April L. Ulery1, Barbara Chamberlin2 and Jeanne Gleason2, (1)Plant and Environmental Sciences, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM (2)Media Productions, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM
Soil and Environmental Science undergraduates are often under-prepared for math and science-intensive majors when they enter college. Their deficiency in science, technology, engineering and math, known as STEM-related skills, deters them from completing coursework in soil, agricultural and environmental majors, thus decreasing the number of potential graduates in these fields. Interviews with groups of STEM faculty and employers were conducted to generate a list of challenges facing new graduates and the learning objectives needed to address student deficiencies. Our team reviewed existing teaching tools and created several educational animations and modules to enhance student science and math conceptual understanding. Objectives addressed by our team included unit conversions, graphical interpretation, working in three dimensions and understanding the interconnectedness of coursework to STEM majors. An interactive module was developed to demonstrate how to read dose-response graphs and has the student answer questions about plant responses to salinity, boron and nitrogen. Since many students are confused by dimensional analysis and unit conversions, we created an animation to show how the three dimensions in soils relate to units. One of our biggest challenges was with the development of modules to help students understand and read logarithmic scales, so we created both an animation and an interactive module to address and have students calculate logs. We also produced videos to help students perform better in college by hearing the experiences of alumni, managers and scientists in the field. Some of the multimedia products will be integrated into coursework, with quantitative test results compared to previous semesters without the products. All modules are posted online for free use at ScienceofSoil.org.