Of Hearts and Bones

Many days there is a part of me that is saddened by the reality that I am no longer the interesting rookie teacher running around the school. There was a time when people were shocked that I'd been able to accomplish some significant things in the short 3-4 years I had been on the job. Now that year 7 is upon me, people are no longer shocked. They may think that some interesting things are going down in my classroom, but rarely are the awed that I've ONLY been teaching X number of years. As the years of experience begin to stack up on my district records I am coming to understand the direct correlation between experience and the quality of the classes that you teach.

I've had charge of an AP Biology class every year since my second year on the job. In that time I've had really good pass rates on the AP Exam and really bad pass rates on the exam. I've seen the curriculum be dramatically revamped (for the better) and I've been to more than a couple of professional development sessions. I've lectured for hours and I've not lectured at all. I've done tons of labs and I've done almost 0 labs. Through all of that, the one constant in my class has been change. I've found that my AP Bio curriculum is under constant revision. Only once (the flipping of my classroom), however, have I dramatically changed course. Rather each iteration involves small tweaks here or there. This year, I am beginning to realize that each successive round of modification takes the class deeper into more rigorous/interesting material.

Case in point, the central dogma of biology. For the previous 4 years I've taught this section of the curriculum as most general bio teachers would; with a heavy focus on the transcription and translation portion. This year, it finally dawned on me that transcription and translation are simply a foundation for the vastly more interesting and nuanced topic of gene expression. The only reason that we care about transcription and translation is the simple fact that they are the mechanism through which our genetic material is turned on and off in such a way that, though all of our cells have identical DNA, there are thousands of different cell types in our body. Cells as different as hearts are from bones. With this epiphany in mind, I have been able to begin taking my class down a path much more interesting than the simple dogma. No longer are we looking at the how, using some rad tools from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute we've been able to explore some of the mechanisms that make the world such a unique place.

My hope is that as I move further away from the days of being the hotshot, young teacher in the school I will move ever deeper into my curriculum; pulling my students down into a world that is so much more interesting than simple mechanisms or nitrogenous base pairing. With these ideas in mind, I'll take a moment and hand the scree off to this week's weekly reporters. Kayla Whitt and Yesenia Leon.

Kayla Begins:

During the week of October 13-17, many thingshappened in Mr. Kite’s class, all of which focused on how genes are passed through families and what the probabilities of getting a disease were for a given situation. On Monday, we learned about the proper way to construct a pedigree chart and how to indicate which people (males or females) were carriers or affected by different inherited diseases.

On Tuesday, we put an exciting twist on math by comparing the frequency of M&M colors in our certain bag to the data presented by the official M&M makers, themselves. By looking at the observed data and expected data, we were able to rule M&M’s data as not always correct in that some of our numbers were very opposite to that of theirs. All of our calculations centered around using the methods of the chi-square equation and Standard Deviation.

Wednesday, we got a little more practice with the two. On Thursday, the class did a case study on the royal family and their problems with hemophilia. Using a very large pedigree chart of the royal family, pairs mapped the spread of hemophilia down the line of the family. In this exercise, we learned about the characteristics of sex-linked diseases and how they are passed through families.

In order to learn about Chromosomal disorders, the class broke off into pairs on Friday and explored their chosen disease. From Sickle Cell Anemia to Down’s Syndrome, each pair was able to effectively research and present their disease, as well as its genetic make-up, to the class in a clear and concise manner. This week in AP Biology was very exciting. After all, who doesn’t love a good excuse to eat chocolate in class?

Yesenia Concludes:

This past week we’ve started a new unit about DNA. We learned how some experiments led to knowing that DNA is responsible for the transmission of genetic information thanks to Griffin, Hershey and Chase experiments. Knowing DNA’s purpose has been an advantage for many as to finding out other sorts of things such as the article “Environmental detectives are using DNA to track invasive species” states. It’s interesting to know that DNA can accomplish a variety of things for example, in the article mentioned it says “Scientists can extract DNA from water samples and look for the fragment of DNA that is the “fingerprint” of the species they are looking for” also they are trying to figure out if DNA is found in water then there must be species present in it as well. DNA can help in so many ways not just in transmitting genetic information but also helping to find out other things. Right now Ebola is a very common topic talked about and because we need to know how Ebola can be prevented they have to know how it arrives and by that they use DNA. So basically DNA is very important and vital to find information about other things and using what we know about it to perform other experiments.

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