Igniting student passion for learning by making the “invisible” visible.

by Bob Feurer

Grades 9-12

Introduction

Our goal as teachers should be the guide students to the insights we know are inside them. I provide experiences for students that lead to “discovery learning” and use strategies that access student’s lives and experiences as starting points for discovery and wonderment.

I help make the invisible visible in a number of ways:

-Ask students to look at their everyday experiences and introduce a new part of that.

-Model through kinesthetics.

-Entice students into learning through a playful activity.

Along the way I make sure to recognize and respond to each student’s own way of learning and participating.

Reflections

What I did well..

I think the strength of this lesson is that it helps connect students to some difficult content by relating the chemistry of photosynthesis to everyday objects in their lives; making the invisible, visible.  The learner is provided with concrete examples of products that are produced by the photosynthetic process and then guided to a physical model of how those objects are constructed chemically.

The “Talk a Mile a Minute” is a fun way to connect the vocabulary to valuable content and allows both the clue giver and receiver new ways to connect to the important content.  Friendly competition is a means of improving student engagement and it is easy for students to compare how they were doing compared to their peers around them.

What I would do more of or differently…

Due to time constraints the video does not allow the entire multiple day and experience to be fully explored.  The lesson included a bread making lesson to explore the scientific method as well as connect photosynthesis with respiration.  Six student groups make bread dough with one serving as the “control” group which utilizes the accurate recipe; each of the other groups excludes one key ingredient or condition.  Omitting the sugar, the yeast, the oil, etc. are all variables that are investigated in resulting differences to the dough investigated the next day.

Another investigation creates connections where students observe and journal the germination of a wheat grain in a zipper-top plastic bag.  The role of the starch in the grain, the absorption of water and carbon dioxide all aid students in understanding the chemistry of the photosynthetic and respiratory processes.

As each of these activities is being accomplished students are asked to develop exit cards for focusing their thinking.  Focusing questions like: “Where does the energy for seed germination originate?”  “What is the significance of the shoot’s color?”  “How did the starch in the grain get into the seed?”  “What molecules were used to create the starch in the seed?”

All of these activities build student experiences by visibly allowing the construction of knowledge.  The exit cards allow for formative assessment to measure student understanding.

If the technology existed, digital imaging could be added.  Day to day photographs could be added in a digital observation journal.  (We used labeled sketches!)

I want to continue to grow this practice by…

The lesson design is intended to connect two of the fundamental concepts of basic biology, photosynthesis and respiration.  I think an obvious connection would to create lessons that also add mitotic and meiotic concepts to the lesson structure.  These fundamental concepts of introductory biology construct meaning for learners as they experience how energy is stored by the photosynthetic process, released by respiration and utilized to create new cells in the process of growth in both roots and shoots.

 

About Bob Feurer

Bob Feurer has taught all 37 years of his career in the science department at North Bend Central Junior-Senior H.S. Biology I and II, Anatomy &...

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