In a part of Sweden northeast of Stockholm, Nina Berglund likes trying out new ways to teach her science students aged 10 to 12.
Berglund recently invited a physics professor named Staffan Yngve to her class in the municipality of Norrtälje. Yngve brought with him a nail mat on which he proceeded to lie down to demonstrate the forces at work, delighting the students. “Even four months after, my pupils still remember it and speak about the visit using scientific terminology,” said Berglund.
She is a proponent of “open schooling,” an idea that science teaching must go beyond the staples of school labs such as test tubes, Bunsen burners and the periodic table to get students interested.
Amid concerns that Europe is attracting too few people—especially women—into scientific fields, the aim is to bring science to life for pupils.
While it has no formal defining characteristics, open schooling tends to feature activities such as on-site visits, off-site trips and remote learning that are generally exceptions in standard schools.
‘The big idea is to overcome the barriers we see with science education,’ said Maya Halevy, director of the Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem, Israel.
Halevy led a research project that received EU funding to advance the whole concept. Called Make it Open, or MiO, the project ended in September 2023 after three years.
It helped to establish open schooling “hubs” in 10 European countries ranging from Sweden to Greece, bringing together more than 150 schools.
… at a Spanish educational institution called IES de Ortigueira in the northwestern part of the country, 12-year-olds learnt about physics by designing and building model playgrounds. The models were then displayed in the library, where the students explained their work to visitors.
At the primary school of Makrygialos near Greece’s second-biggest city, Thessaloniki, teacher Thanos Batsilas and his students were part of a living lab that taught environmental science through an activity involving mussel farming.
They accompanied farmers on a boat out to sea to observe how the environment is inextricably linked to the wellbeing of area residents and how climate change is advancing. The underlying point was that mussel farming is a viable way to make a living and can help support the local ecosystem.
Children loved the living-lab activities because they love anything that is out of the box,’ Batsilas said. ‘They embrace it.’
Koulouris [Pavlos Koulouris, faculty member at a school called Ellinogermaniki Agogi] said open schooling has the potential to turn traditional notions of academic achievement on their head.
This November 28, 2023 article by Philip Drost for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) The Current radio programme highl8ights two youthful inventors, Note: Links have been removed,
Anush Mutyala [emphasis mine] may only be in Grade 12, but he already has hopes that his innovations and inventions will rival that of Elon Musk.
“I always tell my friends something that would be funny is if I’m competing head-to-head with Elon Musk in the race to getting people [neural] implants,” Mutyala told Matt Galloway on The Current.
Mutyala, a student at Chinguacousy Secondary School in Brampton, Ont., created a brain imaging system that he says opens the future for permanent wireless neural implants.
For his work, he received an award from Youth Science Canada at the National Fair in 2023, which highlights young people pushing innovation.
Mutyala wanted to create a way for neural implants to last longer. Implants can help people hear better, or move parts of the body they otherwise couldn’t, but neural implants in particular face issues with regard to power consumption, and traditionally must be replaced by surgery after their batteries die. That can be every five years.
But Mutyala thinks his system, Enerspike, can change that. The algorithm he designed lowers the energy consumption needed for implants to process and translate brain signals into making a limb move.
“You would essentially never need to replace wireless implants again for the purpose of battery replacement,” said Mutyala.
Mutyala was inspired by Stephen Hawking, who famously spoke with the use of a speech synthesizer.
“What if we used technology like this and we were able to restore his complete communication ability? He would have been able to communicate at a much faster rate and he would have had a much greater impact on society,” said Mutyala.
… Mutyala isn’t the only innovator. Vinny Gu [emphasis mine], a Grade 11 student at Markville Secondary School in Markham, Ont., also received an award for creating DermaScan, an online application that can look at a photo and predict whether the person photographed has skin cancer or not.
“There has [sic] been some attempts at this problem in the past. However, they usually result in very low accuracy. However, I incorporated a technology to help my model better detect the minor small details in the image in order for it to get a better prediction,” said Gu.
He says it doesn’t replace visiting a dermatologist — but it can give people an option to do pre-screenings with ease, which can help them decide if they need to go see a dermatologist. He says his model is 90-per-cent accurate.
