May 29, 2011

May 29, 2011

Happy Memorial Day!  I hope everyone enjoys a good hot dog or hamburger and the great outdoors this weekend.

Events of the Past Week

Monday - The students turned in their "Introduction to Ecology" packets to me. 

Aftwerwards, we went over the Anatomy and Physiology test from the previous week.  The results on the multiple choice portion of the test were outstanding!  The lab practical proved to be a little bit more difficult; however, many students did very well on that part of the test.  In comparison to previous years, the kids did very well.

Finally, we began our ecology unit in earnest by reading aloud an article called "A View From the Top of the Food Pyramid."  After that, we did an activity that had the students look at how energy moves through an ecosystem, which they had to finish for homework.

Tuesday - I collected from the students their homework on energy flow in ecosystems.  Then we worked on a case study to introduce the concepts of bioaccumulation and biomagnification.  It was called "Tuna for Lunch," and had the students examine what happens to toxins such as mercury as they pass from one level of a food chain to the next.  Your kids should be able to tell you the distinction between bioaccumulation and biomagnification after doing this activity.  One neat memory trick that a student came up with was a rhyme that went something like, "Bioaccumulation occurs when an organism is single, biomagnification occurs when organisms mingle."  That will make more sense to you after you ask your kids to explain the distinction if you don't already know what those two terms mean!

Wednesday - We learned about how three nutrients (carbon, nitrogen, and water) cycle through ecosystems.  The activity took less time than anticipated, so we were able to move on to learn about the natural cycle between predators and their prey that occurs in nature. 

We took a look at data from two real life examples (the deer of the Kaibab plateau in Arizona and the Moose of Isle Royale in Michigan) to begin our study of these cycles.  Homework was to finish the analysis of the data they were presented with in the activity.

Thursday - We modeled predator/prey population cycles by doing a lab simulating populations of mice and weasels in a forest.  Most groups generally got good data that showed that the population of prey always increases before the predator population, then decreases before the predator population.  Homework was to finish graphing the data that was collected during the lab and to answer four questions related to the simulation.  I also collected the homework from the night before.

Friday - We began class by taking a look at our data from the previous day's activity and making sure everyone was comfortable with the concept that was intended to be learned from that activity. 

We then moved on to learn about symbiotic relationships such as mutualism, commensalism, parasitism, predation, and competition.  Students were given descriptions of several different real life examples of these types of relationships, and then asked to identify the type of relationship described.  When everyone was finished (this activity took about 15 minutes), the students checked their answers against my key.

Finally, we watched a movie that is a cautionary tale about the impact of humans on the environment, "The Lorax"!  The kids loved it, and also had some pretty thought provoking questions to answer as they watched the movie.

For homework, I passed out a reading called "Lessons from the Wolf."  This article was taken from a 2004 edition of Scientific American.  There are several questions that go along with the reading that the students are to type their answers to using complete sentences.

Upcoming Events

Monday - NO SCHOOL!  Thank you to those who have served our country, especially to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for us.

Tuesday - I will collect the answers the students typed to the questions that went with their weekend reading. 

Afterwards, we will learn about succession in an ecosystem (where either a new ecosystem develops where one had never been there before, such as on a new island formed from a volcanic eruption; or one develops to replace an older ecosystem that had been destroyed, such as in Yosemite after a massive forest fire). 

We will then take a look at gross and net primary productivity in an ecosystem.

Wednesday - We will begin class by learning about population density, including how it is calculated and what factors affect it.  We will be then learning about how to interpret age structure graphs.  After that, we will take a look at survivorships curves. 

Thursday - The students will take the 55 question district assessment test.  This test was designed with regular level biology students in mind, so it should be relatively easy for most students in accelerated biology.  It will be worth a small number of point (no more than 20-25).  The topics covered are the scientific method, biochemistry, cells, molecular genetics, evolution, and Mendelian genetics.

Friday - We will only have 28 minutes in class, so we will spend a little bit of time going over the district assessment test.  Then I'll pass out the final exam review sheet to the students and look it over with them, answering any questions they might have about the final exam or any of the topics on the review sheet.

