Showing posts with label Science. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Science. Show all posts

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Tapping Into Problem-Based Learning

Problem based learning (PBL) is a student-centred approach that gives students experience with solving open-ended problems. This approach to learning encourages teamwork, the use of trial and error and critical thinking, all of which are vital skills for students to acquire in high school.  
A great example of this teaching method was used recently in our Grade 8 science classes. As part of a unit on simple machines and the study of levers, students worked in teams to design and build a Trebuchet. A trebuchet is a medieval siege weapon designed to throw projectiles long distances. A key element of this design involves using a beam, hinged at a pivot point to launch a projectile.

Students began the task by making a prototype and used it to experiment with the ideal ratios of the beam, pivot and counterweight to develop their final design. Students used materials such as doweling, straws and plastic spoons to build their final prototype. They used their machine to calculate mechanical advantage and work. A written reflection on what they had learned through the process was also completed.

As a concluding activity, students competed against one another to determine which trebuchet could fling a mini-marshmallow the furthest distance. Knowing the inquiry ended with this type of competition really motivated students to build the most effective trebuchet.  

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Developing Unique Solutions to Open-Ended Problems

The ability to develop solutions to open-ended problems is an important skill in a knowledge-based economy. Our Grade 9 Science students had an opportunity to gain practice with this skill through the culminating project in the Electricity unit.
Using knowledge developed in the unit, students had to design and build an electrical gadget. This gadget had to include an energy source (battery), conducting wires, and multiple loads (lights, motors, etc.) Students also had to use ammeters and voltmeters to measure their gadget’s current and voltage, and predict how much energy the gadget would use over a 24 hour-period.

Very few initial designs produced the desired result. Consequently, students were forced to continually re-think their initial assumptions and try another approach, which is a key element of effective problem solving. This process also enabled students to demonstrate perseverance and engage in meaningful teamwork, another essential element of problem solving.
Overall, this project enabled students to take risks in thinking and creating, which will be immensely helpful as they move forward with their learning at Greenwood and beyond.

Friday, 3 November 2017

The Power of Collaboration

Having students work in small groups not only helps them develop important team-building skills, but it also enables students to share and construct knowledge. Adding a novel, hands-on component to the task deepens engagement and makes learning fun.

Students studying Grade 11 Biology had the opportunity to work in this way during a class on genetics. The class was introduced to the concept of inheritance patterns by having them build fictional animals named "Reebops". 

Students learned how information is passed from one generation to another, and how genes code for physical traits. They also explored how meiosis creates variation between individuals, which is why parents, and offspring have similar traits, but are not identical. 

As you can see, our students were pleased with their creations!

Thursday, 27 April 2017

A Mission to Mars: Gamifying the Science Classroom

Teams have to complete a number of theoretical and hands-on tasks to win colonists
in this gamified approach to learning about structures.

It’s the year 2040, and you’re part of an intrepid group of colonists bound for Mars’ Jezero Crater to establish a landing site for future colonists. But there’s a problem: the damage to your Cryo sleep has affected your memory, and you’ve forgotten everything you know about structures

If you’re going to build the foundation for a new civilization, you need to re-learn the fundamentals - and fast.

In the Senior Science Lab on the third floor, Grade 7 students have thrown themselves wholeheartedly into this narrative. Working in teams, they have only one focus: to build the colony that can support the greatest number of colonists.

To do that, they’ll need to complete a number of theoretical and hands-on tasks that will teach them all about structures along the way. Science teachers Michael Schmidt and Samantha Moser have developed the “game” such that students can earn colonists by completing activities linked to their learning:

  • Each Theory Lesson earns one food/water token 
  • Each “Check For Understanding” earns 1 building token (these checks allow teachers to assess student learning in real time and redirect if necessary)
  • Building Activities earn one or two colonists, depending on difficulty

Teams need to have one food/water token for each colonist they support. The team with the most colonists at the end of the game wins!

A team conducts a "check for understanding" with Mr. Schmidt. These checks allow
teachers to assess student learning in real time and redirect if necessary.

