Looking for something to spark discussion about the importance of scientific investigation? Try out the assets in this learning package created by NBC Learn, NSF, and NSTA. Two core videos look at how accidental and ongoing, targeted research can result in unimagined discoveries. Supporting videos and other materials give you fodder for building units or encouraging independent research on the impact of science in our daily lives.
You might start with Chance Discoveries: Cellophane for a historical look at innovation. Students will likely chuckle at some of the archival footage but will end up in fascinating discussions as they make comparisons with today’s consumer packaging and marketing methods.
Or, students might explore the world of the research chemist using Dr. Stefan France as a springboard. When they see him on a zipline in the rain forest, it may be quite a revelation that not all scientists spend their time in white coats in front of lab benches!
–Judy Elgin Jensen
Photo of vintage cellophane advertisement by Brett Jordan
Video: “Chance Discoveries: Cellophane” traces the development of cellophane from liquid viscous cellulose, applied to fabric to protect from stains, to a thin clear film first used as a luxury gift wrap and after it was made moisture-proof, as a fundamental form of protective yet transparent food packaging.
Video: In this 21st Century Chemist profile, “Georgia Tech Chemist Designs Molecules that May Stop or Slow Effects of Alzheimer’s,” Stefan France describes his work designing “neuro-protective” molecules that he hopes might be used to prevent or slow the effects of diseases such as Alzheimer’s in patients’ brains.
High school lesson: In this lesson, students will test a cellophane membrane for permeability and design an experiment that determines the permeability of a cellophane membrane to different molecules.
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