"The BASE Project for 2016–17 is underway! BASE, which stands for Bridging the Arts, Sciences, and Engineering, is a required course for all freshmen at PRISMS, and it introduces them to the skills needed for upper-level research at the school. In the literature (or “arts”) course, students will learn about reading and writing primary documents, using scientific voice and the conventions of the discipline, and making presentations; in biology (or “sciences”), they learn about organisms and perform experiments on them; and in engineering, they conceive of and create tools for introducing independent variables and for measuring dependent variables.
In early October, the freshmen class constructed three greenhouses and anchored them in their new homes in the garden north of Albemarle. Divided into three teams, the students competed to get their team’s greenhouse built first. As the BASE teachers stood on the sidelines to observe and take notes on the students’ teamwork strategies, the students opened the boxes and got to work. Some teams worked methodically, laying out all the parts and pre-reading the directions, while another team took a more “figure-it-out-as-we-go” approach—both had strengths and weaknesses, and the teachers were detailed as they recounted their observations about how different methods supported or impeded the team’s success in building the greenhouse.
In the coming months, the freshmen will plant their organism, Brassica oleracea (commonly known as “kale”) and, as a class, discover the effects of different colors of light on the growth of kale; they will measure the area of leaves using CAD software. Once that project is complete, the students will form research teams and determine and perform their own experiment on kale using team chosen variables and an engineering component."