I had been a middle and high school Science and Math teacher for about 4 years, when I decided to begin my Masters on Integrated Curriculum in Math and Science. I have always been searching for innovative ways to get my students engaged in the science classroom, and to connect their new knowledge with the real-world. As I worked through my master courses, I began noticing how my STEM literacy was improving, and thinking of ways to help my students, and peers improve theirs as well. One of the main purposes of this blog is to create another outreach platform to reach and connect with other STEM educators or field experts, obtain feedback and suggestions, share experiences, and exchange ideas on best practices and strategies that anyone can take to their classrooms, and contribute to their students' learning experience in the most positive and impacting manner.
Before relocating in Richmond, VA, I was living, and teaching in my hometown of San Juan, Puerto Rico during the year 2017. During the process of creating the Unknown Bones activity, I collaborated with Dr. Raisa Hernandez-Pacheco (My life Partner), who is a Biologist/Ecologist, and ex-researcher at the Caribbean Primate Research Center (CPRC) of the University of Puerto Rico. We partnered ideas from her willingness to engage in scientific outreach throughout schools in Puerto Rico, and me having to develop a Integrated Curricular Unit Lesson Plan for a Design of Integrated Curriculum (CI5113) at ACE, while teaching Algebra 1 at The School of San Juan (TSSJ) in San Juan, PR.
CPRC administers Cayo Santiago, which is one of the oldest colonies of non-human primates in the world, located in Humacao, Puerto Rico. This tiny island is the home to a population of Rhesus Macaques monkeys, where many scientist from different fields have studied these specie for many years. The specimens used for the module, where provided by the Laboratory of Primate Morphology (LPM) at the Medical Campus of the University of Puerto Rico. It is astonishing the amount of resources we have, but are unaware of, which with the proper networking and effort can become an asset for any Science or Math teacher.
The Unknown Bones activity is the first Integrated module I set out to develop, in order to provide my students with a new classroom experience, which was hand-on, interactive, inspiring, and would integrate Algebra 2 and Biology, which were two of the classes my 10 grade students where taking. The module was part of a 3 lessons unit, where students would apply data analysis, and statistics to understand sexual selection, and develop models to illustrate sexual dimorphism in Cayo Santiago rhesus macaques, utilizing skeletal specimens (Bones) of the monkeys.Experiences like this one were not common in their science and mathematics classroom, mainly due to lack of resources at the school. Overall, it was an exiting experience, where students got to interact with a field expert (Dr. Hernandez), "play" with monkey bones, utilize their classroom content to investigate, and answer new questions, and get a glimpse of what it is to be immersed in a STEM career.
I choose Unknown Bones as my original contribution because it encompasses the type of teacher I wish to become as I keep gaining experience. One of my main goals is to inspire children to pursue careers in STEM, by getting them motivated with activities, and experiences where they get to interact firsthand with scientific content, develop an inquiring mind, and engage in the search for more meaningful knowledge of the environment that surrounds each of them. I also present Unknown Bones as my original contribution, with the aims to inspire myself, and other teachers to continue participating, and sharing educative experiences, and ideas that could positively contribute to any student’s STEM education.
I have included a link to the Unknown Bones activity teacher's guide developed by myself. Also, I will include the Interdisciplinary Curricular Unit Lesson Plan designed during the course at ACE that led me to the development of the module, the Power Point presentation utilized during the lesson, and a gallery with photos of the activity, and some examples of the statistical models developed by students during the activity. Enjoy!