How does the science lab support this activity?

The space is made up of a large classroom and an attached state-of-the-art lab. Students have plenty of room to rearrange the furniture for their group theory work and to consult with teachers, and the lab provides a quiet venue for conducting experiments. 

Today, one team is in the lab investigating forces such as torque and tension using sponges. Another is meeting with Ms. Moser at the back of the room, completing a check for understanding. A third team is trying out different bridge designs, determining which will support the largest load, while several other groups complete theory lessons at their desks. Though there’s lots of activity in the room, each group is able to complete their work without disruption from others.

It’s clear that students are enthusiastic about this “gamified” approach to structures - and that they like being in the larger space. “I love working on group activities in the big lab,” one student says. “It’s a really fun way to learn a lot of science.”

Another student loves the hands-on nature of the activity. “I like that we get to do lots of different activities, but that we first learn everything we need to back up those activities,” he says. “I can see how what we’re learning would be important for jobs like engineering.”

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Disaster DIY

After reading a book about a natural disaster, students teamed up to help their novel's
main character survive his or her ordeal.

Your town has just been devastated by a massive earthquake. The phone lines are dead, there’s no running water and supplies are running out fast. All you have is a few household objects and your ingenuity. How do you make it out alive?

Our Grade 7 classes tackled this tough question through a week-long integration project from March 6-10. After reading one of three books by Canadian YA novelist Eric Walters about a natural disaster - an earthquake, a tsunami or a flood - students teamed up to help their novel’s main character survive his or her ordeal.

To be successful, students had to draw on knowledge from four core subjects:

  • Science: Students invented a survival device that helped the characters purify drinking water, keep warm and dry or signal for help.

  • Math: Students used mathematical reasoning to predict how long the device will help the character survive until assistance arrives. (One group created a giant air bubble and did detailed calculations to determine how long that oxygen would last!)

  • Social Studies: Students needed to understand the specific characteristics of the area where the disaster took place, and to understand how humans acquire, manage and use natural resources based on their environment..

  • English: Students produced an oral or written explanation of how their survival device works, as well as a series of journal entries written from the perspective of their novel’s main character.

Students used a design thinking approach throughout this process: understanding what the end user needs, making sense of their research and resources and generating ideas and prototypes. By using design thinking, students learn that the process of trial and error is a good way to solve problems.

To work collaboratively students need space. Our learning community classrooms are not
only spacious but allow lots of flexibility.

What Did Students Invent?

Students’ creativity shone through in the wonderful use they made of their available resources. Some examples of devices include:

  • A water purifier made from a plastic bottle, coffee filters, curtains, sticks and a plastic bag
  • A giant “Help” sign made from glow sticks
  • A canopied raft made from debris and a tarp

How Did Our Expanded Building Support This Integrated Project?

To work collaboratively students need space: ample room to meet in small groups, spread out their materials and build their prototypes. Our learning community rooms fit the bill perfectly: they’re not only spacious, but their flexible furnishings allowed students to configure the room in the way that worked best for them. Our teachers also had plenty of space to circulate through the room and support teams as needed during work periods.

Our performance theatre also played a key role in the project. Its drop-down screen allowed the Grade 7s to view multimedia materials and go through short lessons as a large group. When it was time to present their projects, the theatre provided an ideal venue for this activity.

When it was time for Grade 7 students to present their finished prototypes, our
performance theatre provided an ideal venue.

Student Feedback

What did students like most about this project? Here’s what a few of them had to say:

“I liked that the whole week was connected to one main idea. I was really proud of our final product, because it worked and we had a clear view to why we made it.”

“I enjoyed using different ideas to help my character and put myself in the character's shoes.”

“I enjoyed going to different rooms and learning about survival if you were caught in an earthquake.”

“I’m proud of the final product because even though we disagreed at the beginning, we came together and worked through it, resulting in an awesome prototype.”

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Greater Customization Through Blocked Scheduling

Greenwood’s new state-of-the-art science labs not only encourage inquiry and discovery, but also give our teachers more opportunities to customize our science program.

