New course offers research opportunities


By Mike Stanford, editor-in-chief
When students select their courses for next year, they will have the opportunity to take Investigatory Design, a new class that is being spearheaded by science teacher Katie Page. According to Page, the class will be defined by independent research.

Two members of Women in STEM work on independent research projects one night after school last year. This program will be incorporated into a new course next year called Investigatory Design.

Investigatory Design’s origins come from Women in STEM (WiSTEM) club. A girl in the club approached Page a few years ago about an opportunity she found online through the Illinois Learning Exchange where students could work with a mentor on research. Page investigated and applied, and soon 20 Prospect students were onboard for the 2015-16 school year.
Projects from the inaugural group included researching geography’s impact on Alzheimer’s and pets’ effects on allergies. The students worked with mentors from universities and corporations until the project culminated with a science fair in the spring. Seeing the potential for the program in the classroom, Page made this project the focal point for the first semester of Investigatory Design.
The second semester will feature a “team corporate challenge” where students will work in a group to tackle a pressing issue. WiSTEM students are currently testing the program, and they are investigating how to prevent prescription abuse with Takeda Pharmaceuticals.
While Page believes her experience with the programs in WiSTEM will be advantageous during Investigatory Design’s first year, she plans on making some changes in order to transition it from extracurricular to course. Specifically, she will be introducing more material on how to research that will feature scientific literature and practicing research skills.
By taking these steps to embed independent research into the classroom, Page hopes to provide highly motivated students with a valuable experience.
“For kids who are really interested in the STEM fields and want to do this after they leave, … this is a huge opportunity because typically you don’t do authentic research in high school,” Page said. “That’s a leg up as you’re starting as an undergrad. … It will open up a world of opportunities once kids get to college.”
Junior Lizzie Fanslow, a WiSTEM member who worked with the program last year, agrees. She and a partner looked into the effects of ibuprofen on plants, and she especially values the satisfaction of completing such a project.
“At the end, I was really proud of myself,” Fanslow said. “It was cool to know I could take the scientific process and actually apply it to something.”
In addition to increasing opportunities and enabling achievement, Fanslow believes the unique nature of Investigatory Design will push students in ways that cannot be found elsewhere at Prospect.
“It’s just very independent compared to [normal classes],” Fanslow said. “You might get an ambiguous topic for an essay, but it’s not like we’re physically doing the research or collecting all the data by ourselves, and I think that’s really cool because people don’t usually get to experience that in high school.”