Last week I shared a bit about Nanotech Connect, a conference on nanotechnology held at a Chicago-area high school. And I mentioned that a nanometer is 10 to the -9th of a meter. Over the weekend the significance of the conference date 10/9 hit me like a ton of nano bricks.
My mind has a hard time grasping things like deep space (so vast!) and nanotechnology (so very tiny!), and apparently I’m not alone here, so understanding the nanoscale is one of the first issues to address when teaching nanotechnology.
Tips to Teach Nanotechnology
I think Little Numbers by Edward Packard is a great book to introduce nano, but it’s out of print. You might be able to find it online, though. Suitable for kids and easily intimidated adults, it provides a fun look at the small stuff. (Anyone know of a good nanotech primer app?)
Because the nano concepts are first being introduced school-wide at Wheeling High School, the goals are modest, focusing on helping students understand the basics. For example, Wheeling high school students traced their bodies and cut out the images to produce a “me.” Then they drew a similar image reduced by a factor of ten, to create a mini-me. And in chemistry, they’re focusing on concepts like the difference between size and scale.
The physics classes (typically made up on juniors) are going a bit deeper. The teachers have developed a fantastic webquest to introduce the student to many nano concepts.
The school has different expectations for different levels of classes. For instance, in the prep (most basic) level, the students will learn about products made with nanotechnology. In general ed classes, the students will learn to describe the technology aspects, as well. Students in the honors track will learn more about the science and what happens at the nano level, the impact for society and next steps in nanotechnology.
In a few years, the school hopes to offer a senior elective in nanotech that will provide a rich experience and allow for dual credit in partnership with a local community college.
As for teachers, they attended summer classes, took on internships or attended boot camps from NanoProfessor, a Skokie-based provider of nano curricula and tools for schools. (Updated in 2014: this group appears to have gone out of business.)
In going nano, the school is taking a large leap and the teachers and administrators are enthused about the new worlds they are opening up to students.
Has your teen or tween been introduced to nanotechnology at school or through enrichment classes?