THIS June 1, 2, and 3 KABT will be traveling to Roaring River State Park. To make your camping reservations go to www.mostateparks.com and click on Make Your Reservation Now or call (877) 422-6766. Campground #2 still has the following campsites open as of this post: 106, 108, 110, 111, and a bit further away are the double sites 91/92 and 87/88. KABT members have reserved Site 115 and 116 on Campground 2 thus far. On each site 2 tents or 1 pop-up and 1 tent with a maximum of 6 people and two cars at each site. Go to their web site and look at Campsite Capacity if you have any questions. If Campground #2 is full then you can try to make reservations at Campground #1 or for those of you that don’t mind living on the edge you can go to Campground #3 on arrival, which has first come/first serve sites. To view campsites click on Research Your Campsite.

For those of you that would rather not camp visit this site for a room or a cabin. Http://www.roaringriverresort.com

Itinerary will include fishing, hiking, and canoeing. The Nature Center is near the campsite as well! I am trying to schedule a tour of the hatchery and will then post a more detailed itinerary. Email me at jstilesoe@olatheschools.com if you have any questions.

PLEASE COMMENT ON THIS POST if you are planning on coming and if you would like to canoe. I am waiting to make reservations to canoe until I hear from a few more individuals. Thanks!

Where we end up.

Yesterday I was involved in another interesting conversation about what student should know. The conversation unfortunately centered on K-12 preparing students for college and/or further work in mathematics and science. I say unfortunately because it is my opinion that by grade 12 all students should be fully prepare for a wide array of choices that life might bring – only one of those choices might be college. That fact is that is that 94% of high school students say they want to attend college, 75% actually do within two years of high school graduation, 67% immediately upon graduation. The back side of these numbers indicates that this may not be the best choice for most students. Of students who begin high school, fewer than 30% will have a baccalaureate degree twelve years later, while 20% will not have finished high school.

Doing more work in mathematics and science is the work of the University and preparation for research careers is the focus of the Graduate Studies. We tend to think myopically of what students need from K-12 education to be prepared for us. I guess that the question that comes to my mind is what we are preparing these students to face upon their graduation, two or three years in their future.


I’m posting this info for Randy who is unable to attend and present at the 2007 KATS KAMP KABT thread. Randy was going to share a number of resources that he has tried out and found effective in his biotech courses and in AP Biology that deal with microarrays. These include:

Web animations such as this one from Malcolm Campbell at Davidson (click on the screen shot):

Microarray animation

Virtual Labs like this one from the Genetic Science Learning Center in Utah (click on the screen shot):

Virtual Lab

Select the BEOP link for teaching materials. (Student materials and answers)

BEOP Microarray paper by Carolyn A. Zanta, UIUC-HHMI Biotechnology Education and Outreach Program (BEOP)

And finally two papers:

Microarrays made simple: “DNA chips” paper activity, by Betsy Barnard from the online component of the American Biology Teacher, March, 2006. You’ll need to be an NABT member to access this link.

DNA Microarray Wet Lab Simulation Brings Genomics into the High School Curriculum, A. Malcolm Campbell, Carolyn A. Zanta, Laurie, J. Heyer, Ben Kittinger, Katleen M. Babric and Leslie Adler, CBE–Life Science Education, vol. 5, 332-339, Winter 2006


Now is the time…

When I was teaching, late spring was always one of my favorite times in the classroom. Despite trying to fit in all of the fine arts programs and rehearsals, despite trying to cope with the scheduling lunacy of spring sports and despite seniors losing focus on the end prize I enjoyed planning and getting ready for next year. Maybe the renewal evidenced in nature was reflected in my own thinking about teaching. Or maybe with the nearly annual disappointment of KU not quite achieving a national championship in men’s basketball, it’s the always positive sports fan in me saying “Wait till next year”. Whatever the reason, spring is the time that I took stock in the past year’s curriculum successes and failures and then planned for next year’s classes. And I always found it rejuvenating—even more so, than starting school.

Teaching biology in high school is similar to going on a ski trip or canoe float. You make choices about slopes or rivers that match your expertise and resources available. You’ll probably push both a little bit because that is what make these things fun. You do the same preparing for next year’s classes—they are unknown until you actually meet them but you can select curriculum, scaffold your delivery and match your resources that are available. And like skiing or canoeing, once the class year begins there is simply not much time for any more planning—you just go along for the ride.

