Phi Delta Kappa Scholarship

I am feeling honored to have been nominated for and to receive the Phi Delta Kappa scholarship from VCU’s School of Education for the 2018 school year. Thank you VCU for the faith in me and in my practice!

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#everybodypoops: Exploring Affordable Sanitation in Developing Countries

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The most effective use of Project Based Learning that I have ever been a part of occurred in my Biology II, The Great Diseases course where the students were studying inadequate access to sanitation around the world. The students were asked to acknowledge World Toilet Day put forth by the World Health Organization in February of last year. The purpose of this day is to bring awareness to the 2.6 billion people around the world who do not have access to adequate sanitation methods. The students were asked to observe this day by only using one toilet facility on campus, and this facility happened to be a 5 – 7 minute walk from the majority of their classrooms. The other stipulation was that the timing of the use of this facility could not be disruptive to any of their classes or their teachers. They needed to plan out when they would be able to go to the bathroom so that it was convenient for them without being obtrusive. The students commented that they originally thought that the day was going to be amusing or even fun, until it became a nuisance. This simple activity allowed the students to develop empathy for the many people in the developing world that also have to plan out the proper time to find and use the bathroom facilities so that it is convenient and more importantly, safe, for them.

In reflection of the toilet awareness activity in the following class, a discussion ensued about the injustice of the inadequate sanitation issues around the world and the students indicated at that time that they wanted to learn more about this issue. It was at this point that I could see the beginnings of a project that I had not planned. I asked the students to do some preliminary and independent research on areas around the world that suffered most significantly from inadequate access to sanitation and to be prepared to report out on that research in the following class period. The students discussed their findings and decided that they were most interested in learning more about inadequate access to sanitation of the squatting communities in urban India. The students were moved by a recent reporting of two young girls in Uttar Pradesh, India who had gone into a field at night to relieve themselves and were followed by two men who proceeded to rape and murder these young girls. It was a devastating and tragic story and the students were outraged and decided that they wanted to help.

In my own preliminary research about toilets in developing nations, I came across a TedTalk, Innovation to Sanitation Through Empathic Design, by Jasmine Burton. Burton, a recent graduate of the University of Georgia, majored in Empathic Design. I felt that Jasmine would be an interesting connection for my students because of her geographic location and her age. So, I found her email address on her web page and reached out to Ms. Burton to see if she would be willing to respond with some information about her toilet design and the implementation of her design in Africa. Ms. Burton replied that she would be very excited to speak to my students and asked to Skype with them if possible.

wishforwashskype

The Skype session took place the following week with Ms. Burton, who, unbeknownst to us, was currently living in Zambia and working on the implementation of her own empathically designed toilet into rural villages there. Prior to the Skype session, the students read about Ms. Burton, her business Wish For Wash, and her toilet design. The session lasted approximately 50 minutes with the students leading the discussion through their questions.

After the Skype session with Ms. Burton, the students told me that they were very interested in moving forward with their research and wanted to design a toilet for the squatting communities in India. The students used the next few weeks to research existing designs, created their own toilet designs, and then made prototypes of their design in the Maker Space of their school out of cardboard and plastic materials. Ms. Burton had asked to Skype with the students again after they created their prototypes so that she could offer suggestions for modifications that would help make the design of their toilets more functional.

During the second Skype session, Ms. Burton told the students that she thought that their designs were creative but that they would not know if they were feasible until they created them out of corrugated cardboard (which many life-size prototypes are made from, apparently) and made the toilets true to size. At this point, I just looked up Corrugated Cardboard in Richmond, VA and reached out to a local corrugated cardboard company, Richmond Corrugated Box, that agreed to allow my students and me to come to the factory for a tour. While there, the students were able to work with Richmond Corrugated Box’s Graphic Designer to import their prototype designs onto the software and print them on corrugated cardboard.

The experience was beneficial to students as they were able to see their designs in real time, make modifications in the moment, and then have them printed so that they designs were an adequate representation of what they wanted for their field toilets.

The final aspect of this project was a Skype session with Ms. Burton to show her the student designs and discuss the pros and cons of each design. Ms. Burton suggested reaching out to various NGOs to discuss the possibility of adopting the toilet design to have them mass-produced and shipped to India. The students were not ready for this step however because there were many unanswered questions that needed to be addressed before the designs felt sufficient and useful enough for the students to move forward with production.

