Of the 20 scientists that participated in a nationwide yearlong research program, Dr. David Dunbar, an associate professor of biology, was selected to help improve students’ education in and out of the classroom. Along with the other scientists, Professor Dunbar was part of the first group to work in the program.
“You have to think of teaching as a form of research. Why do things work and not work?” Dunbar said. “I’d like to do things outside of the norm.”
The program, which was associated with the Biology Scholars Program, helps the participants develop and think of novel pedagogical ways, or teaching strategies, to better students’ learning processes.
The aim is to move away from traditional lecture classes and take students outside of the classroom to work in ways they couldn’t have before.
Dunbar has since worked with the Valley Creek Restoration Partnership, which is an environmental non-profit center.
At Cabrini, Professor Dunbar has taken his students and coordinated with West Chester Fish and Game to help reintroduce brook trout into the West Valley Creek.
“Students must make a personal connection to the environment,” Dunbar said.
He believes bringing students outside of the classroom will help them grasp the subject matter, and give them a better understanding of what they are actually trying to accomplish.
Dunbar’s students are also working in genomics and studying how to put genomes back together. This part of his course was made possible through a national experiment, which was funded by the 2009 Science Education Alliance in association with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
During one of Professor Dunbar’s classes, the topic presented to students was how society can help reduce contamination in water, to preserve places like West Valley Creek and also keep the rest of our planet clean.
“Empowering women will help reduce the number of children that are born, which will reduce our ecological footprint on the earth,” Dunbar said.
“Dr. Dunbar’s course is unlike any other course I’ve taken before,” Ryan Pashley, sophomore criminology and psychology major, said.
During a trip to Crabby Creek, the students brought in natural species of fish to combat species that were threatening natural species already present.
“We also studied nitrate and oxygen levels in the water and collected invertebrates and macro invertebrates,” Matt Cusmiani, sophomore accounting major, said.
Dunbar’s class is made up of majors other than biology. But that doesn’t stop him from getting students engaged in his field.
“Students are part of a much bigger picture here,” Dunbar said.