Category Archives: biology

Science Apps for Your Smartphone

I just stumbled across this Slideshare presentation by Stephen Taylor, and I think it’s a fantastic resource. He’s done all the research and written succinct explanations, so I won’t try to improve upon his work. There’s something in here for students and teachers of almost every discipline.

Thank you Mr Taylor!

Biology resources for students: part 2

Good morning!

It’s time for more science bookmarks! This morning I’ll be sharing a collection of bookmarks, which I think students and teachers of science may find useful.  Some of them are specific to a particular unit of study, while others are more general in nature. There are definitely some duplicates here from my previous posts, but I don’t think there’s much harm in that. I’ve categorized all these resources by subject: astronomy, biology, chemistry, ecology, and physics. Today’s post focuses on general biology. You can find additional bookmarks in my earlier post, “Biology resources for students: part 1.”

I hope these aren’t too repetitive. I just want to pass them along so that my students and colleagues have access to some of the many wonderful biology resources I’ve found over the years.

Happy learning!

Elections get in the way of science news

Good evening!

In addition to the professional presence I have on Twitter (@bradleymkremer) and here on my science blog/website, I have a personal profile on Facebook, which I think doesn’t make me unusual in any way. I usually make a fairly concerted effort to keep my personal and professional lives separate. I’m not Facebook friends with any current students (I’ll accept friend requests upon their graduation from university, though), I never tweet about politics or personal events, and I almost never post science articles or thoughts on my Facebook wall.

However, those personal and professional worlds do overlap sometimes. I have current and former work colleagues who have become friends. My personal interest in science frequently spills over into my professional involvement with science education.

Where is this leading us, you may ask?

Today I am sharing a collection of science news and updates from my Facebook feed. These are a few resources I’ve saved over the past few weeks and months because they’re either of personal interest or they’re directly relevant to units I teach – or both! Sometimes, life gets in the way, with things like visits from your mother, presidential elections, and an almost-one-year-old baby at home. So, without further ado, here are the science news items I’ve been following lately:

Elon Musk and Tesla reveal solar rooftops – Bloomberg News. Musk is one of my heroes because I think he’s a visionary who is unafraid to use his considerable funds to push the envelope of scientific innovation for the betterment of humanity and our planet. (Full disclosure: I own stock in Tesla.)

The “Zero Waste” grocery store – A Berlin shop which has developed a sustainable shopping model with the goal of reducing solid domestic waste. IB ESS topic 8.2: Resource use in society and 8.3: Solid domestic waste.

Zero emissions train unveiled in Germany – Not yet in service, but a step in the right direction to meet growing transportation needs. The train uses hydrogen fuel cells in place of diesel engines, and since it’s a public service, economies of scale may help advance more widespread adaptation of the fuel cell technology.

Climate change is having an impact on infrastructure – A story from Wired detailing how rising temperatures, thawing permafrost, and increased precipitation are having an effect on communities built permafrost. A case study for IB ESS topic 7 and IB Biology topic 4.

Captive breeding case studies from National Geographic – Students evaluate the effectiveness of various captive breeding programs designed to conserve biodiversity in this species-based approach to conservation. A solid link to IB ESS topic 3.

Are the water wars coming? – A look at dwindling freshwater resources in the face of growing human population pressure around the world. A good discussion for IB ESS topic 4.2: Access to fresh water.

How what we eat has changed (and will change again) – A short video from the BBC Future project examining the interplay between human population growth, food production, and ecosystem impacts. Relevant for IB Biology option C: Ecology and conservation, as well as IB ESS topic 5.2: Terrestrial food production systems and food choices.

Looking for good news about climate change? This is about all there is – The Washington Post outlines a scrap of good news regarding the rate of planetary warming in the context of the 2016 US presidential election. Useful for IB Biology topic 4.3: Carbon cycling, topic 4.4: Climate change, and IB ESS topic 7: Climate change and energy production.

That’s all I have time for tonight. I’ll post another set of news links soon-ish. And of course, I’ll have more on Twitter.

