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Learning about stem cells within the context of treating pet illness or injury is an additional way for teachers to discuss the integration of science, technology, and veterinary medicine. We explain how practitioners in veterinary medicine harvest animal stem cells from adipose (fat) tissue in treating pet illness or injury. Further, we narrate how the veterinarian's approach to pet stem cell therapy demonstrates an important step in technological progress in science, one that may lead to medical advances for humans.
Evolution is widely regarded as biology's unifying theme, yet rates of rejection of evolutionary science remain high. Anecdotal evidence suggests that cognitive dissonance leading to an emotional response is a barrier to learning about and accepting evolution. We explored the hypothesis that students whose worldviews may be inconsistent with the acceptance of evolution generate detectable emotional responses in the form of physiological changes when exposed to evolutionary themes. Physiological data (respiratory rate, galvanic skin response, and heart rate) were collected from participants while they were asked “yes/no” questions, some of which referenced evolution. Questions were of three categories: relevant, irrelevant, and control. Authenticity of response rates to relevant questions such as “Do you believe in evolution?” were verified using visual inspection to compare degree of response rates with control questions, such as “Have you ever cheated on a test?” Our results support our hypothesis. Of the 33 participants included in our study, a majority of them produced detectable physiological changes indicating emotional responses when asked questions referencing evolution. The highest response rate (79%) was generated by the question “Do you believe in evolution?” The implications of an emotional response in students when presented with instruction in evolutionary theory are discussed.
This study demonstrates the use of wiki technology (an editable webpage environment) to provide a virtual, asynchronous collaborative-learning environment for students for the purpose of working on course-content-focused study-guide questions. To analyze the effectiveness of this course tool, students' responses to various qualitative and quantitative questions were collected from multiple classes of various levels. Preliminary findings demonstrate that students preferred and were better able to use the wiki cooperative learning group compared with common classroom resources (PowerPoint, videos, in-class group activities, and the textbook).
We describe an alternative to the kinds of observation-based lab exercises that are often used to cover animal and plant evolution with respect to transitioning from aquatic to terrestrial habitats. We wrote this activity to address these objectives, but also to model the process of scientific inquiry and to require students to collect and analyze quantitative data. Additionally, we designed this activity so that students must consider the evolution of plant and animal traits in an integrated fashion.
We present a practical field exercise for ecology and animal behavior classes that can be carried out on campus, using urban wildlife. Students document an animal's feeding behavior to study its interactions with the surrounding environment. In this approach, an animal's feeding behavior is quantified at experimental food patches placed within its habitat. Following a lecture on foraging ecology and an outdoor discussion about the animals on campus, students formulate questions and hypotheses. Simple statistical analyses are used to construct results and draw conclusions.
A simple and inexpensive method of monitoring the movement of an isolated frog heart provides comparable results to those obtained with a force transducer. A commercially available photoresistor is integrated into a Wheatstone bridge circuit, and the output signal is interfaced directly with a recording device. An excised, beating frog heart is placed in a Petri dish and over the photoresistor so that movements produced during the heartbeat cycle change the amount of light entering the photoresistor and, therefore, the voltage output from the circuit. Experiments that can be done with this system include the effects of temperature and dose—response relationships with Ringer's solutions containing acetylcholine and norepinephrine.
Using Pompe disease as a context affords the opportunity for students to consider multiple biological concepts and embraces the Next Generation Science Standards Disciplinary Core Ideas Structure and Function (LS1.A) and Inheritance of Traits (LS3.A) as well as Crosscutting Concepts Structure and Function and Cause and Effect. These crosscutting concepts are very much interrelated as we consider progression of disease from the molecular to the organismal level. The concepts are repeatedly emphasized, providing “explicit instructional support” for students to “develop a cumulative, coherent, and usable understanding of science and engineering.” DNA, proteins, enzymes, genetics, and human disease are taught together through the story of patients with Pompe disease as students engage in a simulated clinical assay and genetic analysis and present their findings in grand rounds. The activity is one of multiple lessons sequenced to scaffold student understanding of clinical and translational science, starting with a first-person perspective of a father who loses his infant son to Pompe and concluding with a role play based on actual events surrounding approval of human clinical trials of gene therapy for Pompe disease.
Students often find it challenging to create images of complex, abstract biological processes. Using modified storyboards, which contain predrawn images, students can visualize the process and anchor ideas from activities, labs, and lectures. Storyboards are useful in assessing students' understanding of content in larger contexts. They enable students to use models to construct explanations, with evidence to support hypotheses — practices emphasized in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Storyboards provide an opportunity for performance assessment of students' content knowledge against a backdrop of observing patterns, determining scale, and establishing relationships between structure and function — crosscutting concepts within the NGSS framework.
Species identification is essential to biology, conservation, and management. The ability to focus on specific diagnostic characteristics of a species helps improve the speed and accuracy of identification. Birds are excellent subjects for teaching species identification because, in combination with their different shapes and sizes, their plumages have distinctive colors and patterns that vary characteristically from species to species. Bird feather tracts have specific names so that proper descriptions of colors and patterns on those tracts can improve the precision and conciseness of identification criteria. We use popular social media (Twitter) to engage students in an exercise designed to familiarize them with avian species identification and improve their use and comprehension of vocabulary. This exercise can be used in higher education for ornithology and other identification courses, as well as in primary education as a basic introduction to species and biodiversity.
Over the years, many of my students have reported that they enjoy lectures that include short, simple animations. To keep students engaged, I have developed a small set of teaching animations using PowerPoint and Camtasia Studio software packages. A survey of students who learned four difficult topics with traditional written lessons and with these animations revealed that 80% of the students say that they learn better when animations are included. With such a majority reporting that cartoons engage them in learning, I wanted to share my simple method of creating them with the teaching community.
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