This project was extremely in-depth and the students were exposed to multiple facets of learning that they would not have if they did not take on this project. They were tasked with designing a toilet that would be light enough to move, sturdy enough to withstand multiple uses, to weigh the pros and cons of a sitting vs. squatting toilet, the financial burden of mass-producing a product such as this, the logistics of finding a way to deliver the design to India, the environmental impacts of the dumping of these toilets which would inevitably happen on the streets and in the drainage run-off areas. The list is endless and though this project took longer than expected, the depth and breadth of learning was also more comprehensive than expected which lead to a feeling of successful learning of the students and myself. A number of the students went on to write their college entrance essays about this project, entitled #everybodypoops (which you can follow on Twitter).

Project-based learning is a tool used to develop 21st-century skills and to put content knowledge into practice in an authentic way. PBL is not a new tool but it is the only tool that this career educator has found that can accomplish these goals of skill development, content knowledge enhancement, and problem-solving prowess.

The Great Necktie Debate!

My students have been doing research and data collection of microbial populations on neckties worn by their faculty. The project is described below in detail. We are currently still collecting and analyzing data. I imagine this phase will take approximately one more week before we transition into the actual analysis of findings and writing up the report. This is one of those awesome projects that will never be able to be replicated, unfortunately, but it has really required true meaningful work on the part of my students and I have been so impressed with their abilities and developed techniques when dealing with microbiology.

If you are interested in the process or the findings, please contact me.

Project-Based Learning Title: The Great Necktie Debate

Grade: 10th

Project idea: Students have been charged by a male faculty, who happens to dislike wearing ties on a daily basis, to see if there is a “health risk” to wearing ties as they contain a lot of microbes. This research spans all three sections of regular biology and these students have taken this charge and decided that they will research it.

The students in all three sections used the collective Google platform for uniform access to information. The students researched the historical purpose of the necktie, they have researched different career paths that have done away with idea of wearing a tie because of health concerns (dentists, doctors, etc…), the students designed the experiment and performed the experiment over the course of multiple weeks, students analyzed the data, and, students reported out the data in the form of a formal journal article.


DQ:
(My students are working on their scientific understanding and writing. Therefore, this DQ was formulated in the spirit of a hypothesis) If neck ties are swabbed for bacterial growth then large quantities of bacteria will be observed because neckties are worn for many years and rarely cleaned and therefore contain an excessive amount of microbes.


Content: 
microbial growth (microbiology), bacterial plating techniques (microbiology), bacterial species identification (microbiology)


Major Products:

  1. Swabbed ties of all Upper School male faculty and administrators
  2. Plate all tie bacteria on nutrient agar
  3. analyze plate growth and re-plate a colony for a pure culture
  4. Use excel to analyze data and create meaningful infographics
  5. Write a formal scientific paper describing research and explaining results
  6. Publish paper in Collegiate School Journal of Microbiology

Public Audience: US faculty; US Administrators; Alaina Campbell – Department of Biology, VCU; Dr. Berry Jacques – Tufts Medical University

 

 

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The Great Necktie Debate

It is difficult to determine exactly when the necktie first made its appearance, and exactly where. Some sources state that the necktie first appeared in the Chinese army, over 1000 years ago (Ashley, O., 2013). Other historians agree that the necktie appeared in the 17th century, during the 30-year war in France (Hendrick, 2013). Whatever the origin, the fact is that neckties have been a fundamental accessory for predominantly male fashion for centuries.

Though adding to the air of professionalism, there is potential for the necktie to be harboring potentially dangerous pathogens, especially in professions that have excessive contact with children or the sick. A study performed by researchers at the New York Medical Center of Queens found that nearly 50% of neckties worn by physicians harbored bacteria that can cause disease (Science Daily, 2004).

If neckties do harbor abnormal amounts of potentially pathogenic microbes, should faculty members in a school be required to wear them?

You have been hired by Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Microbiology to determine if neckties worn in a 9-12 school setting have an excessive amount of microbes contained on them. The results of your findings will be published in the Collegiate School’s Journal of Microbiology and you will be asked to present these findings at a national high school science conference.

