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Not Teaching to the Test: Creative Approaches to Student Achievment

Podcasts: Evolution and Biotechnology

Subject: Biology

Grade Level: 9th and 10th grade

How it Works: In this project, students will be held accountable in addressing the public’s misconceptions on the Theory of Evolution. Working in teams, students will be expected to (1) point out the flaws to the misconceptions using their understanding of evolution and natural selection and finally, (2) use specific scientific evidence and examples to address the misconception in order to turn the misconception around. This project incorporates a tremendous amount of team work, writing and critical thinking.

Final Project/Product: Each team will present their “educational piece” in the form of a radioshow via podcasting. Students are encouraged to be creative scientists to connect their show with current research on evolutionary biology and the history of science.

Overall Value: Learning is easy, but it is unlearning the misconceptions one gained before walking into the classroom that’s difficult to master. While we all taught the topic of evolution in our classes, we need to stop and think whether the students’ misconceptions, if any, about the idea actually changed since they stepped into our classrooms. In “Minds of Our Own,” a Science Education documentary produced by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, high school students struggle with changing their misconceptions about science concepts even after instruction. Allowing students to step back, rewind, and reflect on their conceptual thinking can help them address open questions that remain that may be hindering deep understanding. The nature of this project prepares students for the Living Environment Regents. Using misconceptions as an anchor can help students refine their understanding of evolution and natural selection. The writing component of the project serves as practice for the short answer portions of the exam. In addition, the team work, and incorporating the performing arts offers multiple points of entry to the content for students in a heterogeneous classroom.

Tips for the Teacher:

This is a culminating activity towards the end of any unit in evolution. It will require students to work in class much like a project based unit. Much of the success of this project relies on the teacher's ability to manage group work in a classroom. This project is successful in that students get to see their work published via podcasts.

Publishing podcasts is free. Yahoo (http://podcasts.yahoo.com/) offers free podcast hosting, provided that you have a website to upload your sound file (you can do this by having website accounts through yahoo themselves). This teacher recorded student podcasts using Garageband, a Mac application that is very easy to use.

Check out how to make podcasts using Garageband here: http://apple.com/support/garageband/podcasts/.

Check out how to make a podcast here http://podcastingnews.com/articles/How-to-Podcast.html.

As with any technology project, it would be more successful if the teacher takes time to play around with the software and hardware. Permitting some of your more tech-savvy students to handle the computer aspects is a good idea, but if the teacher is also knowledgeable, the troubleshooting and control of the project will become more manageable.

You can check out this teacher's podcasts of current and previous podcast projects by visiting http://.mschien.com. A gallery of radio podcasts of this evolution project will be posted.

Link to Grant Project: http://mschien.com/


 Standards Addressed
3.1b New inheritable characteristics can result from new combinations of existing genes or from mutations of genes in reproductive cells.
  Grade: High School 9-12 Subject: Living Environment
3.1d Mutations occur as random chance events.
  Grade: High School 9-12 Subject: Living Environment
3.1e Natural selection and its evolutionary consequences provide a scientific explanation for the fossil record of ancient life-forms, as well as for the molecular and structural similarities observed among the diverse species of living organisms.
  Grade: High School 9-12 Subject: Living Environment
3.1f Species evolve over time.
  Grade: High School 9-12 Subject: Living Environment
3.1g Some characteristics give individuals an advantage over others in surviving and reproducing, and the advantaged offspring, in turn, are more likely than others to survive and reproduce. The proportion of individuals that have advantageous characteristics will increase. 3.1h The variation of organisms within a species increases the likelihood that at least some members of the species will survive under changed environmental conditions.
Day 1:
Students establish a position statement to explain the flaws of the misconception.
Team Conceptual Workout sheets
Class Resource Center/Library – Suggested resources
Podcast Worksheet
Vocabulary Sheet
Procedure 1
Pre-class prep – Group teams according to the needs of your class/students. Assign each team one of the misconceptions below. You may want to target certain questions to specific groups based on their ability, or specific levels of conceptual achievement on evolution (i.e. Maddy seems to have a hard time grasping natural selection, perhaps assigning her team the 5th question might push for her to think step by step).
a. a. Copy a class set of the Team Conceptual Workout. If need be, you might want to tailor a different TCW for each misconception. If you have struggling learners, you might want to add more guiding questions, or even a resource list that points to specific websites and books in the classroom that can bring them to the evidence and examples required.
b. b. Misconceptions of Evolution (see: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/)
• Evolution is only a theory; it hasn't been proved
• Evolution is like a climb up a ladder of progress; organisms are always getting better.
• Evolution means that life changed ‘by chance’
• Natural selection involves organisms ‘trying’ to adapt
• Natural selection gives organisms what they ‘need.’
• Humans evolved from monkeys.
Misconceptions of Evolution http://evolution.berkeley.edu/
Procedure 2
Be sure to have the following resources available for student reference.

