Materials World Modules

An Inquiry & Design-Based Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Program

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is materials science?

Materials Science is the study of the characteristics and uses of various materials, such as metals, ceramics, and plastics (polymers) that are employed in science and technology. The field investigates the relationship between the structure of materials and their properties. Materials science, by nature, is interdisciplinary, employing and integrating concepts and techniques from many disciplines, including chemistry, biology, physics, and mathematics and includes elements of chemical, mechanical, civil, and electrical engineering.

 

2. What is nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology is a field of applied science and technology covering a broad range of topics. The main unifying theme is the control of matter on a scale smaller than 1 micrometre, normally approximately 1 to 100 nanometers, as well as the fabrication of devices of this size. It is a highly multidisciplinary field, drawing from fields such as applied physics, materials science, colloidal science, device physics, supramolecular chemistry, and even mechanical and electrical engineering. Much speculation exists as to what new science and technology may result from these lines of research. Nanotechnology can be seen as an extension of existing sciences into the nanoscale, or as a recasting of existing sciences using a newer, more modern term. (Source: Wikipedia )

Two main approaches are used in nanotechnology. In the "bottom-up" approach, materials and devices are built from molecular components which assemble themselves chemically by principles of molecular recognition. In the "top-down" approach, nano-objects are constructed from larger entities without atomic-level control. The impetus for nanotechnology comes from a renewed interest in colloidal science, coupled with a new generation of analytical tools such as the atomic force microscope (AFM), and the scanning tunneling microscope (STM). Combined with refined processes such as electron beam lithography and molecular beam epitaxy, these instruments allow the deliberate manipulation of nanostructures, and led to the observation of novel phenomena. (Source: Wikipedia )

 

3. What is inquiry?

In the most general sense, inquiry can be defined as the search for knowledge, information, or truth. In scientific inquiry, the search is for understanding of the natural world: Scientists (or students) study the natural world, formulating researchable questions, designing and conducting scientific investigations, and offering explanations and models based on their findings. In addition to communicating and defending their own research, they also recognize and analyze the work of others. In terms of science education, inquiry includes students activities in which they not only learn how scientists practice this method of investigation, but also employ this method themselves and develop knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts.

Please refer to the Pedagogy to learn more about our "inquiry through design" concept, which is the pedagogical base of the MWM program.

 

4. To which grade levels are the modules geared?

The modules were designed to be flexible and applicable to any of the four grade levels in high school (9-12). Teachers can set up the activities and design projects in any manner they feel is appropriate to their particular students' needs and abilities. Some of the modules can also be, and have been, adjusted to the middle school level (6-8). Several modules are particularly suited to the middle school levels, such as, Biodegradable Materials, Composites, Concrete, Food Packaging Materials, Introduction to the Nanoscale, Interactive i-MWM Intro to the Nanoscale, and Sports Materials modules.

 

5. What are the available assessment options for the modules?

Assessment items for end-of-module tests are available for most modules. MWM users will be able to download a set of student assessment questions for the specific module when they make a purchase.

In the front matter of the teacher's editions of the modules, there is more information about assessment options. See also the text that surrounds the students' pages; there are assessment tips and portfolio project ideas throughout the activities.

You may also refer to the MWM User Support/Student Assessment page of the MWM website.

 

6. How have the individual modules been used in traditional science classes, such as chemistry, biology, and physics or in the creation of new courses?

The modules were initially used as supplemental educational materials to enhance traditional high school math and science classes. The table below displays the number and types of courses that have used the first eight published modules. In addition to middle school science, nine different high school courses have used MWM between 1996 and 1998: physics, chemistry, biology, physical science, earth science, general science, chemistry/physics, technological/engineering education, and mathematics.

 

Composites
Biodegrad.
Biosensors
Smart Sen
Concrete
Food Packg
Sports Mat
Polymers
Phys
X
.
.
X
X
.
X
.
Chem
X
X
X
X
X
.
.
X
Bio
X
X
X
X
.
.
.
.
Phys Sci
X
X
.
X
X
.
.
.
Earth Sci
X
.
.
X
.
.
X
.
Gen Sci
X
X
.
X
X
X
X
.
Ch/Phys
X
.
.
X
.
.
.
X
Tech/Eng
X
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
Math
X
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
Middle
X
X
X
X
X
.
X
.

 

Composites, Smart Sensors, Biodegradable Materials, Concrete, and Sports Materials were widely used among various disciplines because of their interdisciplinary nature. High school chemistry and general science classes and middle school science classes rank among the top module users.

A randomized national field test was conducted during 2002-2006 in 118 schools across 42 states. During this field test the type of science classes expanded to 40, including AP Chemistry, Biotechnology, Intro to Engineering, etc., as shown in the following:

Distribution of Science Courses

Using a Combination of Modules as "Anchors" for a Course

One physical science teacher at Schaumburg High School, Schaumburg, IL use the combination of Composites, Sports Materials, and Concrete modules as the core units to anchor his physical science class throughout the year. The teacher would kick off the school year with the Composites module to engage students in the scientific method and enable his students to create their own experiments to test their hypotheses. Before the winter break he would use the Sports Materials module as a culmination to the forces and motion concepts and challenge his students to apply concepts learned in the force/motion unit to design their own sports ball and create a mini golf course to test the balls. The Concrete module is finally used near the end of the year to reinforce the chemistry and environmental concepts in making and testing their own concrete designs.