Graba Geek of the Week

This week's geek of the week is Helen Chvoy.  Helen is incredibly helpful to anyone who asks for her help in class.  She also does a great job with her homework, labs, quizzes, and tests.  Helen is one of the first people to volunteer to answer a question, especially when nobody else is willing to take a shot at it.  It has been fantastic to have her as a student this year!

Other tidbits

There was a recent article in The Economist about a teacher who used a "flipped classroom" for his college class.  It involved students watching video of his lectures at home that he recorded for them.  Class time was then spent reinforcing those ideas and asking the students to think critically about them.  The results were astounding at the university level, and many teachers on the AP Biology listserv I'm a part of are thinking about doing it in their classrooms.  My only concern is that it would really add to the students' homework load, which is already very high.  I'm also not sure it would be an appropriate approach for a high school freshman level course.  I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the concept.  The article is available here:

I also received an e-mail from the United States Achievement Academy regarding potential scholarship grants for students in grades 6-12.  Here is a section from the e-mail I received: 

"For more than 30 years, the USAA Scholarship Foundation has recognized outstanding students because of dedicated teachers like you. The Foundation is happy to provide the students you recognized the opportunity to apply for cash grants.

It is the sole purpose of the USAA Scholarship Foundations to help students in grades 6-12 by awarding cash grants to use now or later for any educational expense.

     * $40,000 in scholarship cash grants reserved for middle school students
  * $40,000 in scholarship cash grants reserved for high school students
* One $10,000 Dr. George A. Stevens, Founder's Award

Choose your students based on any two of the following Standards for Selection:  3.0 minimum in your subject, motivation to learn and improve, attitude, dependability, responsibility, and leadership qualities."

There is a link provided for parents to begin the application process as well.  This will allow you to apply without necessarily requiring a recommendation from me.  Here is the website to apply for the scholarships:

May 22, 2011

May 22, 2011

I hope everyone enjoyed the great weather we had over this last weekend!  Our family played a lot of baseball together and enjoyed being outside.

Events of the Past Week

Monday - We watched a video in class because I was not there.  The video was about reptiles and many of their adaptations, including adaptations for breathing which tied into learning about the respiratory system.

Tuesday - We reviewed the functions of the parts of the respiratory system and learned about the urinary system via a lecture about the parts of the system and what they do.

Wednesday - The students reviewed for their test on anatomy and physiology by looking at the quizzes they had taken during this unit as well as by looking at labs and homework assignments they had completed.  They were able to ask me any questions that they had on anything related to those quizzes and assignments as well as about the test itself.

Thursday - The students took the 75 question multiple choice test on anatomy and physiology and did very well, for the most part.  I was very impressed with their effort!

Friday - We took the lab practical portion of the test.  There were 7 pigs and one calf heart set up around the room with pins in them.  At each station the students had 1 minute to answer three questions about the organs the pins were placed into.  While they waited for their turn or after they finished, the students were working on a packet that introduced them to some important terms and concepts related to ecology, which is our next unit.  Anything in that packet that was not finished needs to be completed for homework.

Upcoming Events

Monday - I will be collecting the "Introduction to Ecology" packet from the students.  After that we are going to take a look at both parts of our test on anatomy and physiology. 

We will then be spending our class time working on learning about food chains and energy transfer in an ecosystem.  There is an activity the students will be doing in pairs to help them learn about this topic.  Our focus will be more about what happens to the energy in a food chain than on what organisms eat what other organisms.  I assume that most of the students know that some kind of herbivore will eat plants, and some kind of carnivore will eat the herbivores, so I don't want to bore them.  By focusing on the flow of energy through an ecosystem the students will be asked to think at a higher level than if they were just asked to identify which organism eats which other organism.  A food chain and food web packet will be assigned for homework, as well.

Tuesday - The assignment that we worked on in class will be collected, while the homework will be gone over in class.  Anyone who does not have the homework assignment completed, however, will be asked to step into the hallway to complete it while the rest of us go over it together.

