February 27, 2011

February 27, 2011

Hello everyone!  I turn 35 years old today - I've entered a new age demographic and I can be president.  I don't really think I'm too interested in either one to be honest! 

Events of the Past Week

Tuesday - Students were introduced to traits carried on the X chromosome called sex-linked (or X-linked) traits.  They are expected to know that red-green colorblindness, hemophilia, and Duchenne muscular dystrophy are all carried on the X chromosome, and that males are much more likely to get these traits than females.  Not only that, but males with X-linked traits must have inherited them from their mother because their father gives them a Y chromosome, so does not give them any genes at all for X-linked traits! 

After the introduction to these traits, all the groups finished their last day of counting flies from the first generation of offspring.  Problems 1-8 were assigned as homework from Problem Set 3.

Wednesday - I introduced pedigrees to the students today.  Everyone seemed to do a good job of grasping the concept of looking at pedigrees to determine how a trait is inherited, and figuring out what genes each individual in the pedigree must have for one trait.  We also looked at how hemophilia was passed from Queen Victoria (who was a carrier for the disease) on to her offspring, then to the royal houses of Spain, Prussia, and Russia.  The spread to the Russian Royal family eventually led to the Russian Revolution and the rise of communism.  As I told your children, it's all about biology!  For homework, numbers 9 and 10 were assigned in Problem Set 3

Thursday - We listened to the song "I'm My Own Grandpa" by Ray Stevens, and the students attempted to draw a pedigree of the family described in the song.  It was not easy!  Afterwards we removed all of the parents from the vials for our second generation of flies, as their offspring will be emerging from their pupae soon!  Then we looked at the answer key for Problem Set 3 so the students could grade their own papers and ask questions about what they got wrong.  Finally, the worksheet "Human Pedigree Genetics" was assigned for homework.

Friday - We took our first genetics quiz on Friday.  It consisted of 15 multiple choice questions and 1 short answer problem.  All of the concepts we had covered to that point were included on the quiz.  Afterwards, students read the article "Go Ahead, Kiss Your Cousin (Heck marry her if you want to)" from Scientific American.

Upcoming Events

Monday - We will be checking to see if we need to count flies from the second generation yet.  If so, we will probably spend most of the period counting, as this generation will take a little bit longer to count than the previous generation.  If not, then I will introduce the students to the inheritance of blood types, which exhibit both multiple alleles and codominance.  I won't explain that here, but it might be a good idea to ask your children to try to explain it to you.  You might also ask them to explain the difference between codominance and incomplete dominance.  If they can't, please encourage them to ask those questions in class or come see me for some extra help.  I will also introduce the Hardy-Weinberg Theorem to the students.  Problem Set 4 will be assigned for homework on Monday if I introduce those topics rather than have the students count flies.  If we count flies, then there will be no homework on Monday.

Tuesday (Late Start Day) - We will either be counting flies or doing some practice Hardy-Weinberg problems Tuesday.  My best guess is that this is the first day we will be counting flies for the second generation, however.

Wednesday - The students will be introduced to the concept of having two genes linked together on the same chromosome, which will change the expected ratios of offspring with different traits.  We will also have some time to count flies.  Problem Set 5 will be assigned for homework.

Thursday - Genetics Quiz #2 will be given on Thursday if everything goes according to plan on the first 3 days of the week.  If fly counting pushes us back, then the quiz will be either Friday or Monday.  We may need to count flies on Thursday.

Friday - If the students have already taken the quiz, then they will be introduced to nondisjunction, which is an error that occurs during meiosis leading to an extra chromosome being inherited by the offspring.  This can lead to many disorders, such as Down's Syndrome, Patau Syndrome, and Edward's Syndrome, to name a few.  There will also be time to count flies.

Graba Geek of the Week

The first ever Graba Geek of the Week goes to Zach Hebebrand, who knew without being told that Charles Darwin's birthday was on February 12th, the same day as Abraham Lincoln's.  Very impressive!  Zach has also been doing very well with our genetics problems so far. 

Have a great week everyone.

February 21, 2011

February 21, 2011

Happy President's Day everyone!  Do you know which famous biologist shares a birthday with Abraham Lincoln?  If not, ask your kids, they should know since we talked about it the week before last!

Events of the Past Week

Monday - On Monday we spent time counting our flies, as there were a lot to count after 2 days of no counting!  I helped students with their classification on Monday and Tuesday so they would get the hang of identifying males and females.  By the end of the week they were real pros!

Tuesday (Late Start Day) - The students were introduced to many of our vocabulary terms as well as how to predict the results of a monohybrid (one trait) cross using a Punnett Square.  We used the ability to roll your tongue as the trait to introduce the topic.  Problem Set 1 was assigned for homework.

