Day 1 – July 27, 2015

I was ready to learn. Previously looking over the agenda I was a little blown away with some, I mean most of the topics. I’m an elementary school teacher (currently a Reading Specialist) and we don’t get exposed to highly scientific things unless it’s from our own interest/passion. At this point, I was pretty overwhelmed with the thought that the conference would be over my head, but I kept thinking to myself, “Keep an open mind, learn new things, and reflect on how I can integrate it into my curriculum.”

With my mind set and ready, the first presenter was already talking about bioeconomy and bioproducts. Melissa Jacobsen from Ecovative Design presented about what the company provides to the economy. In a nutshell, they use mycelium from mushrooms and other bio waste to create an alternative plastic material. This material can be composted and or used as mulch at the end of its useful life. Some of the products from Ecovative include: Myco Foam, which is an alternative to Styrofoam, Myco Board, which is an alternative to engineered wood, and Myco Make, which is a “grow it yourself” kit. All of these products use the mycelium mentioned before. The Myco Make was the most interesting aspect and could easily be integrated into the classroom as an experiment. If purchased, a kit is provided so that you are able to grow the mycelium and create different molds and shapes from it, then watch it decompose. This material and activity would be great in all grade levels depending on what depth you would like to take it. Early elementary students would be engaged in watching the fungi grow within a few days and older students would be able to do research and create their own projects.

The rest of day one consisted of a Bioeconomy Expo. This part was nice because you could pick and choose which area you wanted attend. A few of the topics that I attended included: a tour of the wonderful facility; Wings of Eagles Discovery Center, Biofuels: Seed to Fuels, Ecovative Mushroom Packaging and Products (I couldn’t get enough!), and Bio-Preferred products by Ohio Bioproducts Innovation Center. Other areas available included: flight simulator, Science on a Sphere, Martian Driving Licenses, Biodiesel, Biomass Cooking, bio-based Forest Products, and Green Careers.

After the first day, my mind was spinning with ideas of how I can include the information into my elementary setting and the new information that I can apply to my everyday living to reduce my environmental footprint.

by Katie Vann
Reading Specialist and WEDC Instructor