Learning by Making in Mendocino County

Learning by Making Logo

The Sonoma State University i3 project “Learning by Making: STEM Success for Mendocino County” has just finished its first full year in the classrooms of six rural high schools. This pilot year of curriculum included the rollout of lesson plans teaching programming in jLogo, electronic circuit wiring and debugging, and scientific investigations with environmental themes that are personally relevant to the students. Our year-long curriculum has been approved as a laboratory science (Area “D”) college prerequisite course for the University of California and California State University systems. Our goals are to increase the number of students who qualify for admissions to these systems, as well as to increase the number of these (primarily underrepresented) students who choose to pursue STEM-related subjects and future careers.

After building skills in programming and circuit building, students were challenged to create their own experiments to understand how heat flows from external sources and diffuses down into the Earth and the study of biological organisms that can be used to create power. Students explored classroom versions of the Sun-Earth system in order to understand that the geological record of climate change is real and that existing data in boreholes show the temperature rise going back for 40  years. They also built and modified a mud-based fuel cell that uses bacteria to generate electricity. More complex versions of these microbial fuel cells are in use by local breweries to treat and clean wastewater while powering the facilities.

Students and teachers were very enthusiastic about the opportunities provided by the Learning by Making project. Check out the video of some of the Ukiah high school students:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4ug1S2Opas&feature=youtu.be

For more information, see our website: http://i3.sonoma.edu or write to Susan Wandling (susan.wandling@sonoma.edu) or Lynn Cominsky (lynnc@universe.sonoma.edu).