We undertook a three-year collaboration with two area schools to generate novel data on the morphological diversity of sedges (Carex: Cyperaceae). Our goals were to generate novel, specimen-based morphometric data that we and the students could use to investigate plant diversification and to mentor students in all aspects of science: hypothesis generation, data gathering, data analysis, and communicating findings and inferences. More importantly, we aimed to inspire in students an appreciation for and enjoyment of the process of science. Protocols and classroom activities were developed in collaboration with five teachers who interned in our lab. Teachers participated in authentic sedge research in our lab, then developed and modified classroom protocols for their students. Over the course of three years, 330 students from two schools made morphological measurements on 276 unique Carex specimens and replicated measurements on 96 of these. Student data were validated by comparison to data generated by in-lab trained observers. Students achieved 81% high-quality (retainable) data in our second year of the project, reflecting improvements in our approach to training and mentoring. In anonymous postparticipation surveying, students demonstrated that they had generated new insights or knowledge by participating in this project. We consider the hands on approach that we took in this project to be a fruitful means of developing local collaborations that increase students' and teachers' understanding of the research process and plant biodiversity.
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Vol. 41 • No. 3