HAPS Conference Wrap-up

Hello HAPSters!

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It was such a pleasure to meet some of you at the HAPS Conference in Vegas! I’d say it was it a definite success (for me, at least); I had a great time! By far, the HAPS organization is one of the friendliest, most knowledgeable, and distinguished organizations I have encountered, and I feel really honored to have been able to attend the conference and collaborate with you all!

I greatly appreciate those of you who attended my workshop! We came up with some great ideas for how HAPS can help high school teachers be more successful, especially in their first year(s), and I’m really looking forward to seeing those ideas implemented (which has already begun)! There is now a Committee for High School Teachers and we have already started chatting and brainstorming about all the directions and

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opportunities our connections with HAPS will take us! Be on the lookout in the near future for more information about how you can help kick-start our group and collaborate with us!

On a separate note, it is with great joy (and maybe just a tinge of sadness) that I tell you it is my LAST week of school! The HAPS Conference was an awesome taste of summer, and now it’s almost here in full force! While I will be teaching summer school, Anatomy and Physiology is not being offered over the summer, so I will be taking a break from blogging for the summer. But not to worry, I’m sure that is not the last you will be seeing/hearing of me! Ha! 🙂

Thank you for reading my blogs and taking an interest in a little ol’ high school teacher in Texas! I look forward to continuing to work with you all in the future and am so excited about the connections I’ve made and knowledge I’ve gained through my first year teaching and through this awesome organization!

Final Project – Research Papers

As the end draws near, I have finally decided on an end-of-year “project”, of sorts. I have asked my students to create a “Disease Diary” in which they research a disease from each of the body systems we have covered this year. I figure this is a project that will prepare them for many of the things they will do/see/study in college or encounter if they pursue a career in the medical field. Not only is this a summative assessment of their participation in my class, but many of my students do not have experience writing papers (especially not scientific papers) or utilizing peer-reviewed resources to do research; I am hopeful I can guide them through their research and writing to create well-referenced, high quality projects that will prepare them for the many papers and essays they will be required to write in the future. 

On that note, what databases or websites can I suggest my students visit to find peer-reviewed, primary sources that high school students can use to find information about various diseases and disorders? Many of my students are not native English speakers and have a rather limited scientific vocabulary (although I have tried my best to change that!) But if I do not provide specific sites and sources, I am afraid to see what kinds of things they might come up with! 🙂 I have been told before that when in doubt, use the references provided at the end of the wikipedia article, but I am still hesitant to suggest that. When I was in college, we had access to the library’s database of articles and books, but I am not sure what options our high school offers. As far as I know, the research will have to be done entirely through free, public databases. Do any of you have any suggestions or ideas??

And, lastly, what is your biggest “pet-peeve” in your students’ writing? I’d love to ensure I address those little annoyances! 🙂

Thanks for your suggestions!

Online Resources and Research Update

In a post a few weeks ago, I mentioned the exciting opportunity I was given to work with a medical school in Houston that was testing the efficacy of a cardiovascular unit that they had designed. A few of you asked for more information and now I have a chance to share!

The research program is through the Center for Educational Outreach at Baylor University College of Medicine. The cardiovascular unit, if effective, will be released on their website http://www.bioedonline.org/ where they already have a plethora of awesome interactive, online lessons and resources. I have used their online resources many times in the past (especially when I was student teaching in biology), and found the lessons and activities to be very engaging, comprehensive, and very visually appealing. They have everything from simulations to articles, videos, slides, and tutorials. I am so excited to learn about the results of the study and hopefully the unit will be available for everyone soon! Seeing it on paper in a big research binder and seeing it as an interactive, online unit will be so different, and it’s neat that I can say I played I role in that!BioEd-3

It is resources like this (the bioedonline.org) and others like the APS Archives (another incredible website) that make my life so much easier! It’s so helpful and exciting to have resources to refer to that I know are high quality, reliable, and accessible for both me and my students, and finding those kinds of resources has proven to be one of my toughest challenges this year. It’s difficult for me to trust online resources, but I can rest a little easier knowing they are backed by scholars, researchers, and academics. If you know of any others I should check out, please let me know, and if you have any other questions about the study with Baylor, ask away! I am not sure how much information I can disclose right now since it is an ongoing study, but I’d be more than happy to find out or share once the study ends!

