WWW Site for John Lawrence Bencze, Associate Professor, Science Education, OISE/University of Toronto
RiNA Projects!

Using various approaches, often based on the STEPWISE pedagogical schema, students - in various educational contexts - have generated wonderful research-informed and negotiated actions (RiNAs), often after some direct teacher instruction (without reference to students' projects) to address
harms they perceive in STSE relationships. This page highlights some such RiNA projects - including, most recently, 'WISE' technologies that work but, also, promote social justice and environmental sustainability. For more information, contact me.

  Secondary School Contexts
For several reasons, including ages and developmental stages of students and varying pressures to learn specific, pre-determined 'products' of science and technology (e.g., laws, theories and functioning of inventions), most of our successes in promoting student-led RiNA projects have been in secondary school contexts, especially for grades 9-10.

Perhaps quite logically, many student actions - based on their research, teachers' teaching and social negotiations, etc. - have been educational in nature; that is, informing viewers about harms in STSE relationships, findings from their secondary and primary research and actions they recommend to address perceived harms.

In this video, students in grade 10 in Ontario recommend more sustainable forms of transportation as ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and, therefore, devastation from climate change.

To do so, they mimicked a video animation style that has been used by the RSA to help popularize various speeches. For a different topic (laser eye surgery practices), as shown below, these students produced a similar video.

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There are many different formats, approaches, etc. that people can use. for social actions to, perhaps, emphasize public education. Some people may have talents, interests, etc. in role playing. As in the video at right, students pretend to be friends and family sitting around a table talking about their food. These tenth-grade students focused their research on relative merits of multivitamins as supplements to eating whole foods.

In a similar vein, students below pretended to be different sources of water - that contained in plastic bottles and tap water - and racing against each other. This was intended to symbolize tests they performed on bottled and tap water, finding them similar in quality, but not in price! The video below that, meanwhle, involves role playing at a whole-clsass level - here featuring a climage change debate.

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Of course, it is very common for students to be asked to prepare reports of their RiNA projects. Sometimes (or often), these are limited to paper or digital reports - such as the one attached concerning a drug company's hiding of negative test results. However, some teachers have asked students to prepare posters summarizing their projects and then appear at public/school 'STSE Fairs' to discuss their projects with passers-by. In the video below, left, for instance, a student describes his research and actions surrounding idling of vehicles at 'drive-thru' food/beverage outlets. In the video below, right, meanwhile, students discuss research & actions associated with soft drink ('soda') companies accessing water in aquafers, often with government help. Below these videos, students summarize RiNA projects on various topics.

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Regardless of the form of action(s) and/or reports of them, our research suggests that a key to deeper analyses of STSE relationships and broader, more coordinated actions, is uses of actor-network theory (ANT). In the video at left, a teacher discusses how students' ANT analyses of commodities has enabled them to make use of the Trojan Horse metaphor - a technique used in marketing that prioritizes image over substance. A student's ANT-based action video about cosmetics follows.

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'WISE' Technology Design Projects
Among varied types of actions that students might take, an important one is to design (and, if possible, develop) a 'technology' that not only performs a useful function, but also aims to address several potential harms for wellbeing of individuals, societies and environments (WISE). Producing such 'WISE' technology designs is particularly appropriate in our present era - in that many capitalists (including companies) make large sums of money by idealizing their products/services so that consumers might be distracted from noticing many harms linked (often in hidden ways) to the products/services - such as with genetically modified salmon. A related concept is that technology design invariably involves compromises - in that a design feature  can get positive and negative results, such as like plastic gas caps that can be durable, but be ecologically problematic because they are not biodegradable. With such problems in mind, a student designed a car gas cap 3D-printed with biodegradable material and, since it is non-removable, it cannot get lost and added to landfills. Other students generated WISE TechDesigns that interested them; e.g.,

School Bag Holder
To address his school's rule that school bags (e.g., backpacks) could not rest on the floor near student desks, a student designed a device made of biodegradable composite material, variations of which he tested multiple times, that could hold most school bags safely off of the floor - afixed to the edge of student desks. The holder was created with a 3D printer owned by his teacher. The student said that he had uploaded his design to the Internet, freely available to anyone wanting it.

Candle Recycler & Holder
Particularly for those in places in the world less able to afford electricity and, related to that, candles, a student invented a candle holder that collected melted wax in a way that new candle material was added. His older also was constructed from recycled material that likely would be more available in less advantaged parts of the world. This invention, therefore, addressed both social justice and ecological sustainability goals.

Parallette Stands
A student athlete designed a durable 2 pairs of stands/holders to support wooden rods that, together, formed 2 parallettes. The stands/holders were made with the teacher's 3D printer using biodegradable material. The student tried different designs before developing pairs that worked well. He believed his parallette stands would outlast most commercially-made  ones, at a much lower cost.

Elementary School Contexts

Over the years of this project (since 2006), few teachers in elementary schools have taken up our invitations to encourage and enable students to self-direct RiNA projects. A notable exception, which perhaps hints at reasons for implementation difficulties in elementary schools were projects conducted by 6-th grade students in a private school in the province of Quebec. After studying matters of child labour in different contexts, English-speaking students in a course to learn French developed videos like the one at right focusing on manufacturing of soccer balls and the one below regarding problems associated with harvesting of bananas.

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