Blocked scheduling is one way in which science teachers have been taking advantage of our new spaces. In a blocked schedule, multiple sections of a class - in this case, Grade 9 Science - meet at the same time. Some of the benefits of this approach include:

  • Grouping students based on readiness
  • Using space and teachers most effectively
  • Incorporating student choice, both in content and learning style

What does a blocked approach look like in practice? Here’s how science teachers Evan Morrison, Julie Way, Anne Wellnhofer and Alan Kraguljac used it to help Grade 9 students investigate characteristic physical properties and evidence of chemical change over a series of three periods.

Grouping Students Based on Readiness

After assessing students' prior knowledge using a quiz, teachers determined whether
students were ready to start the labs or should complete a teacher-led warm-up.

The focus of these three periods was a multi-lab circuit. Everyone in the two Grade 9 Science sections finished the circuit having completed five mandatory labs, but how they got there was different for each student.

Before students jumped into the labs, teachers assessed their prior knowledge using a Flubaroo quiz. This quiz provided both students and teachers with instant feedback, indicating which students were ready to start the labs and which students should first complete a teacher-led warm-up activity.

Students who completed the five mandatory labs with time to spare had the option to move on to extension opportunities building on the core concepts.

Using Space and Teachers Effectively

Three teachers were on hand to help students throughout the multi-lab circuit.

Seven lab stations were set up across two different rooms, with students free to move between the rooms as needed. One teacher was stationed in each of the two rooms, while a third floated between the spaces to check in with students and answer questions. 

Incorporating Student Choice

Our new science labs provide space for several workstations.

A blocked approach provides students with significant flexibility. Grade 9 students were able to choose:

  • Their pace when working through the labs
  • The order in which they completed the labs
  • Their preferred space for working

Students also had the option to watch online demos of some procedures.

The Results

All students finished these three periods having completed the five mandatory labs, and took away a thorough understanding of the core concepts and detailed notes. Students who wished to build on their knowledge had the opportunity to do so with extension opportunities.

“Giving the kids the flexibility to move at their own pace through the activities worked out really well,” says Julie Way.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Integration Projects Offer a New Take on Culminating Activities

Final evaluations are fast approaching, and the Grade 7 & 8 Integration Team is hard at work developing a second round of interdisciplinary integration projects. Each grade will participate in a four-day task designed to provide an authentic opportunity to apply a year’s worth of subject knowledge and skills to a real-world problem. (Read about the first Grade 7 and Grade 8 Integration Projects.)

As subject teachers, we have always been encouraged to create culminating tasks that would have students play a role and apply their subject knowledge to make real-world decisions. These integration projects are a perfect opportunity to take these individual subject role-playing tasks to the next level.

This second round of integration projects are designed to primarily assess skills and learning from the year, rather than teach new content. The development of these culminating integration projects therefore present their own unique set of strengths and challenges. There is more time within the schedule for students to focus in on their task, since less time is allotted to teacher-facilitated instruction. 

The actual project design has been more challenging this second time around. Our goal is to develop an authentic problem that requires a year’s worth of subject knowledge and skills, touching upon essential learning from at least four different courses. All of this while remembering, of course, that the problem-solvers are Grade 7 and 8 students - not yet ready to take on the complex problems that actually do require this level of integration. “Please draw upon your understanding of science, math, social studies and English to solve the problems in the Middle East.”

As teachers, it is causing us to reflect upon the curriculum in our own individual subjects in a new way. We are asking ourselves questions such as “If it is difficult to find a place for a particular concept or skill within a real-world, integrated project, how essential is it to begin with?”.

As we reach the final stretch, we are excited to see these culminating projects in action.This first year of Grade 7 and 8 projects have certainly be making all of us, teachers and student alike, think and reflect in new directions.

Samantha Moser
Grade 8 Science Teacher

Thursday, 19 May 2016

The Biology Learning Cycle & Blended Learning Tools Create Student-Centred Learning Experiences

The Biology team continued to apply consistent learning cycles and blended learning throughout the final two units: Physiology, and Evolution.

