STEM Self-Portrait Days 11-14

Sarah and I have 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.

(This is post 6 of the series. Here’s the PreambleDays 1 & 2Days 3 & 4, Days 5 & 6, and Days 7-10.)


Froyo, yo?

For the past few days, Emily has been emailing back and forth with a company to learn how their powdered thermochromatic pigment works. She will mix the pigment in water, use it to paint emojis on glass squares, and it will dry clear. Emily’s work in a recent lab with color-changing spoons inspired the idea. When heated to 92°F, the painted image appears. A lamp will shine on one emoji and then shut off. The piece’s twin, after a fixed time, will do the same. The observer sees the emoji being sent and received.

Emily’s currently worried her technical description of the pigments isn’t good enough. The company just received a large order and are reevaluating the science behind the pigments. Sarah half-joked they could use Emily’s explanation when she’s done. She’ll be sending it to them.

Screenshot 2015-12-15 at 8.48.57 AM

Our weekly slide.

Since their proposal was due the previous week, students started work on the description of the substances in the physical piece. Because each student’s substance is different, there isn’t a document with a list of what to do. We classified using terms like pure substance, mixture, heterogeneous, homogeneous, solutions, suspensions, solids, etc. This is where we’re getting in some of the minute chemistry. To meet their unique needs, students are studying topics like electron configurations, bond types, molecular geometry and “VSEPR” theory, crystal structures, polymers and monomers, and functional groups (including hydroxyl, carboxyl, and ester groups).

What did class look like last week? Groups of people on Chromebooks and writing on the tables all around them. They asked each other questions, asked me and Sarah questions, and Googled questions. I spent much of the week with students who were revising their Desmos Math Defense 1 assignment and troubleshooting basic Chemistry. We are constantly conferencing with them about their writing. Grammar, organization, revision, revision, revision.

Students took a short re-take of a math quiz on Schoology based on the topics they’ve been covered in their written defenses. The linked quiz is the grade-level Algebra 2 version. There were two issues – I made it too difficult and some students didn’t prepare enough. Fitting traditional assessments within the projects is still an adjustment.

Our next Desmos Art Math Defenses assignment gives students an opportunity to practice graphical descriptors: increasing, decreasing, positive, negative, maximums, minimums, etc.

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This will be the last math-specific assignment before break. Sarah will continue to meet with students about their substance description this week. We have a week and a half left before winter break and two and a half weeks after. Then midterms. We’re starting to feel a crunch. I think some students will need to push some of the building to after midterms – the third week in January – and then finish before the February 2 showcase.

Progress continues!

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