Cells Galore

I am just beginning my cells unit with my grade 8 students. This year, I want to cover a little of the basics, but then I want to dive into the hearty issues that will require my students to really think and to make judgments about where they stand on some controversial issues.

As my school is an IB world school, we will be exploring this unit with the following question in mind: How do we use biotechnology to meet our needs?

We well begin by covering some of the basics, such as:

  • Cell Theory
  • Plant and Animal Cells (for this I am planning on having the students do an analogy assignment where they compare the parts of the cell to parts of cities, factories, houses, schools, airports…you get the idea)
  • Use and Care of the Microscope
  • Osmosis and Diffusion

The following sites support learning in the topics listed above:

Camilla Senior Cells Page

Science Spot Microscope Links

Teachnology Cells Page

Intel Cell-to-Cell Page

CREATE for Mississippi Microscopes and Cells

Internet4Classrooms Cell Structure and Function

The following are some assignments that I have used in my unit which support the topics above:

Use and Care of the Microscope

Cells Lab

Plant and Animal Cell Scavenger Hunt

Cell Superheroes Assignment

Modelling and Observing Diffusion

Modelling and Observing Osmosis

And then we will move into an exploration of critical thinking issues, such as:

  • Cloning

Learn.Genetics Cloning Page

International Debate Education Association

How Stuff Works:  Cloning

  • Genetically Modified Food

Health Canada

International Debate Education Association

CBC Digital Archives

World Health Organization

  • Stem Cells

Learn.Genetics Stem Cells Page

National Institutes of Health

Science Daily

How Stuff Works

  • The Donation, Selling and Harvesting of Human Organs

International Debate Education Association Page 1

International Debate Education Association Page 2

Santa Clara University:  Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

  • Prenatal Selection of Gender and Genetic Traits

Washington Post

New York Times

Legal Affairs

International Debate Education Association

I have developed a Cell Debate which incorporates the above critical thinking topics.

And finally, for some additional websites to support the study of cells, please check out my cells page.

I am always looking for new ideas to incorporate into my cells unit….would love to hear from you.

Posted by admin in General Science, Grade 8 Science, 0 comments

World Health Day 2011

April 7th is World Health Day. Every year the World Health Organization creates a World Health Day with a different theme. This year’s theme is “antimicrobial resistance and its global spread”.  What does this mean, exactly? It refers to a resistance to the various antibiotics medications that we use to fight infectious illnesses and diseases. At some point they become ineffective in our bodies, thus no longer achieving the goal for which they were created. This problem is becoming more widespread. The World Health Organization is using World Health Day 2011 to bring this issue to the forefront in the eyes of governments and stakeholders so that they can begin to combat this problem.

Who are the stakeholders? The people within the World Health Organization might have their own opinions, but I think that the stakeholders would be every living person in this world. The entire human population stands to gain, or lose, from the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of the various medications that we use to fight infection and disease.

It may be too late to plan a whole unit around this topic in time for World Health Day this year, but you can certainly begin the conversation by introducing some thought provoking activities. Here are some links to get you started in your planning:

World Health Organization – This is a direct link to the World Health Day page on their website. Go here for information about World Health Day for this year, and for past years. Here is their document which provides information about antimicrobial resistance:  World Health Day 2011

Antimicrobial Resistance from Public Health Agency of Canada

Antibiotic Awareness

Evolution and Antibiotic Resistance from PBS

Similarities Between Spread of an Infectious Disease and Population Growth

Unit Plan on the Evolution of Antibiotic Resistance

Posted by admin in General Science, Grade 6 Science, Grade 7 Science, Grade 8 Science, 0 comments

Let the Lights Go Out.

There are several times a year when we are specifically asked to think of the world that we live in and the effect of our actions on our world. Earth Hour is one of those times.

Earth Hour is from 8:30 to 9:30 pm on March 26th. It began in Australia in 2007, when over 2 million individuals and businesses turned off their lights for one hour to “take a stand against climate change”.  Over the next few years it captured global attention, and last year over 126 countries took part.