He is currently testing Dermascan, and he hopes to one day make it available for free to anyone who needs it.
You can find out about Anoush Mutyala and his work on his LinkedIn profile (in a addition to being a high school student, since October 2023, he’s also a neuromorphics researcher at York University). If my link to his profile fails, search Mutyala’s name online and access his public page at the LinkedIn website. There’s something else, Mutyala has an eponymous website.
My online searches for more about Vinny (or Vincent) Gu were not successful.
Ms. Shetterly was at the University of Toronto (Hart House) as a mentor at Tundra Technical Solutions’ 2023 Launchpad event. The company is a ‘talent recruitment’ agency and this is part of their outreach/public relations programme. This undated video (runtime: 2 mins. 27 secs.) from a previous Hart House event gives you a pretty good idea of what this year’s Toronto event was like,
On the heels of [US] National STEM Day, a landmark event unfolds tonight to advance the role of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Tundra, a trailblazer championing diversity within the world’s most innovative industries, hosts its annual Launchpad Mentorship Event at the University of Toronto’s Hart House.
This event welcomes hundreds of high school female students across the GTA [Greater Toronto Area?] to inspire and empower them to consider careers in STEM.
The night opens with a fascinating keynote speech by Margot Lee Shetterly, acclaimed author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Hidden Figures. Margot will share her insights into the critical contributions of African-American women mathematicians at NASA, setting a powerful tone for the evening. The spotlight also shines brightly on Arushi Nath, a 14-year-old Canadian prodigy and Tundra Launchpad Mentee of the Year whose contributions to astronomy have propelled her onto the world stage.
The Launchpad Event panel discussion features an impressive lineup of leaders, with Anne Steptoe, VP of Infrastructure at Wealthsimple; Linda Siksna, SVP of Technology Ops and Platforms at Canadian Tire; Natasha Nelson, VP of Ecostruxure at Schneider Electric; and Allison Atkins, National Leader for Cloud Endpoint at Microsoft. Moderated by Marisa Sterling, Assistant Dean and Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Professionalism at the University of Toronto, the panel tackles the challenges and opportunities within STEM fields, emphasizing the need for diversity and inclusion.
In a seamless transition from Shetterly’s keynote to the voices of present-day STEM leaders, the event spotlights the potential of young women in these fields. Arushi Nath [emphasis mine], the 9th-grade Canadian astronomy sensation, embodied this potential. Fresh from her success at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists, Arushi’s presence will be a vibrant reminder of what the next generation can achieve with support from initiatives like Tundra’s Launchpad Event.
Tundra’s commitment to nurturing and developing STEM leaders of tomorrow is evident through its substantial investments in youth. Every year, Tundra connects thousands of students who identify as female and non-binary with mentors, awarding scholarships and prize packs to help students excel in their future.
Tundra’s dedication to diversity and empowerment in STEM remains unwavering since the Launchpad’s inception in 2019. The event is a testament to the bright future that awaits when we invest in the mentorship and recognition of young talent.
Female-identifying or non-binary students in grades 10-12 can apply for Tundra’s next Launchpad Scholarship here [deadline: December 3, 2023].
You can find out more about the Tundra Technical Solutions STEM initiatives here. (I’m not sure why they’ve listed Vancouver as a location for the event on the STEM initiatives page since there is no mention of it in the news release or elsewhere on the page.)
Arushi Nath was last mentioned here in a November 17, 2023 posting where her wins at the 2023 Canada Wide Science awards and the 34th European Union Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS) and her appearance at the 2023 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Awards were highlighted.
Almost 150 students from across Toronto and the region attended the event. In addition, around 20 mentors from several organizations gathered to interact with the students. Many staff members from Tundra were also present to support the event.
Keynote Speech: Science and Space is for All
The evening started with a keynote speech from Margot Lee Shetterly, the author of Hidden Figures book. Hidden Figures [movie] explores the biographies of three African-American women who worked as computers to solve problems for engineers and others at NASA.
In her speech, she talked about her journey writing the book and what drew her to the topic. The fact that one of the three women was her neighbour was a big inspiring force. She shared the background of these brilliant women mathematicians, their personal stories, anecdotes and the crucial roles they played during the Space Race.
