Throughout my career I have made it a priority to work with high school students from a variety of backgrounds to spark their interest in biodiversity. In my mind, the best science education is inquiry-based, in which students are presented with interesting information and challenged to explain and understand it in a scientific framework. In this context each student must come to terms with the actual practice of science, rather than learning biology as a dry collection of facts. Below is a collection of lesson plans that I have put together over the years.
High School Lesson Plans:
Caenorhabditis elegans laboratory
A lesson plan and worksheet that I wrote for Chelsea High School Zoology for a laboratory dealing with C. elegans. It introduces the concept of a model system in biology, and allows the students to observe and speculate on the nature of mutations.
Comparative Anatomy of Vertebrates
A lab that I designed with Timery DeBoer and Jessica Gonynor for BIOBUGS. Students are asked to examine dissections of representatives from 5 vertebrates classes and develop a phylogenetic hypothesis from their data. Included are a pre-lab worksheet to assess prior knowledge, a lecture that provides a basic introduction to phylogenetics, a student worksheet for each station, and preparatory notes for the instructor.
A general introductory lecture to three of the four classes of flatworms that I wrote as a lecture for Chelsea High School Zoology. Includes a discussion of parasitism vs. predation. Unfortunately, my other phylum introduction powerpoint files have somehow gotten corrupted.
Genetics and Behavior
A lab that I designed with Timery DeBoer for BIOBUGS. Students observe a mysterious behavior in termites which they then explore using the scientific method. They are also introduced to visualization of PCR products using agarose gels. There are three sets of lecture slides 1) Scientific method 2) Pheromones and Behavior and 3) DNA transcription. There is also a student worksheet.
New England Aquarium Activity Sheet
This is an activity sheet for Chelsea High School Zoology’s field trip to the New England Aquarium. Included are thought questions for each major section of the aquarium, as well as an invertebrate scavenger hunt. (One of our teams found 73 different invertebrate species! Can you beat that?)
A set of questions to accompany a Chelsea High School lab in which students observe Amoeba, Paramecium and Euglena. The questions help to steer the students thinking toward the relationship of protists to multicellular animals.
The dissection of a squid is particularly easy and engaging for students as it only requires one cut, and all of the organs are easily observable. Most of our dissections were taken from textbooks or the web, but I developed this one myself for Chelsea High School Zoology (starting from several resources that are cited within the lab). I also presented it at the GK-12 regional meeting.
A lab I designed for Ocean-WEST with Meghan Powers, Lily Max Tarjan and Sharifa Crandall. Students rotate through stations that teach them various principles that underly the phenomenon of ocean tides. It emphasises the use of models to understand natural phenomena. Includes an introductory lecture, student worksheet (in which lab materials are described, and potential answers given in red), and a basic spreadsheet model for three of the major tidal components.
Chelsea High School Zoology
This class was the result of a collaboration between myself and Pam Strong, a biology teacher at urban Chelsea High School. I was able to apply my training as a naturalist and biologist to help Pam create a brand new curriculum in zoology – the study of animals. The curriculum followed that of a classical undergraduate zoology class, beginning with classification and basic phylogenetics, then moving through units on each 9 of the major phyla, and ending with a unit on ecology and evolution. For many units, I created an introductory slide presentation. Pam and I then collaborated on engaging activities or dissections to get the students involved in the material. The students were also required to complete a written report on one species from each phylum.
Highlights of the class included a field trip to the New England Aquarium, several award winning science fair projects at the Chelsea Science Fair (including best group project), and an in-class aquarium containing tropical freshwater fish leopard frog tadpoles, and adult African clawed frogs.
Wanting to continue with outreach efforts after our GK-12 fellowships, my friend and labmate Timery Deboer and I developed BIOBUGS – Biology Inquiry and Outreach with Boston University Graduate Students. We designed inquiry-based labs to stimulate interest in biology: “Genetics of Behavior” in the Fall Semester and “Comparative Anatomy of Vertebrates” in the Spring.
Teaming up with Cynthia Brossman at LERNET, we then invited high school classes from around the Boston area. The program took advantage of underutilized undergraduate laboratory space and equipment at Boston University, and the knowledge and energy of many graduate student volunteers. We reached over 350 high school students in two semesters of teaching, and the program has since been expanded to include three other lesson plans.
I was recruited by my friend Emily Weiss at the Lawrence Hall of Science to serve as a mentor to high school students for Project ¡YO! (Youth and Ocean). Over the course of the school year, the students did intertidal monitoring with the LiMPETS project, which helped them to develop specific interests in intertidal ecology. They then pursued these interests in a miniature science project carried out over a week with Project ¡YO!.
My group was interested in learning about how clonal anenomes (Anthopleura elegantissima) are able to distinguish “self” from “non-self” when they come into contact with other anemones. We brought anemones from 8 different clones into the lab, and tested their reaction when placed next to anemones from other clones. We tested whether anemones sensed each other by scent or by touch by either exposing them to “anemone scented water” or by physically touching them together. Our results showed that anemones can definitely sense each other and tell “self” from “non-self” by touch. We also had a promising outcome with our scent tests, but were unable to reproduce the result.
In Spring of 2011, my wife Sharifa and I attended a Professional Development Program put on by the Institute of Scientist and Engineer Educators here at UCSC. The program focuses on teaching early-career scientists how to design inquiry-based curriculum. Sharifa and I teamed up with Meghan Powers and Max Tarjan to develop a two-day course on Ocean Sciences for incoming community college transfer students who had just moved to UC Santa Cruz. We challenged students to learn about how tides work, and how they can structure the intertidal communities here in Santa Cruz. The students completed a very short set of observations in the intertidal and created posters showing their work at an informal symposium. Watch them work against the tide in the video below!