The Devices of Memory

For the past several years I've had the pleasure of teaching both AP Bio and AP Environmental. Two years ago the College Board acknowledged the need for revision in the AP Biology curriculum. So, they decided to rewrite the whole thing, focusing on process and thinking over memorization. Not to say that students don't need to know the content (they certainly do), but no longer are students responsible for memorizing all of the enzymes associated with glycolysis or the minute details of the functionings of Parathyroid Hormone. Instead, they've got to learn to think, reason, argue, interpret, etc. Honestly, I think the test become more difficult rather than less difficult as it is now assessing higher order thinking skills.

APES, on the other hand, is still a game of memory. Laws, chemicals, pollutants, geography, global processes, the facts figures and consequences of each must be committed to memory. Students are required to think on the APES exam, but ultimately their answer will be a product of something that they've memorized rather than new information they've had to process on the spot. To that end, it is my job to provide the students with as many ways to memorize and remember the material as possible. They create quizlet sets, we do regular socrative checks, they are responsible for teaching one another on a regular basis. We do it all. One of the most effective activities for remembering the nuances of chemical pollutants is to challenge them to develop a super villain that is characterized by the attributes of a particular pollutant. I developed the activity a couple of years ago and it seems to have been an effective hit ever since.

I mention all of this because both submissions for this week's week in review mention either remembering information or prepping for the AP Exam. So, with that being said, I'll get out of the way and turn the floor over to Llana Abella, Kara Henry, and Jaylin Polanco.

Llana Writes:

In APES this week, we talked about water, air, and their pollutants. We also did several math, AP free-response, and multiple-choice questions since the AP exam is slowly approaching. The class watched a documentary about the impacts of the BP oil spill during the year of 2010. We learned that the plants and animals were not the only ones affected, but the people who lived within the area as well. Their food source was contaminated and many had lost their jobs. In order to help us remember the types of air pollutants, we created our own villains that had the characteristics of our assigned pollutant. For example, my group named our villain Lithica (photochemical oxidants). Lithica only flares up when the sun is out and destroys the respiratory tract of the civilians. Sunny California enrages her. After the groups finished making their own villains, the other groups tried to classify which pollutant correlates with each villain. This really helped the class memorize the effects and characteristics of each air pollutant. Although the class is daunted by the AP exam, our knowledge continues to grow and we are more prepared everyday.

Kara Adds:

During the week of March 31st we learned multiple things, ranging from the types of waste water to what smog and acid rain is. Something that should really stick with us, that involves human activity, is how we effect other nonhuman environments. You ever think that the plastic wrap you through out the window could cause damage to a natural habitat? Well it does, and what's even worse is that we not only effect natural habitats we effect other humans. Another topic that is extremely important is the different acts put in place for water safety, such as, the safe drinking water act and the clean water act. If we didn't have these legislations we as Americans would have a lot of the disease control problems that are occurring overseas. I think it's best that we really meditate on the things that we do and how they not only effect others but also how others have no way of fixing or solving the problem.

Jaylin Concludes:

This week in APES was all about water and air. We talked about pollutants, both chemical and non-chemical pollutants. Some were familiar from previous units such as, lead, mercury, and particulate matter. Every pollutant was harmful to not only the environment, but also the health of humans exposed to them. One of the pollutants that I knew the least about were VOCs. These are organic compounds that vaporize at room temperature, strong smell, and they have a role in ozone formation. Throughout the week, the two most helpful things were the math practice and various strategies to remember the formation of ozone and smog. This was a hard process to memorize, but with the help and creativity of my peers, I’m sure I won’t have any trouble remembering. The math practice completed on Monday was a MAJOR help. Not only did I get another glimpse of how math on the AP Exam will be presented, but I also got the opportunity to improve my math skills. I was glad to see that everyone, including myself has improved in math. We ended of the week with some multiple choice AP practice. Overall, this week was great and much was learned.

To our readers out there, how are you preparing for your AP Exams?