Q&A: New Education Resources for Engaging Middle Schoolers in STEAM

March 1, 2021 Luisa De Vogel Leave a Comment

New resources have been added to Meet the Lab, PBS Wisconsin Education’s online collection of educational media for middle school science classrooms! The collection, which introduces students to relevant, real-world issues and cutting-edge research, now features Nervous System Engineers: Superpowered by Stem Cells, adding to resources from the first two labs featured in the collection, Cancer Detectives and Antibiotic Hunters

We sat down with Jessie Nixon, one of the PBS Wisconsin Education producers on the project, to learn more about the new addition to the collection. Explore Nervous System Engineers: Super Powered by Stem Cells and the rest of the Meet the Lab series here.

PBS Wisconsin: What was your role in creating the new Meet the Lab resources?

Jessie Nixon: For the new Meet the Lab resources, I helped create the hands-on student activity. One of the best parts of working on Meet the Lab is working with such a great team. Even the student activity was collaboratively designed with bioengineers from the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery and several producers from PBS Wisconsin Education. 

PBS Wisconsin: What motivated your work on Meet the Lab?

Nixon: Meet the Lab is designed for middle school students to learn about and participate in science practices often found in research labs, to think about how research impacts our everyday lives and to identify the skills they already have that are similar to other scientists and engineers. This is such important work. Middle school is an important time for identity exploration and students need more Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) related content to help them see themselves as scientists.

PBS Wisconsin: What do you hope students will gain from these resources?

Nixon: My hope is that students will start to see that they already have so many skills and interests in common with the scientists and engineers in the videos. I love to think that these resources will help students see that the superpowers they have, such as curiosity, perseverance, and imagination, these superpowers already make them real scientists! 

PBS Wisconsin: What was your favorite part of working on this project?

Nixon: One of my favorite parts of this project was helping the video producers record students’ questions on Zoom. The students had so many fun questions to ask and were really excited to be part of the video production. I love that the Meet the Lab resources are made with and for students from Wisconsin.

PBS Wisconsin: What was the biggest challenge in creating the new additions to the Meet the Lab series?

Nixon: So much has changed since we all started working from home last year with COVID-19 and the same can be said for video production. For example, we could not do in-person filming with students, so a lot of video production took place on Zoom. The students were so great and thought up some great questions to ask. Zoom ended up being really beneficial. Carlos Marti-Figueroa, the bioengineer featured in the Nervous System Engineers resource, was able to both teach the students about his work in the lab and get their input on the activity that would become part of the Meet the Lab resources. We could not do this work without the help of Wisconsin students and teachers! 

PBS Wisconsin: What are your hopes for the project moving forward?

Nixon: With the success of these first three labs, we’ve had lots of excitement from other labs on the UW-Madison campus. There are plans already in place to create content with four additional labs that will add new areas of research and scientific inquiry practices to the collection. 

Meet the Lab was made possible through the generous support of the Timothy William Trout Education Fund – a gift of Dr. Monroe and Sandra Trout, the Focus Fund for Education and Friends of PBS Wisconsin. 

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