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Science Enrichment with SED: Science After School and evening classes

September 4, 2014

 

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“There will always be something that will make the kids go ‘whoa, that’s cool.’ That’s the moment that we are looking for.” – Dr. Eric Archer, SED

Science has the potential to inspire, challenge and develop higher-level thinking. Science Entertainment and Design (SED) offers a hands-on, collaborative, real science program for children in grades K-12.

ELEMENTARY

At the elementary level (grades K-5), CISD students can participate in Science After School. Each semester is divided into 3-week modules focused on life sciences, physical sciences, and applied sciences. Science After School is held at Austin Elementary, Wilson Elementary, and Lakeside Elementary.

At the main SED location, students in grades K-4 participate in EXPLORER PODS which involve a general exploration of science. These classes are offered on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings. Students in 5th grade can select from the FOCUS PODS for middle school students.

MIDDLE

At the middle school level (grades 5-8), students participate in FOCUS PODS which concentrate on a specific field of study: Applied Chemistry, Physics & Engineering, Life Science, Health and Medicine, Green Energy, Rocketry, Robotics & Electronics. Kids combine their unique interests to investigate broad areas of science.

Dr. Archer explains the SED vision: “We want to start building a culture and the collaborations and the opportunity to work in a team where you have different interests coming together. We picked the topics that we did to keep them open-ended. So, for example, with hydroponics, you could come to that from a botany side — what demands needed in the roots, what kind of bacteria needed, nitrogen needed; from an engineering standpoint — what kind of pump do you need, how to build a correct siphon; from a micro biology view — looking at organisms converting fish waste into the plants, look at the fish. The whole idea is that we want to have that collaboration happen. When people look at it from different sides, that is where cool stuff happen.”

HIGH SCHOOL
(and students who want independent research opportunities)

For students in grades 9-12 (and students who are “laser-beam focused”), SED offers real independent research opportunities. Students submit a topic proposal to assign a project mentor and secure the necessary resources. SED has contacts with other industry experts to provide the guidance that students need to break new ground.

Here is a sample of some of the current SED high school student projects:

        • learning about quorum sensing bacteria
        • using nanoparticles as an anti-cancer agent

More about SED

SED founder Dr. Devanjan Sikder, along with core mentors Dr. Eric Archer, Jason Dixon, and Briana Rodriguez, use zeal, the unique program design, and emphasis on real experiences to get students interested and enthusiastic about science. Each of the SED mentors are scientists — educational backgrounds include endocrinology, biology, nature, engineering and epidemiology. They are focused on bringing science to kids, not as a tutorial program, but instead as an opportunity to explore and develop passions. “We want not to just make incremental improvement in knowledge,” according to Dr. Sikder, “instead our focus is on creating something that kids can own.”

The SED approach is quite different from the traditional method of learning science. Dr. Archer describes the comparison to his early science experiences: “When I was a kid, science was memorization. We were doing experiments when I already knew what would happen. There was no moment of anticipation.” SED wants to bring the anticipation, the moment of unlimited possibility, back to the study of science.

“At the beginning of every experiment, there is uncertainty. I am about to mix those things together; I am about to put power in the circuit; I am about to light that on fire — what is it going to do? I have no idea. There is the potential for everything to go right and everything to go wrong. This is really the natural high that scientists are chasing: that moment of possibility.” – Dr. Eric Archer

Facing the unknown is something that each of the mentors has done in real life, and an experience that they bring to the students. “We might start with a kit,” explains Jason Dixon, “but we do not ever stop there. Instead, we work on taking extra steps with new ideas. We allow the kids to answer ‘what should we do next.’ What we are doing is teaching them to think like a scientist.”

So, how do students learn to think like a scientist? SED emphasizes having the students figure out what they know, understand what they don’t know, and investigate how to learn the things they don’t know.

Of course, there is inherent value in studying science. “We have to be competent in sciences as a community,” emphasizes Dr. Sikder, “if we don’t invest in our kids, they won’t be in the forefront of changing the future for us.”

Also, an appreciation and understanding of the scientific process helps everyone, even those who choose not to pursue science as a career. Dr. Archer explains how science is really just “a process of thinking — of looking at the data. There are implications beyond science. There are implications in politics, and personal choices throughout life — regardless of what you do in life, that ability to look at the information in front of you and use that process of troubleshooting — it is setting up a method of thinking. Let’s make some observations, let’s try to figure out how it is working, let’s test it, and then figure out whether we were right.”

Ultimately, scientific exploration is a path of self-discovery.

“The scientific process teaches you that you can’t be rigid in your beliefs. You have to be willing to evolve. Whatever your thought processes are — you become more pliable to other options and other possibilities. This experience really evolves you as a person.” – Dr. Sikder

SED builds ingenuity, creativity and imagination into all of their programs with an emphasis on problem solving and collaboration. Students are encouraged to try new ideas, work together, and improve on the successes of other students. “We end up with convergent designs,” according to Dr. Archer, “When a team comes up with the best design, everyone jumps on it and continues to improve it with the next idea. So, we end up with some really great designs and you see little pieces of what everyone has contributed.”

Incorporating design solutions are important in scientific exploration and demonstration of knowledge. At SED, each student is encouraged to develop a product, a prototype, or something tangible at the end of their research period. Students present their unique solutions in regular “SEDtalks” which provide an opportunity to work on their presentation skills and share pride in their accomplishments.

Of course, learning isn’t supposed to be easy, but it can be fun. In fact, pushing students outside of their comfort zone is an important part of the SED program. “That’s where all the cool stuff happens,” explains Dr. Archer. “We constantly tell them to get out of their comfort zone — ‘go do something hard’.” The mentors don’t anticipate the results, instead they encourage the students to think beyond current knowledge, to “correct the doctor,” and above all, to remember: “science is messy.”

We welcome them to Coppell.

“SED is a great addition to the community.  The focus on STEM by industry and education at the national and state level makes SED a nice fit for the community to enhance the level of interest in a supportive learning environment for science. It provides an opportunity for young people to explore a variety of topics in science K-12.   They have a lot of resources at their disposal which can identify new areas of science young people may not be aware of and grow the depth of interest of young people in science, especially girls.”  — Anthony Hill, CISD Trustee

For more information, please visit their website: exploreSED.com

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