Several questions were posed to her, including how she felt about having her book transformed into a movie before the book was even complete and how students could merge their other passions with science.
Prizes and Awards: Winning 2023 Mentee of the Year Award
At the end of the raffle, I was surprised to hear my name called on the stage. I was honoured to receive the 2023 Mentee of the Year Award. I thanked the organizers for this gesture and for organizing such a wonderful evening of fun, learning and networking.
More about Hidden Figures on FrogHeart
First mentioned here in a September 2, 2016 posting titled, “Movies and science, science, science (Part 1 of 2),” it focused heavily on Margot Lee Shetterly‘s 2016 nonfiction book, “Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race.”
The movie focused primarily on three women but the book cast a wider net. It’s fascinating social history.
They were computers
These days we think of computers as pieces of technology but for a significant chunk of time, computers were people with skills in mathematics. Over time, computers were increasingly women because they worked harder and they worked for less money than men.
Canada has emerged as a world leader in many science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, and many new jobs and career opportunities that have emerged in recent years are STEM-related. As more and more businesses and organizations look to innovate, modernize and grow, the demand for people who can fill STEM-related jobs will only increase. Canada needs a workforce that can continue to meet the challenges of the future.
Additionally, young Canadians today need to think carefully and critically about science misinformation. Misinformation is not new, but the intensity and speed in which it has been spreading is both increasing and concerning, especially within the science realm. Science literacy encourages people to question, evaluate, and understand information. By equipping youth with science literacy skills, they will be better positioned to navigate online information and make better decisions based on understanding the difference between personal opinions and evidence-based conclusions.
The Government of Canada and its federal partners have put forward several new opportunities that are aimed at increasing science literacy and the participation of Canadians in STEM, including under-represented groups like women and Indigenous communities.
CanCode (Innovation, Science and Economic Develoment Canada)
CanCode is an Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) funding program that provides financial support for organizations to equip Canadian youth, including traditionally underrepresented groups, with the skills they need to be prepared for further studies. This includes advanced digital skills, like coding and STEM courses, leading to jobs of the future. For more information on the program and future Calls for Proposals, visit the CanCode webpage.
Citizen Science Portal (ISED)
The Citizen Science Portal provides information and access to science projects and science experiments happening in various communities for Canadians to participate in. Some may only be available at certain times of year or in certain areas, but with a little exploration, there are exciting ways to take part in science.
Objective: Moon – including Junior Astronauts (Canadian Space Agency)
The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) aims to engage young Canadians, to get them excited about STEM and future careers in the field of space through a suite of resources for youth and educators. The CSA also helps them understand how they can play a role in Canada’s mission to the Moon. As part of Canada’s participation in Lunar Gateway, the Objective: Moon portfolio of activities, including the Junior Astronauts campaign that ended in July 2021, makes learning science fun and engaging for youth in grades K – 12.
Actua is a Canadian charitable organization preparing youth, ages 6-26, to be the next generation of leaders and innovators. It engages youth in inclusive, hands-on STEM experiences that build critical employability skills and confidence. Through a national outreach team and a vast member network of universities and colleges, Actua reaches youth in every province and territory in Canada through summer camps, classroom workshops, clubs, teacher training, and community outreach activities.
Mitacs is a national not-for-profit organization that designs and delivers internships and training programs in Canada. Working with universities, companies and federal and provincial governments, Mitacs builds and maintains partnerships that support industrial and social innovation in Canada. More information on Mitacs’ programs can be found here.
Science fairs, STEM competitions and awards
The Government of Canada supports the discoveries and the ingenuity of tomorrow’s scientists, engineers and inventors.
Though a cornerstone of thermodynamics, entropy remains one of the most vexing concepts to teach budding physicists in the classroom. As a result, many people oversimplify the concept as the amount of disorder in the universe, neglecting its underlying quantitative nature.
In The Physics Teacher, co-published by AIP [American Institute of Physics] Publishing and the American Association of Physics Teachers, researcher T. Ryan Rogers designed a hand-held model to demonstrate the concept of entropy for students. Using everyday materials, Rogers’ approach allows students to confront the topic with new intuition — one that takes specific aim at the confusion between entropy and disorder.
