I teach fourth grade at John S. Martinez Elementary School in New Haven, Connecticut. My class is comprised of approximately twenty-seven students of whom 98% are Hispanic. John S. Martinez is in an urban setting where the students are from low income families. Within the classroom, my students are strapped with the demands of testing: Smarter Balance Testing (SBAC) as well as district math assessments, reading and language arts assessments. Because of the pressure of assessments, reading, writing, mathematics, social studies, and science compete for center stage, often squeezing the science curriculum to its bare bones. Students are unprepared for the rigors and expectations of the 21
The expectations of the 21
Century are high, as we are living in an age of exploration and enlightenment where the collaborative forces of science and technology offer access to a steady stream of new information; building, continuously sharing, propelling us forward toward to explore solutions for our greatest challenges. The challenges of world health, sickness, and disease can be addressed in new ways as we learn to access and use this plethora of information. Specifically, bioengineering the immune system is a new frontier in medicine. Breakthroughs can apply the tools of medicine and bioengineering; creating solutions that enhance the immune system to fight disease, infection, and cancers. This curriculum unit will infuse science, technology, engineering, and math into a curriculum unit, through the study of the immune system. Immersion into bioengineering will provide an opportunity for students to learn and practice the language, build wonder, foster excitement, and ignite a thirst for knowledge, quenching it as they work to find solutions. Ultimately, students will develop confidence and belief in their ability to ask questions, access information, and problem solve to find answers as they facilitate their own learning in their pursuit to design cells that improve the cells of the immune system, these mighty defenders of health.
Students will begin with the study of the body's immune system, its functions, and structures. Then, students will take a closer look at the different cells involved in the immune system and their functions. Specific roles of cells and the parts that these cells play in the system will be examined. In addition to studying the physical and structural differences of the various cells, how the immune system keeps the systems in balance will be studied. How does our immune system respond to pathogens? An exploration of causes for systems to break down and how these break downs could be corrected will be considered. Students will also learn about the effects of a weak immune system which may result in disease. Through multiple discussions, research, and activities students will learn about the causes of specific immune system failures as well as the groundbreaking solutions offered through bioengineering, genetic therapies, and drug delivery interventions. Since the opportunity to move through a cell membrane offer dynamic changes in cell behavior, nanotechnology will be introduced as a way of getting into the cell and solving these problems on the cellular and molecular level.
Building on this knowledge, students will study the relationships between the cells of the immune system and intruders through the use of analogy. The analogies to be used will be that of the different people and their roles within the community that keep the community safe. Familiar roles of defenders and protectors who live within the community will be used. Firemen, policemen, swat teams, doctors, and rescue workers will be employed to draw connection to the functions and relationships within the immune system. In addition to the relationships between these defender and invaders, students will think about the kinds of materials and technologies that help these defenders to rescue, guard, and protect. As students examine and explore these ideas, they will question how these materials and technologies enhance the effectiveness of one's job to protect and defend or increase efficiency, improving positive outcomes within the community system. Next, students would apply these ideas to cells within the immune system to enhance their functions. For example, a police officer wears a bullet proof jacket to protect himself again intrusive and deadly bullets. Might it be possible for a cell to have a bullet proof shield to protect it from a deadly invasion? Tasers paralyze. Can a cell be tasered or act like a taser itself, immobilizing a pathogen? Transceivers help to locate, rescue and find victims quickly. Can this concept be applied to finding a virus that eludes detection? Firemen wear protective gear specific to their conditions, such as extreme heat. Rescuers work as a team, communicating information quickly and often in order to be successful. Can communication be altered, blocked, or enhanced?
Students can also look to nature to find engineering solutions, noticing how nature offers solutions of its own. It is abundant in its models of remarkable and functional designs. For example, sea anemone have a poisonous coating which stops predators from consuming it. Additionally, students will look to the immune system itself to find ideas for tactics, strategies, and designs for specific obstacles. Finally, students will be encouraged to stretch their thinking and apply their knowledge to solve a problem. Student would strive to improve the immune system through the engineering design process. Harnessing the all that they have learned, students would engineer a super cell.