Political Biology

Source: josiahandfriends.wordpress.com

Source: josiahandfriends.wordpress.com

Today I’m sharing another one of my quarter projects, meaning my kids work on it once a week for 9 weeks. I really like this one because it gives the students the freedom to dive into a topic that they really are interested in. It requires them to find out what is happening in the real world and decide for themselves what the best solution is.

Each student chooses a biological topic (ie. global warming, animal conservation, organic foods) and then researches political connections. The end product is a letter to a politician explaining what the problem is and what they feel the government should (or should not) do about it. In some cases, the government is not involved at all but the students can take the side that it should be! They can disagree or agree with what is already being done (which means they have to actually know what is going on). Here’s the student instructions and research questions: Politician letter   I’ve done this project with my freshmen bio and with my upperclassmen bio 2, so there are modifications for both levels. My freshmen all write to President Obama. My upperclassmen have to choose their own politician (anyone but Obama).  They edit each other’s letters, and then I edit again if needed. I do actually mail their letters (well, the ones that meet all the criteria). We always get a response from the White House (though it takes a few months). I post the letter in my room, and the kids really get a kick out of it. Some of the other politicians will respond as well, and I give those letters to the student who wrote them.

Here’s what’s great about this project:

-They have to think for themselves. They can’t defend their solution with “my parents say”. We also do a discussion day where they tell the class their problem and solution, and then the class gets to ask questions to make them strengthen their defense.

-Writing a letter that will actually be sent gets them to put in more effort. It gives the whole project a purpose beyond “it’s good to know”. It does make them feel important and show them their opinion is valued.

-It’s great way to teach about credible sources and even bring in primary literature if your students are ready for it!

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Biology Bell Ringers

Picture1Just a quick post today while my little one naps!

I have my students (in all my classes) keep biology journals. Originally, this was part of their notebook. But I found it SO time consuming to sit and go through 130 notebooks. And since there is no way I am bringing them home, I had to stay after school for hours to work on them.

So now, they do their journals on GoogleDocs. This system is so much better. I can grade them from the comfort of my sofa & sweats. They use the same document all year, just add to it each time. This also gives me a running document of their work throughout the year. I have 13 iPads in my room all the time, which is great. I can tell them to get logged in as they walk in the door. Having said that, 5 of my 6 classes have more than 13 students. So this means they have to take turns and I have to have something else ready for them to work on (which sometimes is as simple as review what we did yesterday). And then there are the kids who can’t log in, for whatever reason (seriously, how do you forget your password everyday?). So once in a while I will allow a student to just write their response on a paper and turn it in, but I really try to avoid that!

I require a minimum 2-3 sentence response from students. I try my best to go through and write a response to each student, but sometimes its just not possible. But it’s a great way to see if your kids are comprehending and learn a little about them at the same time.

So here are most of my journal prompts. I say most because sometimes I just make them up as we go along. These cover everything from characteristics of living things to specific organ systems. I also throw in a few pictures that I think are funny. Sometimes I just want to see if they get it…..

Here you go!     Bell Ringers

If you have other ideas for journals, I would LOVE to hear them!