This project involves students in a course-based undergraduate research experience (CURE) as part of the traditional introductory biology laboratory course. Recently, research has shown that student engagement in authentic research has significant positive impacts on students, such as development of science literacy and reasoning skills. Being recently featured in the news, microplastics are a timely, interesting, and relevant topic for students. The authentic research conducted by students was the first attempt at quantification of microplastics in the Great Plains, which garnered further student excitement and engagement. Surface water and substrate samples were collected at 23 locations from small streams, rivers, ponds, and reservoirs in fall 2018. Authentic research, as broadly defined in the pedagogical context, is research conducted primarily by students. In the context of this project, authentic research is specifically defined as research done primarily by students in which the students are asking questions, designing experiments, collecting and analyzing data, and writing a final manuscript that was submitted, and accepted, as a peer-reviewed publication. This project could be incorporated at the high school or university level, for biology major or nonmajor courses. The purpose of this paper is to serve as a how-to, sharing the lesson design with specific detail on student responsibilities.

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