New Materialities and Maker Paradigms in Schools
Field Notes (Biodiversity)
Beneath the whale, Valerie is besieged with questions about stairs, steps, pyramids, boxes, and videos. “Should I use a still picture?” one student asks. “How about the laser cutter or the 3D printer?” another interjects.
Here at the American Museum of Natural History, on a rare and very special field trip, Valerie tells me that questions about how ideas become visual fascinate her, and that she’s thrilled with her students’ engagement, though she’s having a tough time getting her head around the scope of the project she and her colleagues have unleashed on their seventh graders. At the museum, the goal is for students to immerse themselves in the interactive possibilities they might use in their dioramas. Valerie says she wants their research to lead their build, but the excitement is a little overwhelming. For a moment, we puzzle the relationship between what students are learning about biodiversity and the way they’re conceptualizing the look of that learning—until we’re interrupted again: “What if it’s in the shape of a medicine cabinet?!”
Three weeks earlier, when they’d introduced the project, each teacher had made a short presentation. Kieran said that all the tools in the FabLab were available for their use; Susan explained that art classes would focus on the use of materials; and Valerie showed PowerPoint displays from her favorite museums—the Louvre, MOMA, the Franklin Institute. And then the science ← 123 | 124 → teachers, Isabella and Jessica, had introduced the topics students could...
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