Hands-On Science: Area Schools Use New Teaching Technology

Hands-On Science: Area Schools Use New Teaching Technology

Students work with Science Department Chair Mrs. Valerie Sanfilippo on the state-of-the-art Anatomage Table. (Photo courtesy of Saint Joseph Academy in Cleveland.)

It’s hard to imagine now, but one day your child might be leading a research group on climate change or discovering a cure for a disease. As science-based jobs continue to increase, it’s more important than ever for students to have a strong foundation in science. Many K-12 schools are finding new ways to teach science classes and engage students with the latest technology.

Jadalise Pacheco, a senior at Saint Joseph Academy in Cleveland, is already planning to pursue a career in the medical field.  

“I am hoping to become an obstetrician-gynecologist in the future,” Pacheco says. “I think learning about the male and female body is interesting.”  

Using her school’s Anatomage Table, Pacheco is able to get a 3D look inside the human body, virtually peeling back layers of skin, tissue and bone and studying how it all works.

The table is made up of two computer monitors that work simultaneously to project 3D images of human and animal bodies. Students use the table to work on case studies and come up with diagnoses.  

“The students in anatomy class might be working on a particular body system, such as the circulatory system or the muscular system, and they can go to the table and look at those systems,” explains Valerie Sanfilippo, science department chair at Saint Joseph Academy.

Pacheco says the table has helped her and her classmates get a better understanding of the medical field.   

“Before we go and shadow or work in a hospital or do anything with human bodies or dissections, I think it helps show whether someone would love to look at this everyday,” she says.

Getting students to pay attention to difficult topics is a challenge for many instructors, so having new ways to teach helps to spark new interest in the subject at hand.  

Rob Robertson, seventh and eighth grade science teacher at Lake Ridge Academy, says the school’s Augmented Reality Sandbox is a hit with his middle schoolers.

The table features a 3D sensor from an old Xbox gaming console, which can map a surface in 3D and then take the 3D image, make a color graphic and project it back down into the sandbox.

“We were talking about currents and how water moves and someone asked what a rip current was,” he says. “I started to draw a picture on the board and I realized that the sandbox is a better example. A picture is worth a thousand words — except it’s more than a picture, it’s like having a little model of the ocean ready to show people.”

Not only does it look cool, Robertson says students seem to get a better understanding of concepts taught with the sandbox.

“They ask questions that indicate they have a better understanding of it than if I were drawing on the whiteboard,” he says.

At Westlake High School, environmental science students are thinking “inside the box” — a beekeeping box.

The school recently started a beekeeping club and will add an accompanying pollinator garden this spring. In the coming months, student will choose plants and dig the garden.  

“I think to get kids truly interested in science, they have to experience it firsthand and there’s no replacement for good hands-on science,” says Melissa Barth, AP environmental science teacher at Westlake High School.

Barth says students will observe plant and pollinator interactions to study the effects of climate change.

“To teach them about it and talk about it is one thing, but if they can get out there and work with the bees and the hives and grow the plants that the bees will visit, it’s really the meaningful part,” Barth adds.

Community as a Classroom
In addition to bringing new technology and teaching methods into the classroom, schools are building partnerships within the community to give students real world experiences.

At Horizon Science Academy Cleveland High School, students involved in the Scientific Research and Design program get to shadow graduate students at local colleges, including Cleveland State University and University of Akron.

Johnay Murry, a junior at Horizon, is partnered with a biochemistry major at Case Western Reserve University.

“It’s really a hands-on program because you’re really helping your mentor with the research, almost like you’re part of the team,” Murry says.

The program allows students the opportunity to learn different research methods while getting a taste of college life.

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