Recently, the young participants in the ARISE program arrived for orientation, an opening meant to prepare them for the work they’ll be performing for the next seven weeks. All of the various lab groups which will be participating in the program were treated to fun events that encouraged them to get to know one another and foster their problem solving abilities. Students were also instructed in important protocols required during experiments, such as the proper use of equipment and the storage of materials. Safety was emphasized as the most important aspect of experimentation, and no amount of fun undercut the advice vital to the future conduct of the students.
As the day went on, each group split up, depending on the particular lab courses they were taking. All of the groups, however, received the same lessons on various topics such as academic writing and the Dimensions of Scientific Inquiry (DSI), instructed Dr. Brendan Matz and Dr. Leah Aronowsky. Dr. Matz co-created DSI with Ben Esner, K12 STEM Director, as a 25 hour course blending science, ethics, writing and history into one course for high school students. The course is intended to expand kids’ views of science, infusing it with more social and ethical themes in addition to history in order to give them greater societal context when it comes to their writing and understanding of STEM.
“Essays take time and effort,” Matz said to his students. “College professors, when reviewing your application, want evidence of your achievements that isn’t reflected elsewhere in your portfolio.” Matz was determined to explain the full versatility and applicability of academic writing skills, breaking down the process of writing essays into basic steps to reveal the surprising simplicity of the seemingly complex practice. Further resources for studying and practice were given online, ensuring that the students who attend STEM this summer will have the tools they need for the program and the future search for colleges.
Dr. Matz worked with Dr. Aronowsky (albeit in separate groups) to teach their students how best to operate in the world of professional science in a manner that also respected the social world. Dr. Aronowsky also taught them of how, over the course of recorded history, science came to resemble what we know today, engaging in conversations with them to gauge their comprehension of the subject. She laid out the basics of the scientific method for those students who were unfamiliar, and described to them the differences between true science from pseudoscience.
With these topics in mind, the students were well-equipped to begin their studies, meeting with graduates of the school and professors to discuss specific experiments that pertained to their lab focuses. They learned about the application of engineering to other fields of scientific research, and how they could use this ability to apply one subject to another for the benefit of the whole. In this manner, they became aware of how to maintain both moral standing and scientific accuracy, keeping the precarious relationship between ethical norms and objective reasoning perfectly balanced.
Leaving each of these classes, it seemed that the young members of the ARISE program left with greater understanding of how the effects of scientific discourse permeate every aspect of their lives, from both the standpoint of larger populations as well as that of the individual. This knowledge is one of the most crucial factors in the way we conduct ourselves in the field of research; it is only with an understanding and respect for the intricacies of the sciences and the way they influence the world around us that we’re able to responsibly pursue knowledge and disseminate it. With the ability to now operate both efficiently and ethically, they have the freedom to research and experiment on the subjects which they find interesting, prepared to take the steps needed to ensure their safety, the accuracy of the tests they conduct, and the fulfillment of their own ambitions on the scientific stage.
Written by Henry McClure and Nicolas Parada