One of the most powerful aspects of modern technology is its ability to provide learning experiences that would otherwise not be possible. In 7th grade science, computer models are used to engage students in the study of infectious diseases and natural selection.
In order to more fully understand how a disease can spread through a population, our students utilize Stella, a systems modeling program, to explore the transmission of the flu. Using an interactive model developed by our faculty, students are able to manipulate factors such as the number of people initially infected with the illness, the size of the population, and the rates of infection and recovery. They make predictions, test their hypotheses, and discuss how different factors can influence and/or lead to an epidemic.
Similarly, during the study of natural selection, a simulated population of light and dark moths is subjected to various levels of industrial pollution. Students are able to track changes over centuries and make inferences about how humans today may be adversely affecting certain species of organism. These important biological concepts, which previously could only be explored passively on paper, come to life through active, engaged learning.
For more information on systems modeling, explore the flu interactive simulation at http://forio.com/broadcast/netsim/netsims/micdsmiddleschool/infectious_diseases/index.html.