Biology

Biocomplexity: Transforming an Innovative High School Curriculum with UDL Scaffolds and Multimedia Resources

This project transforms an already-useful curriculum to reach a wider population of students and teachers. The curriculum effectively builds on a base of core science and math concepts to bring important current science to high school, using a case-based approach that incorporates authentic scientific inquiry. The Biocomplexity and the Habitable Planet curriculum is designed to provide material for a year-long capstone course in ecology and environmental science, or two individual modules for semester-long electives.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1020089
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2010 to Sat, 08/31/2013
Project Evaluator: 
PERG
Full Description: 

This project transforms an already-useful and innovative curriculum to reach a wider population of students and teachers than anticipated. The curriculum to be transformed effectively builds on a base of core science and math concepts to bring important current science to high school, using a case-based approach that incorporates authentic scientific inquiry. The Biocomplexity and the Habitable Planet curriculum engages high school students in the science of coupled natural and human systems, exploring the complex fabric of relationships between humans and the environment at all spatial and temporal scales. The curriculum is designed to provide material for a year-long capstone course in ecology and environmental science, or two individual modules for semester-long electives.

Pilot and field tests provide preliminary evidence that this material has produced significant student learning. External evaluation during the pilot has yielded two important findings: 1) Teachers have confronted a much more heterogeneous student population than expected at the capstone level. This offers the opportunity to expand the potential audience for the curriculum. 2) Though the previous project has provided supports for teachers and students that address the innovative pedagogy and novel content of the curriculum, this unexpectedly large heterogeneity provides an exciting opportunity to conduct design research to develop effective new curricular scaffolding and contextual supports. In collaboration with CAST, TERC has identified strategies for a transformation and extension of the materials in order to create an enhanced electronic curriculum infused by the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

The project will result in the following deliverables:

1. An e-text based on two of the most requested Biocomplexity units, to provide the following UDL scaffolds: a) Contextual supports for student work with complex quantitative and visual data that include structured data sets, smart graphs, smart images, and other scaffolds to support data analysis; and b) Reading supports, including highlighting tools, embedded glossary, and careful linking of visual and textual data.

2. Multimedia resources for students on challenging core science ideas and on techniques of scientific argumentation, and teacher materials that provide both content and pedagogical support, for all four units.

3. Study and assessment materials for all four units, including a study guide, test items, and glossary.

4. A research article on the effectiveness of contextual supports for scaffolding student understanding of complex data.

5. A white paper for curriculum developers including guidelines for scaffolding student work with complex data.

The Bio-Math Connection

This project will develop 15 modules for high school students that connect biology, computation, and mathematics with corresponding teacher materials and professional development activities. The modules will draw on an approach to biological phenomena as involving information processing, in three illustrative areas conducive to learning at the high school level: Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, Mathematical Methods in Epidemiology, and Mathematical Methods in Ecology.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0628091
Funding Period: 
Sun, 10/15/2006 to Thu, 09/30/2010
Full Description: 

This project will develop 15 modules for high school students that connect biology, computation, and mathematics with corresponding teacher materials and professional development activities. The project will build on the extensive experience of and be conducted as collaboration among Rutgers University (New Brunswick), the Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science (DIMACS), the Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications (COMAP), and Colorado State University. The modules will draw on an approach to biological phenomena as involving information processing, in three illustrative areas conducive to learning at the high school level: Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, Mathematical Methods in Epidemiology, and Mathematical Methods in Ecology. These areas are likely to bring excitement about contemporary interconnections between the biological and mathematical sciences to the high school classrooms, hence increase student motivation to study both subjects. The modules will include self-contained text and problem situations (including web-based interactive materials) that can be used separately in high school mathematics courses or biology courses, as well as in Bio-Math integrated courses. Most modules will include about ten 40-minute class meetings, whereas a few will include 1-2 lessons that can be inserted into the existing curriculum. All modules will be developed within a four-phase process that includes pilot testing by teachers who are also involved in module development, field testing by teachers who received training workshops (at least five schools), evaluation and dissemination. Modules will be made available to high school mathematics/biology teachers, free of charge, during the first three years of the project (print and electronic formats). Both formative and summative evaluation will be conducted to examine the merit/impact of the project.

