Grade VII Biology students explore structures called organelles that comprise the eukaryotic plant and animal cells. Students learn about the nucleus which houses chromosomes containing inherited material called genes. Students learn the importance of replicating this information so that new cells can be generated for growth. This is a difficult process for MS students to conceptualize and calls for diverse experiential learning opportunities.
Many years ago, I worked with a Baldwin Director of Academic Technology, Robert White, who would observe classes to help teachers integrate technology. Out of his visits to my classroom came collaborations resulting in projects aiding students to practice and learn difficult biological processes. Although the project has undergone many revisions over the years, my students are still studying cell reproduction using the Mitosis HyperStudio Project.
Using Roger Wagner’s HyperStudio 5.0 software and teacher generated illustrations, students create an ordered stack of cards identifying and describing the steps of the mitosis process. The project serves as a study tool for the students to learn this sophisticated process. The project is evaluated by me, the biology teacher, and later by students in the Grade XI Biology classes, following their study of mitosis. Two grades benefit from this joint project that was developed following a technology workshop attended by Christie Reed, Grade XI Biology teacher, and myself. At that workshop, we heard that students perform better when they know that their work will reach an audience wider than their teacher. Grade VII students receive written feedback from the evaluators. The Grade XI students have the opportunity to use the evaluation as a review of their understanding of mitosis in order to write meaningful critiques of the projects.
Still, this opportunity for story-telling is not quite enough to understand such a complex process. This year, I engaged the students in some role-play to understand the transitions through the phases of mitosis, particularly, prophase through anaphase. “I got it,” was the exclamation I heard from several students. To cap off the experiential learning, students decorated single layer cakes with Gummy Spaghetti, Smarties, and mini marshmallows to demonstrate the phases of mitosis. The best part for me was taking photos of their efforts. Of course, the best part for them was eating the cake. Note: We wore gloves to assure cleanliness. Through the photos, I hoped to share the fun with the Baldwin community. To see more photos, please visit http://www.baldwinschool.org/media_gallery and click on the Grade VII Mitosis Cake Project album.
Teacher of Grade VII Biology and Grade XII Advanced Biology