Wednesday - On Wednesday students counted their flies after taking a genetics vocabulary quiz.  Most students did very well on this.

Thursday - Thursday the students learned how to predict the results of a dihybrid (two trait) cross using a Punnett Square.  We looked at polydactyly (having extra fingers like former Chicago Cubs pitcher Antonio Alfonseca) and brachydactyly (having shortened digits, like Megan Fox does on one of her thumbs) as the two traits in our introductory problems.  After the introduction, students were given time to count flies.  Numbers 1-6 of Problem Set 2 were assigned for homework.

Friday (Half Day) - Anyone who earned a C or lower on our meiosis quiz had to retake a new version of the quiz, and those who earned a B or higher had the option to retake the quiz.  Students also counted their flies this day.  Numbers 7-9 of Problem Set 2 were assigned for homework.  The problem set will be collected on Tuesday.

Upcoming Events

Monday - NO SCHOOL!  Happy Presidents' Day!

Tuesday - Sex-linked traits (traits carried on the X chromosome) will be introduced.  These traits include hemophilia, red-green colorblindness, and Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.  Quick quiz - do you know anyone who is colorblind?  What is their gender?  If you're looking for something quick to do with the family, do a survey with your family about anyone you know who has red-green colorblindness and see what they all seem to have in common.  Your children should be able to explain why the people with red-green colorblindness all have this one thing in common after Monday.  When I'm done introducing this topic, students will be given time to work on counting their flies.  This will be the last day for counting flies from the first generation of offspring.  Problem Set 3, numbers one through eight will be assigned for homework.

Wednesday - Students will be introduced to pedigrees (family trees), including Queen Victoria's pedigree.  We'll trace hemophilia through her family and learn how the fact that she was a carrier for hemophilia contributed to the Russian Revolution and the rise of communism!  Problem Set 3, numbers nine and ten, as well as a sex-linked traits worksheet will be assigned for homework.

Thursday - Students will be given a quiz on monohybrid crosses, simple dominance, dihybrid crosses, incomplete dominance, testcrosses, and sex-linked traits.  Afterwards, they will work on an assignment titled "Human Pedigree Genetics" in which they will try to identify the genotypes (the pair of genes a person carries for one trait) and phenotypes (physical appearance) of many individuals in 3 different pedigrees.  We will also listen to the song "I'm My Own Grandpa" by Ray Stevens and attempt to draw a pedigree of the family described in the song.

Friday - Students will be introduced to the inheritance of traits which have multiple alleles (which means there are many different versions of the gene in the human population.  One example is blood types, which have an A gene, a B gene, and an O gene).  This is opposed to other traits we've studied so far, such as tongue rolling, which only have two versions of the gene in the human population (the version that allows you to roll your tongue, and the version that doesn't allow you to roll your tongue).  We will also learn about the Hardy-Weinberg theorem, which explains the conditions necessary for a population's genetic makeup to NOT change over time.  Since these conditions never all exist, this theorem helps show that a population's genetic makeup is always changing over time.  Afterwards, Problem Set 4 will be assigned.

Have a good week everyone!

February 13, 2011

February 13, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day! 

Events of the Past Week

Monday - On Monday we began our pop bead chromosome activity so that the students could get a hands-on experience to learn the process of meiosis.  The activity was not completed in one class period, so we had to continue working on it on Tuesday.

Tuesday - On Tuesday, we completed the meiosis pop bead chromosome activity.  When everyone completed the activity there was not enough time to start a new activity, so we watched a quick video clip on tissue engineering from NOVA.  Here is a link to the video:  Replacing Body Parts

Wednesday - I didn't feel that we were ready to take a quiz today, so we did a few other things to reinforce our learning about the process of meiosis instead.  The quiz was pushed to Friday because we had to remove the parents from our fruit fly vials on Thursday.  The students learned about the formation of sperm cells and egg cells through a 15 minute lecture that I gave to them.  Then we did a kinesthetic learning activity where the students used playing cards to act out the process of meiosis.  When they finished this activity, we discussed as a class the ways in which meiosis increases the genetic diversity of a species, and why it is important that a species is genetically diverse.

Thursday - We began our Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) project.  Students learned how to knock their flies out, how to determine the gender of a fruit fly (seriously!), and the stages of the life cycle of the fruit fly.  After this, they actually did knock out their flies and identify the mutations that their flies showed.  They were required to tell me once they thought that they had identified the mutations, and I let them know whether they were correct or not.  On Monday, every class but 8th hour will begin counting and classifying the offspring of the flies they worked with this day.  8th hour already began that process on Friday after their quiz.  I believe these flies went through their life cycle a little bit faster because the classroom we are in during 8th hour (Room 251) is a little bit warmer than my other classroom (room 245). 

