It’s Spring Break …and SouthSide’s spending it with with Project Exploration at Museum of Science and Industry!
For two days, a select group of middle to high school students spent a part of their holiday week with a group of scientists learning about all things in motion and more. It was a festival of understanding how things move called Motorama and we were the very first to explore the new Project Exploration program. This program was simply more than a science-learning for the select students but also a teaching tool for the graduate students to help with their communication skills. This was designed to assist them in relating what they do but more on a level in which ordinary people can understand what they do. In other words, removing the difficult technical side of science and replacing it with simplistic terms as well as making it fun to learn.
And to help the grad students even further, each Motorama participant would be grading them with a Youth Science Observation Rubic form. The grad students would be “graded” on the following areas: Big Ideas, Learning Goals, Engagement, Terms/Vocabulary, Student Centered, Difficulty Level, Appropriate for Age/Experience, Materials/Learning Environment, Evidence of 5Es, Inquiry Encouraged, Student Reflection and Self Awareness. As you see certainly not an easy task. However, Gabrielle Lyon, co-founderof Project Exploration, asked each participant to take their job seriously but also have fun.
FUN – that’s what Motorama was all about. Before breaking the students into two groups, Gabe had everyone draw a couple of pictures of things moving in which one had to be different from the other. Then there were two fun “Getting To Know You” icebreakers – during the first, we had to state our names and why we’re excited to be at Motorama. During the second icebreaker, it was a beanie bag toss frenzy that had participants in a circle with group leader Mikki Brown learning (as well as remembering) each other’s name. Lastly as another fun exercise, we had to write down a list of everything we needed to move. Now this activity somewhat stumped SouthSide and her daughter, Alexis, because she was thinking along the lines of scientific answers rather than fun answers like the students gave.
After breaking into two groups, SouthSide hung out with Group 1 for the rest of the Motorama program learning about Biomechanics – the study of things that move. This group would be investigating all types of locomotion, how and why animals move differently and why scientists study animal locomotion with presentations by grad students Charlie, Richard, Alex, Brad and Tom. The first activity was doing a runaway walk to the rhythmic claps (going slow at first until speeding up at the end) of the entire group. Even the grad students participated showing off their best walk on the balcony hallway. Afterwards, some of the student participants and grads were timed to see who had the fastest locomotion and the “winner” was Richard at 2.2 seconds! The students learned that by pairing the pacing and clapping together they could change the pace with a faster or slower beat. Some of the participants expressed that it felt weird …awkward while walking to someone else’s pace instead of their own.
Back in the classroom, Tom was the first to begin presentations explaining how and why everyone’s walk was different from each other because of speed and body shape (leg length) using the following formula 2V over GL (2 x Velocity over Gravity x Length). it’s the formula used when calculating animal movement which is applied to all animals with legs. In SouthSide’s opinion, the complexity of the subject matter did lose majority of the students due to its overly use of technical and scientific terms that seemed to confuse them (and SouthSide). However once Gabe did a “check in”, some of the difficult terminology was thoroughly explained on a level which the entire room could understand. Then videos of flying fish to a Jesus lizard running were shown – just a few examples of how difficult animals move. The participants learned about two types of observations: quanitative (letters) and qualitative (numbers) as well as what a duty factor (the ratio of how long one foot is on the ground over a period of time) was. The group’s second activity of the day would be doing a mock duty factor diagram and presentation after lunch.
During lunch, SouthSide met one of the Motorama participants named Ariel, an eighth grader at CICS Avalon Charter School with a profound interest in forensic science. Ariel was part of the group learning about Whiskers. She asked this student how she was enjoying her Motorama experience so far – here’s what she had to say “…[liked] learning about things I never knew before…” After lunch, it was time to create and test a mock duty factor in which the group was split into two groups. Both groups did different tests from the other such as group A did walking backwards while the other did speed walking and after a short time of conducting their tests and creating duty factors, they did a mini presentations of their findings. Group A learned while walking backwards that there were different patterns in their mock duty factor because some had hesitant steps and there were minor errors while conducting the tests (thus creating irregular findings) as well as charting Alaura’s running in slow motion. Group B had a variety of demonstrations in which they charted different movement methods, speed and patterns in their results.