As it occurs over the weekend, some schools have incorporated it into their curriculum by designating time on the Friday beforehand to turn off as much electricity as possible. They are also teaching lessons on environmental responsibility and sustainability leading up to the event. You could spend hours upon hours searching the web for ideas, and not even make a dent in what is available. Here are but a few resources to help you incorporate Earth Hour into your curriculum:

Earth Hour Main Page

Earth Hour Primary Education Pack 2011 from the Earth Hour website

Earth Hour Secondary Education Pack 2011 from the Earth Hour website

Earth Hour Canada Page

Earth Hour 2011 Official Video

Vote Earth Sand Painting (Even if you don’t use it in the class, watch it – pretty neat.)

The Story of Stuff This is a twenty minute video that highlights the waste in our society.  Go to the original vide0 “The Story of Stuff”, or to the videos on electronics or bottled water.  They are suitable for older grades.

Environmental Jeopardy – Various versions of this game are available, each with a different focus. This is actually a printable game – use it in Jeopardy style or simply as a trivia challenge. It is suitable for older students.

United States Environmental Protection Agency Lesson Plans

Check out the Smart Exchange for Smartboard Notebook Activities with an environmental theme.

It is important to have our students take part in global actions for preserving our environment, and thus I feel that teaching them about Earth Hour is the right way to go. However, we need to ensure that our lessons go beyond them thinking that environmental sustainability can be solved in one hour. For it is only through our day-to-day choices and related actions that any true change will take place.

Posted by admin in General Science, Using Tech, 0 comments

Teaching about tragedy.

On Friday morning, as my students walked into the building, the Japan earthquake and tsunami was all that was on their minds. We spent the next 30-40 minutes reading news stories and looking at the footage of the devastation across the Pacific Ocean.

As I went through the various events of my weekend, my thoughts were on the tragedy in Japan, and I have been watching CNN rather religiously. I am currently thinking about what sort of discussion to have during homeroom tomorrow morning, and how to best engage my students in meaningful conversations around this topic. There are so many people who have already compiled lists of teaching resources for this event, and so for today’s post I will defer to the expertise of others.

Larry Ferlazzo compiles wonderful lists of teaching resources. Here are the links to his pages on Japan:

The Best Sites For Learning About The Japan Earthquake & Tsunami

Useful Updates on Japan Earthquake – Part Two

Richard Byrne writes a blog about teaching with technology. Here is his post about teaching resources on Japan:

Interactive Maps and Images About Earthquake in Japan

Jerry Blumengarten maintains an internet catalogue for students, teachers, administrators and parents. His Japan information can be found on his Earth Science page.

For up to date reports and a resource of videos, look to the CNN website. Watching on an iPad? Then be sure to install the CNN app which allows you to watch the videos without flash.

I am a full believer of teaching both my students and my children of how the world works, in an age appropriate manner. If they ask a question, I answer. These are important moments in the education of our students. Let’s use them well.

Posted by admin in General Education, 0 comments

Plant a SEED, watch it grow.

Have you heard about SEED?

SEED stands for ‘Schlumberger Excellence in Educational Development’. It is a “non-profit education program that focuses on underserved communities”, in its own words.  The overall goal is to enable educators in all parts of the world to ignite a passion in students for the learning of science. It encourages an understanding of various global issues, and it strives to have students make these issues a focus in their lives.

The online Laboratory is what I like to explore, and more importantly, what I like my students to explore.  Some of the labs are activities for you to carry out with your own students, while others are online explorations that are perfect for at home trials or presentation on an interactive whiteboard.

I have used the Buoyancy Explorer with my students. This online exploration allows the user to test various solids to see how they will float in various fluids. On the same page there are links to Archimedes principle and other teaching facts related to buoyancy. The students have also enjoyed using the Viscosity Explorer. Again, many links are provided for other activities and labs that are related to the topic.

There are many teaching ideas and lessons, with the topic labels being air and space, earth science, electricity and magnetism, properties of liquids, and energy. There are many worthwhile activities to explore in each of these areas.

But don’t stop there. Below the Laboratory links are a series of Math links as well. Click on Math and it opens into the various curriculum strands, each highlighting a series of activities and puzzles to support learning in that area.

And yet one more area in the Science section of the SEED website is the Articles section. These appear to be small fact based articles in various areas of the science curriculum.

These are but a few sections of the SEED website. I was content to stop there, but you may want to explore more.

