New AP Bio – It works!

Who Knew?

The change in the AP Biology curriculum brought fear and trepidation into the hearts of many an AP teacher.  Okay, maybe that’s a bit melodramatic, but the truth is, many of us that have been in the trenches a year or two – and probably some newbies as well – have had at least one or two sleepless nights about changes in pacing and shifts in lab methodology.

I would like to share with you the beginning of what I feel sure is going to be a success story. – one that affirms the positiveness of the change to the AP program.

I teach on a true block schedule so I just got my AP kiddos in January.  Being the rule follower that I am, I dutifully started our semester with the Wisconsin Fast Plant lab, asking my students to identify one quantifiable trait that we could manipulate to cause a directional shift in the population. (I start with evolution)

That went all fine and well, but what’s cool is what came out of that lab.  As my students discussed various traits, they began to develop some independent questions that were – gasp! – testable.  Admittedly, I was a little slow on the uptake.  I was so focused on the first part of the lab that I ALMOST let those questions drift into cyber-land somewhere.  As I was thinking about it one night, it dawned on me – there are our semester research projects!

So, I announced to the class that that’s exactly what we would be doing, and lets go!  Do the research, write the procedure, set up the lab……they better get busy.  They were excited…..well, until they hit their first road block, which was immediately.  Small stall – maybe Mrs. R would forget about this project ….  Rats! Procedure due by the end of the week.  Okay.  Work through problem, do some research, hit the next problem.  And it continues……

Honestly, it is a beautiful thing to watch.  These kids have taken ownership and are running their own investigations.  They’re learning that research is tougher and more time consuming than they thought.  They’re worried they might not get good data (which they probably won’t) and then what?  They’re losing plants because of poor watering system design, they’re confused on how to mix chemical solutions, they don’t know how long to expose seeds to UV light, they don’t know how to hold temperature constant………well, you get the idea.

And yet, they’re doing it!  They’re making their own mistakes, and then figuring out how to fix them.  They’re working in teams and participating in a collaborative effort.  I essentially sit in the lab with them and watch them work.  I don’t know if their data will be good enough to draw valid conclusions, but I DO know the experience is worthwhile and valuable – better than any perfect results from a cookbook lab.  I love it!!

Stay tuned……I will report as the semester continues!


KATS Kamp Scholarships

KCFS KATS Kamp Scholarships

Kansas Citizens for Science, a long time partner with KATS, announces scholarships of $100 to be awarded to attendees for KATS Kamp this spring.

We want to provide the opportunity for increased numbers of K-12 teachers to attend. After several years of tight budgets, fewer and fewer districts are willing or able to subsidize attendance at Kamp.

Early career teachers who have district/building mentors are encouraged to have their mentors apply also. If an early career teacher is awarded a scholarship, their mentor will receive one also. We want such teams to be able to work together at Kamp. An early career teacher may, of course, apply even if no mentor applies.

KCFS will provide scholarships based on the following criteria:
Teachers who will be first time Kamp attendees.
Early career teachers.
Teachers whose district provides no support for attendance.
Teachers who will agree to attend one of the sessions sponsored by KCFS
District/building mentors of early career teachers

Award recipients will be expected to apply knowledge obtained at Kamp in their classroom.

Applicants do not have to meet all the above criteria, but these are the criteria which will be used to determine scholarship recipients.

Applications may be downloaded from the the KATS website or from Applications should be sent by email to Harry McDonald, KCFS President,, by March 10.

Recipients will be contacted by March 17 by email.

Recipients will be credited $100 when they pay for their Kamp registration.

KCFS KATS Kamp Scholarship

Name ______________________________________________

Email address _______________________________________

School _____________________________________________

Grade/Subject taught _________________________________

Attended Kamp before Yes ______ No ______

Number of years teaching _____________________________

My district provides help with registration fees Yes ___ No ___

I agree to attend at least one of the KCFS-sponsored sessions at Kamp Yes _____ No _____

If you are in your first three years of teaching and have a mentor who is also applying, please name your mentor. If you receive a scholarship, so will your mentor.

What I hope to learn by attending KATS Kamp:

Submit by Mar. 10
Email to:

Johnson County Science Cafe

Johnson County Science Cafe’

Ice Sheets, Remote Sensing and Living and Working in Antarctica

Speakers: Brandon Gillette, working on PhD from KU in environmental geography
Date: February 12, 2013

Time: 6:30 pm

Location: Coaches Bar and Grill, 9089 W. 135th Street, one block west of 135th and Antioch, south side of 135th St.

Brandon Gillette has worked at the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS) since 2010, a center dedicated to understanding the current and future role of ice sheets in a changing climate. Through his work in education outreach, he has traveled to Antarctica 3 times. Here he will discuss some of the current CReSIS research, as well as some of the challenges and surprises that arise from living and working in this extreme environment.

Bio: Brandon received his Bachelor’s and Master’s in Education from the University of Kansas. He spent 5 years in the classroom teaching a variety of earth/space sciences. He has led student trips from Florida to Wyoming, and Texas to Washington DC. He is currently a PhD student at KU in environmental geography.

For more information: