The University of Montana’s Research Education on Air and Cardiovascular Health (REACH) Program
works with teachers to engage high school juniors and seniors in rudimentary real-world scientific research with the goals of
improving their understanding of and interest in science, and to increase their interest in science careers. To evaluate the pro-
gram, mixed-method approaches based on surveys that include both fixed-response and free-response questions for students
has been used. Thematic analysis of student written responses to free-response questions provided evaluators with unantici-
pated student-centered information that was not targeted by the fixed-response questions. The analysis of student responses
to free-response questions over a three to four-year period are the focus of this manuscript along with the implications such
a STEM outreach program has to environmental and science education.