Research Partnerships at New Mexico State University

Congratulations to New Mexico State University for their inclusion of high school students in an immersive research experience. 

Readers of this blog know that one of my missions is to support and encourage these wonderful collaborative experiences to help inspire our students. For too long there has been a huge chasm between the different levels of the educational system which I feel has done a tremendous disservice to our students.

In this climate of punitive high stakes testing in which end of semester common assessments can determine a teacher’s employment future, it is no wonder they avoid labs and research-who has the time? In this climate of diminished funding for public higher education, where professors futures are determined by their research output and ability to secure grant funding, who has time to work with students, let alone high schoolers?

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Yet, we all know collaboration, communication, innovation, critical thinking, and research literacy are necessary to truly fulfill the promise and potential of our public educational system, a system that to truly serve the common good should be a seamless Pre-k-16 system. A system in which content knowledge and skill application are interwoven.

At New Mexico State 5 high school students were immersed in the College of Engineering and learned design, project management, programming, 3-d printing, as well as other essential research skills. One of the most important skills I would suggest was to deal with the frustration and mistakes imbued in any creative process.

Thanks to writer Tiffany Acosta for her article and New Mexico State University for jumping in the messy world of innovation and inspiring us all!

Questions for Discussion

  1. What were some of the highlights for the high school students?
  2. What were some of the benefit from the “near-peer” NMSU Engineering students?
  3. How could they consider expanding this or “scaling” this project?
  4. How could this model be implemented in other disciplines?
  5. How can high school and university level staff more effectively collaborate?
  6. What else does this inspire you “dream, learn, do?”

Chocolate and Developing Diabetes-Research

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Margaret Nagle from The University of Maine has posted about research which seems to suggest that eating a bit of chocolate each week can reduce the risk of developing diabetes.

This is a great post for teachers to help high school students analyze research design and results. While the post does not go into a great amount of detail of design and data, there is enough here for a brief introduction or review of research design in order to help students to develop the basics of “thinking” like a researcher.

The Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal is an impressive multi-disciplinary study conducted by researchers from the University of South Australia and the University of Maine of nearly 1,000 subjects followed over a five year period.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What specifically did the research conclude?
  2. What are possible explanations of this conclusion, according to the researchers?
  3. From what different disciplines were the researchers from?
  4. What is a research grant?
  5. Who were the subject groups in this study?
  6. How much chocolate was consumed to achieve this health benefit? Did eating more chocolate make subjects more healthy?
  7. How is this correlational research? What does that actually mean?
  8. Professor Elias suggests that clinical trials are necessary to establish whether only dark chocolate is beneficial? How would you design this research? What would your variables be? What is your hypothesis?
  9. What else does this inspire you to “dream, learn, do?”

The Twickenham Press and The Lark Ascending

 

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Teachers of Humanities and all high school English teachers rush home, pour yourself a cup of decaf green tea, add a drop of honey, and check out these amazing resources! Whether you decide to use them in lesson plans or just for your own personal enjoyment, enrichment and “soul-nourishment,” you will be glad to have stumbled across these lovingly created literary gems.

  1. The Milton Society. This is the home of fellow “Word Pressians” at the scholarly society dedicated to the study and dissemination of Milton’s works. I think an astute teacher might review the works in progress page as a resource, but also as an opportunity to discuss exactly what a literary scholar does. A review of some of the books, chapters, papers, could be used as as springboard for students to generate their own research ideas, and increase the quality of their own theses. I think in general, we see that students try to write too broadly. But also, as a discussion of how an artist or body of literature can impact a culture. I think the link section is most valuable, however, as it links directly to several additional resources (below.)
  2. The John Milton Reading Room. “Fly envious Time, till thou run out thy race.” You can spend a lot of time here in this Dartmouth College site. It features the complete poetry and a selection of Milton’s prose. A wonderful resource to be lost and/or regain’d.
  3. The Twickenham Press and The Lark Ascending. Kudos to The Twickenham Press for being the digital home to the dramatic readings of classic literature by now defunct performance group, The Lark Ascending. This group performs not only the work of Milton, but Whitman, Eliot, Wordsworth and others. It serves as a reminder that poetry must be heard, not just read! Excellent work.

Questions for Discussion

  1. How does a researcher decide on a topic to study?
  2. What impact did John Milton have on Western Literature?
  3.  Brainstorm a list of potential Milton paper topics and fine tune these to thesis statements.
  4. Why is it essential to hear, not just read poetry?
  5. Read a little about the origins of the Twickenham Press. Who are some significant “self-published” authors?
  6. What was the mission of The Lark Ascending? Has your classroom had a poetry performance day lately?
  7. What else does this inspire you to”dream, learn, do?”

American Thanksgiving

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Educators, seeking enriching anecdotes to help their students understand the historical context of the American Thanksgiving traditions, will enjoy the excerpt from Melanie Kirkpatrick’s speech, “Thanksgiving and America”, published in Hillsdale College’s, Imprimis. 

While the holiday itself has passed for this year and you are likely far beyond the Pilgrims in the semester of American History, this speech would be a great read-aloud or supplemental literacy enrichment text. It is intelligent and insightful, yet quite readable and accessible.

I especially enjoyed the acknowledgement of Sarah Hale’s singular dedication to this cause as well as the uproar caused by FDR when he moved the date!

Questions for Discussion

  1. What was Benjamin Franklin’s description of Thanksgiving?
  2. What were three of the major controversies surrounding Thanksgiving?
  3. What role did Sarah Hale have in establishing the Thanksgiving tradition?
  4. What were the early Thanksgiving celebrations about?
  5. Which colony established the first specific date for the holiday?
  6. What were two of the main objections voiced regarding the holiday in 1789?
  7. What were two of Washington’s key solutions to establish this as an inclusive holiday?
  8. What does Ms. Kirkpatrick mean by, “Shades of the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians sit at every American’s Thanksgiving table…?”
  9.  What else does this inspire you to “dream, learn, do?”

 

Who Was Norman Borlaug?

According to the University of Minnesota, their graduate, Norman Borlaug, was “the man who saved a  billion lives.” Not bad for a boy growing up in 12 miles from the nearest town in rural Iowa in the early 1900’s, and whose education began in a one room school house.

Borlaug, went on to study Forestry at the University of Minnesota (after initially flunking the entrance exams!) Then he earned a Masters, followed by a  PhD studying plant disease. He received a big break in 1944 when he was invited to work on a project in Mexico to help the farmers grow their own wheat.

His research and work in educating farmers left a long legacy of helping develop self-sufficiency and feeding the world. His work is acknowledged as being at the leading edge of the “Green Revolution” and his work and teachings live on.

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The University of Minnesota have an excellent Norman Borlaug website devoted to his work. Anyone who is interested in ecology, biology, agriculture, history, or anyone seeking inspiration about how a dedicated, passionate researcher can truly make a positive impact on humanity should learn more about him and check out the website. Be sure also to check out his 2001 Nobel Centennial Symposia speech at nobelprize.org  as well as the video Rusts Never Sleep available under the resources link at the website.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What were some of the formative experiences of Norman’s early years?
  2. What were his early educational experiences?
  3. What were significant world events that shaped his research?
  4. How did Norman persevere through significant adversity? Give examples.
  5. What were the topics of his master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation?
  6. While in Mexico, what was his group’s unspoken motto?
  7. Describe how the “shuttle breeding”program worked?
  8. What threat did the stem rust fungus cause and how did his work prevent worse destruction of crops?
  9. What were three significant contributions Borlaug made to the benefit of humanity?
  10. What else does this inspire you to “dream, learn,do?”

Life Minus Oxygen?

 

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Congratulations to University of Cincinnati assistant professor of geology, Andrew Czaga and his team for finding fossils that reportedly existed prior to the existence of oxygen on this planet. For more information, you definitely want to check out Melanie Shefft’s piece in the new issue of UC Magazine.

Professor Czaga is quoted  in this piece, “These are the oldest reported sulfur bacteria to date.” At approximately 2.5 billion years old, these specimens taken from South Africa are large and spherically shaped.

This excellent, detailed article and brief video of a 3-d image of the bacteria would be of great interest to teachers of Geology and Biology.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What geologic era is this discovery from?
  2. How are these organisms described? What current organisms are similar to them?
  3. What was the name of the major supercontinent comprised of South Africa and Western Australia?
  4. When did the Great Oxidation Event occur?
  5. What was the Great Oxidation Event?
  6. Describe the process of “recycling”  as explained in the article.
  7. Looking at the graph, what do you think the “photic limit” means?
  8. What else does this inspire you to “dream, learn, do?”

Students Travel the World to Build Kiln

For a great post on a fully immersive educational experience, check out the Northern Michigan University School of Art and Design blog post on their recent internship experience-creating a kiln in Indonesia.

For three years, Professor Kakas researched the design of these kilns-this trip was the culmination of that intense research.

This post will be of interest to art teachers of course, but also World History or Geography teachers who want to explore cultural practices of Bali, Indonesia.

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Questions for Discussion

  1. How does a soda fired ceramic kiln work?
  2. How is this kiln utilized by the Balian people?
  3. Based on your reading of this text and seeing the photos, what are important cultural values of the Balian people?
  4. What was significant about the kiln built by the Northern Michigan University Students?
  5. How can this type of immersive experience be essential to students, researchers and the local community?
  6. What else does this inspire you to”dream, learn, do?”