So now is the time to make next year’s teaching a success. Think about what worked this year. Ideally, you have been collecting data that will help you design next year’s course. At the very least review the topics covered and test scores your students earned each grading period to help inform your design.

My plan is to follow this post with more detailed posts that describe how I planned for the next year. Please understand, I certainly do not consider myself an expert planner—or even an expert teacher but over the years I’ve had many teachers ask me how I really did get ready for school. My goal then is that this thread of posts will serve as a starting point and maybe encourage your spring time planning…..


More on the Macaque Genome papers

AAAS has sent the following to interested educators:
Science Macaque Genome

In conjuction with the publication of the genome sequence of the rhesus macaque in the 13 April edition of Science, we have created a special online collection. It includes an interactive poster with images, video and text, and a corresponding lesson plan for use in high school classrooms, which delves into evolutionary biology and what can be learned from the genome of the macaque — one of biology’s most important model organisms. Access to the online extras, as well as to the genome papers themselves, is free to all visitors to www.sciencemag.org. Please share this information with anyone who might find it useful. Go to the special online collection for the macaque genome.

You get free access to the papers, a poster and teacher guides, here…check it out.


Evolutionary Adaptation

There are any number of essays that work to explain the evolutionary process. An exceptionally well done essay recently appeared on Richard Dawkins’ website by retired evolutionary biologist, Carl Bajema. This essay cogently describes the relationship of the random or undirected processes of genetic variation and the environmentally directed processes of sexual and natural selection. Check out this essay next time you are preparing your evolution lessons. It will really help you zero in on the the important points. From the essay:

The modern version of Darwinian selection theory states that the adaptive evolution is a two step process that occurs every generation—(1) the production of blind genetic variation and (2) the selective multiplication and recombination of genes by the ecologically directed processes of natural and sexual selection. That is, Natural/sexual selection is the set of environmentally directed adaptive processes that are superimposed on the undirected processes that cause genetic mutations. Natural/Sexual selection selectively multiplies adaptive genes and selectively recombines them each generation.

You’ll find the entire essay at Jon Wilkens’ Evolving Thoughts Blog.


Miller-Urey Experiment Redux

Jonathon Wells from the Discovery Institute and supporter of Intelligent design has suggested in his criticisms that science and particularly science textbooks are essentially dishonest in their presentation of the famous Miller-Urey experiment that investigated if organic molecules could arise spontaneously in earth’s early abiotic conditions as understood at the time. Our understanding of the early conditions of the atmosphere are different than they were when Miller and Urey worked out their experiment. Most biology texts do not spend a lot of text trying to cover the various hypotheses about the origin of life. The limited coverage is more of a synopsis and description of science in action and I’ve never seen this material presented as anything but a work in progress. However, it is a truly a sore point for the anti-evolution crowd.

Here is a recent update specific to the Miller-Urey experiment from PvM at Panda’s Thumb.

More on Mammal Evolution

With the Cenozoic fossil record in Nebraska and some parts of Kansas, I would think that using mammal evolution as a theme in evolution might be a good strategy in our part of the country. Lots of good details.

Earlier, I reported that a paper in Nature would, perhaps, change our understanding on mammalian origins. Naturally, proponents of Intelligent Design and others in the anti-science crowd have tried to co-opt this research to imply that evolutionary theory is obviously flawed.

Here is a nice follow-up and critique by Nick Matzke from NCSE on Panda’s Thumb.


Analogies in Biology teaching

One of the essential tools in a biology teacher’s tool kit is the analogy. Analogies help students to form their own, personal biological concepts within a more familiar context. Analogies are truly a double-edged sword, (using an analogy to describe the use of analogy.) On one hand they help students to acquire and build their knowledge and understanding but on the other hand they invariably lead to the acquisition of some level of misconception. This negative aspect of analogy is particularly true when working with students just beginning their journeys (another analogy.) Teaching with analogies is a balancing affair. A teacher needs to present the analogy to begin the discussion but also follow up with a discussion of the limits of the analogy.

For a teacher just finding a starting analogy can be a challenge. Here’s two:

Today, I came across a great analogy describing the mechanism of cell receptors and flu viral infection at Effect Measure blog.

Earlier I came across one of the better analogies I’ve seen for describing the developmental toolkit at PZ Meyer’s Pharyngula blog.