“It’s a huge conceptual roadblock,” Rogers said. “The good news is that we’ve found that it’s something you can correct relatively easily early on. The bad news is that this misunderstanding gets taught so early on.”
While many classes opt for the imperfect, qualitative shorthand of calling entropy “disorder,” it’s defined mathematically as the number of ways energy can be distributed in a system. Such a definition merely requires students to understand how particles store energy, formally known as “degrees of freedom.”
To tackle the problem, Rogers developed a model in which small objects such as dice and buttons are poured into a box, replicating a simple thermodynamic system. Some particles in the densely filled box are packed in place, meaning they have fewer degrees of freedom, leading to an overall low-entropy system.
As students shake the box, they introduce energy into the system, which loosens up locked-in particles. This increases the overall number of ways energy can be distributed within the box.
“You essentially zoom in on entropy so students can say, ‘Aha! There is where I saw the entropy increase,’” Rogers said.
As students shake further, the particles settle into a configuration that more evenly portions out the energy among them. The catch: at this point of high entropy, the particles fall into an orderly alignment.
“Even though it looks more orientationally ordered, there’s actually higher entropy,” Rogers said.
All the students who participated in the lesson were able to reason to the correct definition of entropy after the experiment.
Next, Rogers plans to extend the reach of the model by starting a conversation about entropy with other educators and creating a broader activity guide for ways to use the kits for kindergarten through college. He hopes his work inspires others to clarify the distinction in their classrooms, even if by DIY means.
“Grapes and Cheez-It crackers are very effective, as well,” Rogers said.
A grade nine student from Toronto, Ontario, Arushi Nath has had quite the year,
Nath describes one of her latest outings in a November 3 (?), 2023 posting on the HotPopRobot website (more about the website later), Note: Links have been removed,
On 1 November 2023, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) awarded this year’s top NSERC Awards at a ceremony held at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa. As a back-to-back winner of the top awards of the 2023 and 2022 Canada-Wide Science Fair, I got an invitation to join this ceremony. You can learn more about my research on developing algorithms for asteroid astrometry and photometry to measure the success of the NASA Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) Mission [emphasis mine] at www.MonitorMyPlanet.com
I could not attend the ceremony last year, but I was determined to attend it this year, and I am glad I did. It was an excellent opportunity to learn about the exceptional research carried out in Canada on issues ranging from astronomy to microbiology, ocean sciences, wastewater and machine learning and how it impacted us. I even got to meet and talk to several researchers, ask them questions, and understand what it takes to produce impactful research.
[description of awards and recipients]
Some Suggestions to Raise a STEM-ignited NexGen in Post-COVID-19 World
I think the research investments and funding should start earlier, to even include school students. We are the most connected generation ever and are aware of scientific research and developments happening in the world, be it in the area of astronomy or marine sciences, microbiology or machine learning. Our learning pathways have also changed. COVID-19 lockdowns spurred the use of Zoom, online courses and virtual conferences to learn about a new topic, connect with researchers, collaborate with them, undertake projects and then present them virtually – while attending school. STEM conversations and collaborations are starting earlier and need to be encouraged so that more students pursue STEM, undertake curiosity-driven projects, and maintain this curiosity and scientific temper no matter what career paths they choose.
It calls for greater investments in school science project scholarships, new and expanded science centres, research collaboration platforms, open-data sharing, allowing students access to conferences, creating community maker spaces, opening up high-speed computing facilities to students, more science festivals, fairs and competitions, and encouraging greater diversity in science.
Nearly 900 people gathered in Edmonton at the 2023 Canada-Wide Science Fair awards gala to celebrate the curiosity and ingenuity of Canadian students and announce the fair’s top winners. A total of 220 students shared more than 1.6 million in scholarships, awards, and prizes with the top awards in Discovery and Innovation going to Elizabeth Chen (Edmonton) for a project on alternative cancer treatments and Arushi Nath (Toronto), with a project on planetary defense [emphasis mine]. Arushi, who also won best project award at last year’s CWSF, becomes the first back-to-back best project award winner since 1989 – 1990.
The 34th European Union Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS) was held in Brussels, Belgium. It brought together 136 promising young scientists aged 14 to 20, from 36 countries across the EU and beyond for a five-day competition.
