Academic journal article Technology and Engineering Teacher

Teach Wood Science: As with Project-Based Instruction, Experimentation in the Classroom or Educational Laboratory Can Be Weak If Teachers or Students See the Goal as Completing the Activity Rather Than Focusing on the Underlying Learning

Academic journal article Technology and Engineering Teacher

Teach Wood Science: As with Project-Based Instruction, Experimentation in the Classroom or Educational Laboratory Can Be Weak If Teachers or Students See the Goal as Completing the Activity Rather Than Focusing on the Underlying Learning

Article excerpt

As a resource for manufacturing and construction, wood has much to offer: it is renewable, beautiful, locally obtainable, and rather easy to machine. In addition to building products out of wood, wood can be scientifically studied in the classroom and lab. In the age of STEM integration, technology and engineering teachers can teach wood science, helping students to learn about experimentation and about connections among technology, engineering, mathematics, biology, chemistry, and physics.

There is a distinction between wood technology and wood science, Ellis (cited in Barnes, 1979) clarified that wood science is "that body of knowledge applicable to wood as a material, including its origin, properties, and characteristics," whereas "wood technology follows as the application of knowledge in the conversion and processing of wood for use" (pp. 243-244). Both wood science and wood technology offer avenues for STEM integration, and in particular, for engaging students in scientific inquiry.

A Rich History

This is not a new idea. Before industrial arts emerged, over a dozen experiments involving wood were suggested by Woodhull in a 1892 book with a provocative title: Simple experiments for the schoolroom: That may be made by teachers wholly without previous experience; and adapted to introduce young pupils to a knowledge of elementary science by experimental methods, and arouse a spirit of inquiry. Many of these involved combustion of wood and the gasses, liquids, and ash that result.

A little later, Parker (1919) suggested several experiments involving wood for Grade 6 science students. While some used wood as a manufacturing material, as in her suggestion to use it, in part, to construct a telegraph system, she also suggested studying the material itself, as in an experiment on wood and magnetic fields. Skeen (1966) suggested several experiments involving wood for gifted learners in early elementary school grades, including one on the conduction of sound through wood.

Before the field evolved to become technology education, Murphey and Jorgensen (1974) produced Wood as an Industrial Arts Material. In that book, spanning both wood technology and wood science, they addressed tree growth, wood anatomy, wood identification, physical and mechanical properties, and a range of topics related to wood processing, such as grading, modified woods, machining, gluing, bending, fastening, finishing, and preservations. They concluded with 13 experiments for students that addressed: heartwood and sapwood; specific gravity; wood moisture; moisture samples; electrical moisture meters; movement during drying; construction strengths; strength; hardness; glue joints; fasteners; bending; and machining power requirements. Wood science content can also be found in some classic texts in woodworking technology; Feirer's (1977) Cabinet Making and Millwork includes chapters both on the nature and properties of wood and on kinds of woods.

Others have since suggested experiments for technology students involving wood science. Kaufman and Flowers (1996) shared an idea for having students build a hygrometer, leveraging how wood expands and shrinks as it gains or loses moisture to the environment to create a device to measure relative humidity (or the environment's equilibrium moisture content). Hirata and Makino (2012) described the creation of a Brinell wood hardness tester for Grade 7 students.

Materials engineering can be taught when considering new wood-based composites that students can design, fabricate, and test. Rosen (1974) suggested creating a wood-plastic composite by impregnating wood with either styrene monomer or methyl methacrylate (the monomer that forms polymethyl methacrylate, or acrylic), with Schneider (1994) adding phenol formaldehyde and others to the list. This is an area where information from those outside the field of technology education may suggest ideas that could be of use in a technology education class. …

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