The RISD Nature Lab has won $280,000 in support from the National Science Foundation EAGER (EArly-concept Grants for Exploratory Research) program to help develop a new bio-design maker space in the Waterman Building. The space will provide an immersive environment for students to engage in hands-on design projects that cultivate a working knowledge of biology and natural systems. The timing is perfect, notes Nature Lab Director Neal Overstrom, since the lab will celebrate its 80th anniversary during the 2017/18 academic year.
Led by the lab’s Biological Programs Designer Jennifer Bissonnette and supported by co-principal investigators Dr. Paul Sproll - head of RISD’s Teaching + Learning in Art + Design (TLAD) department - and Associate Professor of Interior Architecture Eduardo Duarte, the project will not only provide additional nature-rich spaces in which students can work but also find an avenue for both RISD and K–12 students to engage with the biological sciences beyond the traditional STEM curriculum.
Throughout the project, research associate Melita Morales, MA 2014 - a graduate of RISD’s TLAD program - will document and assess progress. She’ll work with project investigators to develop measurement tools that can be used in Year 2 of the project to assess the growth of participating K–12 students, and all of the data will be published and shared with other schools hoping to create their own bio-design spaces in future.