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Bridging Continents - Engagement in the Classroom

10 pagesPublished: February 12, 2020


STEAM Unit I Challenge - How do we break through limitations created by war?
Although this was the guiding question for our STEAM Innovation Program 2018 first Trimester unit, the real question became “How can you engage learners and compete with the reality of their lives outside of school?” The reference here is not the typical high school experience of competing with social media or the extensive time requirements of intense sports. At Greater Lawrence Technical School, the reality of our students' and families’ lives is never simple, but became increasingly difficult after the tragedy of the gas explosions in Lawrence, North Andover, Andover - 3 of our 4 sending communities. The area most seriously affected was Lawrence, which encompasses 80% of our student population. Families all throughout Lawrence were removed from their homes, many displaced for months. In this backdrop of personal uncertainty, our program began a transdisciplinary bioreactor project to make medication for Syrians. Students designed their own bioreactors from items that could be found in war-torn Syria (e.g. from bombed hospitals or factories in Damascus). Although Greater Lawrence students continued to struggle with needs for heat and hot water for months, it was this intimate knowledge of hardship that bridged these two worlds - Syria and Lawrence, MA - and the parallel experiences made the learning significant. The success of our Exhibition of Leaning from this unit underscored the importance of engaging students regardless of persisting outside hardship and connecting project-based learning to something within the context of our students lives. The experience that the students themselves lived through during our bioreactor project demanded a rewording of our unit challenge to the following:
- “How do we innovate, adapt, and change to counteract limitations?”

Keyphrases: bioreactors, empathy, Engagement, Syria, transdisciplinary

In: Claudia Urrea (editor). Proceedings of the MIT LINC 2019 Conference, vol 3, pages 142--151

BibTeX entry
  author    = {Marla Hilderbrand-Chae},
  title     = {Bridging Continents - Engagement in the Classroom},
  booktitle = {Proceedings of the MIT LINC 2019 Conference},
  editor    = {Claudia Urrea},
  series    = {EPiC Series in Education Science},
  volume    = {3},
  pages     = {142--151},
  year      = {2020},
  publisher = {EasyChair},
  bibsource = {EasyChair,},
  issn      = {2516-2306},
  url       = {},
  doi       = {10.29007/ld7v}}
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