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It wakes me up by barking at me. It reminds me 10 minutes before every class where I should be. I can ask it a question and it responds with endless answers from the web. It’s a wonderful and breakthrough HANDHELD computer unlike any phone before it. The face of the iPhone is Steve Jobs but the retina camera, plated .5mm sleek with multi-touch screen display, or the voice recognition are each their own products of experiments done by someone like you and me. These people, or apple engineers, had to conduct experiments simply because experimenting is a valuable way of doing science. Experiments provide a powerful way to understand the relationship between variables, like how the iPhone’s large display, networking features and powerful processor all take a toll on the battery life.
Learning how to conduct experiments like this may be difficult for young learners because of the attention to multiple details and dreaded testing that generally comes along with it in class. I am almost certain that these apple engineers started in fourth row of their math and biology class bored out of their minds simply because tests have become less of a way to see who is learning but rather a way to achieve a grade to pass a course. I know 90% of the time much of the work assigned to me for my science classes is essentially busy work that I do passively in order to get a good grade. And 100% of the time the answers to these assignments and to exams are what the professor FEELS is the right choice. Essentially, testing has taken the fun out of learning science. With no passion or willingness to even want to do an experiment, students easily lose sight of important fundamentals of learning science. As Aleja stated in her Nature as a Science Blog, science is everywhere. But why would I care to engage in the science around me if I see it as nothing more than just a chore?
The only way to understand the many aspects of science is to experience it for yourself and experiment. Hands-on learning fosters the establishment of oneself in the culture of science. A student’s science identity is influenced by their attitude. If ones attitude is jaded by the overwhelming learned helplessness of not being able to regurgitate facts as the teacher asks…..then who would ever want to take a chance in becoming a scientist and participate in the hands-on learning. If one cannot learn how to persist despite the challenges they face, one cannot expect to advance in the long winding road of finding what inspires you in the field of science. MY phone is what is because of the experimental process and “just as with a picture where the photographer or illustrator reveals where he or she stands in relation to the scene, so too we can recognize that using a scientific perspective allows us to see things in a certain way” (129 Settlage/Southerland). Somewhere down the road, potential young scientists lose sight of this fact that THEY HAVE THE RIGHT ANSWERS! The beauty behind experimenting is that not everyone is going to click and see the solution to a problem all the same way. What matters is the data that supports the end result. Great ideas do not grow unless they are picked at by many different minds and in turn these great ideas have a way of becoming great products, JUST LIKE MY PHONE. But great minds only come to life if they discover and keep in mind that experimenting is not only about doing an experiment to find results but it is also about developing a way to connect their world experiences with their identity as a scientist.
Inspired by the work of Cypher and their artist-mentors Chris & Kevin, we are creating stop animation video to model the science for our documentary movies. Two days ago we had a BLAST getting our feet (and hands) wet with this new art form!! Given how great the STARS did for their very first try, we can’t WAIT to see what trial #2 looks like!!
Starting on January 5, 2012 eleven brave young girls started out on a journey into the unknown called Spring Science STARS. These girls have one mission: create a science documentary about a topic that is interesting to them. The first step in this process was to decided on a topic. To do this, the girls traveled through five different stations to experience different science topics. These station topics included: Plastics and BPA, Organic vs Non-Organic Food, What Food is “Good/Better” for You, Does Texting Distract You, and Comparing the Energy Used in a Regular Light Bulb to a CFL Light Bulb.
Today Science STARS took a field trip to Freshwise Farms, just outside of Rochester in Penfield, NY. There, we learned about healthy food, hydroponic crops, chickens and what it takes to maintain these very special greenhouses.
Afterwards, everyone piled back on the bus to take our freshly picked greens over to the University of Rochester, where we made it into a fresh, nutritious lunch for everyone to share. Our Science STARS got to tour the campus and really enjoy the day together.
Today girls piled into the computer lab, filled out charts and graph paper to try and make meaning of their data. Other groups were busy replicating experiments, collecting background information and yes, even starting to prepare for the big STARS Celebration on December 1st. Everyone was very busy and excited to find out what they could about their experiments and questions.
While girls worked, there was a buzz in the air about Spring Science STARS! At the beginning of today’s session, each girl was given an application packet for Spring Science STARS. Although the application packets weren’t due until December 12th, girls were already asking their team leaders for recommendation letters and discussing with each other what they wanted to write on their resumes. It was a very busy and exciting day for everyone!
Today our Science STARS worked hard, diligently collecting data and putting together the pieces of their investigation to come up with answers to their investigatable question. Girls were all over the school counting bacteria, running experiments, surveying fellow students and testing food in the lab. WHEW! What a great day!!!
Fueled by last week’s Science Advisory Day, our pre-service teachers were inspired to deliver some intensive lessons for today that addressed misconceptions, uncovered details and really guided the girls to strengthen their investigations. They spurred the girls to learn more, to gather data, scrutinize their procedures and step up to the plate!
Throughout East High, STARS buzzed in a frenzy of productive activity – from plating meat for bacterial counts, swabbing down the school and laying out procedural steps to make sure that their investigations were really sound. Our girls worked very hard, and had a fun time doing it, too!
This week, we had eight amazing and accomplished scientists come and advise our girls on their investigations! They were truly an inspiration for us, and we really welcomed their input. Our scientists:
Dr. Anahita Williamson specializes in Environmental Science and is the Director of the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute at RIT’s Golisano Institute of Sustainability.
Dr. Saara Totterman specializes in Medical Science and Biotechnology. She is a clinical radiologist and scientist with expertise in MRI and CT. She is also co-founder of 4Qimaging and Qmetrics.
Carol Tometsko specializes in Biotechnology and is the Chief Executive Officer of Litron Laboratories, Inc., which specializes in kits to analyze blood and bone marrow cells for the products of precancerous cells.
Dr. Lisa Schultz specializes in Biotechnology and is a fellow in Transfusion Medicine at the Department of Pathology at the University of North Carolina Hospitals in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Dr. Vivian Palladoro specializes in Pathology and is an Administrator of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory of Medicine at the University of Rochester and an adjunct faculty at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Dr. Ruth Lawrence specializes in pediatrics, clinical toxicology, and neonatology. She is the Director of the Poison and Drug Information Center and the Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Study Center.
Dr. Sara Kingan specializes in Evolutionary Biology and studies the evolution and population genetics of fruit flies.
Molly Gildea specializes in Fisheries Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and studied habitat selection and physiological ecology of Pacific Salmon, and phylogenetic relationships between aquatic plants.
Each scientist spent 15 minutes with a group, visiting two out of the four groups. While with the girls, they grilled them on their investigation, giving out suggestions on where they should direct their research, or how they were going to implement their procedures. They also introduced themselves and what they did. It was really wonderful for our STARS to listen to and be able to ask questions of our scientists.
Girls modeled the spread of a sneeze on the atrium floor, and how germs from a sneeze could be transmitted from person-to-person. They wrote out their thoughts on the atrium window. The green group talked about visible factors versus invisible factors, creating t-charts to organize their thoughts. Yellow group continued their brainstorm on factors that affect the effectiveness of student studying, and the purple group interviewed the folks from the cafeteria to learn about where their food comes from and how it is prepared. Every group spent a lot of time getting to learn about their topics and also prepare for the coming week when the Science Advisory board would come to visit.