When 8th grade science teacher and MS science department chair Erin Dixon approached me about this project, all I could think was: "she gets it." Erin is a sharp-as-a-tack Georgia Tech (and Lovett) graduate with a Masters degree in Instructional Design. But, until she participated in the inaugural year of PLP and more importantly visited Science Leadership Academy and the inaugural year of Educon (2.0 it was), I know she did not get it. In fact, I'll never forget sitting in PLP team meetings with her, watching her dig in her heels when the more process-driven teacher and she went at it with the "content mastery" vs. "process skills" debate. I'm surprised I survived my first year as consultant/fellow/team leader/friend in this school! But, "get it" she did, and mightily so as I think this project represents so much of her growth and my hopes for the real work of students in schools. I am sharing this work here with high expectations that "the network" will rise to the occasion and help these students witness the value of their hard work, their inquiry-driven process, and their desire to tackle some really difficult yet compelling issues of science today.The Project
Although this would ideally crossover to all 8th grade students, this first year Erin is piloting the project with her 17 advanced students. Early in the fall, each student was given the charge to go figure out what interested them in science. They were to explore current topics within science, and I came in one day to help them begin the brainstorming process. We wanted to help them go as wide and as deep as they could, with the hope they would each find something to spend the year exploring. Over a period of a few weeks, the students began to latch onto certain topics and in certain cases dig deeply to find something concrete to investigate. They were given the following three guidelines: 1) they would spend time, mostly outside of class, researching the topic; 2) they would be required to write a scientific paper (yes, in proper form); and 3) they would form an educated opinion on their topic and defend their research and that opinion in front of a panel of experts at the end of the school year.
Where It Stands
At this moment, each student has completed a good deal of initial research around their topic. They've written a first draft of their paper; they've completed and posted abstracts and references on their wiki pages; and, they have given a short oral, video-tapped presentation of their topic and their appeal for interviews, information, and experts to join their panel.
In order to make the students' work and the network's participation transparent and accessible, I suggested to Erin we post the videos, the abstracts, the references and the project overview to a dedicated wiki site. This way we have a place to share all that students and the network bring to the research and evaluation process. It is also a possible home for network participants to add their thoughts and suggestions, expertise, and research using the discussion tabs on each page. Ultimately, the student papers and a video (potentially streaming) of their presentation will be embedded as well.
I will give a listing below of each topic and what the students are looking for generally, but I hope you'll see the topic and head to their wiki page to hear their voice and see their initial thinking. To give you a sense of the sophistication of some of this work, I've embedded three student appeals (short, Flipcam, unedited) with links to their pages:
Savannah: Cloning of Animals and Humans
To view Savannah's research sources, abstract, and specific questions, please visit her wiki page.
Natalie: Over The Counter Weight Loss Supplements
To view Natalies's research sources and abstract, please visit her wiki page.
Frankie: The Case for Nuclear Power
Halle: PSTD The Cost of War
David: BioChemical Warfare
To view David's research sources and abstract please visit his wiki page.
Additional topics of research and the links to student pages are:
NASA Funding (astronauts, NASA workers, Senate Committee)
Alternative Energy (wind, solar, hydropower, nuclear expertise)
ADHD (Cause) (doctors, researchers)
Robotic Surgery (doctors with experience)
ADHD (Treatment) (researchers, doctors)
Autism (doctors, families, researchers)
Nature vs. Nurture (people familiar with epigenetics)
Alzheimer's (researchers, congressional supporters)
Gene Therapy (doctors, researchers)
Vaccinations (experts on autism and mandated vaccinations)
Depression/Medical Coverage (insurance co representatives, psychologists)
Teaching Evolution (teachers, scientists, other intelligent design experts)
How You Can Help
- Identify and provide access to individuals, organizations and/or resources to help them continue their research
- Identify and help us access individual "experts" to serve on the student panels.
- Encourage the students with your comments using the discussion tabs on each wiki page.
- Contact me or Erin Dixon to offer suggestions and lend your support.