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Cell Membrane Project Showcases STEAM Knowledge

At Calhoun, we want our assessments to encourage students to interact with their resources rather than memorize them, to demonstrate that learning is a creative endeavor with opportunities for students to keep improving their work and add depth to their knowledge. Eighth grade science teacher Ardalan Parsa shares one example of what assessment looks like at Calhoun.

Open-ended project-based assessments allow students to utilize their resources to exhibit comprehension of the topics, and, more importantly, their synthesis and evaluation of the content. Rather than testing for what students get wrong, these projects give students the prerogative to highlight what they’ve learned. 

The 8th-grade cell membrane video is a STEAM project that allows students to focus on the information they gathered during our study of cell structure. Students assemble knowledge from notes, discussions, homework and other sources to create a multimedia project guided by a rubric that outlines the required components, while allowing space for creative interpretation. This interdisciplinary project exemplifies how we incorporate art, technology, math, language and communication skills as students demonstrate their ability to explain complex scientific processes.

Assessment can (and should) be a celebration of knowledge, a way for students to show what they know, not merely a regurgitation that occurs in a vacuum. 

Beyond assessing students' scientific content knowledge, the project also has 8th graders developing multimedia expertise. First, students learn to use Tinkercad, an introductory level Computer Assisted Design (CAD) software by Autodesk. In class, students learn how to create digital 3D models, which they use to design cell membrane models, reflecting their knowledge of the form and parts of the cell membrane.  

Cell membrane video projects

Screenshots of students' cell membrane video projects


Students learn how to create screen recordings, voice-over videos, scripts, and an optional storyboard for their final video before recording. Then, they develop a short tutorial on screen utilizing multiple software options, including Screencastify, a web-based app that Calhoun subscribes to that works across all operating systems. Additionally, the project asks students to explain concentration gradients and equilibrium using a ratio example – with this math component, the project reflects all the aspects of STEAM learning and exemplifies how we want students to engage in ways that are meaningful, interconnected, and applicable to the world beyond the classroom walls (or, in our case, beyond the bookcases). 

As all stages of this project demonstrate, assessment can (and should) be a celebration of knowledge, a way for students to show what they know, not merely a regurgitation that occurs in a vacuum.