NSTA 2014 – Ideas and Resources

As I sit here among the clouds, thousands of feet in the air speeding back toward the central time zone, I am reflecting upon my time spent in Boston.  The NSTA national conference has drawn to a close and I am making the realization that I have accumulated several exciting ideas that I hope to implement in my classroom over the next year.  Perhaps some of you would be interested in adapting these things for use in your classroom as well.

Epigenetics in Arabidopsis

This is probably one of the most exciting resources for me in this year’s sessions.  A presenter from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories shared an experiment that uses several procedures to elucidate epigenetic regulation of the FWA gene in Arabidopsis thaliana.  The gene is heavily methylated in the wild type phenotype, which leads to normal flowering.  The FWA-1 mutant has delayed flowering by a couple weeks, and results from only a lack of silencing at this locus.

The presentation showed resources for growing both phenotypes in the lab and capturing the difference in time lapse (more on this later).  She then went on to show how DNA isolation, PCR, and electrophoresis can be used to show there is only a difference in epigenetic regulation and zero difference in base pair sequence.  This hits my biotechnology objectives in AP Biology in a fantastic, and coherent, way that I have not achieved before.  I even plan to loop my BLAST work in with this experiment, likely as a chance to spiral rather than as primary exposure to the tool.

The kits are sold through Carolina (and likely other suppliers) and a link to the lab manual the presenter shared can be found here.

Arabidopsis thaliana – Wikimedia Commons

Time Lapse in the Classroom

I left the above presentation wondering how I could have my students create their own time lapse videos instead of using the existing videos (which there are, and they’re great by the way).  Enter a session on time lapse videos in the classroom.  A few tricks and an inexpensive resource with a free option make me believe I can actually start doing this with all my students.

Lapse it is the app I found to be the option I am interested in using.  The free features are great, and the pro version is only two bucks and you get all the functionality you could want.  Use some dedicated counter space to allow students to setup their planters and have them use tape to define the corners of their shots.  Each day they can use an iPad, phone, or basic camera to take the same photo each day of their plants.  The pro version of Lapse it will stich all those photos together into a video using any frame rate you choose.  The free version can capture the video within the app, but something this long term will likely need the pro version.

I’m thinking the free version would be great for shooting a lab procedure at some point.  Using ring stands and clamps students can setup an iPad or phone to capture a picture every so often (maybe every 5 or 10 seconds) as they conduct a lab.  In the end they’ll have a brief video of their procedure they could use for peer review or replication by a partner classroom.  If anyone is interested in trying the replication route, let me know!

Biology Rocks

The last session I’m pretty excited about was my own.  While I have been fired up about this content for a while, what makes this worth including now is the 100% redesign of our website.  We are making all our resources available for free, because we want to ensure every teacher that wants lab guides and resources can use them regardless of the financial means of their district.  All the digital resources are free, and even the print resources are now available even lower than our cost.  I’m super excited about this change, and I hope you all are too.  You can find all our stuff at biologyrocks.org.

There was much more available at NSTA than I saw, so I’d be interested to hear from others that were able to attend.  Did you see anything in other sessions that changed your perspective or solved a problem?  NSTA in Boston is over, but the collaboration doesn’t have to be!  Chime in, and let’s get a dialogue started.




One thought on “NSTA 2014 – Ideas and Resources”

  1. Just a note on time-lapse. For those who have a Ken-A-Vision camera, probably a videoflex which is new enough to be digital, their software (free download from their website) has a time-lapse function which does exactly what you describe. BTW, if you have an old, analog videoflex and would like to join the digital world, you can buy a digital adapter from KAV for about $120. Somewhat costly, but cheaper than buying a new camera.

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