 

Background:

The students are wrapping up their scientific method and process of science units, as well as moving quite quickly through their microbial pathogenesis unit. Prior lab work for these classes included: pouring agar plates, streaking plates with populations of E. coli, looking at antibiotic resistance of E.coli, looking at antimicrobial properties of E. coli and B. cereus with respect to common household cleaners, analyzing CFU (colony-forming units) growth on Petri dishes, practice using an incubator and practice using an autoclave.

Process:

I introduced this unit by playing this video, found in the beginning of this PowerPoint. On the video, a well-respected male faculty member in the upper school was interviewed and addressed his concerns about the potentially hazardous nature of wearing a necktie every day and he asked the students to gather data to support his hypothesis.

Research:

Students started by creating a google document shared between all three classes. The students volunteered themselves for various duties throughout the research. The students split into the following teams: Research & Problem, Hypothesis, Materials & Methods, Survey Team, Tie Swabbers, Petri Dish Inoculators, Petri Dish analyzers, Data analysts, Excel Professionals, and each student would contribute to the Conclusion and the formal writing process.

  • Research & Problem – students began by doing extensive research on the necktie and it’s historical purpose in male dress
  • Hypothesis – students created a working hypothesis in an If, then, because format (it should be noted that this took quite a long time for the students to agree on a workable hypothesis – good collaboration and communication of ideas)
  • Materials & Methods: determined how they were going to sample tie microbial growth and what materials they would need to do so. Students decided to sample all US male faculty and all administrators and compare the tie growth between the two divisions. Students decided that each tie swabber would need to sample with a partner who’s job was to gather data for the survey that correlated with the sampling work.
  • Tie Swabbers: students met in the teacher’s classroom each morning before school to gather materials, determine which teachers needed to be sampled, and would go out and sample as many ties as possible. The sampling process took two weeks of morning time.
  • Survey Team: students created a survey to correlate with the microbial data collected. The students asked faculty members how old their tie was, how often it was cleaned or dry cleaned, whether they liked wearing ties and whether they believed ties should be mandatory or not.
  • Petri Dish Team: this team was responsible for removing the petri dishes from the incubator, analyzing and recording the growth on the collective google sheet. After analyzing growth, these students were responsible for re-plating an original strain onto a new petri dish to isolate pure cultures of bacteria. The re-plate would go back into the incubator for 24 hours, the original plate would be sealed and placed in the fridge. After 24 hours, the re-plate was taken out of the incubator, analyzed and recorded, sealed and placed in the refrigerator.

Before beginning the research, the students composed an email to the senior administrative team requesting permission to perform the study. After receiving permission from the administrative team, the students then created an email for the faculty explaining what their purpose was, the research needed and asked the faculty for their help by allowing the students to swab their ties.

After collecting the data students worked collectively to write the formal laboratory report and literature review to present their results to the faculty and administrative team.

Links:

Collective Google Doc

Tie Survey

Tie Data

Petri Dish Pictures

Photos of Student Work:

Feed My Starving Children PBL

Last year, I implemented this project-based learning activity, Feed My Starving Children, to accompany my macromolecules unit in 10th-grade biology. Macromolecules can be tedious as they are a bit abstract in nature and the students struggle to find the authentic purpose for studying these, to begin with. As educators, especially science educators, we understand that fundamentally if the students don’t understand what macromolecules are, how they bond, and what functional groups are associated with each, you can’t really comprehensively move forward with cells or cell organelles. So, to make this unit more relevant and applicable to something the students care about, I have created this project-based learning activity to enhance their learning.

Feed My Starving Children is my brain child that pulls in those 21st Century skills that we desperately want for our students to develop. This project requires creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication. This project also enhances the idea of empathic design and responsible global citizenship that I need for my students to walk away with after spending the year in my classroom.

Below I am including a description of the project as well as links to all my materials in the form of Google Docs. If you have any questions about this project or want to try it, please reach out to me as I am happy to help! Good luck!

The outline of the PBL is as follows: (and can be found here)

Project-Based Learning Title: Feed My Starving Children

Grade: 10th

Project idea: The World Food Program is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. On average, WFP aims to bring food assistance to more than 80 million people in 75 countries. Malnutrition affects millions of people around the world. A third of all deaths in children under the age of 5 in developing countries are linked to undernutrition. WFP’s role in fighting malnutrition is not only to treat it but also to prevent it becoming severe in the first place.

