Sunday, December 20, 2015

Inquiry/Research-Based Bio Strand

This was my first time teaching the Grade 10 Academic Science in about 4 years. Since that time my teaching styles and philosophy have changed quite a bit. As many of you know I implemented a flipped model in most of my classes - my primary goal being to help students to be active learners (if they do the work, they do the learning), become better independent learners, and to seek more time for collaborative problem solving. But when it came closer to time to start the Biology unit for this course I wanted something different, so I tried to seek a more project/inquiry-based method.

In large part I wanted to make this change from my usual methods for motivation. Biology is not my strong suit (I did not even take Gr 11 bio when I was in high school) and the last time I taught this involved too many power points. I wanted to motivate myself and, in turn, motivate my students to grasp the bigger picture. This really gave me a chance to remind them to focus on the overarching learning goals of the course so they will leave my course with a better understanding of the bigger picture.

A big part of the overall idea was to design the unit backward. To START with the big picture and END with the cell. I hoped to give students a better grasp of how parts work to create a whole (one of our overarching learning goals for the course).

Here is what we did:

Day 1: Intro to "The Whole" of a Living Thing
I had students do an inquiry as a group. Each group got a question such as "How does a long-distance run affect the systems of a human body" and had most o the period to do research. They then shared what they discovered with the class before the bell.

Day 2-3: Frog Dissection
Students worked through a procedure to dissect a frog (based on one I found on the net supported by some online video instruction that I showed in stages for the class). A couple of students opted to work through a virtual dissection in class instead on day 2. They had to document their dissection on the class OneNote file.

Day 4-8: Importance of Organ Systems (Debate)
This was also based on something I found on the net. Students were split into 11 groups to cover all of the human system. Each pair did some research about their system to discover what organs were involved, the role of each organ, the overall importance of the system, and a "slogan" for their system. We used butcher paper to do a life-sized diagram of the system with all of the necessary info and then students decided to post and do a gallery walk as their "opening argument" instead of a 5 minute share. Then they prepared a rebuttal supporting their system and presented that to the class. Finally students voted on which system was the most important to the survival of the human species. I ended up having them submit a paragraph about this to support, gave them feedback, and then used the same question on their unit test.

Day 9: Tissue Function
Each student was assigned a specific tissue (assorted between the 4 main types of plant and animal tissues so all would be covered) and had to do some research to complete a template of relatively basic information. Some were more challenging than others. They then had to walk around and figure out who their partner/group was which I verified for them to make sure they were in their ajor tissue group (i.e. all the epidermal together, etc) and then find why they were grouped to complete the next section. Then I grouped an animal group and a plant group together that have similar functions and they had to figure out why I paired them. Finally they grouped as all plant or all animal to look at how the tissues work together.

6 Days of Work Periods Throughout: STSE Bio Technology Project
Students started a major project. They had to work in pairs to: Do a topic proposal (that had to support the Overarching Learning Goal - related to society and/or the environment); Complete secondary research; Propose, create and carry-out primary research; and, Finally, propose and carry-out an action to educate a target group about their topic based on their research. At the end they also had to do a reflection to share their learning and to help me reflect on the project itself to see how valuable it really was in the end. (I have yet to look at these.)

Day 10: Cell Parts and Functions
I created a sheet to fill in to label cell parts and record their functions. A table was either assigned the plant or the animal cell to look at. They also had to create an analogy for their assigned cell and justify what each of the parts were within the analogy. The following day they made sure they had both plant and animal recorded on their sheets.

Day 11: Microscopes
Students got introduced to the parts of the microscope and basic skills for use. They then completed a "letter e" lab to build the actual skills and start doing biological drawings.

Day 12: Mitosis
Students completed a worksheet/note on the cell cycle, focusing on Mitosis and watched a video and animation.

Day 13-14: Mitosis/Biological Drawings
Used microscopes to identify the stages of mitosis and draw the stages (summative assignment).

Day 15: Stem/Specialized Cells & Cancerous vs Normal Cells
Students used videos, research, and notes to make sure they understood what the above ideas were.

Remaining summatives were a unit test (focused on learning goals published) and the presentaions of their STSE projects/actions with the rest of the class.

There are definitely things in this unit that I will reuse if I end up teaching the course again. It was definitely more engaging for me and students seemed to enjoy it - and the end results showed an improved understanding of the overarching learning goals - so I would say "mission accomplished."

I am happy to share any of the above lessons if you are interested in anything. And also am open to ideas, suggestions, comments or questions that you may have. Please post below :)

1 comment:

  1. Heather love that you are journeying to the dark side; inquiry. Actually it is more of the light. I live that the students did most of the investigations and you facilitated the learning. They work collaboratively and most likely learned more then watch PowerPoint.

    Was wondering a couple of things (which may or may not work in High School).

    1) is it possible to open it up even more. For me I like to start with a big question/ problem to solve in my unit. Is there a real world problem in biology that they kids can demonstrate their learning? (Sorry my knowledge of biology is limited)

    I wonder this because I see a lot of similarities in your days just wondering if some of these skills can be put together. I also recently read the best way to test knowledge is to have students use it in a different setting.

    2) if this is not possible was thinking: have students do a collaborative slide presentation, review movie, or something to get the content down and then move into a project.

    Basically following your flip model have them do the research for it all create something interactive to showcase what they learned as a group for the class and then have them demonstrate that learning with a big project. This is where google or our one drive comes in handy.

    Again I really love that in High School are doing this as it shows me it works in all levels of Education. Also think that it is the way of our students need to go in order to survive the future.