After we have gone over the homework, the students will be doing a case study called "Tuna for Lunch?"  They will be working in pairs on this assignment.  The purpose of the assignment is to investigate the way in which toxins such as mercury accumulate and undergo what is called "biomagnification" as they pass up the food chain.  Hopefully your children will be able to tell you what biomagnification is after having completed this assignment.

Wednesday -  We will begin looking at how nutrients are cycled through an ecosystem with a jigsaw assignment.  The students will be in groups of 3.  One person will become an expert on the carbon cycle, one on the nitrogen cycle, and one on the water cycle.  After each person has become an expert, they will teach the other members of the group about their topic.  Then the students will have some questions to answer about each cycle.  For homework, the students will be doing an assignment called "Ecology Cycles" to look at how other factors may cycle in an ecosystem.

Thursday - On Thursday, we will be doing a lab to look at how predator and prey populations affect one another and have a definite cycle in nature.  For homework, the students will be completing an assignment called "Analyzing Ecological Relationships," where they will be asked to look at 3 different graphs and interpret the information they present.

Friday - I will collect the homework on Friday, and then we will look at a real life example of the effects of the removal of a predator (the wolf) on their prey (the deer) on the island of Kaibab.

Afterwards, the students will be introduced to symbiotic relationships.  These are relationships in which two organisms live in close association with one another.  The types of relationships can be mutualistic (where both organisms benefit), commensalistic (where one benefits while the other is neither hurt nor harmed), parasitic (where one organism benefits at the other's expense), competitive (where both organisms are trying to obtain the same resource), or predatory (where one organism preys on the other).  After a brief introduction to these relationships, the students will be given a variety of different examples of symbiotic relationships to read about and identify.

For homework, the students will be given an article to read about the importance of the wolf to the ecosystem in Yellowstone.  This article comes from the journal Scientific American.  There will be several questions the students will be answering to go along with this reading.  The article does an excellent job explaining how many of the organisms in Yellowstone are dependent on one another, as well as how disrupting even just one of those organisms dramatically impacts the rest.

Graba Geek of the Week

This week's Geek of the Week is Hannah Kuhl.  Hannah has been one of the top-performing students in class all year long, and culminated her efforts with a perfect score on the 75 question multiple choice test we took on anatomy and physiology.  In addition, she earned 24 out 25 possible points on the lab practical we took on Friday, earning her high score on that part of the test as well.  Way to go, Hannah!


May 15, 2011

May 15, 2011

May 15, 2011

Events of the Past Week

Monday - The first thing we did in class was take 5 minutes with our lab partners to look over our heart anatomy labs that were due.  Afterwards, I chose one student's lab from each group to collect and grade.  We then looked at our digestive system quizzes so that the students could figure out what they did not know that they were asked about on the quiz.  Finally, we watched the movie "Hemo the Magnificent," which does a nice job of giving an overview of the heart, blood circulation, and characteristics of arteries, veins, and capillaries.

Tuesday - I lectured to the students on the circulatory system.  We covered the functions of the circulatory system, the parts of blood, the anatomy and physiology of the heart, and the anatomy of blood vessels.

Wednesday - All of the freshman biology teachers were given a time grant on Wednesday to work on developing our ecology unit.  Ecology is a topic we usually do not spend much time on, but given the new push globally for going green and finding renewable resources, we thought that this ought to be a topic we spend more time on in class.  While we were meeting, the students were working on interpreting a graph related to the circulatory system, labeling a diagram of the heart, completing a crossword puzzle of vocabulary from the circulatory system, and working on a study guide that corresponded with their textbook on the circulatory system.  For homework the students completed the study guide.

Thursday - We took a quiz on the circulatory system.  Afterwards, the students completed a diagram that had them label the parts of the respiratory system, which we then checked afterwards.

Friday - We completed our final dissection of our fetal pigs!  This included the parts of the respiratory system both in the mouth and the thoracic (chest) cavity, as well as the parts of the urinary system.  Your kids should be able to tell what the four parts of the urinary system are and what the general function of each part is.  For homework they should be completing all of the questions in the lab handout from our dissection.

Upcoming Events

Monday - We will be using our textbooks in class to review some of the anatomy and physiology of the respiratory system.  Please let your children know that they need to bring their textbooks to class, as I forgot to remind them on Friday.  Thank you!

