Jul 242013

By Julie Wiessner
Holbrook Junior High School challenged its students during their summer school program for three weeks in June. The first week students were involved with a forensics crime scene unit, the second week, a microscopic exploration, and the third week, a robotics engineering mini project using Bee-Bots and Lego Mindstorm Robots.
“The interesting thing about this summer program, is that we did not pick the students; they came on their own,” said teacher Beth Baloo. Other teachers involved with the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) content were Joy Burroughs and Tim Gurczynski.
For the crime scene project, students were walked through how to collect all evidence by members of the Holbrook Police Department. They did scientific testing on the evidence collected using electrophoresis or Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA), and acid and base testing.
Once all of the evidence was collected and tested, students broke into groups and then were assigned as a judge, the jury, and prosecuting and defense attorneys. However, they couldn’t come to a decision and the outcome was a hung jury.
“There were about 15 students,” said Baloo. “However, word of mouth got out that the kids were having fun at school, which brought more students.”
On Monday of the second week, a microscopic exploration was conducted. Students went on a field trip to Show Low Lake to collect whatever samples they wanted. They then looked at what they collected from the lake under a microscope and recorded what they found.
Thursday of the same week, students were taught a unit on oil spills. Groups had to come up with ideas of what to use to clean up oil spills. The challenge for this unit however was to find the least expensive and most effective material that would clean up the spill.
Baloo said, “There were 15 different items for students to choose from. There were sponges and pipe cleaners, gauze pads and turkey basters, to name a few. The students had to design a procedure and then clean up their oil spill.”
The group that used gauze pads to dredge the oil into one area and then used them to sop it up was the winning group, noted Baloo.
On Friday the summer school kids took a field trip to the Arboretum in Flagstaff to look at different ecosystems and how native plants are used for filtering water.
By now, there were at least 21 students involved with summer school. “I know we would have had more, but I also know that some students were doing other things with their families,” stated Baloo.
During the third week, students were exposed to the robotics/engineering section of summer school. One of the mini-projects given to students was to design ways to pass notes in class using Bee Bots without the teacher seeing. A Bee-Bot is a tool for teaching sequencing, estimation and problem solving. All of the Bee-Bot information, though, had to be programmed in centimeters.
Wednesday, students were challenged to design puff cars using one piece of card stock, two feet of tape, three straws, three paper clips and three lifesaver wheels. They had to design a vehicle that would move the farthest on one puff of air.
Next, students had to make a game board for English, mathematics, trivia or whatever topic they wanted, then program the Bee-Bots to get to the correct answer on the board.
Another challenge issued during the last week was to build a Lego Mindstorm Robot. These are customizable and programmable robots. They had to program it to speak and roll a ball, among other commands. The catch was that they were not given any instructions on how to use it. “The students had to figure out the correct way to input commands to make the robot work,” said Baloo.
Baloo was impressed with how this summer school gained popularity. “It was word of mouth; students told other students how much fun they were having at summer school. They became upset when they found out it was not going to be all summer long,” she noted.