Sunflower Helps Nursing Students Learn Research Methods

Glancing out the window, Mitchell Mertz ‘24 had an idea for how his group could explain qualitative research to his fellow nurses in their Intro to Research course.

Mertz’s group, which also included Brianna Kempf ‘24 and Ryan Geary ‘24, was tasked with explaining qualitative research methods – which entails investigating and documenting health data from individuals based on their life experiences – to their class.

“I saw a sunflower out in the garden, and the idea hit me. What if we made a massive one as a display?”

Mitchell Mertz ‘24

Nursing Major

Mertz’s group, which also included Brianna Kempf ‘24 and Ryan Geary ‘24, was tasked with explaining qualitative research methods – which entails investigating and documenting health data from individuals based on their life experiences – to their class.

Their massive sunflower, which stands nearly six feet tall, features removable petals describing these research methods, including “Data Saturation,” “Peer Debriefing,” “Member Checks,” and “Credibility.”

“Sunflowers are hearty and live up to two years,” said Brianna Kempf. “A sunflower, metaphorically speaking, has a lot of life experience!”

The annual project tasks nursing students with creating an alternative means to teach research content to their fellow students.

Hartwick College nursing students with sunflower

“A course called ‘Introduction to Research Methods’ could be incredibly dry and boring. Nursing students need to learn a whole new vocabulary to understand what we're talking about. My intention was to offer students a different kind of assignment that allows them to customize their learning by relating key terms and concepts to something tangible and interesting to help them retain the information.”

Melody Best ’84

Professor of Nursing

In addition to being a learning aid for their classmates, the project also helped the group strengthen their understanding of the material.

“Being able to do arts & crafts and get schoolwork done at the same time is so much better for me,” said Geary. “By the time we got to the quiz, we were all more confident with the information. I’m not a big reader and I don’t learn from being lectured at, but doing something this hands-on really enabled my learning more.”

And their sunflower ended up being the largest project in the class. “We needed to make it big enough so the whole class could see it,” said Kempf.

Other projects included a flower box, a foam cake with candles and strawberries, a crossword puzzle and a crocheted spider web.

“They were all very creative, even researching colors for the flowers to connect that meaning to the content,” said Best.

The sunflower was displayed during the spring 2023 Student Showcase, and Best hopes to keep it for future classes. “It made for a very memorable experience,” said Kempf. “I’ll remember the content from this project way more than I would with a textbook.”

May 12, 2023
Nursing, Spotlight

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