Tuesday - I'll be lecturing on the anatomy and physiology of the respiratory system, including the functions of each of the parts of the respiratory system as well as the mechanics and control of breathing rate.

Wednesday - We will review for our test on Thursday.  We may use our CPS system (remote control quiz setup) to do this.  The test is usually relatively difficult because there is a lot of material to remember, so make sure your children start studying before Wednesday night.  They should study their class notes and their lab handouts.

Thursday - The test will include approximately 75 multiple choice questions and 25 lab practical questions.  The lab practical will involve 8 stations with 7 pigs and my calf heart.  At each station the students will have one minute to look at various parts of the pig or heart with pins in them.  There will be about 3 questions per station that either ask the students to identify a body part or tell me something about what the body part does for the organism.

Friday - We will review our test results and begin our ecology unit with a handout called "Introduction to Ecology," which the students will be completing for homework.

Graba Geek of the Week

This week's geek of the week goes to Matt Faust, who works really hard at everything he does in biology.  As a result, he is consistently at the top of the class on quizzes and tests.  His homework and lab work are also very well done, which is probably one of the big reasons he does so well on quizzes and tests.  Matt also asks very good questions in class and is not afraid to answer questions, either.  Congratulations, Matt!

May 8, 2011

May 8, 2011

May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day to all of the mothers of my students!  This is one of the nicest groups of kids I have had in my 13 years of teaching; you are obviously doing a great job with your kids.

Events of the Past Week

Monday -  On Monday, we began our poster project on the digestive system.  The students had to put the parts of the digestive system together like a puzzle, and then figure out which nutrients get chemically digested in which organs.  Most students got as far as getting their organs cut out and glued down in the right order.  Homework was to complete through question number 7 in the study guide that went with the poster project.

Tuesday -  On Tuesday, we completed the poster activity.  Homework was to complete any questions in the study guide that were not completed yet.

Wednesday - We reviewed the parts of the digestive system and their functions.  Many of the students showed a much better grasp of the important information in the digestive system than in previous years.  This was the first time I'd ever tried this particular project, and it really seemed to help!  Homework was to study for the quiz on Thursday.

Thursday - We took the digestive system quiz.  There were 20 multiple choice questions and 5 questions from a PowerPoint slide that was projected up on the screen in front of class.

Friday - On Friday, the kids took their pigs back out and removed the heart from them.  They then cut the heart in half to see the four chambers of the heart and the wall that separates the left half from the right half of the heart.

Upcoming Events

Monday - The students will be handing in their heart anatomy labs.  One lab per lab team will be collected, so the students will get 5 minutes at the beginning of class to look over everyone's labs and make sure that they are comfortable with what everyone has done before they hand them in.  Afterwards, we will be watching an all-time classic biology movie, "Hemo the Magnificent."  It is old, but the parts of the heart and the circulatory system have not changed, so the information is good and presented in an entertaining manner.  The kids usually like this movie.

Tuesday - We will review together the parts of the heart and circulatory system, as well as all of their functions.  Homework will be a worksheet with a graph of blood pressure, velocity, etc., and several questions that ask the students to interpret the graph.  Having a knowledge of the circulatory system will help the students in answering the questions.

Wednesday - We will finish reviewing the parts of the circulatory system and their functions.  On Tuesday, as long as Heybeck's comes through for me, I will be picking up a calf heart after school.  We will take a look at that as part of our review for the quiz on Thursday.  It is much bigger than the fetal pig's heart, so it is much easier to see the chambers and the valves in the heart!  Homework will be to study for their quiz on the circulatory system.

Thursday - The kids will be given a 20 question multiple choice quiz on the circulatory system.  Afterwards, they will fill out a sheet that will have them label the parts of the respiratory system.

Friday - We will be dissecting the respiratory and excretory systems of the fetal pig.  Homework will be to complete the questions that go along with the lab.

Graba Geek of the Week

This week's geek of the week is Connor Pozzi.  Connor really helps keep the class loose and fun in our 8th hour class, but he also knows when it is time to get serious and work hard.  Having students like Connor is really important for the overall class environment.