Student-Centered, Student-Driven Instruction

As our year is winding down, we are finally coming to the end of our curriculum, and the students are noticing how little there is left on our calendar! I’m trying to get my students involved in lots of activities to keep their energy and motivation up through the end of the year. Each student will be working on an activity/poster/project that they will share with the class to showcase all they have learned this year.

One of the students in my Anatomy and Physiology class has expressed a passion for going to medical school and becoming an Endocrinologist. While we have covered the Endocrine system throughout the year in our discussion of other systems, I was not planning to do an entire endocrine unit. This shining student, however, has volunteered to teach the class about the endocrine system and I couldn’t be more thrilled! It’s so refreshing to have students who are motivated, interested, and willing to go above and beyond!

What great student-led discussions or activities have you had in your classrooms? What direction should I guide her in with her approach to the endocrine system? As this is not something I originally planned, I have very few lessons or resources to provide her with, but I know she will do a great job researching and learning all that she can. If you have any suggestions about main ideas, interesting facts, or cool resources for the endocrine system, she and I would love to know about them!

Also, as it turns out, the reason she has such a strong desire to become an Endocrinologist is because she, herself, was recently diagnosed with Turner’s Syndrome and has come to greatly admire the doctors who have helped her and ignited her passion for science and medicine. So, on that note, thank you to all you wonderful doctors who inspire our kids and students and encourage them to take an interest in science and their health!

Science Conference Success

As expected, the NSTA Conference was delightful! My fellow teachers and I gathered lots of resources, great ideas, and some exciting news! I also had the pleasure of running into a few fellow HAPS members and hopefully helped convince a couple other teachers to join in on all our fun! I love chatting with new people, sharing ideas, and brainstorming together, so I’m thrilled I had the opportunity to make some new connections. 

As for our exciting news… with the new bond that was passed for Houston ISD, there is a rumor we will now have a 1:1 student to computer ratio, with a possibility that my school, Chavez HS, will be one of the pilot schools next year! That being said, I feel the need to prepare myself now for this possibility. It sounds like a great idea on paper, but I question whether I am really ready for the challenge. What experience do you have with student laptops/tablets in the classroom? How do you think they can most effectively be utilized in a high school A&P class? 

Perfect Timing

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As far as I can tell, this is a very bittersweet time of year, anxiously awaited (and dreaded) by students and teachers alike… Testing season is upon us!

We can see the light at the end of the tunnel: only a couple more weeks of lessons and reviews, and yet so much to cover! And in the midst of all this anxious perseverance, the Conferences and workshops are just beginning!

This week, the other Chavez HS science teachers and I will be venturing to San Antonio for the NSTA Conference (Thanks Chavez HS and HISD!!!).home_banner_img

I’ve already downloaded the app and started planning my attack for all the awesome workshops and seminars! We really can’t wait! Conferences are always a great way to re-energize and get some fresh, creative ideas. And now is the perfect time – with all the reviewing and hectic tutoring schedules, new approaches and a renewed excitement is essential. NSTA must have read our minds! 🙂 The only way we can effectively gear our students up and motivate them to succeed is if we, the teachers, are geared up, full of positivity, and have a well-stocked toolkit of ideas to keep things engaging and rigorous! I’m really looking forward to collaborating with other science teachers and putting some new practices into play in my classroom upon our return.

Will anyone else be at the NSTA Conference? Hope to see some of you there! Let the fun begin!

Thanks, CIS!

Spring break ended last week and we were all back to school. I tried to lessen the blow by doing some fun activities and trying to get the kids thinking about our next system:  the digestive system.

We tried an activity that I received from a teacher in the College in the Schools (CIS) program at the University of Minnesota (big shout out to Murray Jensen and Jeff Adams!) called “Inside vs. Outside the Body”. It was an awesome inquiry/POGIL lesson that really got the kids thinking and coming up with great questions about what it means to be “inside” the body and what exactly that barrier is between inside/outside. I have never before had such interesting conversations as I did with my students that day. The discussion really flows because, especially with high school students, they’re so interested in their bodies (most notably in terms of reproduction), and aren’t afraid to ask any questions they have. It was so cool! This may be cruel of me, but I love to watch them think so hard they start to confuse themselves and then have to work their way out of the corner they’ve been backed into! 🙂 But, I know it’s for their own good, and they’re so much smarter and intuitive than they think, and activities like this really help to prove that.

