Every year for the past three years I've assigned my AP Biology students the writing prompt, "What can science teachers do to increase student interest in science." Needless to say, this assignment has always proven to be ridiculously informative, it's amazing what students will tell you if only you are brave enough to ask. The responses I've received to the assignment are certainly as diverse as my student population, but occassionally common themes appear in their writing. AP Biology, 2014-2015 edition, believes that connections to the real world are of paramount importance. Any teacher who is worth their salt knows that connecting a lesson to a student's experience of the world is the best way to ensure that they will remember the information, but how often do we actually put in the effort required to build that bridge? Unfortunately, some topics lend themselves to organic links more easily than others. Case in point ... my Disease and Society class is currently studying the American Obesity Epidemic while AP Biology is soldiering through cell signaling. Which of those do YOU think feels more real to a student?
I took their admonition to make it real as a personal challenge. It is intensely difficult to help students get their hands around the complexities of cellular machinery, much less to help them connect it to their everyday experience. But, we're trying. Last week we spent quite a bit of time working with our hands through independent liver labs, giant glycolysis models, and lots of peer teaching. Hopefully some of this helped the info to stick, but I feel like I've got so much work to do with regard to figuring out how to help the students make authentic connections between intensely complicated material and the world that they inhabit on a daily basis. I know ... all of that complex stuff is happening inside of their bodies ... somehow, though, it still seems nebulous. We're going to keep working at it. Hopefully through the wisdom of my students I will be able to advance my practice as a teacher.
One of the students that wrote about drawing connections to the real world (Michelle Polanco) is also this week's weekly reporter. Below you will find her account of the week that was. Enjoy!
This week of AP Biology, like every other week, was full of new things to learn with new assignments to complete. Surprisingly, Monday started off fun, with a lab. The lab tested optimal catalase activity. You wouldn’t guess what was used as the enzyme. LIVER! Ew, yes real cow liver. Aside from the foul smell, the oozing liver reacting to the peroxide was pretty cool. On Tuesday, we finished the other half of the lab where we observed how temperature affects catalase activity. What’s a lab without a lab report? The due date was assigned for next Friday. We finished the day with talking about redox reactions. You wouldn’t guess what we had for homework… a VIDEO! The video taught us about glycolysis and the krebs cycle. Wednesday, the molecular model kits were back! We built the different molecules formed in the steps of glycolysis. We marked the important parts of the reaction with sticky notes. This was an interesting and fun way to reinforce what we learned the night before. Thursday, the electron transport chain was covered. Our knowledge was then tested with a concept check. Who doesn’t love those? Finally, the best day of all FRIDAY! We began our second virtual lab about photosynthesis. Even though it is followed with extensive questions, a virtual lab is a great way to visualize things. Well that wraps it up, another week in AP Biology.