Tiny Zoo

I've observed an interesting phenomenon during my time as a biology teacher. In general, one of the first questions I will be asked by students entering my class is, "When are we going to dissect something?" For some reason students are all about tearing into dead animals. Given their excitment related to dead animals, you would think that they would be even more stoked about live animals. Yet, they aren't. Whenever we do activities that involve live specimens, students suddenly become squeamish. I would think that the situation would be reversed.

Unfortunately, for those jumpy students, my classroom currently resembles a small zoo and botanical garden. AP Bio is working with two different species of plant. One is being used to determine factors that impact transpiration and the other is being use for a selective breeding experiment. AP Environmental is working on two live-specimen experiments at once. The first is a simple trophic efficiency lab wherein students will spend several weeks working to determine how much food is converted to body mass as painted lady butterflies grow. The second experiment is my own hopped-up version of the classic ecochamber lab. I ask my APES students to construct a completely self-sustaining, aquatic environment (essentially a fishbowl), and monitor changes in the environment over the course of a month. Students are not allowed to add or subtract anything from the environment during the course of the experiment. So, forgot to put in a food source for your fish ... sorry. Fish died? Guess we are going to learn about the impacts of decomposition on water quality. Throughout the course of their experiment students monitor oxygen and carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere of their chamber on a daily basis and test the water for pH, phosphates, nitrates, dissolved oxygen, and dissolved carbon dioxide on a weekly basis. The hope is that students will be able to link visible changes in their ecosystem to fluctuations in its chemical components.

Squeamish students or not, I love see students wander in every day and immediately head to their experiments to see what's going on. It's like they might actually be curious or something. Go figure. Anyway, I'm going to get out of the way and turn the page over to this week's week in review by Tapanga Parham.

Tapanga Writes:

Today in class we started an interesting assignment with caterpillars. The caterpillars were adorably cute(after I wasn't terrified of them) and I can't wait until they sprout into butterflies. I experienced using a weight balance and being able to track the weight on a chart. I have never smelled caterpillar food before and I've never wanted to eat some until today. I'm excited to see my caterpillars grow and see their lifestyle and how they will grow. Not only this, but I was able to learn how to test water and its quality. Testing water includes testing for things like dissolved oxygen, phosphates, co2, oxygen and the mount of phosphates. I'm excited to see how my environment either gets completely destroyed or it adapts and flourishes. It is interesting to me how both tanks have the possibility to survive the six weeks but there will be different outcomes for the tanks and the water quality will change.