MST Student Develops Adobe-Learning Unit, Aug. 14, 2001

or "Playing with Dirt"

SOCORRO, N.M., Aug. 14, 2001 - A New Mexico teacher has developed a teaching unit on adobe that will be published and made available to teachers nationwide by Wards Scientific, a well-known educational publisher and supplier. Carla Ingram Ludwig, a Farmington teacher, completed work on a unit called " Adobe Rock'N Roll" while finishing her Master of Science Teaching (MST) degree at New Mexico Tech. Ludwig was informed recently that Wards has decided to include the unit in their 2002 catalog of products for teachers.

"Adobe Rock'N Roll" is an earth-science unit that incorporates social sciences, math, language, history, and art, all under the topic of learning to build with adobe. Ludwig and colleague Kathy Price, the coordinator for gifted education for Bloomfield schools, have presented the unit at several conferences of the National Science Teachers Association.

"Everybody likes to play in the dirt," says Ludwig. "We've used this unit with elementary, junior high, and high school students, and they all loved using it."

Ludwig has most recently taught high school science at Piedra Vista in Farmington, but this fall she will return to teaching fifth grade at Northeast Elementary. She entered New Mexico Tech's MST program in 1999 and that summer was part of a group of teachers who traveled to Ghana to study impacts of science teaching within a different culture. The trip was a Department of Education Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad Program. In Ghana, she became fascinated with adobe structures, which are traditional dwellings there, as they are in New Mexico. When she returned, she decided to expand the teaching unit on adobe as part of the requirement for her MST degree from New Mexico Tech.

As Ludwig explains it, the unit starts with distinguishing between dirt and soil; conducting a comparative analysis of soils. Students try to predict what type of material is going to make best adobe brick, and then proceed to make and test bricks. Using different types of stabilizers and drying times, and building very small bricks with short drying times, they develop several types of bricks. Next, they run a variety of tests, from driving a nail into a brick to dropping water on it to piling books on top of it.

"In one high school class, we piled chemistry books on top of the tiny brick until they reached up to the ceiling," recalls Ludwig. "A well-made brick doesn't break."

Once students have determined the best "recipe" for an adobe brick, their culminating activity is to make a small building. The students develop a design, manufacture the miniature bricks, and build the structure with adobe "mortar." They are awarded a certificate for being a master brick maker: Adobera Maestra or Adobero Maestro. Along the way, the teacher brings in the history, geography, and culture of people who build with adobe, mathematical principles needed for testing and building, terms such as vigas and latillas, and other information.

Ludwig says "One of things I appreciate about New Mexico Tech's Master of Science Teaching program is that it affords teachers the chance to learn content - not just how you teach but what you teach. I have some really bright students who ask penetrating questions, and this gives me the background to answer them."

New Mexico Tech's MST program offers a variety of two-week courses available during the summer. The courses focus on science, math, computer science, and technical communication. For more information on the MST program, visit the website http://www.nmt.edu/~science/mst/description.html or call 505-835-5678.