Creation of a New Materials Design Course

Kate Heroux, a science teacher at Lake Forest High School, Lake Forest, IL wanted to take the module further. So she approached her school board to create a new Materials Design course as the capstone course for high school seniors. The new semester course allows students who have taken most or all of their required science course to apply and pursue their own interests in special topics that align well with the modules. Students uses one of the modules as a starting point and then truly engaged in research and development to create a new or improved product design. The course culminates in a school-wide Materials Design Symposium to showcase their "product" to the entire student body. She later went on to author a PhD dissertation to document her experiences. Her dissertation is entitle: How Do Secondary Science Teachers Understand and Implement Technological Design in Their Classrooms?

Creation of New Nano-STEM Courses

The concept of energy is featured prominently in the next generation science standards, as one of the core physical science concepts as well as a cross disciplinary concept (NGSS-D3.PS3.B, PS3.D, ESS3.A, ESS3.B, ESS3.C, D2.CC5), and will be one of the most important topics/issues facing us in the 21st century. The worldwide energy demand continues to grow for the foreseeable future. The NGSS calls for students “to examine and construct solutions to the many challenges facing long-term human stability on Earth.” (NGSS-D3.ESS3: Earth and Human Activity) Thus the topic of energy provides a compelling context for learning and helps students to realize that a wise choice of energy resource is very important to maintain a sustainable future earth!

The emergence of nanotechnology as key enabling and cross-cutting technologies offers the unique potential for decisive technological breakthroughs in many sectors of society. MWM's Nano-based modules can be easily combined to create a semester nano-track course on Nanotechnology and Energy, such as one shown below, and other similar nano-track courses dealing with critical global challenges:

By allowing students to participate in the design of a nanotechnology-based solutions, the module will inspire students to become more interested in their capability to contribute to a more sustainable global future. 

 

7. How did the MWM team come up with the topics for the modules?

The MWM program is an ongoing development effort to provide illustrative materials science topics to enrich existing high school science curriculum and to show a concrete linkage between the concepts learned in various disciplines and everyday life. The topics can be classified as critical societal materials, which can be further categorized into: a) materials system and b) materials and society. The MWM program is continuing to seek collaborative efforts with research institutes and industries to develop more modules of relevance to the classroom.

 

8. Can I contact other teachers who have used the modules?

Many of our veteran MWM users would be happy to share their experience with other teachers. Please contact us first and we can connect you with these veteran MWM teachers, using the Contact Us section of our website.

 

9. How can I use the modules as a springboard to enrichment activities?

The module represents only a small window of the cutting-edge technologies and the rich diversity of all branches of materials science that are beyond the reaches of current textbooks. One teacher, after teaching the Smart Sensors Module on piezoelectricity earlier during the school year, had his students try to modify an odd-number nylon polymer to become piezoelectric, as an end-of-year project. Using heat and a tesla coil the students were able to successfully demonstrate that the polar moments of the nylon molecule can be altered to produce an electrical impulse when deformed.

 

10. What kinds of resources are available to assist in the implementation of the MWM Curriculum into my classroom?

Familiarize yourself with various articles on "Classroom Implementation" and "Student Assessment" sections under MWM User Support section and going through the resource links for the individual modules on this site would be a good first step. The MWM program also offers workshops conducted by master MWM teachers to train new users in implementing the curriculum in their classrooms. Additional resources may be found in local chapters of materials science and engineering societies or materials science departments in nearby universities or research laboratories. In the near future, MWM will be offering a variety of virtual multimedia and digital resources to MWM users.

 

11. What skills do students demonstrate when they use MWM?

Teachers who use MWM have identified numerous skills that students have demonstrated, both during and after the experience of using the modules in class. These skills fall into several categories, including:

  • Laboratory skills: measuring, manipulating equipment, recording data, graphing, performing mathematical computations, devising and conducting controlled experiments, making predictions

  • Communication skills: collaborating to achieve shared goals, brainstorming, explaining ideas to others, persuading, employing problem-solving strategies, working to reach a consensus, translating observations into discussion, employing new terminology and vocabulary in group work, leading other students

  • Application of scientific and mathematical knowledge: exploring new ways to integrate scientific, mathematical, and technological concepts; synthesizing information to create a new product or design; preparing technical reports on computers using programs like Excel

In addition, in 2006, The National Research Council (NRC) published America's Lab Report in which the panel reported on the status of laboratory science in secondary classrooms and made recommendations for improved practice. Many of the NRC recommendations had already been incorporated into MWM. Click here to see the table that articulates the striking similarities between the NRC core goals for improved laboratory practice and MWM module features.

 


12. Troubleshooting: Who do I contact if I have a technical question about the modules?

Materials World Modules
Northwestern University
1801 Maple Avenue, Box #37, Suite 2431 
Evanston, IL 60201
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Tel. 847-467-2489
Fax. 847-467-5544

 

13. Where can I find information on MWM’s privacy policy?

Materials World Modules (MWM) is committed to protecting the privacy of our members.

» View the MWM Privacy Policy

 

14. How do I place an order for MWM modules?

Online Store

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Tel. 847-467-2489
Fax. 847-467-5544

@ Materials World Modules, 2017