Since I am not a classroom teacher, my lessons take the form of programs, which typically last about an hour, are presented to a range of grades with a focus on middle school, and tries to cram a lot into a short amount of time. I tend to have much longer to ponder and develop these programs than a classroom teacher has to prep a lesson, so the program I chose was created over the period of several months, off and on, and then was taken on the road in Northern Michigan for about half a school year.
The program I chose to develop further is called Folds & Fractals. We developed and presented this program from January – June 2014 for the Art and Science on the Go outreach program. Our department is tasked with finding ways that art and science intersect, which our past programs reflect. For this program, we decided to branch out and integrate art with mathematics, using fractal patterns and paper engineered art as the intertwined topics. Fractals are not typically covered in K-12 education, so it was a challenge to find the context in which to present them. Paper engineering is also a more obscure topic, as the entry point to using paper in more unusual ways is typically origami, but paper engineering takes it further and refers to problem solving using paper in general.
We evaluate this program using a pre and post-assessment, which is typically nine multiple-choice questions with an additional question on what was a new idea they learned on the post-assessment. The multiple choice questions are mostly simply recall of terms or ideas presented in the program, but we also include questions that look for shifts in opinions, such as if math can be enjoyable. I think the assessment does not gauge authentic learning, but rather is meant to be a quick couple minute activity to test if the student was paying attention at all. So an opportunity for improvement, but this model is defined in the grant.
Even though I was fairly satisfied with the response this program had, I noted several areas that I believe could be improved even while working under the restraints of outreach. First, there is a lot of direct instruction but not much opportunity for guided or open inquiry. This is a challenge that every program we have faces since we often do not have the time for inquiry based learning, at least open inquiry. Second, there is a tremendous opportunity to expand how we have students explore fractals using technology that we did not or were not able to exploit. Finally, I wish to find how this lesson can be presented to students we are not able to reach in person in new ways such as social media, interactive websites and screencasts.