29 January 2011

STEM Cells: Seeds for Potential Problem-Based Learning

We're all over the news for our impending transition.  OK, we have an article in the Hickory Daily Record.  But the switch is drawing closer and closer, and we're feeling a little like beheaded poultry.  Recruitment for next year is already underway, and we don't have a lot of answers yet.

Me, I'm contemplating grad school vs. a trip to Guatemala (that I may or may not be offered) vs. the possibility of being on the team of 4 who will design our curriculum over the summer.  I'm afraid to be left out of the new plans and what that will mean for my ability to contribute anything ever again, if I'm not in on the ground floor.  I haven't taken a science or math class since high school, and I'm always the 4th or 5th person (out of 9) to catch on to technology trends.  I'm not yet sure how to make language learning relevant in a STEM program, or if it can truly can be, and you can be darn sure that no one else is any surer; if I don't defend it, who will?

So what do I do?

I ponder, plan, and begin to educate myself.

Chad makes a good point on classroots.org: we need to get out of the students' way.  That is a big part of what this STEM program is about: problem-based learning, learning out of necessity, learning by doing.  The Hickory Daily Record mentions possible problems we'd address, including "reverse-engineering the brain or engineering better medications."  (Yikes.) But I've also chatted with some of my companeros about the need for addressing sustainability, green technology, and environmental issues, and that is where I feel more confident in the ability of Spanish in particular to play a significant role.

The Guatemala trip would be the chance of a lifetime for connecting Spanish and health sciences, but should that fall through, here are some problems I could see myself helping with:

  • providing potable water for a (or all?) remote village in a central American country
  • balancing diets in a malnourished (Spanish-speaking) region
  • public awareness projects in the local Latino community (heart health? STDs? childhood obesity?)
  • rainforest preservation campaigns
  • endangered species preservation campaigns (me, I'm for manatees--they're Caribbean, so it's relevant!)
Also, for part of the educating myself, I've checked out Replenishing the Earth by Wangari Maathai, where, though it sounds strange, I hope to find MORE problems.

I'm certainly going to need help if I'm going to get a real-life international problems to solve, so I should probably contact one or all of these soon (if only I knew where I'd be this summer!):
If you have any other ideas on keeping language learning, especially Spanish, relevant in STEM schools, by all means, point me in the right direction!

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