage students with course material in a creative way. Further, due to the diversity of science blogging websites and the accessibility of the blog writing format, the project can be adapted for use in classrooms based in different scientific disciplines and for students at the high school level and beyond. If adopted more widely, this curriculum will help widen the breadth of science education and sharpen future scientists' abilities to serve their communities by effectively communicating their expertise with larger, more diverse audiences.

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1 - University of Pittsburgh, 4249 Fifth and Ruskin Aves, Department of Biological Sciences, Pittsburgh, PA, 15260, United States
2 - Highland Outdoors, 3 Highland Outdoors, Davis, WV, 26260, USA
3 - Department Of Biological Sciences, 4249 Fifth Avenue & Ruskin, Pittsburgh, PA, 15260, United States
4 - University Of Pittsburgh, Biological Sciences, 4249 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA, 15206, United States

plant blindness
science writing
Scientific communication
botany education

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Session: ED2, Education & Outreach II - Engagement, Communication & Teaching Tools
Location: /
Date: Wednesday, July 21st, 2021
Time: 10:45 AM(EDT)
Number: ED2004
Abstract ID:454
Candidate for Awards:None

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