Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Year 11 Microbes Internal

Today I had my Y11 for an internal intensive (rather than a mid-year exam). We've been learning about bacteria and fungi for two weeks now using a mixture of Education Perfect, literacy activities designed by our literacy specialist Marc Milford and class activities. 

Today was a bread and yoghurt-making practical that they will have to discuss for their 4-credit write-up next week. 

Hopoate and Hala sieving their flour as they begin to make bread.

Each group started off the lesson by making a slightly different type of bread using a variation of a basic recipe. After all the steps were followed and the dough was left to rise (aka the yeast were left alone with the flour to conduct anaerobic respiration) we baked the bread for 25 minutes.

Then we made observations of the appearance of the bread, and also did a taste-test. 

Chelsea with the different variations of bread (her wholemeal bread is second from the right).

After we had made bread using yeast we interacted with a different microorganism - bacteria! 

Students first heated milk to destroy any pathogenic (harmful) bacteria, and then cooled it to the optimum temperature for our helpful species. Then the bacteria were added and left to do their work for the next five hours. We'll eat the yoghurt tomorrow!

Makaydyn making yoghurt - the live bacteria cultures are in the yellow packet Desiree is holding on the left of the picture, and are about to added now the milk has dropped to the optimum 40 degrees celsius. 

The students were great and the lesson went really well. I would definitely do this with a class again - perhaps earlier in the topic, so when we discuss respiration in greater depth they would have something tangible to hook the abstract concept on.

We couldn't have run this lesson without Ms Heka helping us out in her kitchen! Hopefully we left it as we found it Ms Heka! Thanks for hosting us :) 

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Y13's Animate CRISPR Delivery to Cells

Year 13 has been learning about how humans manipulate genetic transfer in other organisms. In other words - how have humans managed to change the genes of species that they have found most useful? These genetic manipulations started thousands of years ago with the selective breeding of farm and domesticated animals such as goats and dogs and has continued to advance.

Now we're at a stage of technological capability that scientists can 'knock out' or 'switch off' a SINGLE gene they're interested in with massive precision, OR even insert or 'knock in' a new / healthy copy of a gene! This is particularly interesting in terms of healthcare - fixing a disease caused by a single gene by replacing the altered copy with a healthy version!

Year 13 first learnt about how CRISPR (a recent gene editing technology) works before they attended a workshop about CRISPR's potential for use in New Zealand's healthcare system.

Gene editing in Healthcare by The Royal Society Te Aparangi

The Y13's before going into the workshop.

Lonise, Clearissa and Sharon.

A few days after the workshop we had a chat about things we had understood, didn't quite understand, and questions we (myself included!) were a bit shy to ask. We fired off a quick email to one of the scientists who were at the workshop, and were pleasantly surprised when he replied! 

Here's the link to his responses to our questions.

The first two questions we had were about how scientists actually deliver CRISPR into cells so that it could manipulate the genome in cells, such as embryos - or whole organisms. 

The scientist explained that DNA that contains the instructions to build CRISPR's Cas9 enzyme and gRNA and possibly a template can be packaged up and delivered into a cell via a virus or nanoliposomes. Embryos can have the DNA for CRISPR injected directly into them along with sperm, before fertilisation. 

Year 13 spent their double period today animating one of the three delivery methods with play-doh. 

The followup activity for this is to have students present their animation verbally to the class, or for me to combine all of these FANTASTIC animations into a short video and then have students practice writing descriptions of what they observe. 

Our school and cluster goal is to improve the literacy of our students. I'm hoping that this activity scaffolds confidence in writing scientific explanations. 

Friday, 4 May 2018

Literacy with 9TGn

9TGn is getting increasingly used to reading together in pairs and small groups, as well as discussing what they've read. I designed a litearcy activity to more deeply explore what an "ecological niche" is, in the context of Weta - New Zealand's Mouse. 

My recent readings have reiterated that it's not good enough to just give a scientific text to a class and expect them to engage with it, learn from it, acquire language or comprehend it in a way that's beneficial. 

I created a guided reading (with only three prompts and three discussion points this time - I've done some with more and they REALLY got into that one) and students got on with the paired reading with very little fuss. 

They helped each other with pronounciation of new words and some began to google the meaning of new words as they went. I thought this was interesting because I had created two versions of the guided reading; both had the same prompts, reading and discussion points but they had different glossary words down the side. They could have used the glossary for many of the words they Google'd but preferred to go to Google!

Also, a few students chose to do the reading online (the link was provided) but most of the others got out a pen and scribbled notes on their papers and used their finger or pen to read along with their peer. 

Version 1 of the guided reading here
Version 2 here

Glossary words weren't limited to scientific vocabulary, it also included 'rancid,' 'distinguished,' 'fascinated' and 'deter.' 

At the end of the guided reading and the discussions had taken place I gave out coloured post-its for students to share what they had talked about. 

Students found the second discussion point the easiest; identifying whether a weta was male or female using evidence from a paragraph. The second-easiest point was the first, about 'what an ecological niche includes' - but that required students to take the specific evidence about a weta niche and generalise it out; an ecological niche doesn't include living in a cave, but it does include where something lives. The most difficult point was the 'summarising a paragraph' one.  Some students struggled to combine information from sentences or identify the 'key point' or the 'gist' of the paragraph.

Unfortunately we ran out of time to do anything with shared post-its :( Perhaps I could have asked each small group to create a poster of the class' responses. 