I wasn’t sure if this activity was a better introductory activity for the beginning of the year or if it would work with a system, but it worked out wonderfully for my students and I will definitely refer back to it often with them, as it can easily be applied to any system. (Although hopefully with a bit more trial and error, I’ll be making steps away from a system to system approach…)

So, thank you CIS teachers for putting together awesome lessons!!! I’d love to test out more, and I’m really hoping to make it to your POGIL workshop!

For those of you unfamiliar with the CIS Program, here’s a link to their website!

Modeling Respiration

As we have moved on to the respiratory system, I really felt strongly about building some kind of simple, hands-on model that the students could use to visualize respiration. To build our models, we used empty water bottles, balloons, straws, and clay (with a limited budget and no lab space, activities like this are wonderful!) The students really enjoyed it and were quite proud of their models.

The process of then writing an explanation to go along with the model definitely helped to solidify the main, general points of respiration and the changes that occur within the body. I was very impressed with some of my students’ insight and detailed explanations! For being such a simple model and activity, I think it was a very successful and helpful visual tool. I know there is always room for improvement, and would love your feedback about this model. Do you see anything that could potentially be misleading or inaccurate?

 

Also, in our discussions of how and why breathing occurs, some of my students really struggled with the idea of air pressure (atmospheric pressure and air pressure in the thoracic cavity). What is the most straight-forward/simple explanation you can think of to describe this process? When I stepped back to think about it, there really is a lot of foundational knowledge required to understand “air pressure” and without first having a refresher over chemistry and physics (atoms, particles, vacuums and the space between particles, pressure, etc), I had a hard time coming up with a simple, yet accurate enough explanation.

Final Exams

I have successfully made it to my first spring break as a teacher! I’ve often joked throughout this year that I think I’ve worked harder and learned more as a teacher than I ever did in college or high school, which also makes my breaks and time off that much sweeter!book-sunglasses-beach_h5281

I am, however, hoping to use this time off to my advantage and finish up my lesson plans for the rest of the year (but at least this type of work can be done poolside!). When I consider TAKS testing, senior class festivities, and STAAR testing, it feels as though the year is almost over! The one thing I am still deciding about is the type of final exam to administer to my Anatomy and Physiology students. We have covered so much content that a written exam would certainly make sense. But since I have so much free reign with my A&P class, I would much rather stay true to my teaching philosophy and my vision for our A&P program, and allow the students a chance to showcase their creativity, critical thinking skills, and what they have learned throughout the year through some kind of project, experiment, or research.

I am consistently trying to prepare my students for the kinds of labs and projects they will experience in college, but am struggling to narrow the multitude of options to something feasible in a high school classroom. With that in mind, what kind of culminating projects have you done with your students, or do you think would be successful for high schoolers? Do you think a “final project,” as opposed to a written exam, will better prepare them and help them to develop the types of process and problem solving skills they will need in college?

Exciting Opportunities!

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from someone in the Educational Outreach Center at a local medical school. They have designed a unit on the cardiovascular system and cardiovascular health and hope to eventually take it public, free for everyone, on the web. Before they do that, they are trying to test the efficacy of their unit through a field test in over 60 classrooms throughout the Houston area. I applied to be a part of the field study, was accepted, and am beginning to implement my “assignments” in the classroom. I’m excited to see how it works out and to be a part of this!

After going to the orientation meeting for the field study, I was surprised that I didn’t know how many opportunities like this are available. If there’s anything you’re interested in, curious about, or would like to see how it would go over in a high school classroom, please let me know! I’m more than happy to adjust my schedule and test things out with my students. That’s what the first year of teaching is all about anyway, right? 🙂 I’m lucky that my Anatomy students are such a flexible group of kids who really take anything I throw at them in stride.  I love being involved in something that really encourages me to think and work outside of the box, and the students think it’s awesome that they’re involved with a medical school and “cutting-edge” lessons. If there are any other similar programs or professional development opportunities available in the Houston area, I’d love to know about them!

Students tested the effects of exercise on their heart rate
Students tested the effects of exercise on their heart rate