Monday, 4 November 2013

Personalized Learning in Senior Biology

Science becomes even more exciting than usual when it speaks to the individual student’s interest. The Science Department at Greenwood offers choice in topic and/or format for many assignments. This allows students to select what intrigues them the most, and then convey this heightened level of engagement with a quality end product.
Many students were so intrigued by their study
of bacteria in Grade 11 Biology that they have
chosen to extend this activity beyond class time
for their own enrichment.

This year, we began the Grade 11 Biology course with the Diversity Unit so that we could create an overarching theme of classification for all of the units in the course. This also provided a jumping-off point for students to discuss their unique outdoor education experiences. (All Grade 11s go on a sea kayaking or hiking trip in British Columbia in the fall).

Using their own photos, students presented a researched organism native to BC during the first class back to school. We use this experience to help each student understand taxonomy before focusing on specific examples from each kingdom.  

Students then chose a source of possible contamination that could be a home for bacteria. Using petri dishes to collect and grow bacteria, students were trained to create pure plates of their selected bacteria as well as determine the identity of the bacteria. Some of the students were so intrigued by their discovery they have opted to extend this activity beyond class time for their own enrichment.

The Grade 12 Biology course includes a unit on Homeostasis (the ability of the body to maintain equilibrium). What better way to learn about the body’s innate ability to handle change than to use yourself as a test subject? Each student in this course collects data on themselves for a period of one week before developing a procedure that will promote greater self-awareness and (ultimately) a healthier lifestyle. 

This personal discovery gets documented in a formal scientific report representative of a university-quality report. With scheduled editing dates, students divide this extended lab into manageable chunks with multiple opportunities to receive timely advice on ways to develop their analytical skills.

Nancy Clarke
Science Instructional Leader

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