Posted by admin in General Science, Grade 8 Science, Using Tech, 0 comments

To Investigate

Quite often I come across a site that looks interesting, but I just don’t have the time to explore it in depth at that moment. And so I bookmark it in my favourites ‘to investigate’ file, and it waits until I find a few extra moments in my life. Quite often that file sits waiting for weeks, and sometimes even months. I recently found a moment or two, and so I scrolled through the websites that have been patiently waiting to be explored. I found a gem.

It is called Physics & Physical Science Demos, Labs, & Projects for High School Teachers. It is a blog of lessons, activities, experiments, assessment ideas, resource sites, and so much more. As I am a middle school teacher, my first thought was that as good as this site might be, I may not find anything for my particular needs. Thankfully, I was mistaken. There is plenty on the site for high school teachers, however there are many lessons and activities that are relevant for my curriculum, as well.

There are various ways to search this site. When you scroll down the right sidebar, you will find ‘The 10 Most Popular Posts’, which I did look through. Scroll a little further down, beyond the recent posts and comments, and you will find a category listing. I found this search tool to be most helpful. Even further down you can find an archive and tag list.

I spent most of my time on the physical science section, and in just a few moments I found a few posts that made my search worthwhile. They are the following:

100 Incredible /Amazing Physics/Science/Teaching Videos

This post links to 2 great sites – both of which highlight some incredible videos that will either teach you, or teach your students.

One Question

In this post the author describes how he allowed students to each pose one science question, and he was amazed by the calibre of questions that were raised.

Pulley Lab – Mechanical Advantage

Perhaps I liked this post because it is very relevant for me right now. I am currently teaching mechanical advantage to my grade 8 students, and so the timing was impeccable.

Introducing the Scientific Method

In this post the author describes a great way to introduce, or reintroduce, the scientific method.

Under his welcome note, there was a call for contributors for either original postings or comments on his ideas. Thus far, I have only been bold enough to write on my own site, and the thought of going beyond my own WordPress walls seems daunting. But two years ago I could never have imagined writing for any audience, and yet here I am. And so I realize that anything can happen.

Posted by admin in General Science, 0 comments

…and we’re back!

January 24, 2011

Yes. I am actually writing something.

No excuses. It is what it is.

Today’s subject is science. Even before we had our Smartboards installed in our classrooms, I have always loved using interactive websites for teaching. I send the students home with instructions to complete an activity on a website, and they go home actually excited to do their homework. What a great way to learn.

One of my favourite science sites is the PhET Interactive Simulation lab, from the University of Colorado at Boulder. There are simulations for physics, biology, chemistry, earth science, and math, too. You can search by topic or by grade level. Click on the section for teachers, and there you can browse the activities that others have submitted – activities which incorporate the simulations. Brilliant. Feeling generous? You can submit your own activities, as well.

The one that I have most used is the Circuit Construction Kit for the Grade 6 Electricity unit. I have created a set of challenges with parallel and series circuits, and I have the students try them out on the website before building the circuits in class. I have attached the worksheets that I created.

Go ahead, give it a try.

Series and Parallel Circuits Worksheets

Posted by admin in General Education, General Science, 0 comments

A Starting Point

In my quest to engage students and encourage them to think creatively and with inquiring minds, I have spent many hours this week reading blogs, internet sites, and tweets and listening to various TED talks. So far, these are my faves, in no particular order:
This site has extensive resources for K-12 classes with a focus on engineering, or how humans have designed our world. You can search by individual lesson, activities, or entire units. The plans are detailed, providing learning objectives, a materials list, background information for teachers, step-by-step procedures, and extension activities. Assessment ideas and worksheets are also given. All of these things are provided free of charge.
This site focuses on developing rich mathematics tasks. Once again, all resources are provided free of charge. It is based in the UK, so check out the key stage/age equivalencies on the help page. They put out a monthly publication with new tasks, or you can search the archives in the “For Teachers” section.
3. Sir Ken Robinson on TED talks
Humorous and thought provoking, he speaks about creativity, or lack of it, in educational settings.
4. Dan Meyer on TED talks
Asks us to consider a new perspective on teaching math – check out his blog when you are done.
Posted by admin in General Education, General Science, Math, 0 comments