Model Building and Building on Models

I make my students build and use models on a daily basis in my classrooms. I think that I have a better than average grasp on the Next Generation Science Standards, their practice and three-dimensional lesson planning. But I have apparently never thought to throw a bunch of vocabulary words at my students and give them the time to really struggle to connect them into a cohesive model with their groups.  And at the end of a session on Cognitive Models, presented by AP/IB Biology teachers Lee Ferguson and Ryan Reardon, that is exactly what we did.

nabtmodel

To start, the instructions were sparse: Create connections and uncover relationships between pancreatic β-cells and photosynthesis. My group was made up of six other AP Biology teachers from 4 states, none of us with any idea where to start. There was some discussion about the significance of the color of each card, which it ends up wasn’t important… there just wasn’t time to sort them before the session.  We eventually found the word “Metabolism”, which we all agreed was the one thing that all the cards shared. From there, we tried to make shorter stacks of cards that were related. For example, “Hyperglycemia”, “Blood sugar rises”, and “insulin”.

Once we had all the cards grouped, we tried to place them into a pseudo-concept map. In our classrooms, I would have probably done this on a big whiteboard so we could draw arrows and write connecting terms, but my group guess that the Sheridan didn’t want us writing on their table cloths. 🙂  As we went, we had to stop and rearrange our map several times and each time we edited the map, members of the group were justifying why some cards had to stay or move.  It was a really great conversation and I learned some things about feedback loops that I don’t think I had ever known.

At the end of the process, we were encouraged to go look at what the other tables had put together and reflect on our map. To my surprise, none of the other groups had anything resembling our model. Talking to some of the other groups, I don’t think that anyone had a model that I think failed to achieve the original objective. It was really a powerful reminder that students, no matter the amount of information they may possess, each approach a problem from a unique viewpoint. And when you have people put together information, even people that all know “the right answer”, there are many ways to arrive at that conclusion.

Needless to say, next week when we start preparing for our next test in my 9th grade Biology class, my students are getting a stack of 3×5 cards tossed on to their tables. I can’t wait to hear their conversations and see what they create!

This post is part of a series of posts from KABT members reflecting on some of the most important things they’ll bring back into their classrooms from the NABT 2016 Professional Development Conference.

Nominate an outstanding biology teacher for the KS OBTA!

Know someone that deserves recognition for all the amazing things they do to help Kansas students better learn and understand biology? Nominate them to be the Kansas winner of the National Association of Biology Teachers “Outstanding Biology Teacher Award”. Beside the recognition as being one of the best examples of what a Biology teacher is and should be, there are a number of other perks associated with the award, including an NABT membership and gear from science education supply companies. More information on the 2017 Kansas OBTA can be here: 2017 OBTA criteria.


A Mentoring Program for New AP Biology Educators

From the Editor: I received this message from David Knuffke, moderator of the AP Biology teacher community, and all-around Rock Star-level educator. As someone who was new to AP Biology in the not-so-distant past, I will vouch for the benefit of such a program. I, luckily, kept my head above water long enough to produce/modify the resources I needed reach the high expectations from the College Board, my administrators, and students. However, many do not, and are miserable. We absolutely do NOT need to be losing  good teacher to stress. If you have any questions about this program, teaching AP Biology, or anything at all, please reach out to us here at askKABT@gmail.com. Happy Holidays, and have a great Finals Week!   -Drew Ising 

Hi friends,

One of the major issues that I hear about (from new AP teachers and veterans) is that some of the structure that the CB has in place (e.g. the Teacher Community) can be a bit overwhelming.

One initiative we are interested in working towards is the establishment of a mentor network for new AP Bio teachers. Robin Groch has volunteered to serve as the point person for this project. We envision a pretty casual mentoring relationship between a new teacher and a veteran mentor. At the same time, we aren’t clear if this is something that is tenable, and won’t know for sure until we see what kind of interest there is in serving as a mentor among our veterans. In that vein, we have created a form for anyone who is interested in serving as a mentor to fill out. Once we have a handle on the number of veteran teachers who are willing to do this, we hope that we will have a great pool of people to connect to new AP Bio teachers. This is very much an interest assessment form. By filling it out, you are NOT committing to actually becoming a mentor, should the project move forward.

As far as I’m concerned, outside of a certain weekly conversation that I have, my role as a district mentor is incredibly rewarding and helpful for my own practice. I hope many of the talented AP Bio teachers on this listserv might consider signing up to serve in a mentoring capacity. I think we have a pretty great opportunity to help new AP Bio teachers get more comfortable.

Here is a link to the mentoring interest form:http://goo.gl/forms/QRmVDVPiWi

David Knuffke
Deer Park, NY

http://www.mrknuffke.net
@DavidKnuffke

Notes from NABT 2015

Writing from a hotel room in beautiful Rhode Island, I am here to bring you two things:

  1. Here is a Google Doc with collaborative notes from this year’s NABT conference. A couple notes about it:
    • While some of my notes are there, it really is due to the large collective effort of my peers in the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation (next summer, please consider asking new teachers to apply who are currently in, or about to be entering, their first year of teaching) who helped create and contribute to this document. Note-taking styles may be unique but still very well done.
    • It is not exhaustive, we went to sessions that interested us most, if it’s not on there, we didn’t see it and therefore have no notes.
    • I appreciated ANY FEEDBACK about this document and process. I think it could be cool for others to consider using similar notes for NSTA, KABT, KATS, etc.
  2. For a bonus I’ve included an ID Challenge all the way from the Atlantic Ocean.

IMG_8951

Enjoy!

Now Accepting Applications: 2015 Outstanding Biology Teacher of Kansas

Every ye2014 OBTA trophy 2ar, the Outstanding Biology Teacher Award (OBTA) program attempts to recognize an outstanding biology educator (grades 7-12 only) in each of the 50 states; Washington, DC; Canada; Puerto Rico; and overseas territories.

Candidates for this award do not have to be NABT members, but they must have at least three years of public, private, or parochial school teaching experience. A major portion of the nominee’s career must have been devoted to the teaching of biology/life science, and candidates are judged on their teaching ability and experience, cooperativeness in the school and community, inventiveness, initiative, and student-teacher relationships.

OBTA recipients are special guests of Carolina Biology Supply Company at the Honors Luncheon held at the NABT Professional Development Conference, receive gift certificates from Carolina Biological Supply Company, resources from other sponsors, and award certificates and complimentary one-year membership f2014 OBTA trophyrom NABT.

Our Kansas state chapter of NABT, supports this award each year. A committee of biology/life science teachers from across the state determine the 2015 OBTA.

You may self-nominate by completing the requirements found here:  OBTA requirements_2015
Or
Nominate a colleague by forwarding him/her the attached information OR email the OBTA director, Kelley Tuel (kelley@tuel.us), with his/her contact information. The director will send your nominee the application requirements.