In Evolution, the learning cycle has provided strong opportunities to reinforce the patterns that lead to natural selection. Our starters, called “Questions of the Day”, are focused on reviewing content from the previous lesson to help reinforce students’ understanding of evolution. This particular strategy was also used to help students prepare for their final exams.

The Learning Cycle: Making Dry Content Engaging

A particularly challenging lesson for many students in previous years was understanding the value of evidence for evolution. It is a lesson that contains a lot of content, and can be quite dry at times. This year, the Biology team utilized the learning cycle model to reinforce the content in an engaging way. 

The learning cycle has put learning into the hands of students. They use inquiry and act like scientists to develop concepts.

The students entered the classroom and their “Question of the Day” prompt was to put a series of unknown fossil images in order, as a team of 2-3. There were no other instructions provided and students needed to get their work checked after each attempt, until discovering that ancestral whales evolved from terrestrial ancestors.

Students then deepened their exploration of whale evolution by determining which type of ungulate a whale was most closely related to. They analyzed more fossil evidence, by comparing the ankle bones of different species, and then compared different sections of DNA to create a phylogenetic tree. Students that were unable to participate in the in-class activity completed an online simulation that echoed the activities done in class. Our students were able to act as detectives and come to the same conclusions as evolutionary biologists, using DNA analysis, fossil records, and physical characteristics.

Then, we debriefed and explained the content so students could check their understanding of material, and watched a short video describing the evolutionary history of a whale. Finally, students completed an exit card to check their learning before next class.

Looking forward, after successfully using this learning cycle template for the Grade 11U Biology course, we are excited to use a similar lens on the Grade 12 Biology course to expand our resources for delivering a very content-heavy curriculum using a student-centred approach.

Vanessa Floras & Nancy Clarke
Science Teachers

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Grade 7 Integrated Project: Designing for Disaster

Shannon, Megan and Taylor with
their disaster survival prototype.
In March, Grade 7 students were challenged to ‘Design for Disaster’. The students’ goal was to use their scientific knowledge and understanding of resources to design a device that would allow their literary character to survive a natural disaster.

In the process of completing their prototypes, students were challenged to integrate subject knowledge, think creatively and develop their teamwork skills.

Students had the opportunity to create diverse products that covered several curriculum expectations. Project tasks were designed to provide appropriate structure, while being open ended to foster critical thinking and capture student interest. Students could choose how they demonstrated their design process, what they built, what supplies they used and even where they worked.

Choice served to empower our students’ thinking and creativity. Taylor Davis ('21) commented that “getting to be creative and build things without a written plan pre-given” was really rewarding. While reflecting on connecting her school subjects in one project, Zoe Starnino ('21) stated that she “really liked doing all of the science and math parts because it was kind of like you were solving a mystery, or going on an adventure, and you just kept discovering all these things”.

Learning should go beyond curriculum. A collaborative approach to design thinking was used throughout the week. This allowed students to learn from each other, as well as problem solve in a team.

Working in teams was a highlight for many of the students. Toby Bower ('21) stated that “sometimes we didn’t agree”, but as the project progressed they enjoyed  “coming together as a group”. Callum Thomson ('21) thought “it was really fun working with the same people. Splitting the jobs up worked really well for us because we got the work done quickly.”

Students experienced successes and failures throughout the week. While no two groups took the same path, all students realized their design goals in creating final products they were proud of.

Students and teachers are looking forward to the second Grade 7 Integration Project in June!

Elysia Jellema & Erin Klassen
Grade 7 & 8 Teachers

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Students Use pH Probes To Watch Chemistry Take Shape in Real Time

With LabQuest, students can see
their data displayed graphically, in
real time, as they collect it.
Use of Vernier technology has become widespread in the Science department this year. Almost every student in the school has now had an opportunity to experience the LabQuest 2, along with various probes and sensors, in their science classes.

