Butler’s Center for Urban Ecology (CUE) has been awarded a three-year, nearly $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to establish the CUE Farm on campus as a hub for undergraduate education and research.
The money will support Butler faculty in the development and implementation of four urban agriculture research modules in biology, chemistry, ecology, and environmental science courses and to study the impact of those modules on student learning.
Faculty participants are Travis Ryan, Sean Berthrong, Elizabeth Davis, Jesse van Gerven, and Rasitha Jayasekare. Brandon Sorge and Grant Fore from the STEM Education and Innovation Research Institute at IUPUI will be leading the education research.
“This project is focused on making the CUE Farm even more of an asset to campus by tying it to the curriculum,” said Julia Angstmann, Director of the Center for Urban Ecology. “We believe that to accomplish this, there needs to be a cohesive program developed that provides a framework and incentives that help faculty develop portions of their course curriculum around urban agriculture.”
Angstmann said that after three years, Butler will have:
-Four courses that teach core disciplinary concepts through place-based experiential learning in the context of urban agriculture. Students will first learn about a core disciplinary topic (e.g, soil respiration and arthropod diversity in the BI230 Ecology & Evolutionary Biology – Fundamentals course) and will then be introduced to the social and ecological impacts of urban agriculture and how the class topic impacts food production. Students will then conduct real research in the topic area by developing research questions and collecting, analyzing, and presenting data that will be used by faculty for scientific publications. By tying course concepts to their impact on the urban food system, students may be better informed and inspired to make more sustainable food choices.
-Published research on whether these modules were effective in increasing student scientific literacy and civic mindedness.
-A themed teaching community for Butler faculty. “By centering teaching efforts around a central theme, faculty participants will have a support network of other faculty and education experts to provide knowledge, advice, and resources to support the development of these research modules,” Angstmann said. “We hope to grow this network in the future to every College on campus.”
By integrating the CUE Farm into the curriculum, the University will be eligible for up to $3.6 million in funding in future years. That money would go toward developing modules in courses spanning every college on campus and then bringing this approach to other universities.