P925: Fracking and the health of our water: Development of a research-based lab for general chemistry
There has been a push in higher education to integrate research experiences into the undergraduate curriculum. It is suggested that inclusion of authentic research activities in undergraduate STEM courses results in increases in understanding of content, improved attitudes, retention in the field, critical-thinking skills, and improved self-efficacy. We have developed a general chemistry laboratory activity framed around the socio-scientific issue of hydraulic fracturing. Students performing this experiment collect data that contributes to a wider research project that generates a water and soil quality database for the local community. The research seeks to evaluate the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing, and monitor the health over time of local water supplies. Students are asked to engage in cognitively-demanding processes (experimental design, constructing scientific arguments, and explanations) that are absent in “traditional” first-year general chemistry labs. The activity has been piloted at Central Michigan University (a 4-year research institution) and will also be incorporated at Saginaw Valley State University (a predominately undergraduate institution) and Delta College (a 2-year college) in Fall 2014. To quantify the impacts of replacing a traditional lab with this research-based lab, students were given pre- and post-lab attitudinal surveys and concept inventories. Results on student impacts from the pilot implementation will be reported, along with our plans for future dissemination of this work.