Happy learning!

Mr K

Biology resources for students: Part 1

Good morning!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been updating various pages within my website, and as I work, I keep encountering all these different websites and digital resources I’ve bookmarked over the years. My bookmarks bar is organized by broad scientific subjects: astronomy,biology, chemistry, ecology, and physics. I’ve also got a folder dedicated solely to scientific games. I will share the resources in these folders in subsequent posts, organized by subject area. Once posted in the blog, I’ll then add all bookmarks to the general science pages in my website, but I thought I’d take this opportunity to share them with the broader global community as well. I have so many of these resources that I’m going to have to split the list into two parts – the bookmarks from my Chrome browser and those from Firefox.

Today: biology resources for students (and teachers!) in no particular order.

  • The Cell: Basic Unit of Structure and Function by McGraw-Hill. Animations, quizzes, flashcards, and other resources aligned with their Human Anatomy textbook. Links to other chapters can be found in the sidebar.
  • Bioman Biology. Interactive biology games on a variety of topics, including physiology, cells, ecology, genetics, evolution, DNA, respiration, and photosynthesis.
  • Carbon cycle animation from the University of Alberta, Canada. A simple but comprehensive flow chart (system diagram) of the global carbon cycle.
  •  InstaGrok interactive concept maps. Pre-made concept maps showing links between a whole bunch of topics in general biology. Click on a term to see links to other biology topics, facts, websites, videos, images, or add your own notes.
  • Cells Alive! This site has been around for years. Good, easy-to-understand interactive cell models.
  •  DNA video from NotCot.org. A beautiful 3 minute animation explaining DNA for BBC Knowledge from Territory.
  • John Kimball’s online biology textbook. This guy has been teaching biology for decades, and he’s amassed an incredible amount of resources on his site around every conceivable topic in biology. It’s kind of an old-school site, but it’s thorough.
  • Learn.Genetics at the University of Utah, USA. I use the tutorials from this site extensively in my genetics and evolution units.
  • Bozeman Science biology playlist on YouTube. 76 videos! 76! This playlist contains videos that could be useful in AP Biology, IB Biology, Biology, and other life sciences, all from the amazing Paul Andersen.
  • Mitosis World Home at University of North Carolina, USA. An aggregate of several other biology resources.
  • Discover Biology animations from W.W. Norton & Co. High-quality animations that can be viewed straight through, step-by-step, or narrated.
  • Interactive transpiration animation from ScienceMag. Adjust plant parameters and environmental conditions to see different effects on the movement of water through plants. With some creativity, you could run a virtual lab from this animation.
  • Understanding Evolution at the University of California – Berkeley. Densely packed with information and thoroughly researched. I use this site as a main reference for my evolution units. The site has been around a long time and is showing its age, but it’s still highly useful.
  • Sex determination video at TED-Ed. One of many useful resources from the TED people. Includes a review quiz and discussion questions.
  • Biology for Life. A great website from Gretel von Bargen at Skyline High School in Washington state, USA. It follows the new IB Biology syllabus. Also linked to her Twitter feed. I use this site a ton.
  • Bioknowledgy. Probably my favorite site for IB Biology. Chris Paine in Shanghai has created an extensive library of resources and materials aligned with the new IB Biology syllabus. Includes presentations, videos, and guided revision questions, among other resources. Awesome!

I hope that’s a good start for now. If you find any helpful resources you think I’ve missed, please send them my way in the comments, and I’ll add them to the second batch.

Cheers!

Mr K

Excited for ESP

We are rapidly approaching one of my favorite things about my job: the Extended Studies Program, or ESP. ESP is our school’s “week without walls,” when students and teachers leave the comforts of classrooms and campus and travel to different parts of Tanzania to learn about and experience the people and ecology in those locations.

