2016-17 Frankenstein Project

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The Frankenstein Project is an inter-disciplinary, year-long project that gives homeschooled high school students the opportunity to explore the intersections of science, history, literature, film and technology through the lenses of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the history of science, bioethics and robotics. Students will develop skills in research, literary, historical and scientific analysis, composition, communication and project development. The year will culminate in student-designed projects that will be presented to the public. The Frankenstein Project is a pilot project of the Teen Learning Lab, which is open to homeschooled students ages 13 and up.

The Frankenstein Project consists of both a literature class and a bioethics science class. Students may sign up for one or both classes.

Literature: Search for Knowledge — Students will study themes that reflect on the implications of humanity’s search for knowledge, as evidenced in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and other literature. Students will read both the 1818 version of Frankenstein, then read Mary Shelley’s later edition, published in 1831, which Mary Shelley heavily revised. They will explore the Enlightenment and Romanticism, which both profoundly influenced Frankenstein. Weekly response papers, a midterm essay and a final project comprise the first semester assignments. In the second semester students will spiral out from the content of the first semester to discover other literature, artworks, films inspired by Mary Shelley’s work. Course fee: $250

Instructor:  Lee Ferdinand. Lee teaches filmmaking at Columbia College Chicago. He has an MFA in Film and an MA in English Literature. His master’s thesis discussed many of the themes of Frankenstein.

Science: Bioethics, Biomimicry, Biomedical Engineering – Students explore historic and especially contemporary ethical conflicts that arise from the advance of science, particularly in biomedical engineering and medicine. Explore the visceral reactions humans have to the integration of technology to augment, repair, or replace biological systems. Course will include numerous reading assignments (non-fiction and speculative fiction) and students will develop a project to explore the ethical boundaries and open a dialog with the public about the use of technology in tandem with or as a replacement for biological systems. Final class project can then be submitted for reviews and public presentations. This course will involve student-directed, project-based learning with emphasis on communications and creating technological, audio, and/or physical prototypes. Course fee: $80 for materials, no charge for instruction.

Ruth Kulmala holds a PhD in bio-medical (bio-chemical) engineering and works as a medical researcher. She is also seeking a DrPH in epidemiology/biostatistics. She has taught students in the homeschool community for the last 5-6 years, including College-Board-audited AP science classes, and has previously taught college-level science courses. Her house is literally packed with science gear, she can’t get enough shelving units into the office to store it all. Not everything in her frig. is food either (“hey, is this plasmid DNA still good?”), and her family knows to read labels. She lives in Lake Bluff with her husband Rob, daughter Fiona, elderly parents, 2 indoor cats, 1 herding dog and a flock of chickens (and near her grown, biostatistician son and his wife).

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