October 28, 2012
Hello everyone! There was no newsletter last week because I was too busy with our class project! Two weeks ago we reviewed for our test on microscopes and Measurement, and then took the test over a two day period on Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday I assigned our cell campaign project which I am confident you have seen your children working on these past two weeks! As part of the campaign, I suggested that they create a Twitter account for their organelle, if they wanted to, and begin tweeting about their organelle and smearing the other organelles. We continued to work on the project on Friday. What followed was nothing short of amazing. Within about 12 hours of the start of the project, I noticed that there were people I did not recognize getting involved in the campaign online. This, of course, concerned me quite a bit, so I investigated to make sure that the kids were not being put in danger. It turns out that the people who were tweeting with my kids were cell biologists from around the globe! Each of them has a different cell organelle that is their area of interest, and they began helping the groups with their favorites, and helping smear some of the others. One of the scientists, Dr. Anne Osterrieder, is a professor at Oxford-Brookes University in England. She, Dr. David Logan from the Universite d'Angers in France, and Dr. John Runions at the University of Oxford-Brookes (who is also Dr. Molecule on BBC Radio) have been among the scientists tweeting with the kids. If your son or daughter created a Twitter account for their organelle, you should ask them to see what they've been doing and look at the interactions they have had! The cell biologists have been directing them to great research articles, asking them great questions, and sharing great information with them. These experts know so much more about this topic than I do that your children's education on cells has been improved immeasurably by these interactions! We were blogged about at the website www.plantcellbiology.org. The project has gained its own hashtag on Twitter: #organellewars. One biologist even tweeted "Best #war hashtag that doesn't depress me to follow, but gives me hope for humanity: #organellewars. The link to this blog and our hashtag has been retweeted by all kinds of scientists and educators around the globe. One of the retweets came from Ed Yong, who writes a blog for discover magazine. He is a pretty big deal in the online science community, writing a blog called "It's Not Rocket Science" with over 10 million hits since he began writing it. We were also talked about on BBC Radio! Here is a link to the podcast, in which they begin discussing our project around the 6 minute and 10 second mark: http://drmolecule.org/2012/10/23/organellewars-a-fun-school-project-in-cell-biology/.
This experience has by far been the most incredible experience of my fifteen year teaching career. To have your children (my students) interacting with experts from around the world and to be excited about learning about the Golgi Apparatus is unbelievable.
Needless to say, last week was dedicated almost entirely to working on our project. I extended the deadline for the project until Monday, so Monday will be spent with the students giving presentations to persuade people to vote for their cell organelle. Tuesday we will be finishing watching a BBC special on the cell that premiered in Europe last Sunday, and then was sent to me by one of the biologists after he was able to obtain a copy of it from a contact of his at the BBC. Wednesday, Halloween, or, should I say, Cell-o-ween, will be voting day for the organelles. The voting will be online by class period. Following voting, we will begin a lab project investigating how materials move into and out of cells. We will be placing an egg in 150 mL of vinegar. We will be measuring the mass of the egg before we begin, and measuring the mass of the egg each day thereafter throughout the course of this several day project. After the lab is set up, I will be lecturing about the structure of the plasma membrane. There will be no homework on Wednesday. Thursday we will take a look at our eggs to see if there has been a change after soaking in vinegar overnight. Then we will run a second lab investigating osmosis and diffusion. We will use a semipermeable bag that allows some materials to pass through it, but not others. The bag will have starch, protein, and glucose inside of it, and we will use the chemical indicator tests we learned during our biochemistry unit to determine which molecules can and cannot pass through the bag. While the bags are sitting, the students will be looking at red onion under the microscope, first in distilled water, and then in salt water. For homework, the students will be watching a video lecture I will be putting together explaining the processes of passive and active transport. On Friday, we will be placing our eggs in Karo corn syrup to sit over the weekend. Following this activity, we will be completing the questions in the semipermeable bag and red onion lab, and then observing two groups of celery and carrots. One of them will have been sitting in distilled water overnight, and one in salt water. We will then discuss the results of those experiments. Homework over the weekend will be to begin studying for our test on cells, which will probably be the following Tuesday.
Have a great week everybody! I cannot pick a geek of the week this week because all of the students have been doing a tremendous job on their projects, and I just don't want anyone to be upset that they did not get chosen. I have been truly impressed by the effort from almost every student in class on this project!