Friday - We took our quiz on meiosis.  When the students finished, they worked on their genetics vocabulary worksheets, which are due on Monday.  There will be a quiz on the terms on that sheet next week Wednesday. 

Upcoming Events

Monday - On Monday we will be working with our Drosophila melanogaster.  I will also be checking to see that everyone has completed their genetics vocabulary worksheet.

Tuesday - Students will be introduced to Punnett Squares, monohybrid crosses, testcrosses, and incomplete dominance.  Afterwards, they will be given problem set 1, which will be due on Wednesday.  If there is enough time, they will be able to work with their flies.

Wednesday - We will be working with our flies, I believe (it depends on what it looks like in their vials), and then students will be introduced to dihybrid crosses and given Problem Set 2, which will be due on Thursday.

Thursday - The groups will be given some time to count their flies again, and then will be introduced to sex-linked inheritance of genes (that is, genes that are carried on the X chromosome, such as hemophilia, red-green colorblindness, and Duchenne muscular dystrophy).  Up to question 7 on Problem Set 3 will be assigned. 

Friday - On Friday we will first be taking a retake of the meiosis quiz.  This is a new quiz over the same topics as the first one.  Anyone who earned a C or lower must retake the quiz, and I will then average the scores of the two quizzes together to determine a grade in the gradebook.  Anyone who earned an A or a B has the option of doing the retake, but if they do I will still average the two scores together, no matter what they get on the second quiz. 

After that, we will be taking a look at Queen Victoria's family tree, tracing the inheritance of hemophilia through the royal families of Europe.  This will be the inroduction students receive to pedigrees.  Afterwards, they will be assigned the rest of Problem Set 3, and given time to work with their flies.

Other tidbits

During our genetics unit, all plans are tentative.  I have to be flexible with the students and allow them enough class time to work with their flies, so we may or may not complete everything I have planned for them for the week (and that's OK).  The hands-on experience they are getting right now is an experience that they will not forget, and I believe it will also help them improve their knowledge of genetics. 

Have a good week everyone!

February 6, 2011

February 6th, 2011

February 6th, 2011

"The best laid plans of mice and men . . ." is a quote that comes to mind after last week!  The snow days caused a few changes to the plans we had.  Hopefully everybody got through those days safe and sound (and not stuck on Lake Shore Drive)!

Events of the Past Week

Monday - The students watched the movie The Human Race about the Human Genome Project.  It offered them some pretty interesting insight into the personalities of the biologists involved in that project, especially J. Craig Venter, Francis Collins, and James Watson.  To see what Venter has been up to since the completion of the Human Genome Project, check out this article:  http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/05/scientists-create-first-self-replicating-synthetic-life/

Tuesday - On Tuesday we watched the movie "Harvest of Fear", a NOVA/Frontline special on genetically modified foods.  Included was discussion of what they are, how they can be produced, and the potential benefits and harms of genetically modified foods.

Wednesday - My kids had fun - hope yours did too!

Thursday - Yet another day off, but a little too cold to play outside!

Friday - Students took a quiz on biotechnology that had been scheduled for Wednesday.  After turning in the quiz, they picked up a reading on meiosis, which they are supposed to either highlight or underline as they read it.  The reading/highlighting is to be completed by Monday.

Upcoming Events

Monday - We will process the reading, focusing on the unique events of meiosis that create gametes (sperm and eggs) with half the chromosome number as the original, "mother" cell.  We will also focus on the events of the first two stages of meiosis (prophase I and metaphase I) that create an incredible amount of genetic diversity in organisms that use meiosis to produce their gametes.  After processing, we will begin our pop bead chromosome activity modeling the events of meiosis.

Tuesday - We will finish the pop bead chromosome activity, and then act out the events of meiosis as a class using playing cards as our chromosomes.

Wednesday - Students will take a quiz on meiosis.  This plan is tentative and will depend on how far the class is able to get on their activities Monday and Tuesday.  The quiz may have to be pushed back to Thursday depending on how things go on Monday and Tuesday.  After the quiz, we will begin our classical (Mendelian) genetics unit by focusing on important vocabulary.  Please make sure your children are spending time on this terminology!  If they do not learn it early in our unit, they will be lost as we continue through it.

Thursday - The students will be introduced to Punnett Squares, monohybrid (one trait) crosses, incomplete dominance, and testcrosses.  They will have the first of several problem sets to complete for homework.

Friday - We will spend time answering questions about the homework, which I will collect and grade five of the ten problems at random, with the goal of evaluating at least one problem on each of the different topics covered in the problem set.  Then the students will be introduced to dihybrid (two trait) crosses.  Homework will be Problem Set 2, due Monday.

I hope everyone enjoys (or enjoyed, depending on when you read this) the Super Bowl, or at least the Super Bowl commercials, and that we have a much less snowy week!