Developing the Next Generation of Middle School Science Materials--Investigating and Questioning Our World through Science and Technology (Collaborative Research: Reiser)

This project will design a comprehensive science curriculum for grades 6-8, in which learning performances drive the design of activities and assessments in order to specify how students should be able to use the scientific ideas and skills outlined in standards. The materials contain hands-on experiences, technology tools and reading materials that extend students' first-hand experiences of phenomena and support science literacy.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0439493
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2004 to Tue, 08/31/2010
Full Description: 

Building on the work that "Investigating and Questioning our World through Science and Technology (IQWST)" completed in Phase I, a comprehensive science curriculum for grades 6-8 is developed in Phase II. A learning-goals-driven design is used in which learning performances that drive the design of activities and assessments specify how students should be able to use the scientific ideas and skills outlined in standards. The materials are organized around driving questions that provide a context to motivate students as they use their knowledge and skills in scientific practices -- such as modeling, designing investigations, explanation and argumentation and data gathering, analysis and interpretation -- to acquire understandings of the concepts, principles and habits of mind articulated in national science standards. The materials contain hands-on experiences, technology tools and reading materials that extend students' first-hand experiences of phenomena and support science literacy. All four science disciplines are studied for about one-quarter of each year. The physics topics for grades 6, 7 and 8 are description of motion, conservation and transformation of energy, and laws of motion respectively; in Earth science, the topics are Earth surface processes, climate and weather and objects in space; for biology, organisms and systems, genetics and the environment, and ecosystems and natural selection; and for chemistry, particulate nature of matter, chemical reactions of substances, and chemical reactions all around us. Teacher materials support teacher learning of the science content and pedagogical approaches. The materials include an on-line system that provides video examples of student work and pedagogy in action. The project also includes development of resources for the community so that learning opportunities linked to classroom activities can occur outside of school. Particular attention is paid to developing reading literacy.

Problem-Based Learning Designed for Science and Mathematics Professional Development

This project aims to: (1) develop, implement and study the impact of a subject matter-focused, Problem-based Learning professional development model; and to (2) design ways of incorporating Problem-Based Learning (PBL) into key subject matter and teacher preparation courses taken by pre-service teachers, and study the impact on pre-service teachers' learning. This project is designed with and for teams of K-12 science and mathematics teachers from school districts of mid-Michigan.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0353406
Funding Period: 
Sun, 08/01/2004 to Sat, 07/31/2010
Project Evaluator: 
SAMPI Western Michigan University

The Scientific Thinker Project: A Study of Teaching and Learning Concepts of Evidence and Nature of Scientific Evidence in Elementary School

Current curriculum materials for elementary science students and teachers fail to provoke the following essential questions during science instruction: What is evidence? Why do you need evidence? The goal of this project is to identify whether and how elementary school students formulate answers to these questions and develop concepts of evidence and understandings of the nature of scientific evidence.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918533
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2009 to Sat, 07/31/2010

Ecosystems and Evidence Project (Collaborative Research: Jordan)

This exploratory research and development project addresses the question, "Can students develop an understanding of the ecological nature of science (ENOS) in high school biology and environmental science classes that is useful and productive in environmental citizenship?" To address this question, the project will identify the essential elements of ENOS, investigate how these can be taught and learned, and explore how ENOS skills and understandings are used to enhance environmental citizenship.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918589
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Wed, 08/31/2011

Bioinformatics: Learning by Doing

This project addresses two grand challenges—cutting-edge STEM content and K-12 science assessments. Using DNA Sequencing Analysis Program (DSAP), which will be modified, high school students and teachers will learn molecular biology and modern genetics by working with authentic genomic sequences, and submit their findings for review by scientists. The objective is to develop state-of-the-art Web-based tools and resources that will make it possible for high school students to conduct authentic research in bioinformatics.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0733255
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2007 to Tue, 08/31/2010
Project Evaluator: 
WestEd
Full Description: 

This project addresses two grand challenges—cutting-edge STEM content and K-12 science assessments. Using DNA Sequencing Analysis Program (DSAP), which will be modified, high school students and teachers will learn molecular biology and modern genetics by working with authentic genomic sequences, and submit their findings for review by scientists. The objective is to develop state-of-the-art Web-based tools and resources that will make it possible for high school students to conduct authentic research in bioinformatics.

