May 29, 2011

May 29, 2011

Happy Memorial Day!  I hope everyone enjoys a good hot dog or hamburger and the great outdoors this weekend.

Events of the Past Week

Monday - The students turned in their "Introduction to Ecology" packets to me. 

Aftwerwards, we went over the Anatomy and Physiology test from the previous week.  The results on the multiple choice portion of the test were outstanding!  The lab practical proved to be a little bit more difficult; however, many students did very well on that part of the test.  In comparison to previous years, the kids did very well.

Finally, we began our ecology unit in earnest by reading aloud an article called "A View From the Top of the Food Pyramid."  After that, we did an activity that had the students look at how energy moves through an ecosystem, which they had to finish for homework.

Tuesday - I collected from the students their homework on energy flow in ecosystems.  Then we worked on a case study to introduce the concepts of bioaccumulation and biomagnification.  It was called "Tuna for Lunch," and had the students examine what happens to toxins such as mercury as they pass from one level of a food chain to the next.  Your kids should be able to tell you the distinction between bioaccumulation and biomagnification after doing this activity.  One neat memory trick that a student came up with was a rhyme that went something like, "Bioaccumulation occurs when an organism is single, biomagnification occurs when organisms mingle."  That will make more sense to you after you ask your kids to explain the distinction if you don't already know what those two terms mean!

Wednesday - We learned about how three nutrients (carbon, nitrogen, and water) cycle through ecosystems.  The activity took less time than anticipated, so we were able to move on to learn about the natural cycle between predators and their prey that occurs in nature. 

We took a look at data from two real life examples (the deer of the Kaibab plateau in Arizona and the Moose of Isle Royale in Michigan) to begin our study of these cycles.  Homework was to finish the analysis of the data they were presented with in the activity.

Thursday - We modeled predator/prey population cycles by doing a lab simulating populations of mice and weasels in a forest.  Most groups generally got good data that showed that the population of prey always increases before the predator population, then decreases before the predator population.  Homework was to finish graphing the data that was collected during the lab and to answer four questions related to the simulation.  I also collected the homework from the night before.

Friday - We began class by taking a look at our data from the previous day's activity and making sure everyone was comfortable with the concept that was intended to be learned from that activity. 

We then moved on to learn about symbiotic relationships such as mutualism, commensalism, parasitism, predation, and competition.  Students were given descriptions of several different real life examples of these types of relationships, and then asked to identify the type of relationship described.  When everyone was finished (this activity took about 15 minutes), the students checked their answers against my key.

Finally, we watched a movie that is a cautionary tale about the impact of humans on the environment, "The Lorax"!  The kids loved it, and also had some pretty thought provoking questions to answer as they watched the movie.

For homework, I passed out a reading called "Lessons from the Wolf."  This article was taken from a 2004 edition of Scientific American.  There are several questions that go along with the reading that the students are to type their answers to using complete sentences.

Upcoming Events

Monday - NO SCHOOL!  Thank you to those who have served our country, especially to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for us.

Tuesday - I will collect the answers the students typed to the questions that went with their weekend reading. 

Afterwards, we will learn about succession in an ecosystem (where either a new ecosystem develops where one had never been there before, such as on a new island formed from a volcanic eruption; or one develops to replace an older ecosystem that had been destroyed, such as in Yosemite after a massive forest fire). 

We will then take a look at gross and net primary productivity in an ecosystem.

Wednesday - We will begin class by learning about population density, including how it is calculated and what factors affect it.  We will be then learning about how to interpret age structure graphs.  After that, we will take a look at survivorships curves. 

Thursday - The students will take the 55 question district assessment test.  This test was designed with regular level biology students in mind, so it should be relatively easy for most students in accelerated biology.  It will be worth a small number of point (no more than 20-25).  The topics covered are the scientific method, biochemistry, cells, molecular genetics, evolution, and Mendelian genetics.

Friday - We will only have 28 minutes in class, so we will spend a little bit of time going over the district assessment test.  Then I'll pass out the final exam review sheet to the students and look it over with them, answering any questions they might have about the final exam or any of the topics on the review sheet.

Graba Geek of the Week

This week's geek of the week is Helen Chvoy.  Helen is incredibly helpful to anyone who asks for her help in class.  She also does a great job with her homework, labs, quizzes, and tests.  Helen is one of the first people to volunteer to answer a question, especially when nobody else is willing to take a shot at it.  It has been fantastic to have her as a student this year!

Other tidbits

There was a recent article in The Economist about a teacher who used a "flipped classroom" for his college class.  It involved students watching video of his lectures at home that he recorded for them.  Class time was then spent reinforcing those ideas and asking the students to think critically about them.  The results were astounding at the university level, and many teachers on the AP Biology listserv I'm a part of are thinking about doing it in their classrooms.  My only concern is that it would really add to the students' homework load, which is already very high.  I'm also not sure it would be an appropriate approach for a high school freshman level course.  I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the concept.  The article is available here:

I also received an e-mail from the United States Achievement Academy regarding potential scholarship grants for students in grades 6-12.  Here is a section from the e-mail I received: 

"For more than 30 years, the USAA Scholarship Foundation has recognized outstanding students because of dedicated teachers like you. The Foundation is happy to provide the students you recognized the opportunity to apply for cash grants.

It is the sole purpose of the USAA Scholarship Foundations to help students in grades 6-12 by awarding cash grants to use now or later for any educational expense.

     * $40,000 in scholarship cash grants reserved for middle school students
  * $40,000 in scholarship cash grants reserved for high school students
* One $10,000 Dr. George A. Stevens, Founder's Award

Choose your students based on any two of the following Standards for Selection:  3.0 minimum in your subject, motivation to learn and improve, attitude, dependability, responsibility, and leadership qualities."

There is a link provided for parents to begin the application process as well.  This will allow you to apply without necessarily requiring a recommendation from me.  Here is the website to apply for the scholarships:

1 comment:

  1. Hello Mr. Graba

    I liked the concept in the article in the economist, but it is difficult to tell whether or not it will work with high school students (especially freshman) as efficiently as it worked with the college student. With this new teaching practice, results may vary from student to student, depending on their willingness to work, and maturity level. College students are definitely more matured compared to high school students (may be that is one of the reason that collages offer online credit classes unlike high schools).

    I remember my mother would follow up with me and would make me read lessons prior to the teacher would teach it in the class. if given a thought, It was just a combination of this new concept with the traditional chalk- and-talk method. I would read the lesson, and then it would get revised in the school when the teacher would teach it, then while doing the homework it would get revised third time. This practice would give me great sense of confidence in addition to good results. But on the other hand I also agree with you on the part that, this practice may increase the work for students. But there is no harm in trying the new method and then take a survey from students and parents.