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.
What have STEM students done in the last ten class days? They’ve created thousands of equations in Desmos. Before break, students mixed materials in the lab to demonstrate replacement reactions (and balance chemical equations). They spent hours researching chemicals in the physical component of their Self-Portrait. Many revised mathematical defenses of their Desmos equations. We often start class with “alright, keep going!” followed by two hours of us conferencing with students about their work. Mini-lessons are happening all the time.
Here are two summaries of student projects happening right now:
Sofia‘s family connection with Italy is a large part of her identity image. She travels there every year and wanted to incorporate it into her project. This spurred a passion for traveling and a bucket list of places she wants to go with family and friends as she grows up; the globe represents this. The desk on top symbolizes her passion for learning and her goal to actually remember and understand what she learns in school. “The water is my favorite part,” she told me this morning. “I don’t know why, but water calms me down. The crash of waves is so relaxing.”
Since the Desmos image pairs with the physical piece, the water below her globe and flag will also be represented physically. Sofia will melt paraffin wax and use dyes to create water and waves. She’s electroplating copper on to brass metal pieces to create fish in the water. Currently, she’s almost done with the Desmos artwork. Her canvas will be the base for the wax and electroplating. “I have no idea how I’m going to approach this – well, I do, but it will be difficult.” The constant physical change of the wax creates problems. If it’s too hot, it will run; if it cools too much, it won’t stick to the canvas. The Desmos art and the physical piece will be presented as a paired piece. Three and a half weeks until exhibition.
Joey has been skating since he was three. “Skating has had a big impact on my life – how I dress, how I act – it’s my whole lifestyle.” Joey’s image involves an interesting take on a skateboard that incorporates images from playing cards because he enjoys doing magic. “I enjoy seeing the amazement on my friends’ and family’s face when I do a trick for them.”
For his physical piece, Joey will re-purpose an old skateboard to make it glow in the dark. He removed the trucks, scraped off the old stickers, sanded it down, and will put a clear coat of lacquer. He’ll then mix corn starch, highlighter ink, blue food coloring, and water; he got the idea from a Google search on how to make glow-in-the-dark paint.