• November 27, 2020

Hands-on learning the rule in Nimitz teacher’s class - Odessa American: ECISD

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Hands-on learning the rule in Nimitz teacher’s class

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Posted: Thursday, November 19, 2020 2:27 pm

As one of the early adopters of the Foldscope portable paper microscope, Dr. Azul Serrano Purcell has infused her seventh-grade science classes at Nimitz Middle School with the wonder of discovery. 

This is Purcell’s second year at Nimitz and she has made the Foldscope part of her students’ everyday supplies. On a recent Wednesday, the youngsters were examining dried leaves under the Foldscope, but they also have looked at roaches, frogs, chicken feet and other items.

The seventh-grade students say they like the Foldscope because it’s something they can keep and they’re easy to use. At first, students were skeptical that the paper microscopes would work, but they were pleasantly surprised.

“I've enjoyed looking at the ants and the flowers and stuff,” 12-year-old Presley Christopher said. “That’s what I’ve mostly been looking at. I looked at the moth and stuff, but the ants are really cool because I didn't think they would be like that. They’re a different color than you actually assume they are.”

Keegan Conner, 13, said the Foldscopes are fun and more affordable than microscopes.

Conner has liked looking at the leaves, as well because he can see all the veins and other features.

He sees the Foldscope as an enhancement to science, which he already enjoys.

Devin Martin, 13, said the Foldscope teaches them more about what they thought they knew.

“We thought we knew that a leaf was that and that alone. Whenever you use a Foldscope, you get to learn more about what you thought you knew. I’ve pretty much enjoyed science my whole life; the excitement of doing labs and hands-on activities. This has made this more enjoyable,” Martin said.

Like some of the other students, Martin didn’t think the Foldscope was going to work before he tried it.

“I thought you might be able to see a little bit closer, but it would just be a blurry image but then when I started looking at it and observing it, it got really clear and defined what I was looking at,” Martin said.

Thirteen-year-old Angela Hicks said Foldscope really does help with learning because they can use it at home, too. The dry leaf has been her favorite thing to look at under the Foldscope.

“Because it's the most clear one I've gotten so far. There were these black dots all over it. I didn't know what it was,” Hicks said. “That really did intrigue me, so i'm trying to adjust the adjustment to see if I can get a more clearer, up-close picture.”

ECISD is in partnership with the Foldscope team, Stanford University and researchers in the Foldscope project, a news release said.

Purcell said the good thing about Foldscope is they don’t have to share it and they have to be cautious about sharing materials.

“They can use it all throughout the year,” Purcell said. “Now we're getting used to how to work it, but eventually we will doing experiments like we'll have water and put it outside and leave it outside and then we're going to have water from bottles and see if we have any germs growing we can look at them through that.”

They will soon be looking at DNA.

“We’re here to learn and to do things. They're very curious. I love that. It’s not easy to build a Foldscope, but they just kept trying and trying until they get the right images. Once they do that, once they get to the image they can see so clearly. It’s just worth all the time, so we're enjoying this,” Purcell said.

She said it’s up to teachers to request Foldscopes.

“I have kids that are remote, so what I did on a Saturday is I came with a box and I was outside and they just came by and they would get the little Foldscope. It comes ready to use. It's made of paper and it's super sturdy,” Purcell said.

Even if it gets wet, it won’t hurt.

“It's kind of like a puzzle. They had to build it. They’re little engineers … Some of them had difficulties. They had to stop and they get stuck, or they build their own way and I’m like that's part of learning — having difficulties, having obstacles. That’s part of learning …,” she added.

For a recent unit on body systems, Purcell had her students dissect chicken legs and investigate tendons, muscles, bones and bone marrow.

The students were able to view the chicken bone marrow using their Foldscopes.

They also dissected frogs and studied the nervous system using technology to stimulate and measure neuron signals.

“I like making connections with them,” Purcell said of the students. “I think hands-on, when they can see and do they learn so much more than me giving them a book to read or a video to watch.”

Originally from Argentina, Purcell moved to the United States and intended to get a medical license, but then had a family of her own with three children.

Her children are 4, 9 and 12 so she wants to wait until her youngest is older before pursuing medicine again. Meanwhile, teaching gives her freedom, even if it is a lot of work.

“I love challenges. I love kids. That’s why I wanted to do pediatrics and I love science. I want to be the teacher that I want for my kids, so I try to have fun …,” Purcell said.

Odessa, TX

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