April 30, 2012

April 29, 2012

April 29, 2012

Hello everyone!  What a dreary weekend we had.  Hopefully the weather turns around this week!

Events of the Past Week

Monday - On Monday, we did exactly what the blog last week stated we would do.  We looked at the homework from the weekend together, then learned about phylogenetics and cladograms, and then learned how to create a cladogram.  For homework, the students completed a study guide that went with Chapter 17 in their textbook.

Tuesday - No school due to PSAE testing.

Wednesday - We learned what a dichotomous key is, what it is used for, and practiced using one to identify different bacterial species.  For homework, the students had to read the lab procedure for the lab we were going to do on Thursday.

Thursday - The students were given several different pieces of hardware ranging from nails to screws to bolts.  The students had to determine the characteristics that would be best for classifying the types of hardware into different groups, and create a cladogram of their own from the decisions they made.  They found this very challenging, but I also think it was very good for their brains.  Homework was to complete the questions associated with the cladogram.

Friday - The students took a taxonomy quiz on Friday.  There were 35 multiple choice questions and one written questions.  They did pretty well as a group on the quiz.  Afterwards, they let me know whether they wanted to be a dissector or a recorder for our pig dissections.

Upcoming Events

Monday - We will begin our pig dissection.  The students will be assigned their groups and given their pigs.  They will be determining the gender of their pigs, identifying external features, and perhaps beginning to look for salivary glands.  I will need to make sure we are cleaning up with at least 10 minutes left in class for the students to get everything cleaned and done on time.

Tuesday - The students will be looking into the abdominal cavities of their pigs to identify several digestive organs, as well as some organs of the circulatory system and respiratory system.  Homework will be to complete all of the questions in the lab.

Wednesday - We will begin a poster project on the digestive system.  The students will be cutting out drawings of the organs of the digestive system, putting the pieces together like a puzzle, and color coding the pieces.  The students will be completing through number 7 in the study guide that goes along with the poster.

Thursday - We will finish our project on the digestive system on Thursday.  Homework will be to finish any parts of the project that are not completed in class.

Friday - We will be reviewing all of the parts of the digestive system and their functions on Friday.  Homework will be to study for a quiz on the digestive system that will be given on Monday.

Graba Geek of the Week

This week's Geek of the Week is Anthony Fu.  He did a great job figuring out how to put the cladogram on our quiz together, and his group did well on their Drosophila melanogaster lab report, for which he wrote an important portion.  Way to go, Anthony!

April 22, 2012

April 22, 2012

April 22, 2012

Midterms are almost upon us.  It's hard to believe that the school year is this close to being over.  It seems like just yesterday these young people were walking through my classroom doors as wide-eyed, brand-new freshman!

Events of the Past Week

Monday - We put the finishing touches on our evolution unit.  The students learned about convergent evolution, divergent evolution, and coevolution.  Then we watched several clips of David Attenborough showing unique adaptations that have helped organisms from Leopard Slugs to Elephant Seals survive and pass down their genes.  Homework was to complete an evolution review packet.

Tuesday - We began class by discussing the review packet and answering any questions students had about the packet.  When that was done, we played a review game with remote control clickers and multiple choice questions that the students answered using their remote controls.  Homework was to study for their evolution test.

Wednesday - The students took the multiple choice section of their evolution test.  There were 56 questions on the multiple choice part of the test.  They also took the district benchmark assessment on evolution, which consisted of 8 multiple choice questions.

Thursday - The students took the short answer portion of their evolution test.  I had originally planned for all of the test to be taken on Wednesday, but realized it was going to be too long to take all in one day.  When the students finished the test, they were given the opportunity to review the results from the multiple choice part of the test.  Homework was to finish a study guide for the first section of chapter 17 in the textbook.  The topic of the study guide was taxonomy (the science of classifying organisms), NOT taxidermy, which is what some students were hoping for!

Friday - We began class by taking a few notes on taxonomy, and then moved on to work on a packet called "Why Classify?"  This packet had the students doing some thinking about the benefits of a classification system for organisms, and also learning some of the vocabulary associated with classification.  Homework was to finish the packet.

Upcoming Events

Monday - The students will first be looking over their "Why Classify?" packets with me.  Then, we will learn about phylogenetics (classifying organisms based on their presumed evolutionary relationships), and cladistics (essentially creating branching diagrams that show the evolutionary relationships between organisms).  The students will then be creating a cladogram themselves.  Homework will be to complete a study guide that goes along with chapter 17 in the textbook.

