Project Exploration Programs Provide Authentic Experiences

by | Apr 30, 2018 | News, Out of school time, Project Exploration, Science, STEM

Students in PE’s Environmental Adventures connect with real science and scientist!

Project Exploration values the importance of providing students with authentic experiences that puts them at the center of real science with real scientists.  This Spring 2018, Environmental Adventurers (EA) traveled to Argonne National Laboratory as well as have a scientist from the Lab to visit with them in Austin. Exposure to these types of experiences provide students with unique opportunities to learn more about science and themselves.

Environmental Adventurers Visit Argonne National Laboratory!

With spring refusing to arrive in Chicago, The Environmental Adventures students at Austin College Career Academy stayed warm in the lab. But not just any school lab. Students avoided the April showers by working with top scientist at Argonne National Laboratory! Argonne National laboratory covers over 1700 acres, operates with a $760 Million dollar a year budget, and dates back to the end of the Manhattan project in 1946. What better place to have our students see what being a scientist is really like, especially when the first national laboratory of the United States of America is in their backyard!

EA students meets Dr. Socha, Organismal Biochemist

Students first met with Jake Socha, an associate professor from Virginia Tech.  Dr.Socha is an organismal biochemist studying the way animals like roaches, butterflies, snakes and ants move, breathe, and eat! What brought Jake to Chicago? Argonne’s “Advanced Photon Source” or APS for short. The size of  city blocks, the APS is a circular race track that sends electrons flying at speeds of 99.9% light speed. From there magnets on the side “wiggle” the electrons like the Vibrainium track from the Black Panther movie. Once the electrons get shaking, X-rays are produced with many different levels of strength that serve many purposes. Dr.Socha and the Environmental Adventures students used these to examine the respiratory system of the Madagascar hissing cockroach. These big guys are harmless to our students and have a unique way of breathing. Instead of using lungs and blood to carry oxygen to the body, they utilize countless small tubes that with the help of the APS we are able to analyze and better understand this novel way of respiration.

EA Students Record Water Results with Dr. Graham

Later in the week students met with Robin Graham. Dr.Graham is directly affiliated with Argonne National Laboratory where she studies forest ecosystem ecology, bioenergy, and climate change. With her help students learned what qualities make up good water including acidity, salinity, turbidity and fecal coliform. Students compared water from their nearby Garfield Park Lagoon, Lake Michigan and other sites to see how they compare. Turns out it’s safe to keep swimming! You can look forward to the Environmental Adventure continuing to look after our natural resources for years to come.

Students uploaded their data to where future researchers can always look back and see what the world looked like back in 2018.



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