Steam pilot at dorchester middle schooL
In late October Kris Grymonpré introduced biomimicry to his seventh grade science students at the McCormack Middle School in Dorchester. By combining students’ natural interest in the world around them, with the 10 session course Macro to Micro developed by Sue Okerstrom of Lichen Labs, students were immediately engaged. Sue and Peter Lawrence of Biomimicry New England joined Kris and his students for the first three days of the course. Following the introductory class, students went on a field trip to a nearby park. Each student collected a sample, insect, plant part, or feather which they would examine in detail for the remainder of the course. One student discovered something so small it looked like a speck of dirt, but it was moving. With a handheld, and later other microscopes, she discovered it was a very strange looking spider. Upon returning to school, students used microscopes to view their samples up close and identify adaptations. During the following class Kris asked for student feedback on the field trip. What did they like? What did they think should be changed? Overwhelmingly students recommended that next year’s class spend more time in the park. Surprisingly, only one of the approximately 100 students had ever been to this park before, yet it is a short walk from McCormack and a large number of students pass it every day on their way to school, but this experience had opened the door. One week later classes connected with Sue Okerstrom via the internet, by logging into her Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) in Minnesota. Highlights of samples students collected were projected on a screen. Each sample was first examined under a light microscope, then further magnified with the SEM. Kris was able to take over and run the electron microscope. While viewing the sample at a micro scale, Sue and Kris explained how the animal or plant’s structures had adapted to perform certain tasks. In particular, students were fascinated by the spikes on a grain of pollen and the scales on a moth’s wings. In following classes students identified one adaptation and function of their organism, then designed a new technology that emulated that function. Each student prepared a poster illustrating their innovation, complete with text, drawings and images from the microscopes. Student engagement in biomimicry, microcopy, and the adaptation of their organism was noticeably strong throughout the entire unit. By combining their natural curiosity with the use of powerful tools, “Macro to Micro” enables students to understand, personally, how they can use science and technology to investigate their world.One piece of the vision of the newly adopted Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Framework is “to engage students in the core ideas through the integration of science and engineering practices, while making connections to what they know and the world they live in.” (2016 Massachusetts STE Curriculum Framework). To appreciate, value and thus care for your natural world you need to understand it. The Macro to Micro course gives students the opportunity to do exactly that through an authentic investigation. The new frameworks also establish a grade level theme for each grade K-12. In 7th grade the theme is a study of systems and cycles. Macro to Micro provides an engaging methodology to study various organisms’ structures and their roles in an ecosystem.