Currently the Honors Biology class is studying ecology, which is the study of organisms and the environment. This is such a big topic that it is often difficult to do labs in class. For example, we can’t got visit an African savanna. Our solution was to bring the outdoors in by creating model ecosystems. Each student or pair created two ecosystems which were identical, except one contained a common pollutant and the other didn’t. Students got to build their models from scratch and choose what went in them. We’ll observe them over the coming weeks and study how the presence of modern pollutants can affect an entire ecosystem.
The Advanced Biology class is currently dissecting dogfish sharks as part of their physiology unit. They are learning about a system, such as the digestive system, and then cut open the sharks to see what everything really looks like. By doing the dissection, the students can get a big picture view to see how everything in the body fits together and works together. What a better way to learn about the digestive system than to actually see it!
In this lab, students are looking at photosynthesis, which is the process plants use to create their own food. This is often considered the most important chemical reaction on the planet, because plants are the base of the food chain; even carnivores couldn’t survive without plants because they eat animals that ate plants. However, photosynthesis is a really complex reaction that takes place in multiple steps, and it is something that you can’t usually see happen.
We wanted to see it happen! What we did was use syringes to create a vacuum that forced the gases out of spinach leaves. This made them sink instead of float like they normally do. We then put them in a solution of baking soda and water and used lamps as a source of light energy, like the sun. The baking soda provides carbon dioxide. Plants need light energy, carbon dioxide, and water to make glucose (food). As plants do photosynthesis, they bring carbon dioxide gas into their cells and they release oxygen gas. This gas production makes them float again. So as they move from sinking to floating, you can literally watch them do photosynthesis!
We are excited to announce that this year, our Advanced Biology students are participating in a citywide program called BioExpo! This is a unique, hands-on opportunity for students to apply their science coursework and be mentored by a real-world expert. In this yearlong program, students choose a field of interest and contact a corresponding science professional to coach and instruct them for a final project. A few of the chosen mentors have included: Physical Therapists, Cancer Researchers, Sports Medicine Doctors, and PHD professors. One student has been invited to sit in on her professor’s college class, and another has received an ongoing hospital position, shadowing her mentor and gaining hands-on experience. These professional relationship builds great connections for the students and opens doors for future jobs.
Throughout this process students learn life skills such as; writing professional emails, practicing interviewing, time management, and organization. Students utilize OpenCourseWare from MIT’s Introduction to Biology throughout the program giving them a glimpse into the college class experience.
This Advanced Biology takes classroom learning to the next level. Check back in as we continue to follow our students progress.