Tuesday - NO SCHOOL.  PSAE testing.  By the way, if you would like to read an interesting article about standardized tests, read this about New York's standardized English test:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/21/nyregion/standardized-testing-is-blamed-for-question-about-a-sleeveless-pineapple.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

Wednesday - We will have 28 minutes of class time on Wednesday.  We will take a look at the homework from Monday night, and then the students will be introduced to dichotomous keys.  Dichotomous keys are made up of a paired series of statements that biologists use to help identify organisms when they are in the field.  We will also review the characteristics of the 6 kingdoms and 3 domains of life.

Thursday - We will be completing a dichotomous key activity using various types of hardware.  The students will have to design their own keys to classify the pieces of hardware.  Homework will be to study for the quiz on Friday.

Friday - We will take a quiz on taxonomy on Friday with 35 multiple choice questions and 1 written question.  The students will be letting me know whether they want to be a dissector or a recorder during our fetal pig dissections when they finish their quizzes.  We will begin dissections on Monday.

Graba Geek of the Week

This week we have co-Geeks of the Week.  Denae Gerasta is one, and Emma Gattuso is the other.  Denae recently did a little research into her family's genetic history, as she noticed that one of her thumbs seemed to be rather short, much like the actress Megan Fox, who we learned has brachydactyly (a dominant genetic condition where one or more of the digits are shorter than normal).  It turns out that the trait does seem to run in her family, and may be the same one we learned about in class (although there is no way to know for sure unless a genetic counselor were to be consulted).

Emma earned the honor by volunteering at a District 15 middle school to help students with some science projects.  Talk about showing an interest in science!  Way to go, girls!

April 16, 2012

April 16th, 2012

I hope everyone is getting those taxes taken care of if they aren't already!  I apologize for the lack of a newsletter last week.  With the Easter holiday weekend I did not have the opportunity to write it, but it's back this week!

Events of the Past Week

Monday - No school.  Teacher Institute Day

Tuesday - On Tuesday, the students were introduced to a mathematical method for determining if a population's gene pool is changing over the course of time.  The mathematical method is called the Hardy-Weinberg Theorem.  Tuesday was a shortened day, so the introduction and example problem took the full period.

Wednesday - The students worked on practice Hardy-Weinberg problems.  These problems take a little while to do (especially the first time through), so this took the full class period.  Homework was to finish those problems.

Thursday - Our topic for Thursday was speciation, which is the formation of new species.  In order to explain how speciation occurs and what it is, the students read a chapter from a comic book called Evolution:  The Story of Life by Jay Hosler.  The author is a PhD and an associate professor of biology at Juniata College.  This was a much more interesting way to learn than listening to me lecture, and I hope the students got more out of it, too!  There was a study guide that the students filled out as they did their reading.

Friday - The students were given 20 minutes to finish the study guide associated with the chapter on speciation, and then we watched the first 30 minutes of a movie from the PBS Evolution series called "Great Transformations."

Upcoming Events

Monday - The students will be finishing learning new material about evolution today.  The topics that we will briefly cover are convergent evolution (when two organisms that are not closely related to one another actually appear to be related due to adapting to similar environments), divergent evolution (when two closely related organisms appear to be less and less related due to adapting to different environments), and coevolution (when two organisms change in response to one another, such as flowers and their pollinators).  We will then watch a few clips of David Attenborough showing some unique adaptations driven by evolution.  Homework is to start preparing for our test on Wednesday.

Tuesday - The students will be working on a review packet for their test on Wednesday.  Homework will be to study for the test.

Wednesday - The students will be taking a test of approximately 70 questions in length on evolution.  When they finish, they will be given a study guide for the next unit, which is taxonomy.  They will need to use their textbooks to complete it for homework.

Thursday - The students will be taking notes from a lecture on the history of classifying organisms.  After we finish taking notes, the students will be doing an activity where they will be using a dichotomous key to classify bacteria.  If it is not finished in class, then they will have to complete it for homework.

Friday - We will do a couple of quick activities on Friday.  One is called "Fun With Fictitious Animals," in which the students use the descriptions in a dichotomous key to try to determine the characteristics of various fictitious organisms.  The idea is to demonstrate the importance of strong descriptors when classifying organisms.  This will be followed up by an activity in which the students have to do some critical thinking to fill in missing information in a table used to classify various members of the primate order.  Finally, the students will Finally, the students will be trying their hands at classifying the organisms found at this site: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/nature/classifying-life.html

Graba Geek of the Week

This week's Geek of the Week is Marty Chindblom, who has shown an incredible knack for thinking critically, and sharing his thoughts well with his lab partners.  Great job, Marty!