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Video Calling out Classmate in Tonga

One of my Year 13's had to return to Tonga for a week and has been missing out on a lot of very content-rich lessons on quite complex information about gene-editing. 

In class today I turned around to help a different group and found myself face to face with my missing student! One of his classmates had connected to him via video calling and was narrating to him what she was doing in class today. 

Then she passed the phone over to her friend, who showed him what her group was doing. He got passed between a few groups and one of the students gave him a brief summary of the point of the learning. 

How cool is that :) 

Salome showing Paulo what she's achieved with her group (foreground).

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Rocket Launches with 9TGn

This term I've been teaching Third Rock to my Year 9 class. It's a thematic unit that combines learning about tectonic plates, convection, earthquakes, volcanoes, energy changes, rocket launches, speed distance time calculations, investigations, life on Mars, seasons and all kinds of things! 

I've been twiddling it as we go through based on the class in front of me, and due to the school-wide (and cluster-wide) goal of improving the literacy of all of our students. There's been lots of pair and group reading and discussing, story-writing and blogging which has actually been really enjoyable for me to learn about and design for them, and they seemed to increasingly enjoy engaging with it. 

Last week we had a wee cross-curricular sequence. I was absent for the first part where students were supposed to read their first scientific fact-sheet kind of text (our other texts have been stories, articles, methods and reports) about types of energy.

Because the end of term was rapidly approaching (and Y9 camp too!) I didn't have time to catch them up on my return, so instead they continued over to graphics the next day and built their rockets with Ms Fergusson and then the next day we launched them on the field with Mr Dunn! 

Here is a student's perspective of the rocket launch on their blog :) 

I tried to have a few quick chats about the different forms of energy while we were on the field watching each group's launch, and during our next lesson we did some more on energy changes and they completed the activity identifying energy changes in our school Kapa Haka performance (that they should have completed the day I was absent!)

For a Do Now during the review lesson I created a word-find after a request from the students. Word-finds are not very useful for learning, I think, unless maaaaybe for the spelling of words. So instead of giving them a list of words to find I changed it so they could approach the learning in two ways: 

1) go looking for familiar words in the word-find and then match what they found to the appropriate definition OR 
2) identify what word they should be looking for based on the definition and THEN look for it in the word-find.

Click here for a link to the word-find.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Play-doh Chloroplasts With Year 12

Today in Y12 biology our lesson was in two parts; learning about the structure of a chloroplast first, followed by learning the stages of photosynthesis. 

To help with learning how to draw and label a chloroplast we made play-doh models of them, using different colours to represent different structures.

For all of the models (bar one) green is used to represent the thylakoid discs stacked into granum (the plural for these is grana), because the thylakoid discs are where chlorophyll is found. Chlorophyll is the pigment responsible for absorbing red and blue wavelengths of light for energy and reflecting back green wavelengths, which gives plants their green colour.

Pink: outer membrane. Yellow: inner membrane: Red: stroma. Green: thylakoid stacks in grana. White: lamellae.

Yellow: outer membrane. White: inner membrane: Pink: stroma. Green: thylakoid stacks in grana and lamellae joining them.

Pink: outer membrane. Red: inner membrane: White: stroma. Green: thylakoid stacks in grana.

Pink: outer membrane. Green layer: inner membrane: Yellow: stroma. Red: ribosomes. Green: thylakoid stacks in grana.

Yellow: outer membrane.  Absent: inner membrane: Blue: stroma. Green: thylakoid stacks in grana.

Green: outer membrane. Red: inner membrane: Yellow: stroma. Pink: thylakoid stacks in grana.

Mikayla made an adorable miniature model.

Priscilla with her chloroplast.
Yellow: outer membrane. White: inner membrane: Red: stroma. Green: thylakoid stacks in grana.

After the class was comfortable with the structures inside a chloroplast they were ready to move on and learn about how photosynthesis happens in two of these structures; the thylakoids and the stroma. 

Students will have to work hard filing this away in their long term memory in a way that makes sense to them; drawing diagrams of the process, explaining it out loud, teaching others, or writing the story of photosynthesis in their own words. This is one of those concepts where I can be around to answer questions but I can't physically MAKE students learn it, and when it becomes tricky they need the resilience to wrestle on! 

Friday, 9 February 2018

Layers of the Earth Cake

Year 9 has just started their Third Rock From the Sun unit, which begins inside the Earth as students learn about the layers beneath their feet. 

I know that this topic is both popular and successful because the year-group it was first taught to in Year 9 is now in Year 11, and when I surveyed my Year 11's about which topics they remembered best and felt most confident in, "volcanoes" and "layers of Earth" came up again and again. Because of that my Year 11's will be doing the Surface Features of NZ internal assessment later this year, to play to those strengths. 

Anyway, back to the current Year 9's. I thought a good way to welcome them in to science this year and introduce the idea of modelling in science would be with a cake!

If anyone wants the recipe for sponge layers then here it is:

Pre-heat oven to 175 degrees C.
Beat 7 small eggs (or 6 large ones) on high for 1 minute. 
Slowly add in 1 cup of sugar and beat on high for 8 minutes.
Measure and mix 1 cup of flour with 1/4 teaspoon baking powder.
Sieve and fold in the flour mixture to the eggs 1/3 at a time, making sure to get the flour off the bottom of the bowl (where it likes to sink to).
Pour half the mixture into a baking-paper-lined cake tin.
Add some food colouring to the rest of the mixture and then pour that into another cake tin.
Bake for 25 minutes.

Make sure students can name the layers of the Earth before they get to take a piece on the way out the door!