March 27, 2011

March 27,2011

March 27, 2011

Another spring break has come to a close, although from the weather we had you'd have thought we were on winter break!  I'm looking forward to getting back to school tomorrow and getting back to work with all of my students - they surely feel the same way :)

Events of the Past Week

The students were very busy in the week leading up to spring break.

Monday - On Monday, the students were given a day to work in their groups on their fruit fly reports.  They were very busy, making good use of the time they were given.

Tuesday - Tuesday was a late start day.  I was gone at an AP conference, so the students were given a review packet with many problems to help them prepare for the test.

Wednesday - The first day of the genetics test was given on Wednesday.  The classes all did well on the test. I was very proud of them and how hard they all worked!

Thursday - The second day of the genetics test was given on Thursday.  Again, all four classes performed well on this portion of the test.  

Friday - Friday was D-Day (Due Day) for our fruit fly reports.  After all of the reports had been handed in, we watched a movie called "Ghost in Your Genes" about the effects the environment has on our genes, and in turn, our health.

Upcoming Events

Monday - We will the first half of class looking at our genetics tests, answering questions, and making everyone understands what they missed on the test, and why it was missed.  When we are all done with that, we will work on an activity to help increase our knowledge of the age of the Earth.  It is important that the students understand the Earth is over 4 billion years old as we begin learning about evolution.  This first activity is designed to help them figure that out.  Students will also be given the objectives for the Evolution unit.  They can use these objectives to determine what is important that they understand as we go through the unit.  The topics in the objectives will all be covered on our test at the end of our evolution unit.  Homework will be a set of questions on the famous Miller-Urey experiment.  The passage was taken from an old ACT exam, so this assignment serves the dual purpose of both learning about an important experiment done in the field of evolution while also exposing students to ACT style questions.

Tuesday - On Tuesday, we will learn how radioactive dating of fossils and rocks works by learning about the rate of radioactive decay of Carbon-14.  I will also be assigning that notes on Chapter 14 in the textbook be completed by Friday.  The activity on radioactive dating will be due on Wednesday.

Wednesday - On Wednesday, I will be lecturing on some of the material from Chapter 14, and then the students will be doing an activity comparing the ideas of Charles Darwin to those of Alfred Russell Wallace and Jean Baptiste Lamarck.

Thursday - On Thursday, the students will be introduced to the concept of natural selection.  We will be doing an activity to reinforce this concept after I lecture on it.  The textbook notes on chapter 14 are due on Friday.

Friday - The students will be taking the district assessment test on Friday.  The district assessment test is the science section of an EXPLORE exam that is used to measure student growth from last year to this year.  This exam tests a students knowledge of the process of science, their scientific literacy, and their ability to interpret data, so there is no content that students need to study to prepare for the exam.  This will be counted as a quiz grade.  After the assessment is over (it is a timed test of 30 minutes) I will introduce the students to some of the evidence that supports evolution.  We will study that supporting evidence in more detail next week with a series of labs and activities.  Notes out of the textbook on Chapter 15 will be assigned for homework, to be completed by next Tuesday (the 4th of April).

Graba Geek of the Week

This week's Geek of the Week goes to Anushka Vazirani!  According to the peer evaluations I received from Anushka's lab team, she did a large amount of work on their Drosophila melanogaster lab report, and their report was outstanding.  I was impressed at the level of detail in the writing in their paper.  Congratulations, Anushka!

Have a good week! 

March 12, 2011

March 13, 2011

March 13, 2011

Happy Early St. Patrick's Day everyone!

Events of the Past Week

Monday - On Monday we had our second genetics quiz.  Most students did very well on the quiz - I was really impressed with their efforts!

Tuesday - On Tuesday we spent the day counting our fruit flies.  Since the last day of counting had been Friday, there were LOTS of flies to count!  There was no homework assigned on Tuesday.

Wednesday - The students were introduced to the concept of genes being carried on the same chromosome. This changes the expected ratios in the offspring compared to all of our previous problems, and is probably the most difficult concept of our genetics unit for most students.  I also introduced the students to Google Documents, which allows everyone in their group access to the same document.  They can be working on it at the same time, and observing their group members edit it in real time.  In addition, they can chat while they edit so that any changes that are made can be discussed.  It is a really powerful tool that you should have them show you if you are not familiar with it.  Finally, Problem Set 5 was assigned for homework.

Thursday - We learned about a statistical tool called chi-squared analysis.  This tool allows students to compare actual, observed results from a genetic cross with those that were expected.  After completing this analysis of actual data, they should be able to determine whether their data falls within an acceptable range of the expected results, or if they have collected really bad data!