Recently, the Grade 12 Chemistry class used the LabQuest with pH probes while conducting a titration to determine the Ksp (solubility product constant) of calcium hydroxide. Having performed several titrations in Grade 11, this procedure was fairly routine. Using this new technology, however, the experiment was really brought to life.

The Impact of Instant Feedback

With the LabQuest, students could now see their data displayed graphically, in real time, as they were collecting it. There was an immediate shift from students being passive observers to becoming more actively engaged in the experiment.

The visual feedback given by the Vernier equipment helped students develop a deeper understanding of the process of titration and made the experimental results more meaningful.

What did students think?

Many of the students reflected on the use of the LabQuest in their lab report assignment. Here are a few of their comments:

  • “Using LabQuest technology makes our experiments much more accurate and allows us to measure parameters that would be practically impossible to measure otherwise.”
  • “This technology is a great way to get accurate measurements and visually show us the titration curve forming.”
  • “The LabQuest can zoom so we could see the exact moment when (we) reached the equivalence point. After the equivalence point we could see the the shape of the curve has changed and that there was a huge drop in pH as it became more acidic. We were even able to take the derivative of the curve…”

Having become comfortable with the method and the technology, this past week Grade 12 Chemistry students used the pH probes to explore buffers. They each designed an experiment to compare the buffering capacity of various beverages (juices or soft drinks) and collected data and compared results using the LabQuest. This activity was a great example of how we can leverage this technology and allow students to personalize their lab experience.

Julie Way
Science Teacher

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Learning Plant Physiology Through Interactive Lab Experiences

As we begin the Plants unit in our Biology classes, we are emphasizing the use of inquiry techniques to investigate plant processes.

The Biology team has worked closely with the Vernier Summer Institute group to utilize a variety of labs geared towards helping students understand plant physiology.

After executing two Vernier labs within our Biology classroom (about seeds and leaves, respectively), we asked for student feedback about the experience. The response was overwhelmingly positive. Students:

  • Appreciate how well the labs connect to our course content;
  • Find the lab experiences particularly useful, saying these help them to visualize complex concepts, and dispel misconceptions about plants; and
  • Like that these labs allow them to explore the Plants unit in an authentic way, rather than focusing on rote memorization.

In addition, many students commented on how the new learning cycle that was developed for Biology creates predictability in the classroom, especially when they have missed class.

  • They appreciate the consistency and clarity within the note packages.
  • The question of the day gives students the opportunity to explore ideas that underscore the relevance of the content we are learning in class.

Overall, by creating opportunities for exploration and discussion with our Biology classes, our students are more engaged in the content, and in its application.

Nancy Clarke and Vanessa Floras
Science Teachers

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Leveraging Technology to Monitor Student Learning & Streamline Assessment

Hapara allowed teachers to reinforce
positive behaviour and promote
digital citizenship through encouraging
collaborationon shared documents.
In December, Grade 8 students immersed themselves in Toronto City Council business and municipal politics with proposals to improve City of Toronto drinking water treatment. We were able to leverage Hapara, an online education platform, throughout the project to help improve student learning and streamline teacher assessment.

Throughout the learning process we shared templates and resources with students in their Integrated Project Folders on Hapara. Students used these same folders to develop their ideas and create their proposals. All Grade 8 Teachers had access to the folders and we could monitor individual progress to prompt deeper learning and identify students who required additional support. This technology also allowed us to reinforce positive individual and group behaviour, and promote digital citizenship through the collaboration process with shared documents.

Once the Grade 8 students completed their final proposals to the City of Toronto and presented their ideas to City Council, the integrated project was complete. Each student’s proposal included curriculum expectations for mathematics, English, Canadian Social Studies and science. Teachers worked together to mark the final products. Hapara significantly streamlined the assessment process as teachers from different disciplines could efficiently access students’ products to mark the appropriate curriculum expectations.

In the integrated project, students created products that examined a social issue with improved breadth and depth by looking with different subject perspectives. The careful design and implementation allowed curriculum expectations from four disciplines to be effectively addressed. Using technology, we were able to help ensure each student was supported and challenged throughout the process, and student products could be efficiently evaluated.

