Making STEM learning stick - students and polymer chemist investigates material adhesion and types of glues.

The students at Sirius College, Victoria, found themselves in a sticky situation when polymer chemist Dr Rama Rao visited their Keysborough Campus to run ‘Stuck like glue’ – a research activity that investigates the concept of adhesion of materials and the types of adhesives or glues. The activity was undertaken as part of Dr Rao’s STEM Professionals in Schools partnership with teacher Ms Paula Taylor.

The activity was undertaken as part of Dr Rao’s STEM Professionals in Schools partnership with teacher Ms Paula Taylor.

Conducted as part of National Science Week, ‘Stuck like Glue’ consisted of both classroom and lab activities, and demonstrated a cross-age tutoring opportunity where Grade 6 students participated in a laboratory experiment that had been trialled and conducted by Year 8 and 9 students. The students made glue, and then investigated how effectively different materials could be joined with it. The primary students were introduced to scientific practices including safety procedures, measuring, variable control, observation, and recording.

Prior to the experiment, Dr Rao addressed the cohort of students to explore their knowledge of both science in general and of glues in particular, asking them to set their own questions and introducing them to some new science terminology. After the experiment, Dr Rao again addressed the students, exploring what they had learned through a Q&A session, and then describing her own work as a research polymer chemist in glue and paint development.

“The students were very interested to learn about the important role glues play in their every day lives, and also the fact that there is ongoing research into ‘every day’ materials,” said Paula. “I’ve observed an increased interest in the subject area, and the activity certainly offered an added dimension to the core curriculum.”

Year 8 student Seray said: "Dr Rao has inspired me to learn and study chemistry as it really fascinates and dazzles me although it can be a bit hard with all the formulas and reactions. Dr Rao's visit has really cleared my mind of whether or not I would like to do chemistry in the future."

Another important element in Dr Rao and Paula’s partnership is how they collaborate outside of the classroom. Dr Rao has met with Paula and her fellow science staff on a number of occasions to become familiar with their science program and how she can best be involved in it.

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