STEM Education Initiative

RSI is developing new methods to teach STEM from K-12 based on our experience with high school and undergraduate students in our various research internship programs (www.sciexplorers.com). The biggest problem students have at all levels is knowing how to wield the scientific method. This is a serious problem because scientific literacy is critically dependent upon understanding how to use the scientific method appropriately.  We believe that learning the scientific method should begin as early as possible and be thoroughly integrated into the elementary, middle and high school curricula.

Our approach to STEM is influenced by Prof. David Hestenes Modeling Instruction, but with more emphasis on experiments and empiricism, especially how to form a testable hypothesis, what are the appropriate positive and negative controls, how to interpret the results and place the results in the context of what we already know. In our ongoing curricula development, the scientific method is extended to all subjects from literature and social studies to math. Although mathematical reasoning is subtle and extends beyond simplistic experimentation, much of mathematics education benefits from tying principles into a discovery-based approach. We evaluate available educational materials for their applicability to our approach.  Whenever possible, we advocate attempting real experiments that actually could gain new knowledge, however small. To reach this goal will require significant work and funding and we hope to engage interested parties such as the National Science Foundation to make our vision a reality.

Directions

Augmented/Virtual Reality
We are currently developing augmented/virtual reality teaching tools to take advantage of soon to be released technologies from Microsoft, Facebook, etc. These tools will let students interact with, query and manipulate interesting objects in the world around us, such as exotic plants, animals, or celestial bodies. With the help of a teacher’s guidance or even from specially designed software, students can acquire at their own pace age-appropriate knowledge of any topic, understand something about the limitations and also gain experience with how such knowledge is really acquired.

Coding Living Cells
There is a lot of recent efforts to interest young people in computer programming at as young an age as possible. We think this is a splendid idea and would like to extend it to our scientific method based curriculum. To this end we are developing LivingCode, a high level programming language, not more difficult to learn than Basic, that allows one to create and model virtual living organisms. First iterations of the language will be for broad simulation purposes only, but with time we would like to make the language directly relevant to engineering actual biological systems.

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