The World Food Program is employing you to design a new nutrient-rich recipe that will be used to feed millions of people worldwide. The price of food and fuel has increased exponentially and the World Heath Organization has had to cut your budget by 18%, which means that you have a total of $1.25 per meal per child. Ideally, you will be able to feed each child 3 times per day. A typical serving portion is 1 cup of prepared food.


DQ:
 How can we feed a child all the recommended macro and micronutrients on $3.75 per day?

Content:
macromolecules (biology), micronutrient recommendations (biology), food insecurity (global perspective), developing nations (geography),
Major Products:

  1. Detailed recipe of ingredients and preparation of foods
  2. The food item you prepared from your recipe
  3. Your written proposal should include: receipts, recipe, and nutritional information about your product, why your product should be selected by the WFP
  4. Nutrition lesson meant for the first-grade level to explain what carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids are, where they can be found, and a learning activity for the first graders
  5. Reflection on the project: what did you learn? What did you like/not like? What could I (Mrs. Cooke) do differently next time with this project?

Public Audience: Andy – master chef, Feed More organization, Stop Hunger Now representative, admin/faculty, Collegiate first grade classes, etc…

What I give to the students looks like this (and can be found here):

WFP.jpg

The World Food Program is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. On average, WFP aims to bring food assistance to more than 80 million people in 75 countries. Malnutrition affects millions of people around the world. A third of all deaths in children under the age of 5 in developing countries are linked to undernutrition. WFP’s role in fighting malnutrition is not only to treat it but also to prevent it becoming severe in the first place.

The World Food Program is employing you to design a new nutrient-rich recipe that will be used to feed millions of people worldwide. The price of food and fuel has increased exponentially and the World Heath Organization has had to cut your budget by 18%, which means that you have a total of $1.25 per meal per child. Ideally, you will be able to feed each child 3 times per day. A typical serving portion is 1 cup of prepared food.

DQ: Is it possible to feed a child all the recommended macro and micronutrients on $3.75 per day?

Here is what you need to focus on:

  1. The recipe must include all daily nutritional dietary needs (both macro and micro nutrients)
  2. The product needs to be as dry as possible to limit microbial growth. Workers/recipients in the field can add milk or water to make a paste.
  3. Food base should be easily grown with limited amounts of processing.
  4. This food needs to taste good, period.

 

You will need to make this food for the class and we will have a taste test at the end of the project. Please submit your receipts so that we know what the actual cost of your product encompasses.

End Products of this Project:

  1. Detailed recipe of ingredients and preparation of foods
  2. The food item you prepared from your recipe
  3. Your written proposal should include: receipts, recipe, and nutritional information about your product, why your product should be selected by the WFP
  4. Nutrition lesson meant for the first-grade level to explain what carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids are, where they can be found, and a learning activity for the first graders
  5. Reflection on the project: what did you learn? What did you like/not like? What could I (Mrs. Cooke) do differently next time with this project?

Assessing Student Work

Assessing student work with project-based learning is difficult. If they are invested, interested, and working hard, shouldn’t they all get an ‘A’? Not necessarily. I am still developing my understanding of appropriate assessments for project-based learning and a tie-in with core content. For this unit, the students have a traditional content-based assessment AND they are comprehensively graded on all aspects of the design and presentation of this project. I am including the rubrics and grading tools that I use with this project. If you modify or can think of a different and more effective means of assessment, please let me know.

Feed My Starving Children Rubric

Taste Tester Opinion Ranking Chart

Team Grading Form

Other Supplementals

Here are some additional documents that I use to enhance the understanding as the students work through this process.

Detailed Budget on Excel

Background Nutritional Research

World Food Program Product Guide

World Food Program Specialized Nutrition Sheet

Article on Food Security in Malawi

Here are some pictures of my students and their work

Scholarship Awards In Educational Leadership

 

VCU Scholarships 2016

I was very honored to receive the following two scholarship awards from VCU in Educational Leadership. These scholarships are going to help immensely next year and hopefully in my final year of the program as well. Thanks to the Department of Educational Leadership for giving me this opportunity!

2016                Mary Ann Wright Scholarship in Educational Leadership         Virginia Commonwealth University
This scholarship was endowed in 2014 by Mary Ann Wright (M.Ed.’84, Ph.D. ’97).

2016                Dale Kalkofen Scholarship in Educational Leadership         Virginia Commonwealth University
This scholarship was endowed by Dale Kalkofen (M.Ed. ’76)