The Olathe Methanotroph Isolation and Identification Research (OMIIR) group looks to isolate and understand methanotrophic bacteria in their local aquatic system and environment. This group that is based out of Olathe East High School and directed by Mr. Ralph, has been pursuing the search for methanotrophs since 2011. The initiative has evolved over the past couple of years and now serves as a launching pad for a number of other student research projects. Running a research group can be somewhat complicated in a high school, this is especially true when all of the students are not scheduled to be in class together on a regular basis. This year the core group of 5 students (involved in the project during their coursework throughout the day), serves as the center of activity supported by a group of student volunteers. The group is generally engaged and excited and because of some continuity of students from previous years they are able to continue their journey. Since their formation, they have had the opportunity to add capability by building appropriate equipment, master required techniques and be able to embark on their scientific journey. In the process they have built certain partnerships and have been recognized for their efforts.
This year I hope to support the OMIIR group in the continued pursuit of their overall mission. In a previous post I mentioned the topical overlap of my research interests with those of the group. My other role is to help provide context about process of science and generally be a resource. After a couple of months of interaction we have made some progress towards a couple of items of importance and that are also interesting to the group. The first is participating in the conversation on what elements might enable the group to function more efficiently. Because of the distributed nature of the group and various demands on the time of the participating students, organization becomes an important consideration. To this end the group is now conducting some of it’s activities online with a Google community. This allows the students to post updates and discuss issues of importance to the lab. I am looking forward to supporting the work of an ambitious undertaking that has already made significant progress independently.
Throughout the course of my tenure at Olathe East I hope to be able to offer context and be a resource to members of the lab. Further, one of my main aims will be to have the students share their experience with their peers. By planning their activities and communicating those aims with lab colleagues the students have already started to clarify their own thinking. Engaging students in science is not a trivial activity and there are many potential complications. However, it will be interesting to see if extending this activity to a broader audience will help this exceptional group engage other high school students that wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to science. Subsequent posts will address the outcomes and further dissect this proposition.