Elysia Jellema
Grade 7 & 8 Math and Science Teacher

Erin Klassen
Grade 7 & 8 Math and Learning Strategies Teacher

Want to read more about our Grade 8 Integrated Project? Read a student's perspective and a teacher's perspective.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Grade 8 Integration Project: The Student Perspective

Group work was a major component
of the Integration Project.
Last week, teacher Kathryn Connelly shared her thoughts on our Grade 8 Integration Project. This week, Grade 8 student Graham Palmert provides his perspective on the same project.

During the week before the December holidays, the Grade 8 students were involved in an Integration project which drew from our four core subjects; math, English, science and social studies.

Each class contributed to a different aspect of the project. The beginning of the project was related to science and social studies. We had to pick substances or elements, such as fluoride or lead, and explain:

  • How the substance gets into our water system,
  • How it affects us, and
  • Ways to solve this issue. 

For English we wrote a final proposal, which outlined the research behind the issue we chose, how the issue affects humans, and potential solutions.

In relation to math, we completed a data analysis.

All of the subjects blended really well together and we required knowledge from all of them, such as:

  • Knowing the water system,
  • Taking data and turning them into graphs, and 
  • Knowing human settlement patterns. 

Each group chose their own topic to explore, such as how microbeads affect the water systems in Toronto. My group, which included Owen Bates and Jackson Cowie, learned about where lead comes from, how it affects us, and solutions to solve the problem of lead in our water system.

The two most astonishing facts that we learned were:

  1. Next year, the World Health Organization estimates that 143,000 people will die from lead poisoning.
  2. Lead pipes themselves elevate the risk of health issues for Toronto 35,000 households.

This project was a change from a regular classroom that provided different challenges. One challenge we faced was balancing working in a group, and dividing up how much each person had to do. The project itself was more challenging than the regular classroom work we are used to because we had to use knowledge from all four subjects instead of just one.  It was also different than a classroom because the whole week we worked in small groups, and I usually do not have class with some of my group members.

The final product had two different components:

  1. A proposal on what the problem was and how we can fix it. 
  2. A visual component. Our group decided to make a Google slides presentation on how lead affects us. Other groups used videos or poster boards. 

Upon completing the project, we showed our work to a Toronto city councilor, Jaye Robinson. Hopefully she will consider our ideas and make our water cleaner.

This was an interesting week for me as a student, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Take aways from the week were that Toronto’s water isn’t as clean as everyone thinks it is, and that working in a group requires a lot of patience.

Even though it was difficult, at the end, I think we all felt rewarded for the hard work that we had accomplished.

Graham Palmert
Grade 8 Student

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Grade 8 Integration Project: The Teacher Perspective

This December, Greenwood piloted a unique project for Grade 8 students: an integration task involving math, science, social studies and English components. This problem-based learning activity requiring the students to look at a water issue in the city of Toronto and examine how this issue has either impacted human settlement OR is impacted by human settlement.

How did this project go? Teacher Kathryn Connelly shares her thoughts. Next week, we'll bring you a student perspective on the same project.

The Grade 8 Integration project took flight on the week of December 14-17, 2015, with great success!

The Project

Students` visual and verbal presentations
highlighted their proposed solutions for
the water issue they studied.
The students were introduced to the project by going on a field trip to the RC Harris Water Treatment Plant. They took a tour of the facility and learned about where our water comes from, how it is treated, and what Toronto’s challenges are in terms of water treatment.

Back at school, the students were placed into small groups and were presented with a problem statement: How does human settlement impact the physical environment and sustainability of water resources in Toronto? What are possible solutions to this problem?

The Process

In small working groups, the students chose from a variety of topics directly related to the science, social studies, math and English curricula. In teams, the students researched, summarized and identified the connection between the science behind water quality issues in Toronto and how human settlements have impacted these issues.

