Dr. Ken Gruber has received $15,000 for his involvement with an NC A&T research team investigating “Natuculture for Teaching and Recruiting Agriculture Majors.” Gruber will conduct the evaluation component of the project, which promotes STEM education through agriculture.
Natuculture (pronounced: ‘nāychew’ culture) references human-made systems that mimic nature but are designed for urban landscapes. Derived from ‘nature culture’, the concept germinated at NC A&T.
The biomimicry employed by natuculture means human systems work with nature instead of against it, allowing conservation at every level. A natuculture ecocleaner, for example, is an urban rain garden incorporating a biologically-engineered depression to enhance water absorption. The ecocleaner absorbs runoff from impervious urban surfaces, cleaning and storing the water in the planted soil. Ecocleaners thereby also provide fauna with biologically diverse floral habitats that sequester carbon and are free of artificial chemicals. Natuculture’s planted green roofs (or ‘ecoroofs’) use runoff in a similar fashion to produce biologically diverse habitats free of artificial chemicals. These fascinating roof systems not only reduce stormwater runoff, clean water, and sequester carbon – they also reduce urban heat.
Dr. Gruber and his colleagues will assess the impact of natuculture projects on student learning in agricultural sciences and student interest in pursuing agriculture-related careers. By collecting data on high school students engaged in natuculture projects, they will address the following questions:
- What impact did designing, building, and maintaining the natuculture project (living wall and vegetable beds) have on participating high school students’ interest and performance in learning about agricultural science?
- What aspects of the natuculture experience had the greatest impact on student learning and promotion of agricultural science interest?
- How did students perceive their natuculture experience as a source for learning or improving their understanding of science and science-related skills?
The data to address these three questions will come from student academic performance, student reports, teacher reports, and project staff reports.