#ModBio Workshop Day 4

Today’s Agenda:

  1. Teacher Talk
  2. Parking Lot
  3. Discuss Experimental Design Model Test
  4. What is Living Activity – Model Development
  5. Exercise 1 – WB
  6. Organizing Living (part 1)
  7. Organizing Living (part 2)
  8. Exercise 2 – WB

There was a variety of topics in the parking lot today.  First up was a breakdown for the number of instructional minutes for each unit.  This time does not include the beginning of the year business (syllabus, safety, expectations, textbooks etc..) or the time need to administer the unit assessments.

  • Model 1 – Experimental Design = 450 minutes
  • Model 2 – Classification = 450 minutes
  • Model 3 – Evolution = 1080 minutes
  • Model 4 – Energy = 1800 minutes
  • Model 5 – Cell Structure & Function = 1350 minutes
  • Model 6 – Growth & Reproduction = 830 minutes
  • Model 7 – Heredity = 1350 minutes

There was discussion about breaking the Energy Model into a Macrolevel Energy Model (energy flow through ecosystems and organisms) and Microlevel Energy Model (photosynthesis-cellular respiration cycle).  Angela mentioned that she redistributes laboratory groups at the beginning of each model.  I really like this idea.  I tend to redistribute my groups each quarter, but by doing it with each model it would give me almost twice as many different combinations of students and it would give my students an opportunity to work with a greater diversity of their peers.  Next up was an aside from me regarding a side conversation we were having waiting for photocopies to be made.  We were discussing the language teacher use around what they teach.  I was reminded about a time I saw Chris Lehmann as the Keynote Speaker at a conference in 2009.  He talked about how if you ask a teacher about what they do, they’ll tell you “I teach (insert subject/grade level here)”.  He stressed to us the importance to rewording this statement to “I teach kids (insert subject/grade level).”  I student should never be the implied object of their own education.  Chris has subsequently blogged about the topic here.  Then we discussed how specific or general we need to be in defining the terms we use for experimental design such as independent variable and hypothesis.  I think the short answer is we need to use our professional judgement because we know our  particular students.  I then suggested the CamScanner App to folks.  I was initially introduced to this app by Frank Noschese on either his blog or twitter feed, it all blurs together.  It is a great little app that turns your iPhone (and Android phone maybe?) into a scanner.  I like to take all the pictures at the same time and then important them together, do me processing (finding the edges of the whiteboard if the app messed up, checking for clarity and adjusting contrast if necessary) and then export the whole pile as a pdf and e-mail it to myself directly from the app.  This is the app I’ve been using to capture the images of our whiteboards.  We then discussed how it took us a really long time to come up with a detailed experimental design for the Seed Investigation.  Angela reassured us that teachers in “student-mode” are generally less malleable than actual students.  After seeing our Experimental Design Model Summary Boards, we discussed group sizes and number of boards to present.  We also discussed the fit between modeling instruction and different learning styles.  Finally, I made a plug for the #modbio hashtag on Twitter.

On to the business of the day, we were given a box of 13 items and asked to use our list of characteristics from yesterday to determine if the items were living or non-living.  I do a very similar activity with my kids were we develop the list (usually the night before) and look at items.  But I’ve always run it as a station activity by setting an item one desks around the room and having the students circulate around.  I think giving each group a tray works much better for a couple reasons; there is less movement around which should decrease the time needed and the groups can not cross pollinate with each other.  I think limiting the cross pollination at this point makes a ton of sense.  During the whiteboard session another student and I led the class discussion to refine our characteristics of life list.  I wish I could have done a better job of leading the discussion, but practice makes perfect right?  Finally, we were given a Nano HEX Bug toy in an aluminium roasting pan and we were asked to determine if the thing was living.

Next we entered the deployment phase of our Characteristics of Life Model.  In Exercise 1 we classified five items as living or non-living, made a judgement about how many of the characteristics of life were necessary to be considered living, contemplated a unique substance from another planet, and researched and answered questions about viruses.  We had a whiteboard session were each group answered either question 1, 2, or 3 AND 4.

We were distributed a series of organism cards animals and plants together, followed by protists, then fungi, and finally bacteria.  Initially we were asked to look at the pile of cards given (plants and animals).  Some groups immediately started looking at and sorting the cards.  As an aside, some areas of the countries may be able to go outside and collect specimens to observe instead of the organism cards.  Angela mentioned that several groups had started sorting the cards into different groups and asked us to sort them into two different groups.  We then determined the two different groups that were used by students and attempted to name those groups (plants and not plants/animals).  Angela distributed another pile of cards and continued to circulate around the room asking questions of the groups about their sorting combinations and distributing the other organism cards as necessary.  Finally we came together as a big group and identified five major groups of organisms.

Next we were given a big pile of color pictured and information rich animal cards.  We were again asked to sort those cards into two piles.  Most groups choose invertebrates and vertebrates because the cards were clearly labeled in that manner.  Next each pair was asked to sort the two piles into additional piles.  This was to get to the idea of classes from phyla.  After discussing the groupings, we were directed to research the levels of classification beyond Kingdom, Phylum, Class AND determine the classification of human beings using textbooks or the internet.  We came back together and developed a classification system and addressed the idea of a Scientific name.  Finally we researched the classification of the domesticated dog.  

The next exercise was to create a series of three Venn diagrams using our textbooks or the internet comparing:

  1. prokaryote vs. eukaryote
  2. plants vs. animals vs. fungi
  3. protists vs. plants vs. animals

When I assign this to my class, I think I’ll change the last Venn diagram to protists vs. eubacteria vs. archaea.

About ryanwoodside

I help students learn science. I teach at Windham High School in Maine.
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