STEM Self-Portrait: Preamble

GAH! These Air, Soil, Water write-ups are 10-20 pages! Next time, we should make art.

During our first Innovation Lab STEM project, Sarah and I reflected on the progress and process with each other. After it ended, we debriefed with our whole team. We decided this whole project-based learning thing is, in fact, a good idea. Over the next few months, we want to reflect more publicly on our second project: the STEM Self-Portrait. We’ll post as much as possible and your feedback, suggestions, and ideas are welcome in the comments below.

Both STEM and Humanities are framing the second quarter projects around Identity and the question ‘How do I define myself and my role in the world?’ We were initially inspired by a project Mark Hines did with his students at MPX in Honolulu. Students created original art, inspired by the geometric-looking cubism genre, and then recreated it in Desmos. During my visit to their school in February, I saw student samples. Mahina and Justin were nice enough to share these at the time:

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If you’re a math teacher creating a project, this one checks off so many boxes that it’s tough to justify not doing it. So much of the family of functions can be learned through transformations and systems of linear and non-linear equations. It can be differentiated from Algebra 1 through PreCalculus. What’s the point?  Students are creating original artwork and learning about cubism. The tough part for the STEM team (me and Sarah) was wrapping in Environmental Chemistry.

Sarah, whose puzzled-but-determined face has yet to remain that way for any extended period of time, suggested a 3D version of each student’s identity image. After many iterations, we settled on requiring students to create a paired piece – the Desmos art and the physical component. The latter must undergo one physical or chemical change (both for Honors students). At the simplest level, the change could be mixing paints or staining a frame, but we’re pushing students further than that. Think temperature sensitive color-changing spoons, growing crystals, or firing clay. Chemistry is everywhere. Students will build whatever they need – at the very least, a custom frame – for their showcase at the Bruce Museum in February.

A project-based learning axiom we’ve long-since adopted states that if you know what the project will look like at the end, it’s not open-ended enough. We’re excited to see what students create.

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