Tuesday, May 24, 2016

My Favorite Things, 3rd Edition

Every once in a while, I share a favorite website, book, and podcast that I’ve found useful for teaching science. This article is published in the MnSTA Newsletter and cross-posted here.

Website: HHMI Biointeractive. https://www.hhmi.org/biointeractive

If you are a Biology teacher and have not yet explored HHMI’s Biointeractive website, you will be amazed at the amount of information and number of classroom resources you’ll find there. Offering everything from videos to posters to interactive online labs, HHMI is a treasure chest of Biology-related content. Some of the resources I’ve used in my own Biology classes are the Gorongosa Food Web activity, video clips from The Making of the Fittest, the Neurophysiology Virtual Lab, and the DNA Transcription animation, just to name a few. I appreciate that HHMI is constantly updating the content on this website. If you want to receive weekly bulletins with current science news and the most recent Biointeractive resources, you can sign up for their email newsletter, “Biointeractive News.” All of these resources are offered free of charge to teachers.

Book: Biology Inquiries by Martin Shields.

This is an older book that I don’t open up very much any more, but it was the impetus for quite a few inquiry-based activities that I still use in my current Biology class. The book is divided into subject sections, such as “Science as Inquiry,” “The Cell,” and “Science in Personal and Social Perspectives.” For each of these sections, there are a handful of inquiry-based lessons related to the topic. Each activity lists materials, approximate time requirements, and a lesson outline, as well as including copies of any student handouts. In this way, the lessons are ready to go straight out of the book. However, I found Biology Inquiries to be most valuable as a launching point to consider a topic from a more inquiry-based perspective, then designing my own adaptation of the book’s activity. For example, in the “Interdependence of Organisms” section, there’s an activity entitled, “History of a Carbon Atom,” for which students write a creative story about all the different places a carbon atom could travel. I took this idea and transformed it into an outdoors QR code scavenger hunt that introduces my students to the Carbon Cycle, after which they write about their experiences. If you’re looking for a way to infuse more inquiry into your Biology class, this book is a terrific resource.

Podcast: Science Magazine Podcast from Science Magazine.

Once upon a time, I was lucky enough to have a friend with a subscription to Science. He would give me his old issues when he was done reading them. Eventually, he ended his subscription, and my time for reading journals started dwindling. Then I stumbled upon the Science Magazine Podcast, which I found was an even better solution than waiting for my friend’s old copies. This podcast covers current science research from the Science journal articles as well as other additional topics. It’s usually only 20 to 30 minutes long, so I can fit it in during a short commute, and the host of the podcast (Sarah Crespi) often interviews the scientists behind the journal articles. I find this a much more engaging experience than simply reading the article in the standard format. On the most recent episode I listened to, an experiment that used 3D-printed orchids to isolate pollinating preferences was described in such a fascinating way that I’m considering sharing it with my students to prompt discussion about experimental design. If you don’t already use an app to listen to podcasts, you can also download Science Magazine Podcast episodes online at https://www.sciencemag.org/podcasts

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