Designing educational material from household waste

ABSTRACT: In our STEM activity with 13-14-year-old students, it was aimed to evaluate waste materials, create design products, learn about organelles, and develop three-dimensional thinking skills. Traditional lectures on cells and organelles are not enough to learn adequately. In our activity, which is prepared to understand both engineering design skills and molecular biology with a multi-disciplinary study of biology, students are presented with information and visuals about various organelles. Students were asked to prepare designs from domestic wastes by thinking in three dimensions of various cellular structures (endoplasmic reticulum, mitochondria, chloroplast, ribosome, nucleus, lysosome, Golgi apparatus, etc.). The students were excitedly prepared for this event, and they were happy to prepare completely their own material choices and original designs.

A selection of images from the project practice– The images are the author’s own –(Attribution CC-BY)

INTRODUCTION: It will be much more effective to teach STEM activities on cell structure and organelles within the curriculum of our biology course. Using the lecture and visuals, students were asked to design mitochondria, chloroplasts, endoplasmic reticulum, ribosomes, and other cellular elements. However, these designs will be displayed online due to the covid-19 pandemic. We will find answers to questions such as what do DNA, RNA and ribosomes do in the matrix region of the mitochondria, or where are the electron transfer system enzymes responsible for oxygenated respiration, or why the inner membrane is indented. They obtained information about the morphological, physiological, and anatomical relationships between chloroplasts and mitochondria, and the properties of the organelles they designed. On the other hand, they had to think about the household waste they would use in their designs. They could use household wastes, paper towel rolls, papers, buttons, beads, thread pieces, lemon peels, and many other waste materials to be used in the design. This activity provides them with the opportunity to make original designs using the engineering steps.

A selection of images from the project practice– The images are the author’s own –(Attribution CC-BY)

OBJECTIVES: This STEM activity provides the ability to investigate, establish connections between questions and create original design products. Converting household waste into teaching materials, learning the cell and its structure better. Multi-disciplinary (engineering and biology) study.

Duration: 10 days
Student age range: 13-14
Method: online course

RESULTS: The students shared their designs and files with each other and with me via digital communication means.
STEM activity was continued with question-answer, inductive, and deductive reasoning methods.

The image is the author’s own –(Attribution CC-BY)

FINDINGS AND FEEDBACK: As a result of the STEM activity, some examples of three-dimensional original designs were presented using the students’ imagination, engineering design steps, and imagination. Students presented their mitochondrial, centrosome, nucleus, chloroplast, and eukaryotic cell designs. They explained the household waste and other materials used in their designs. They shared with me their files containing the physiological structure of the organelle they designed, the task inside the cell, and other features. It was understood that the subject was learned by verbal evaluation. Thanks to this STEM activity, they had a joyful learning process. In addition, learning disability, which is the disadvantage of online education, has been prevented.

Öznur Demircan, biology teacher at Kocasinan Multi-programmed Anatolian High School, Istanbul, TURKEY