Project links outdoor recreation to science, technology, engineering and math

Monday, January 30, 2023
Search-and-rescue dog runs toward the camera in the snow as school children look on

Photograph by Joe Viger.

Is K-9 search-and-rescue a STEM skill? What about hunting, snowmobiling or cross-country skiing? That’s what Andrew Coppens, associate professor of education, and Jayson Seaman, associate professor of recreation management and policy, set out to explore with 40 middle and high schoolers from Coös County at a recent workshop at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Highland Center. The students met Neeko, a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois, and handler Doreen Michalak from New England K-9 Search and Rescue, and practiced using a mobile app that will help them document “hidden STEM” in their outdoor recreation pursuits.

“Our goal is to connect STEM skills, a critical area of workforce need in the state, to New Hampshire’s booming $2.7 billion outdoor recreation industry,” says Coppens. “We want to understand how their outdoor recreation could catalyze promising educational and workforce pathways.” Funded by the National Science Foundation, this research is led by CAST, with Seaman and Coppens as co-principal investigators.