I was honored to represent Canada as Winner of 2023 Top Award at the 2023 Canada-Wide Science Fair.
My project “Developing Algorithms to Determine Asteroid’s Physical Properties and Success of Deflection Missions” won the second prize [at EUCYS]. I was the youngest contestant and the prize winner.
It was a wonderful experience to interact, form friendships and partners with bright young scientists across the world.
I found the descriptions of Nath’s work about ‘planetary defence’ and her paper is about algorithms for deflecting asteroids more accessible.
By the way, congratulations to Elizabeth Chen (Optimization of CAR-T Cell Therapy using RNA-Sequencing Analysis for Biomarker Identification) who won a top award at the 2023 EUCYS., as well as, an award from 2023 Canada-Wide Science Fair.
Frontiers publishes peer-reviewed, open access, scientific journals and materials for children through their children’s magazine, “Frontiers for Young Minds” (see my November 18, 2013 post about the magazine’s inception) and The Nobel Collection featuring science stories for children written by Nobel laureates (see my February 22, 2022 post for the first collection and my June 9, 2023 post for the second collection.
Frontiers for Young Minds, an award-winning, non-profit, open-access scientific journal for kids, has released the third volume of its Nobel Collection today. The new volume features five articles on topics from using a glowing protein found in jellyfish to understand cell function to studying the smallest units of matter. Prior to publication, the distinguished scientists worked with young reviewers aged 8-15 to ensure their articles were interesting and understandable for young readers.
Launched in 2013, Frontiers for Young Minds inspires the next generation of scientists by making science accessible and engaging for young people. It provides reliable and up-to-date information on various topics in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM). Through a unique review process, kids engage in dialogue with leading researchers worldwide, empowering the young reviewers with a better understanding not only of the science of the article, but of the scientific process and the importance of validating information. While learning about the world around them, young reviewers develop confidence, critical thinking, and communication skills.
The Nobel Collection is a special series of articles by Nobel Laureates. This third volume of the collection is an exciting new, educational installment for children and adults alike. The first and second volumes of the collection consist of 10 articles each, covering topics from discovering life on other planets to superfluids that defy gravity.
In this latest release, the scientists share their insights on the following topics:
The Quirky Lives of Quarks: A Close Look into Matter, written by David Gross, awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2004. Atoms are small units of matter that create everything we see. Inside atoms there are subatomic particles such as protons and neutrons, which compose the nucleus of the atom. Protons and neutrons are themselves composed of even smaller units called quarks. David Gross discovered how these quarks interact, explaining why the attraction force between them gets weaker as they get closer together and stronger as they move further apart.
Molecular Flashlights that Light Up Science, written by Martin Chalfie, awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2008. Green fluorescent protein (GPF) is a tiny glowing molecule that was originally found in glowing jellyfish. Martin Chalfie developed a way to use GFP as a marker that scientists can use to learn what is going on inside cells and organisms. Since his breakthrough, GFP was used in many different studies, helping scientists understand how cells work, how certain viruses cause diseases, and how proteins fold.
The Ribosome – The Factory for Protein Production According to the Genetic Code, written by Ada Yonath, awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2009. Proteins are small biological machines that work in our bodies as well as in the bodies of all animals, plants, viruses, and bacteria. They are produced by a protein production ‘factory’ in cells called the ribosome. Ada Yonath developed a method for studying the structure and function of ribosomes. This method could be used to study how antibiotics work and improve them.
The Secrets of Secretion: Protein Transport in Cells, written by Randy Schekman, awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2013. Cells release substances to the blood and to other cells via a process called secretion. For a substance to be secreted, it needs to travel between different stations within the cell and then cross the outer envelope of the cell called a membrane. This travel of a substance within and outside a cell is performed by small carriers called vesicles, which are like little cars that take a passenger substance to its destination. Randy Schekman identified different stations that this ‘car’ goes through within the cell, and significantly contributed to understanding the whole pathway of this fundamental process of secretion.
Seeing Beyond the Limits with Super-Resolution Microscopy, written by Eric Betzig, awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2014. Scientists often want to look at very small objects in order to study them. For many years it was believed that we cannot look with visible light on objects that are smaller than a fundamental property of light called its wavelength (the distance between two peaks in the light wave). Eric Betzig was able to break that limit using a method based on glowing molecules that are attached to the object scientists want to study. This paved the way for scientists to look at objects they could never see before.