An Investigation of the Impact of Strengthening the "T" and "E" Components of STEM in High School Biology and Chemistry Courses

The overriding goal of this project is to strengthen the “T” and “E” components of STEM in high school courses taken by a majority of students. Our hypothesis is that increasing the presence of engineering and technological design at the high school level, specifically by incorporating engineering activities in high school biology and chemistry classes, will improve students’ understanding of science concepts and strengthen students’ 21st century skills more than traditional methods.
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0917540
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Fri, 08/31/2012

Inquiry-based High School Biology Using Sea Urchin Fertilization and Development

This project uses sea urchin embryos to provide a curriculum module for inquiry-based biology. The curriculum is provided via a new open access website. It addresses several of the National Science Content Standards and provides a range of activities suitable for all levels of high school biology. It will provide instructional support materials such as video demonstrations, animations, time lapse videos and image galleries relevant to each exercise, as well as professional development materials.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0454770
Funding Period: 
Fri, 04/01/2005 to Tue, 03/31/2009

Biocomplexity and the Habitable Planet -- An Innovative Capstone Course for High School (Collaborative Research: Puttick)

This project is developing a set of instructional materials that engages students and teachers in the science of coupled natural human (CNH) systems. Teacher guides, a website and multimedia resources accompany the four student modules (which focus on an urban watershed, an urban/agricultural system, Amazonia and a polar system).

Award Number: 
0628171
Funding Period: 
Sun, 10/01/2006 to Sun, 03/31/2013
Project Evaluator: 
EDC
Full Description: 

Biocomplexity — A frontier of modern science

The science disciplines that try to understand how biological and earth systems work arose in previous centuries when places that humans had not affected still remained. But in the past century, scientists have begun to realize that to really understand the world we inhabit — how it works, and how it’s changing — we have to accept Homo sapiens as an essential player, and not an intruder. This kind of thinking, which links biology, ecology, physics, chemistry, with human society and behavior, is leading to some very exciting, and sometimes surprising, science.

One term for this emerging science is biocomplexity. Biocomplexity is an umbrella science that integrates the core concepts of ecology, biogeography, ecosystem services, and landscape ecology to understand “coupled human-natural systems” and to identify more effective solutions to the challenges we face in the biosphere.

This course is designed to help students acquire a “biocomplex” way of thinking, by looking at several real situations, some familiar, and some unfamiliar, in which humans are involved as the world changes. Our mission is to foster the understanding of the complex fabric of relationships between humans and the environment, vital and important knowledge for all citizens in an era of global human impact on the environment. We can no longer study “natural” systems without considering human interactions. High school science materials should reflect this critically important fact, and also support students to engage in authentic investigations.

The curriculum uses a case study approach to engage students with biocomplexity in urban, agricultural, tropical and polar systems, in which students address environmental land and resource use challenges increasingly confronted by society. Students engage in inquiry-based investigations, gather data from primary sources, and construct evidence-based arguments. The curriculum is enlivened by multimedia resources, including video, animations, podcasts and slideshows.  The four units each take 7-9 weeks to complete.

Unit One: Urban Biocomplexity : Students develop an understanding of systems thinking at the local scale of their familiarschoolyard ecosystem. They make a land use decision regarding the addition of anathletic field to the school grounds and investigate how land use impacts hydrology,nitrogen flux, biotic factors, social factors, and ecosystem services.

Unit Two: Sprawl and Biocomplexity: Students explore the impact of habitat fragmentation as they consider the proposedconversion of farmland to a suburban housing development. They map landscapeelements and investigate biodiversity, social factors, fluxes of carbon, the economics androle of commodity subsidies, and the impact of “green” design. They debate land usealternatives that include sustainable practices, and build a coherent scientific case to support their land use choice.

Unit Three: Amazonia and Biocomplexity: Students explore connections between the agricultural and grazing practicescurrently responsible for large-scale deforestation in Amazonia and the connections ofdeforestation to local, regional, and global climate. They investigate the role of rainforestin regulating atmospheric gases and stabilizing rainfall. They analyze patterns ofAmazonian deforestation and habitat fragmentation, analyze the economic ecology ofsoybean production, cattle ranching and forestry land uses, and conduct a stakeholderanalysis. Finally, student teams prepare a plan for land in a region in Amazonia, jugglingtypes of land use to optimize other critical factors such as conservation, carbonsequestration, economic benefits and viable agriculture. 

Unit Four: Arctic Biocomplexity: Many arctic species are showing signs of rapid impacts from habitat disruption due to climate change. Students explore these impacts, investigate the flux of heat energy, and learn about population dynamics, conservation biology, adaptation and natural selection to be able to forecast what is likely to happen to selected Arctic species as the climate changes. They construct a case to support recommended conservation strategies.

 

 

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