• Wikipedia’s section on Evolution: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution
• Wikipedia’s section on Natural Selection: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_selection
• PBS Videos for Students on Evolution via Web: http://pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/educators/teachstuds/svideos.html
• Evolution, By EyeWitness Books
• Any biology textbook that serves as a class reference

Procedure 3
Class Engagement – Be sure to entice the students into the project by stating that they will be producing podcasts on evolution. You can point that that they will be published on the internet. Then, announce the goal for the day. After pointing the students to their team assignments and assigned misconceptions, have them break out into their groups to complete parts I and II of the Team Conceptual Workout.
Procedure 4
Post class work: Examine each team’s exit card. Note any times that they are heading towards the wrong direction with their statement as well as those that have a hard time generating a statement at all. Be prepared to tackle these groups tomorrow – remind them of some of the ideas and activities in your evolution unit that might trigger ideas.
Team product at the end of Class: Each team’s answer statement will be written on an exit card for teacher evaluation HW: What are some of the evidences for our answer statement? Generate 3 evidences and examples for each for tomorrow’s team session. Be prepared to share with your team to push them forward!
Day 2: Investigative Question: What are the evidences that will turn around people's misconceptions?
Generating evidence as support for answer statements
Vocabulary Sheet
Procedure 1
Pre-class prep: Be sure to address team-wide issues individually.
Procedure 2
Class engagement: Teams share their homework responses to their assignment and document their evidences and examples on the TCW sheet. Be sure to encourage teams to question the accuracy and validity of the evidence they are using to support the team’s answer statement. Refer students to the evolution vocabulary sheets and their rubric as guiding tools to perfect their writing and communication. If need be, model an evidence/example generating session to the whole class through a fishbowl.
Procedure 3
Be sure to keep the class resources open for students.
Final product at the end of class: completed team conceptual worksheet – check each team before they are dismissed. HW: How does your team plan on addressing your assigned misconception to the world? What is the best way to present this via a podcast? In one paragraph, generate an idea. Prepare to share it with the class.
Day 3: Investigative Question: How do we create a podcast that will best help turn people’s misconceptions around on evolution?
Students create a script in class to express their understanding of the concepts of evolution.
Vocabulary Sheet
Procedure 1
Class Engagement: After describing the expected final product for today, offer some additional ideas for the radio show. Then, inform students that today’s finished products will be turned in for review. Remind students to use the vocabulay sheet and rubric as guiding tools. Some ideas for types of podcasts include:
a. Talk Show – Guest scientists and famous personalities
b. A Walk Back in Time – What would Darwin and Lamarck say when they travel to the future to see what we have seen?
c. Radio Reality Show – Teach the “everyday folks” the errors of their misconceptions.
Product at the end of class – An outline of your team’s script that will be submitted to the teacher for inspection. Homework – Design your scene in the script. Prepare a 2-page script to contribute to an overall larger script for your team (so your script total should be at least 6 pages).
Day 4: Investigative Question: Does your project align with Ms. Chien’s rubric?
To assure the success of each project by enforcing peer editing of scripts using the project rubric.
Project Rubric
Procedure 1
Engagement: Allow each team 20 – 30 minutes to structure their scripts together. Then, pair each team up with another team. Each team will practice their radio show in front of the other team. Each team will get their turn to practice and present. The team serving as the audience should evaluate the presenting team using the rubric. Give the students 20 – 30 minutes for this activity.
Product at the end of class – A detailed, marked rubric by each team that demonstrates the alignment of their script with the project rubric. HW: Be sure to refine any thing on the script as necessary.
Day 5: Presentation of student work
Teams will present and record their radio show in front of our “studio audience.” Audience members confront their personal individual misconceptions on evolution through their peer’s podcasts.
Audience sheets
Procedure 1
Engagement: After assigning presentation/recording schedules for the period, hand out the audience worksheets. Instruct students to select a misconception from the list (they should not select the misconception from their project). Then, when the team addressing their selected misconception performs, they must listen carefully to respond to the questions on the worksheet. Allow students to reflect their understanding between performances.
HW: Complete section 4 of the audience worksheet. Be ready to share in a class project review. