By CHERIL VERNON
Palestine Junior High School students involved in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education had the opportunity to participate in an innovative and critical-thinking educational pilot project this week.
The pilot research project is an international partnership grant between the Philip Beesley Hylozoic Veil project, The Leonardo arts/science museum in Salt Lake City and ICEE Success in Palestine.
The project was produced in collaboration with the MIT-inspired PIE (Playful and Inventive Exploration) project at the Exploratorium in San Francisco and its PIE in Texas Collaborative centers at SMU, Rice and ICEE Success, and partners at The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University. Also collaborating is the National Science Foundation-funded SEAD (Science, Engineering, Arts and Design) project.
Beesley Education Project engineer Rob Gorbet, Ph.D., an associate professor with the Centre for Knowledge Integration at the University of Waterloo in Canada, worked hands-on with PJHS students on Tuesday and Wednesday as students developed their own model using shape memory alloy (muscle wire), an interactive component of the Beesley Project that Gorbet designed.
“The idea is using novel and different environments and ideas with our youngest kids to give them skills to think outside of the box while connecting arts and science with their learning in the classroom and what can be used in real-world situations,” Gorbet explained to a group of Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce board members and Palestine business leaders during a special reception Tuesday at Denby’s in downtown Palestine. “Kids are naturally creative. As adults get older it gets harder and harder to think creatively because that skill is narrowed by our experiences.”
Bringing examples of Beesley Education Project ‘breathing fronds’ to the Chamber reception, Gorbet explained how memory alloy’s properties can be altered by temperature changes.
“The automotive industry is interested in memory alloy as a way to make cars lighter. The material has been flown to Mars and is even used in newer eyeglasses and in braces,” Gorbet said at the Chamber reception.
For the research project with the PJHS students, Gorbet gave the students an overview, then immersed the students in the hands-on project of building their own model.
Students began with the following problem: They have been hired by the internationally-famous Philip Beesley Hylozoic Veil project to design a cloud-based (Beesley-inspired) hanging demonstration of the interrelationship between force and motion/heat transfer; and at least three of the following: cell structure and function in plants or animals; cells extracting energy from food; cells’ response to external stimuli; benefits of biodiveristy in a habitat; use of sun, water and atmosphere to survive on a plant; flow of energy through a living system.
“It was fun working on this — really cool stuff,” PJHS STEM student Harley Roth said as she worked on building a model with student team members Kassidy Turner and Ashley Middleton.
Middleton added, “It was really cool to work with Dr. Gorbet.”
Nationally-known evaluator Becky Carroll of Redwing Research and Inverness Research served as the formal evaluator for the project. She is helping design the evaluation instruments and interviewed students, teachers and administrators.
Results of the initial phase of this study will be presented at a Beesley conference in Salt Lake City in April. Final results will be presented in other venues and journals.
Objectives of the pilot program include promoting standards-based STEM engagement, learning, problem-solving and innovative thinking, while demonstrating the effectiveness of arts integration in teaching state STEM standards, investigation the impact of the Beesley experience on STEM engagement, learning and innovative thinking and promote vital 21st century creative and innovative thinking skills in students and teachers, according to ICEE Success Director Lucinda Presley, while developing a replicable model for using the Beesley project to accomplish these goals.
“National research has shown us that Fortune 500 companies are asking for innovative thinkers — it’s not just the knowledge that you know, but how you can process it. They need employees that can put ideas together and solve problems,” Presley said to the Chamber board members and business leaders during the Chamber reception.
The Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, which has been actively involved in the pilot education programs that ICEE Success has brought to Palestine, set up the Chamber reception to introduce business leaders to Gorbet and Carroll.
“I want to thank the Palestine Chamber, especially Andrew Gregory, Alan George and Susan Rand for making this possible here in Palestine,” Presley said. “Palestine ISD has been one of the most incredible partners in this. It has been wonderful to work with the students, teachers and administrators.”
Pilots for the research project also will be presented to students in Houston ISD and Salt Lake School District.
“We will be taking this project next to Salt Lake City, then to Houston ISD and then to Canada,” Gorbet said.
Meet Philip Beesley
Meet Beesley Project engineer Rob Gorbet