Ed. note: Nova Labs member and frequent instructor for the STEM4Makers series of classes, Jennyfer Peterson writes:
We’ve had two Biotech for Makers classes in April and they have been extremely successful and well attended. Here’s why these classes are so valuable as supplements for making young makers.
As with all of our kid’s classes, I try to get the mentors to connect STEM and making. In this case the making is DIYbiotech. The sequence of connecting the class to a Meetup is also present since we have a very active DIYbio community developing all around us and at Nova Labs. I invited a student to give a presentation on his DIY marine biology in space project. The folks in that meetup gave him lots of feedback and asked lots of questions.
Our classes are not meant to duplicate school, but rather to support and supplement passions in biology and biotechnology. To add the hands-on to the book work. For example, in DNA class, we don’t just look for DNA and then go ooow, slimy (well, we do actually), but we also start with a question: What is the best of these substances (reagents) to extract the DNA? The students are then lead through the process to collect data for comparison.
It is astonishing that kids get so much practice with data collection, yet so little with study design and next to no practice with the logic of analysis and forming conclusions. It is good to have the parents present for the learning. This way they are active observers. Hopefully, this will show parents where they might need to supplement or help their kids. Science books are necessary but insufficient to producing great scientists. Memorization of facts is very important; I am a strong proponent of traditional science and math memorization of basic data in math and science. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater, please.
We must be wise consumers to STEM supplements; Don’t just duplicate what the kids are getting at school anyway. If we assert they are not getting enough logic and analysis then choose where you spend your supplement time and money to add these missing bits in.
The mentor for this one is Sudhita Kasturi, a member with a degree in biology, who also developed the curriculum instead of using a canned kit. She develops her own material and is being advised by the great people at SciTech, Towson University in Baltimore.
Be sure to keep a lookout for DIYBiotech and other STEM4Makers classes at the Nova Labs Meetup page. There are even some summer programs hosted at Nova Labs – checkout http://robotics.nova-labs.org/summer/ for more info.