9:55 PM - BI01.06.04
Teaching High School Materials Science Through Research
At this pivotal moment, we are facing climate change, movements to increase diversity and equity in science, and a world-wide pandemic. Educators, researchers, and industry leaders are in the unique position to contribute to valuable and necessary changes. Materials scientists are well-suited to address these changes, particularly through sustainability research. With a strong correlation between mentorship in research, especially by teachers, and success of students in their life-long career in STEM (Nature 447, 791–797 (2007), J. of Coll. Stud. Dev. 49(4), 285-300 (2008)), we have developed an innovative curriculum to build mentor-mentee relationships in a high school classroom as students perform original materials science research with motivation to advance sustainable technologies for battery applications.
This course curriculum has three major pillars: motivation, community, and skill development. First, students are motivated by the broader impacts their research can have on the scientific community. With climate change and the need for improved energy technologies, we are inspiring and challenging the students to work on contributing to this research area. Moreover, to foster and model the culture of sustainability in research, students are first computationally investigating structure-property relationships and after identifying compounds with desired properties (e.g. charge/discharge rates, energy storage capacity, nontoxic, renewable, etc), they experimentally test the identified materials. On the experimental side, we are employing sustainable lab techniques, such as glove recycling and strategic experimental design to employ reusable equipment. Secondly, a research curriculum in a high school setting allows for community, collaboration, inclusivity, and diversity to be intentionally implemented into each class. Success and ideas from each student can be celebrated as a group; collaborations between students, mentor, and other scientists in industry and academic institutions can be fostered, and literature can be intentionally selected to highlight research content, diversity of researchers already in the field, and best sustainable research practices for the lab and industry settings. The aspects of allowing students to have mentors and to be exposed to other scientists with similar scientific identities can increase retention in STEM fields and future careers (J. of Coll. Stud. Dev. 49(4), 285-300 (2008)). Thirdly, this course allows students to readily apply their knowledge of math, physics, chemistry, biology, statistics, and engineering knowledge to real science (which is shown to improve retention in STEM (Int. J. of STEM Edu. 5(48) (2018)). They are gaining hands on experience and developing the skills to
- Perform literature reviews
- Design, engineer, and execute experiments
- Evaluate and interpret data and results
- Form conclusions
- Present findings, both verbally, orally, in writing, and in visual depictions.
The ability to consistently have a group of students gathered and working collaboratively on original materials science research allows for the mentoring and molding of future STEM leaders with a solid skill set foundation, sense of community and self-identity in science, and a motivation to pursue sustainable technologies with broader impacts for the scientific community and the world in this pivotal time.
In this work, we will discuss both the curriculum aspects of the course design and observed results from intentionally providing students with hands-on experience in materials science research in a classroom setting as we foster the growth of the future materials scientists.