I had a lot of big ideas for sweeping changes to my teaching approaches thanks to everything I have learned in my brief time as an educator on Twitter and thanks to our switch to the Next Generation Science Standards. Even in my final hours of being a classroom teacher, I continue to try new things, such as Digital BreakoutEDU games and, most recently, Quizlet Live. This coming week is our review week before semester exams and I can’t believe how much my students and I have accomplished. It would take years to document it all in a useful manner, but today’s #sunchat caused me to remember what I had planned to do, but did not follow through on this year. Good ideas for someone to try, but not for me in my capacity as a classroom teacher; my time is up for now.
High School Science Centers Plan
We took the entire set of NGSS HS-LS standards and divided them up into units of which my teaching partner and I were in mutual agreement. Even though we have our students in Biology 12 for one full year, each semester is treated as a stand-alone entity, and historically the unit bins have been entirely mutually exclusive between the two semesters. This year I wanted continuity between the semesters, if only in unit bin name, so we settled upon scales of organization: Molecules, Cells, Organisms, and Systems. My plans for scale-focused centers were as follows:
Molecules Center: plastic organic molecule kits to understand bonding, Klixx to model monomers and polymers, and anything else that came to class and remained after 3D modeling projects, e.g., styrofoam balls, toothpicks, plasticine, pipe cleaners (HS-LS1-1, HS-LS1-5, HS-LS1-6, HS-LS1-7, HS-LS3-1, HS-LS3-2, HS-LS3-3)
Cells Center: liquid motion timers to observe the behavior of polar and non-polar substances, dialysis tubing, food coloring, sugar, salt, and starch, to go along with the beakers already present in the lab classroom for any, “What would happen if…” ideas that the students might have, plasticine and any other materials to build models, a selection of microscopes (stereoscopes and microscopes), and any samples brought in from the pond on campus or from gardens and ponds at students’ homes (HS-LS1-1, HS-LS1-4, HS-LS1-5, HS-LS1-6, HS-LS1-7, HS-LS4-1)
Organisms Center: a variety of seeds (beans, peas, and sunflowers worked best, dandelion seeds work well too and are free), potting soil, plant pots, colored cellophane, a lamp, any liquids brought in for any, “What would happen if…” ideas that the students might have, a classroom pet mouse came our way and he would have been a welcome addition to this center, choice chambers for pill bug experiments (HS-LS1-2, HS-LS1-3, HS-LS4-1, HS-LS4-2, HS-LS4-3, HS-LS4-4, HS-LS4-5)
Systems Center: an old aquarium with enough soil and detritus to house pill bugs I collected from my own yard, to serve as a living example of matter cycling, fruit flies eventually found this aquarium and we had larvae to look at under the stereoscopes, and even though I’ve neglected them the aquarium lives on in spite of me (HS-LS2-1, HS-LS2-2, HS-LS2-3, HS-LS2-4, HS-LS2-5, HS-LS2-6, HS-LS2-7, HS-LS2-8, HS-LS4-6)
In the end we had all of these items in the classroom, the molecule kits and microscopes were out and available for use during the first semester, and the plants, mouse and pill bug aquarium came to the fore in the second semester. What I didn’t do is set it up as a concerted set of centers that could be visited at any time of the year all year long. If I was teaching next year I would have it all set up and ready to honor year-round student curiosity and exploration related to our curriculum.