New Ellenton Middle students diagnose 'mystery disease'
Aiken Standard. Larry Wood. December 03, 2017.

New Ellenton Middle STEAM Magnet School students used the perfect prescription Friday to solve a medical mystery.

Using the school's focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and math across the curriculum, students employed engineering and scientific tools – defining the problem, asking questions and doing research – to determine the symptoms and remedy for a fictitious, mysterious disease that made students, teachers and staff sick. They then used their STEAM skills to deduce “patient zero,” the person who had brought the quickly spreading illness into the school.

In addition to determining patient zero, students had to determine how to treat and prevent the disease and created a public service announcement, using a radio ad, a video commercial, a brochure or a poster.

They also chose creative names for the disease. One group called it Nemsitus, using the school's initials.

Science was the primary focus of the schoolwide project, Principal Shunte Dugar said. Teachers based the project on state science standards for middle school students but also drew on real-life.

“Seventh-grade students have to take a vaccine for whooping cough, so we thought what better way to help them understand how diseases can get out of hand without proper vaccinations or hygiene,” Dugar said. “The project evolved from there.”

Teachers in all subjects collaborated to work through the problems students would have to solve, providing them with some evidence but not all so that students would have to use their research skills.

In PE class, students measured their pulse. In math, they made charts and graphs. In science, they studied hypotheses and data. In English, they did research. In ancient history, they studied diseases from Egyptian times. In art, they chose the best colors to attract readers to their PSA posters.

Students presented their findings, PSAs and their pick for patient zero to a panel of judges. And although there are no right or wrong answers in STEAM, Dugar said, and multiple solutions to a problem are possible, the panel awarded eighth graders Natalie Owens, Gabriel Felkel, Janae Murphy and Jeremy Steele the overall award for the best presentation.

Two groups tied for second place: sixth graders Tyson Walker, Rylie Garrett and Natalie Odum and eighth graders Kinsley Mullins, Alayjah Askew, Kaleigh Sweetnam and Shayden Wood.

Dugar said the project “deepens the learning and the educational experience in the classroom” but went beyond the school.

“As parents would come in, I'd hear them asking if their child was patient zero,” she said. “The word has trickled down, and the excitement has been taken home. It warms my heart to know that learning is fun for our students and it goes beyond the classroom.”

And who was the mysterious patient zero?

In the project's fictitious scenario, the final video revealed that Eddye Davis, a media aide and school bus driver, had gone on the “vacation of a lifetime and brought back more than just pictures.”

Visit the News Archive for more magnet school news.