The students were engaged and energized through their investigation and new knowledge of the relevance of water issues in Toronto, and worked collaboratively to think critically about their research and data, while also thinking of potential solutions to their chosen issue. The ideas that the students came up with were innovative and inventive. Throughout the collaborative process, the students were extremely engaged and active problem solvers. They worked well within their groups, divided the work effectively, and worked together to find the most relevant research and data. As a teacher, it was most impressive to observe their minds at work!

The Presentation

As a group, the students created a visual component that reflected each of their written proposals, which were completed individually. The goal of the project was exhibited through the presentations, as the students visually and verbally presented upon the history behind their issue, their analysis of the present situation and predictions of future trends of their issue, as well as the possible solutions/recommendations.

On the last day of the project, Toronto City Councillor, Jaye Robinson, listened to each group passionately present their discoveries and solutions to Toronto’s water quality issues.

Overall, it was an extremely successful integration project which the Grade 8 students embraced with open arms. Through a problem-based approach to the project, the learning became wholly student-centered, which enabled the students to work to their full potential. This project enabled the Grade 8 students to embark on a different type of learning than they were used to, allowing for more flexible and innovative thinking. The students thrived, showing them that hard work and dedication to a relevant issue leads to a heightened sense of accomplishment.

The project also gave the team of integration teachers an opportunity to communicate and collaborate outside the classroom walls, which was enriching and energizing. The first integration project helped solidify the value of student-centered learning, which will continue to be a focal point in future Grade 7 & 8 integration projects.

Kathryn Connelly
English & Learning Strategies Teacher

Friday, 11 December 2015

Using Vernier to Accelerate Learning

Now that the school year is in full swing, science classes in all grades have had an opportunity to try out our new Vernier probes and LabQuest 2 devices in their science classes.

So far students have been able to investigate:
  • Carbon dioxide levels with reference to climate change
  • Accelerated motion
  • Temperature change in different substances

The Grade 11 physics classes used the Picket Fence (pictured at left) and photogates to measure acceleration due to gravity. Many of the students were really impressed by the simplicity and accuracy of the equipment.

Small groups worked together to collect several sets of data, which were then downloaded to each student’s computer for analysis. Once uploaded, the data will automatically save on each student’s computer, giving them the opportunity to work through the analysis at their own pace. 

The graphs that were generated were easy to understand and manipulate, giving more time for students to analyze and discuss their results. 

This lab activity allows for the students to investigate why and how objects accelerate towards the earth due to gravity, and gives many opportunities for related extension activities.

Emma Seaborn
Science Teacher

Friday, 20 November 2015

Student-Centred Biology: Getting Student Feedback and Using Technology to Provide Choice

Lab Option 2 gave students the
opportunity to practice Punnett
, which are used to predict
the outcomes of breeding experiments.
Recently in the Grade 11 Biology classroom, we asked for student feedback about our revised learning cycle and student-centred approach to teaching Biology.

The feedback was positive:  students enjoy the predictable patterns in assessment and consistent exit card quizzes.

Online exit card quizzes are used as an assessment for learning. Students can practice their multiple-choice skills by completing these assessments as often as they would like to check their understanding of content. Students have mentioned that the multiple-choice quizzes are difficult and give them a good sense of the course expectations. Because the quizzes provide marks immediately, they get the instantaneous feedback they need while reviewing or studying.

Recently in our classes we provided students with two different fly lab assignments (Option 1, Option 2). Fly labs involve studying inheritance patterns in fruit flies. Both assignments met course expectations, and allowed students to investigate a lab they may complete in their post-secondary studies, but allowed for different levels of support and areas of focus. One simulation allowed students to proceed through a fly lab with the same steps they would complete within a post-secondary environment, while the other focused more on a more complex inheritance pattern, and allowed for students to practice creating Punnett squares to prove their understanding of concepts.

As teachers, we continue to seek out opportunities for students to experience choice, and engage in course material in a way that is meaningful for their needs. We look forward to investigating the diversity within a biological community when students grow their own bacterial samples in the lab in our upcoming unit.

Nancy Clarke and Vanessa Floras
Science Teachers