Each year, students in grades 6 through 11 spend a week in one of an awesomely diverse locations around Tanzania:

  • 6th graders go to Zanzibar for an exploration of art and architecture, reef and mangrove ecology, and a history of the east African slave trade.
  • 7th graders spend a week in the Uluguru Mountains on a service learning trip with the Waluguru, the only matrilineal ethnic group in Tanzania.
  • 8th graders venture to Amani Nature Reserve, where they experience the differences between managed and natural forests, as well as night hikes searching for rare species of chameleons and frogs (my personal favorite).
  • 9th and 10th graders have several options for their ESP trips:
    • Mountain biking in the Usambara Mountains
    • Service trips in Arusha or in a Maasai boma
    • Hiking in Lushoto district
    • Trekking across the Ngorogoro Crater Highlands
    • Ecological monitoring at the Makatube Island Marine Reserve
    • Service work on the Chem-Chem school project
    • Morogoro photography
  • IB1 students in grade 11 engage in a field course for biology and geography

In my opinion, these kinds of trips provide the most engaging educational experiences our students will get during the school year. There are no worksheets, no essays, no problems to solve, no presentations to make. Students push themselves, and teachers push them, in ways that are generally not possible during lessons. The interconnectedness of different fields of study becomes evident while out of the classroom – the impact of climate on agriculture, which in turn influences economics, culture and family structure, which then have further knock-on effects on music, literature, and politics.

ESPs are wonderful because of their ‘big picture-ness’.

YouTube channels and other digital resources for science education

In my classes, I make extensive use of the collective genius of humanity hosted by YouTube. There are literally millions of creative, intelligent people producing astounding, beautiful, insightful, helpful content online FOR FREE! (To be fair, there are also millions of people producing crap, but that’s a subject for another post.)

I subscribe to a number of cool science channels on YouTube. If you’re a fan of science, you’ve probably already discovered these on your own, but if you’re just beginning your scientific journey of discovery, then you should check out some of the following channels. They are all entertaining, educational, scientifically accurate, and generally fun. I use them in my class routinely because the curators of these channels are soooooo much more talented at inventing and creating engaging content to explain science.

I’ll post a few of these recommendations here from time to time as I work through my own subscriptions and as I unearth channels that are new to me. But enough of my rambling. Here are my recommended YouTube Science Channels of the Day:

Smarter Every Day: Destin is a science guy who simply tries to get smarter every day, which I think is a pretty laudable goal. He’s also got a presence on Tumblr, and of course he’s on Twitter as well. If you want to get smarter every day – even just a little bit – you should check it out.

Veritasium: Derek Muller is the master behind this great channel, and to quote the information straight from the homepage, “Veritasium is a science video blog featuring experiments, expert interviews, cool demos, and discussions with the public about everything science.” He’s also quite active on Twitter. Follow Derek to discover more of the truth in science!

My colleague and partner in the battle against ignorance, Matt Erdosy, passed along the following website a while back, and I’ve been able to explore it during the past school year. “The Big History Project” may not sound like a science resource, but the site labels itself as “A journey through 13.8 billion years of history,” and it includes all the major events in the history of the Universe. So it’s not like a History Channel history or a Mr Price’s European history class kind of history. It’s literally a history of everything. I’ve just started to scratch the surface of what’s in this site, but as I learn more about it, we will explore more of it in class, particularly in my 8th grade astronomy lessons.

I’ve also included a couple more science-y YouTube channels to today’s post, since students seem to respond so well to them. First up today is the very well-regarded Minute Physics. Minute Physics, as you might guess, includes a lot of physical science lessons broken into one-minute videos. It’s like Short-Attention-Span Theatre for science class! According to the channel creators, “Simply put: cool physics and other sweet science.”

The next channel I’ll share is Crash Course. Many of my students are already familiar with the Green borthers’ great series on YouTube. Crash Course doesn’t cover only science. There are 8 separate courses available on the channel, but of course in my classes we focus on the science end of things. Quick-hitting, entertaining, and loaded with resources such as external links, additional footage and explanations, as well as quizzes corresponding to the videos, this channel is well worth bookmarking.