In My Classroom – #3

Thanks to a little idea from Brad I thought I would try something with my AP Biology students this week that I saw him try with his BIO 100 students at KU earlier.

We’re currently marching our way through the mind-bending terror that is protein synthesis. So we’ve gone over the whole process a bit but to make sure we were not getting lost in the details I gave them this:

Blank central dogma 1Blank central dogma 2

Two different models of the same process. Nothing earth-shatteringly innovative but how I framed it and worked with it was unique to me. I didn’t just say it was a worksheet to complete. I framed it as 2 different models of the same process. If they wanted to use the picture in their book that was ok because the diagram in their Campbell book also looked different. What I was surprised with was how much students struggle translating [pun] knowledge across models. Students struggled with labeling processes versus structures, labeling the same structure that was differently drawn in two models, and especially when one model added or removed details (like introns and exons).

The other cool part was that afterwards when students shared their answers on the board, they had lengthy discussion about what was “right”. For example, two students argued whether the 4th answer from the top was “pre-mRNA” or “mRNA” and explained why they thought that. After looking to me I shared that by their explanations both could be right. That’s what I think was cool, students argued different answers where with the proper explanations, either could be right. So because of that, I would avoid giving an “word bank”.

Also, at the very end I created a list on the board titled “limitations” and I had them share what was limiting about these diagrams. Some thoughts were “no nucleotides were shown entering RNA polymerase”, “no other cell components were shown”, “the ribosome on top only had room for one tRNA”, “no mRNA cap or tail were shown”, and many more.

I found this exercise useful because I struggle giving students modeling opportunities (especially non-physical ones) and this was a simple way for students to get practice comparing/contrasting models while also discussing the usefulness and limitations of them.

Alright, for the 4th installment I nominate el presidente himself, Noah Busch.

In My Classroom – #2

This year I am actually not teaching a general biology course, so my classroom materials this year will be mainly focused on my Forensic Biotechnology course…

Anyway, currently we are covering fingerprint individualization, so I have been using a cool activity to get students to analyze their own prints.

IMG_1492

The kids blow a ballon up just enough to hold its shape and place a fingerprint on the minimally expanded rubber. When they blow up the ballon the rest of the way – PRESTO – enlarged fingerprint! At this point I have students mark the minutiae points that individualize their fingerprints. It is an easy and cool way to give students prints that are easy to analyze.

I’ll send the challenge over to Camden Burton.

 

 

In My Classroom – #1

Some of us spoke at the KABT Executive Meeting this year about a new segment that I’d like to introduce: In My Classroom. This is a segment that will post about every two weeks from a new member. In 250 words or less, share one thing that you are currently doing in your classroom. That’s it.

The idea is that we all do cool stuff in our rooms, and to some people there have been cool things so long that it feels like they are old news. In this segment, if you are tagged all you need to do is share something you’ve done in your classroom in the last two weeks. It must be recent, but that’s it. If you are tagged, you’ve got two weeks to post your entry. Who knows… your supposedly mundane idea, lesson, or lab might be exactly what someone else really needs. Keep it brief, keep it honest about the time window, and share it out! Here we go:

Last week I built a new method for selecting study plots during field ecology work. The content isn’t close for my students, but I tested the build and sure enough I think I like it.

Twine, wooden dowel, masking tape, and pennies.
Twine, wooden dowel, masking tape, and pennies.

Twine that is 56.4cm long will trace a circle with an area of 1.00m^2. Add 2cm to use to attach the twine to one end of 10cm of dowel, and tape a few pennies a couple centimeters from the other end to weight the dart properly. Now it throws straight and true, with the weight and the twine tail making it a “sampling dart”. Wherever it lands, draw the circle and count your organisms.

It solves the problem of making random(ish) samples in an area, plus it makes it easier for students to measure out 1m^2 study plots.

That’s it for me, so Chris Elniff is on the clock!