Clemson College of Education graduate students showcase puppy parachutes, DNA replication at state science conference
Graduate students in Clemson’s College of Education recently participated in multiple projects at the 39th Annual South Carolina Science Council Conference held at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. The students participated as part of their Engineering Design Class lead by Dr. Michelle Cook, associate professor of science education.
Cook encouraged students to submit final projects to the conference, and several were chosen for inclusion. Topics for projects were all over the map. One group project entitled “Stop Copying Me!” involved the design of a lesson plan to help students better understand the DNA replication process by using candy to build DNA molecules. Graduate student Caitlin Crawford said the project inspired her from concept to execution.
“So many subjects are treated as separate entities when subjects can actually be blended and become cross-cutting concepts,” Crawford said. “I hope our presentation left a positive impact to show science teachers that engineering does have a place in the science classroom.”
Crawford said the project is designed for students without previous knowledge of DNA replication, so the activity serves as an introduction that encourages students to consider how replication might occur. The lesson ties in the history of DNA replication and the history of speculation from scientists surrounding it.
Another project, “Save the Parachuting Dogs,” maintained a core focus on engineering, technology and applications science, albeit with a focus on a highly unorthodox application. The experiment design was engineering parachutes that will help soldiers and their dog companions drop into hard to reach zones.
Cook shared that the students’ work was well received by attendees at the conference. In fact, many teachers noted that they would be incorporating the Clemson graduate students’ ideas into their own classrooms. Cook said this reaction proved students achieved an overarching goal of student involvement in the conference.
“We don’t just want our students to make an impact in their schools,” Cook said. “We want them to make an impact on the science teaching profession as a whole.”
The conference aims to integrate engineering into the current science curriculum in South Carolina’s schools. This year’s theme was “Connecting the Pieces Together.” The main purpose of the conference was to provide a way for attendees to explore the different pieces of the “puzzle” that is teaching engineering in hopes of providing knowledge to further develop thorough curriculums statewide.