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Diverse communities of arthropods and microbes provide humans with essential ecosystem goods and services. Arthropods are the most diverse and abundant macroscopic animals on the planet, and many remain to be discovered. Much less is known about microbial diversity, despite their importance as free-living species and as symbionts. We created “Bugs on Bugs” as an inquiry-based research project in which students investigate both arthropod and microbe diversity by collecting arthropods and culturing their symbionts. “Bugs on Bugs” was developed as a multiple-course project in which students from different disciplines specialize in parts of the project and collaborate in project design and data analysis. We provide instructions for use of “Bugs on Bugs” in active-learning courses, share experiences in which a biodiversity course and a microbiology course completed “Bugs on Bugs” together at our institution, and share suggestions for implementation based on our experiences.
Many biology teachers visit Dayton, Tennessee, to experience “ground zero” of the evolution—creationism controversy. This article provides concise descriptions, addresses, and GPS coordinates for the trial-related sites in and around Dayton.
Animal dissection has been routinely practiced in American biology classrooms for decades. With technological advancements, more states adopting student choice measures, and increased awareness about ethical concerns surrounding dissection, many useful dissection alternatives have been developed. To understand the current use of animal dissection and alternatives, and attitudes toward the practices, a nationwide survey of middle and high school biology teachers (n = 1178) and students (n = 500) was conducted. Most teachers (84%) and students (76%) reported using dissection in their classrooms, although nearly half of educators indicated that dissection is decreasing at their school. Educators cited student performance as the main factor driving their decision to use dissection or alternatives and reported conducting dissection exercises because of student interest. Most teachers had an interest in using alternatives, although only 36% used them in place of dissection. More than a third of biology students preferred the use of alternatives over animal specimens, yet most did not request dissection alternatives. Enabling students to opt in to dissection exercises rather than opt out, as is the current practice, and educating teachers and students about student choice and the advantages of dissection alternatives are suggested strategies to reduce animal use in education, in line with the “3 R's” principle.
Students need to be aware of plants in order to learn about, appreciate, care for and protect them. However, research has found that many children are not aware of the plants in their environment. A way to address this issue might be integration of plants with various disciplines. I investigated the effectiveness of an instructional approach based on integration of botany with chemistry and art for increasing students' awareness of plants. The study was carried out in a science summer school for 10- to 12-year-old students (n = 25). A plant awareness questionnaire and a plant blindness test were used as pretests and posttests to assess the effects of the instruction on the students' plant awareness. Semi-structured interviews were also conducted with the students after instruction. The results indicated that integrating plants with various disciplines might overcome the learning problem of students associated with their “plant blindness.” Moreover, this instructional approach can provide students opportunities to learn the names of plants and some concepts in the botanical discipline, as well as help them understand the relationship between plants and other disciplines.
The challenge of teaching in the sciences is not only conveying knowledge in the discipline, but also developing essential critical thinking, data analysis, and scientific writing skills. I outline an exercise that can be done easily as part of a microbiology laboratory course. It teaches the nature of the research process, from asking questions and developing a testable hypothesis to writing a scientific paper, as well as the concepts of bacterial growth and two classic techniques for measuring bacterial growth, spectrophotometry, and standard plate method.
The compound microscope is an important tool in biology, and mastering it requires repetition. Unfortunately, introductory activities for students can be formulaic, and consequently, students are often unengaged and fail to develop the required experience to become proficient in microscopy. To engage students, increase repetition, and develop identification skills, we have them use the microscope as a problem-solving tool to examine prepared slides of microfossils and microartifacts from a simulated archeology site to determine its paleobiogeographic history.
For many middle school students, connections between their lives and concepts like chemical reactivity, microbial contamination, and experimental sampling are not obvious. They may also feel that, even if there were connections, understanding the monitoring and quality of natural resources is something for grownups and beyond their responsibility. This curriculum highlights connections. Students characterize bacteria in a local untreated water source and investigate the mechanism, effectiveness, and byproducts of chlorine bleach as a water treatment. Working in groups, they use different growth and treatment conditions to characterize samples, thus collectively obtaining a more complete description of the system. The North Carolina 8th Grade Standard Course of Study Objectives were used during curricular development, and alignment to Next Generation Science Standards performance expectations is provided. Teacher-guided discussions, demonstrations, experimentation, and database investigation engage students as they develop informed and critical opinions about water quality and water treatment methods. The final activity connects scientific investigation to advocacy and civic engagement.
Student engagement during the development of a three-dimensional visual aid or teaching model can vary for a number of reasons. Some students report that they are not “creative” or “good at art,” often as an excuse to justify less professional outcomes. Student engagement can be low when using traditional methods to produce a model, but 3D printing gives both the teacher and the student new ways of experiencing classroom activities. The simple (and free) software offers students valuable skills, “professional” modeling results, a stronger understanding of the topic at hand, and new confidence.
We present a new use for a poorly preserved turtle specimen that teachers can easily use in demonstrating vertebrate anatomy or adaptive herpetology at the high school or college level. We give special attention to illustrating the sigmoid flexure of the neck as certain turtles withdraw their heads. This ability is anatomically and biologically important in that it protects the turtle from predators and is one of the major anatomical radiations that occurred in turtle evolution. The lesson also demonstrates how turtles, whose anatomy is confined within a rigid compartment, have their organs arranged and how adaptive strategies overcome this spatial constraint.
We describe a card game that helps introductory biology students understand the basics of the immune response to pathogens. Students simulate the steps of the immune response with cards that represent the pathogens and the cells and molecules mobilized by the immune system. In the process, they learn the similarities and differences between the immune responses to viral and bacterial pathogens and why the primary and secondary responses differ.