Ms. Emily: Problem-Based Lesson – Final Part 3

Last Friday we finally finished up the problem-based lesson and I believe it went pretty well.  I found it quite humorous that several students would come up to me and say the problem was too hard, or that it was impossible, or that they were just going to give up because they needed stronger materials, or “are we going to get graded on this because our design is just bad”.  At the end, several of those students that told me this not only met the goals we set for this design, but they surpassed them so I was pretty proud of them.

I had the students share their designs and we noticed that none of the “successful” designs were exactly the same, but they had some of the same characteristics.  I even showed them an example of a scaffold that was made completely out of paper (and tape of course).  My reasoning for showing them this was because it was a design completely different from what anyone else had.  Whenever the students said they needed more of the stronger materials, I’d tell them they could use up to 4 sheets of paper (because that was usually all that they had left to use).  None of the students wanted to use paper and one girl even demonstrated to me how weak paper was.  I was hoping some of the groups might realize that paper could be made into a structure that was quite strong (e.g. rolling the paper into a cylindrical pillar-like support), but none of the groups did and that’s ok.

Now, I actually made this paper scaffold myself, but I tried to make that unbeknownst to the students.  I had several reasons for this, but the major reason was due to something I’ve been overhearing from several students throughout the past couple weeks.

“She went to college, that’s why she knows that.  If you went to college, you’d know that too.”

It feels like these students think that you can’t be smart or creative unless you go to college and I can also tell by the way I hear some of the remarks that some of the students have already made the decision not to go.  I did NOT want the students to think that the only reason why I was able to build the paper scaffold was because I went to college, and therefore, since they’re not in college, there’d be no way that they could have made the same design.  Therefore, if the students asked, I told them a student made it (since technically I am a student).  Maybe that wasn’t the right thing to do, any thoughts?

Last, just to make sure we tied up the lesson with everything we learned, I put some pink spheres (made out of paper) within the paper scaffold  and asked the students what they thought the spheres were supposed to represent.  I didn’t even get a chance to call on someone because in most classes, I’d immediately hear “cells!”  I also showed the class some actual scaffolds we make in my lab.  Briefly, I talked about the general process of tissue engineering (e.g. putting cells on a designed scaffold to make tissue).  One girl even came up to me saying “you’re job sounds really interesting.  I want to do something like that when I get older.”


About Emily Beck

I am a PhD student in Bioengineering at the University of Kansas and I am studying Tissue Engineering. I am interested in using nanoparticles and natural materials to create scaffolds that can assist in tissue regeneration/repair.
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