The third volume will expand with more Nobel Laureate authors later this year, providing young readers the opportunity to learn even more about important discoveries.
Commenting on the new volume, Frontiers for Young Minds head of programLaura Hendersonsays: “It’s wonderful to now have three volumes of our Nobel collection and so many Nobelist authors joining us to provide kids with access to their work. We want to ensure all science enthusiasts can read Nobel Prize-winning scientific concepts. With over 1.5 million reads and downloads of the articles in volumes one and two, I can’t wait to see volume three inspire our young readers even more.”
To find out more, watch this video. [29 secs. runtime]
Thanks to Rebecca Bollwitt and the October 24, 2023 posting on her Miss 604 blog for the news about the 2023 (or 6th annual) Girls and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) Summit. From Alexis Miles’s October 24, 2023 post,
The 6th annual Girls and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and design, and math), presented by STEMCELL Technologies, is taking place at Science World November 4th .
Girls and STEAM at Science World Date: Saturday, November 4, 2023 Time: 7:45am to 4:00pm Location: Science World (1455 Quebec Street, Vancouver) Admission: Registration is open online for girls aged 12 to 14.
300 young girls, aged 12-14, will take over the Science World dome in a day of hands-on activities, enriching workshops, inspiring mentorship sessions and a keynote presentation.
This year’s keynote presentation features Andini Makosinski, Filipina-Polish Canadian inventor best known for her invention of the Hollow Flashlight that runs off the heat of the human hand, and theeDrink, a coffee mug that harvests the excess heat of a hot drink and converts it into electricity to charge a phone. The inspiration for Andini’s flashlight came from her friend in the Philippines, who had failed a grade in school because she had no light or electricity to study with at night.
STEMCELL Technologies, Canada’s largest biotechnology company, is pleased to announce it will be the presenting partner of the Girls and STEAM Summit at Science World in Vancouver.
The Summit, which takes place on November 4, 2023, is a full-day event with workshops, hands-on activities, a keynote presentation, and sessions with experienced mentors who work in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and design, and math).
“Science is about so much more than what happens in the laboratory. It provides a lens that can instill a deep-seated curiosity in young minds and enrich every aspect of our lives,” said Sharon Louis, Senior Vice President of Research and Development, STEMCELL. “Scientific education – in the classroom and out in the world – can lead to life-changing experiences and limitless opportunities for young women and girls. STEMCELL is proud to support the Girls and STEAM program to make science more accessible, and help ignite the passion of the next generation of scientists and leaders.”
About STEMCELL Technologies
STEMCELL Technologies supports life sciences research with more than 2,500 specialized reagents, tools, and services. STEMCELL offers high-quality cell culture media, cell separation technologies, instruments, accessory products, educational resources, and contract assay services that are used by scientists performing stem cell, immunology, cancer, regenerative medicine, and cellular therapy research globally.
An August 9, 2023 news item on phys.org highlights how superhero anatomy is being employed in human anatomy courses, Note: A link has been removed,
What do superheroes Deadpool and Elastigirl have in common? Each was used in a college anatomy class to add relevance to course discussions—Deadpool to illustrate tissue repair, and Elastigirl, aka Mrs. Incredible, as an example of hyperflexibility.
Instructors at The Ohio State University College of Medicine created a “SuperAnatomy” course in an attempt to improve the experience of undergraduate students learning the notoriously difficult—and for some, scary or gross—subject matter of human anatomy.
Surveys showed that most students who took the class found the use of superheroes increased their motivation to learn, fostered deeper understanding of the material, and made the content more approachable and enjoyable.
A few of the many content examples also included considering how Wolverine’s claws would affect his musculoskeletal system and citing Groot in a discussion of skin disorders.The effort was aimed at bringing creativity to the classroom – in the form of outside-the-box instruction and as a way to inspire students’ imagination and keep them engaged, said Melissa Quinn, associate professor of anatomy at Ohio State and senior author of a study on the course’s effectiveness.
