Student-designed inquiry experiments at SWR High School

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Students at the High School recently conducted bacterial science experiments throughout the school as part of their Living Environment class.

The ninth- and tenth-graders set about the school and collected samples from the cafeteria, auditorium seats, bathroom sinks, door handles and the library’s computers to test for traces of bacteria.

The class, taught by Alan Gandt, is a New York State Science Learning Standards Storyline structure pilot that actively engages participants in student-designed inquiry exercises.

“This exciting pilot marks one of the biggest shifts to the new standards at the high school,” said Dr. Amy Meyer, the district’s director of STEM, as scientific questions were posed by the individual student groups.

One group of three students used cotton swabs to collect samples from a computer keyboard. Once they put their sample in a petri dish that was lined with the nutritionally rich medium of Luria broth used for the growth of bacteria, they decided on their immediate next test: using hand sanitizer and then touching the keyboard a second time for comparison. Their preliminary inquiry didn’t stop there. Next, they swabbed the mouse with the same two techniques to further compare whether a keyboard or mouse at the same computer station would have more bacteria. The samples were placed in an incubator, where the samples will grow for several days for final results.