Friday - The students were introduced to a concept known as nondisjunction, which can lead to the inheritance of one too many or one too few chromosomes.  This leads to inherited genetic disorders such as Down's Syndrome, Edward's Syndrome, Patau Syndrome, and others.

Upcoming Events

Monday - Every group will be given the opportunity to work on their fruit fly reports in class.    The test was initially scheduled to be given Tuesday and Wednesday, but since Tuesday is a late start day, there would  not be enough time for students to complete their tests.  Therefore, the test was pushed back one day, and the day for working on the fruit fly reports was bumped up.

Tuesday - This will be a review day for the genetics test the students will be taking on Wednesday and Thursday.  The students will get several practice problems and the answer key to the problems to use to help study.  I will be at an AP conference this day.  The test covers two days because genetics problems take a long time to work out as compared to our normal multiple choice questions on other tests.  There are not too many more questions than what we normally have on a test.

Wednesday - Students will take Day 1 of their genetics test.

Thursday - Students will take Day 2 of their genetics test.

Friday - The fruit fly reports are due.  They will NOT be accepted late, so even if nobody from the group is in class, I expect the reports to be e-mailed to me by the time class starts.  Everyone has been made aware of this expectation.  After the test, we will be watching a video called "Ghost In Your Genes" about the impact the environment can have on your genes.  It is a really well-done NOVA video.

Graba Geek of the Week

Pat Pazerunas is the geek of the week this week!  He has done very well on his genetics problems and with his flies.  Most importantly, Pat very bravely and generously shared with us about his relative with Down's Syndrome when we were discussing the inheritance of Down's as well as the effects of Down's Syndrome on individuals who inherit it.  He also made us aware that March 21st is World Down's Syndrome Day.  This date is chosen because individuals with Down's Syndrome have 3 copies of the 21st chromosome (3-21).  To find out more about this day, you can visit

Have a good week and an enjoyable spring break!  The next post will be March 27th.

March 6, 2011

March 6, 2011

March 6, 2011

Thank you to many of you for the kind birthday wishes! 

Events of the Past Week

Monday - Students were introduced to the inheritance of blood types after getting back their quizzes from Friday.  It seemed as though most students picked this up pretty quickly!  Afterwards, everyone had time to count the flies from the second generation of offspring in their vials and work on some problems.  Homework was problems 1-7 on Problem Set 4.

Tuesday - I was home sick myself, so the students had classroom time to work on practice genetics problems.  There was a great report from the substitute teacher.  My classes are great this year - obviously the parents of my students are doing something right at home!  I have not had a single complaint from a sub this year.

Wednesday - On Wednesday the students were introduced to something called the Hardy-Weinberg Theorem by having them taste some PTC paper.  Ask your kids if they can explain the theorem to you, and if they can describe the taste of the PTC paper!  Afterwards there was time to count flies and work on problems.  Homework was problems 8-10 on Problem Set 4.

Thursday - My son woke me up at 5am with a fever and terrible cough/nasal congestion so I was home again.  The students worked on some practice Hardy-Weinberg problems, as well as practice problems reviewing our other genetics topics.  The sub's report again was great!

Friday - We checked the students' problems from Thursday, then had time to count flies and prepare for Monday's quiz.  The fruit fly project report was explained to the students as well.  The report must be typed, and is due at the beginning of the period on March 18th.  One report will be turned in per lab team.  It will NOT be accepted late for any reason, since two weeks notice was given and it is to be typed.  Even if nobody from the group is in class, then somebody can e-mail it to me as an attachment by the time class begins on the 18th.

Upcoming Events

Monday - There is a quiz scheduled for Monday.  It was originally scheduled for last week, but due to my absences and having to count flies, it was pushed back until Monday.  After the quiz there will be time to count flies.

Tuesday - This will be a day for counting flies and working on the students' fruit fly reports.
Wednesday - This will be the students' last day to count flies from the second generation.  We will learn about how two genes can be located on the same chromosome, and what impact that has on the ratios of different offspring expected to be produced by a cross.  Afterwards there will be time to count flies.  Problem Set 5 will be assigned for homework.

Thursday -  Students will be introduced to a statistical tool called Chi-Square Analysis.  This will be used by the students to analyze their data and see if it should be accepted or rejected.  There will be practice problems assigned for homework.  We will be doing a Chi-Square lab activity where we compare the expected numbers of M&M's of different colors in a bag of M&M's (using information provided by the Mars Candy Company) with the actual numbers of each color in a bag. 

Friday - I will be lecturing on the inheritance of several different genetic diseases.  We will be reviewing for our genetics test (which will be Tuesday the 15th and Wednesday the 16th). 
Graba Geek of the Week

This week's Graba Geek of the Week is Amy Andersen.  Amy not only earned a perfect score her genetics quiz last week, but she has also become a leader in identifying flies for her group - quite impressive!