“In these introductory courses, it’s a little tougher to talk about clinical relevance because students don’t fully understand a lot of the mechanics,” Quinn said. “But if you bring in pop culture, which everybody is inundated with in some way, shape or form, and tie it to the foundational sciences, then that becomes a way to apply it a little bit more.”
The study was published recently in the journal Anatomical Sciences Education.
First author Jeremy Grachan, the mastermind behind the course’s creation, led design of the curriculum as an Ohio State PhD student and is now an assistant professor of anatomy at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.
SuperAnatomy was created as a 1000-level three-credit-hour undergraduate course open to students of all majors. The class consisted of three 55-minute lectures each week and lab sessions offered twice in the semester. The course’s curriculum borrowed heavily from Human Anatomy 2300, a four-credit-hour course taken primarily by pre-health profession majors, consisting of live and recorded lectures, review sessions and one lab per week.
Students from both classes were invited to join the study over three semesters in 2021 and 2022; 36 students in SuperAnatomy and 442 students in Human Anatomy participated. Researchers collected data from 50-question quizzes given during the first week of classes and at the end of the semester intended to gauge how well students learned and applied course content. The students also completed pre- and post-course surveys.
The quiz results showed that student learning and application of material in the two courses was essentially the same. And to be clear, the SuperAnatomy content was not all cartoons and comic books.
“We looked at courses already running in our anatomy curriculum and took the relevant parts of those courses and added in the superheroes,” Quinn said. “So we actually elevated the curriculum.”
The follow-up survey of SuperAnatomy participants suggested the inclusion of superheroes strengthened their class experience, with nearly all students reporting that pop culture and superhero references expanded their understanding of course material and boosted their motivation to do well in the class.
“Collectively, if the students are enjoying the course and motivated to learn the material it could be better not only for their academic success, but their mental health and social wellbeing too,” the authors wrote.
Human anatomy is tough stuff – on top of the high volume of unfamiliar medical terms rooted in Latin, it can be unsettling to learn about the body in such a scientific, yet intimate, way.
“If you don’t have a good tour guide to help you, you might be inclined to give up pretty quickly,” Quinn said. “And none of us wants to be stale in our teaching.
“Here, we’ve seen that you can take a course like anatomy, which has been around forever, and bring it very much to whatever generation that we’re going to be teaching. And it’s not just about having fun – but a way to really make anatomy very interesting.”
Mason Marek and James Cray Jr. of Ohio State also co-authored the study.
I’m going to start with the fun, i.e., “Max the Demon Vs Entropy of Doom”,
Engaging introduction to James Clerk Maxwell’s and his thought experiment concerning entropy, “Maxwell’s demon.”
It’s one of the points that Sarah Klanderman and Josha Ho (both from Marian University; Indiana, US) make in their co-authored August 17, 2023 essay (on The Conversation) about using graphic novels to teach STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) topics in the classroom, Note: Links have been removed,
Graphic novels – offering visual information married with text – provide a means to engage students without losing all of the rigor of textbooks. As two educators in math and physics, we have found graphic novels to be effective at teaching students of all ability levels. We’ve used graphic novels in our own classes, and we’ve also inspired and encouraged other teachers to use them. And we’re not alone: Other teachers are rejuvenating this analog medium with a high level of success.
In addition to covering a wide range of topics and audiences, graphic novels can explain tough topics without alienating student averse to STEM – science, technology, engineering and math. Even for students who already like math and physics, graphic novels provide a way to dive into topics beyond what is possible in a time-constrained class. In our book “Using Graphic Novels in the STEM Classroom,” we discuss the many reasons why graphic novels have a unique place in math and physics education. …
Klanderman and Ho share some information that was new to me, from the August 17, 2023 essay, Note: Links have been removed,
Increasingly, schools are moving away from textbooks, even though studies show that students learn better using print rather than digital formats [emphasis mine]. Graphic novels offer the best of both worlds: a hybrid between modern and traditional media.
This integration of text with images and diagrams is especially useful in STEM disciplines that require quantitative reading and data analysis skills, like math and physics.
For example, our collaborator Jason Ho, an assistant professor at Dordt University, uses “Max the Demon Vs Entropy of Doom” to teach his physics students about entropy. This topic can be particularly difficult for students because it’s one of the first times when they can’t physically touch something in physics. Instead, students have to rely on math and diagrams to fill in their knowledge.
Rather than stressing over equations, Ho’s students focus on understanding the subject more conceptually. This approach helps build their intuition before diving into the algebra. They get a feeling for the fundamentals before they have to worry about equations.
After having taken Ho’s class, more than 85% of his students agreed that they would recommend using graphic novels in STEM classes, and 90% found this particular use of “Max the Demon” helpful for their learning. When strategically used, graphic novels can create a dynamic, engaging teaching environment even with nuanced, quantitative topics.
I encourage you to read the essay in its entirety if you have the time and the interest.
Here’s a link to the publisher’s website, a citation for and description of the book along with a Table of Contents, Note: it seems to be available in the UK only,
Using Graphic Novels in the STEM Classroom by William Boerman-Cornell, Josha Ho, David Klanderman, Sarah Klanderman. Published: 30 Nov 2023 Format: Paperback Edition: 1st Extent: 168 [pp?] ISBN: 9781350279186 Imprint: Bloomsbury Academic Illustrations: 5 bw illus. Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing Pre-order. Available 30 Nov 2023
This book provides everything STEM teachers need to use graphic novels in order to engage students, explain difficult concepts, and enrich learning. Drawing upon the latest educational research and over 60 years of combined teaching experience, the authors describe the multimodal affordances and constraints of each element of the STEM curriculum. Useful for new and seasoned teachers alike, the chapters provide practical guidance for teaching with graphic novels, with a section each for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. An appendix provides nearly 100 short reviews of graphic novels arranged by topic, such as cryptography, evolution, computer coding, skyscraper design, nuclear physics, auto repair, meteorology, and human physiology, allowing the teacher to find multiple graphic novels to enhance almost any unit. These include graphic novel biographies of Stephen Hawking, Jane Goodall, Alan Turing, Rosalind Franklin, as well as popular titles such as T-Minus by Jim Ottaviani, Brooke Gladstone’s The Influencing Machine, Theodoris Andropoulos’s Who Killed Professor X, and Gene [Luen] Yang’s Secret Coders series.
Table of Contents
List of Figures Foreword, Jay Hosler Acknowledgements 1. What Research Tells us about Teaching Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics with Graphic Novels 2. Teaching Life Science and Earth Science with Graphic Novels 3. Teaching Physical Science with Graphic Novels 4. Teaching Technology with Graphic Novels 5. Using Graphic Novels to Teach Engineering 6. Teaching Mathematics with Graphic Novels 7. Unanswered Questions and Concluding Thoughts Appendix: List of STEM Graphic Novels References Notes Index
Apparently not all educational toys are equal so according to a July 18, 2023 article by Nate Berg for Fast Company, Note: Links have been removed,
Seemingly overnight, and almost by necessity, toys have become teachers. The educational toy market has exploded in recent years, with some researchers estimating more than $100 billion in sales globally by 2028. The uptick is partly thanks to an acronym. STEM—for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—has become an easy way to distinguish toys with an educational side from toys that are just meant to be fun.
Or at least it was supposed to be easy. With more and more toys labeled as offering STEM benefits, toymakers and toy buyers alike are starting to wonder where the line is drawn. Is a set of racing cars or building blocks actually educational, or are parents and kids being taken in by a widespread case of “STEM-washing”?
During the pandemic, STEM toys (and their artsy cousins, STEAM—science, tech, engineering, arts, and math—toys) became must-haves for families across the country. …
STEM toys have a growing presence in toy stores and online, and a market that’s expected to grow by nearly a billion dollars over the next few years. Scientific toys, a subset of the STEM category, has grown 28% over the past three years to about $281 million in annual sales, according to Frédérique Tutt, a toy industry analyst at Circana. The growth is even bigger for STEM-adjacent building sets like Lego, which have grown 51% in that time, to more than $2 billion in annual sales, she says.
From building blocks to toy car ramps to stomp-fired air rockets, a wide range of marginally educational toys were suddenly being sold as STEM products. Whether STEM-washing or inconsistent marketing is to blame, the confusion has led the toy industry to try to get precise about what a STEM toy is.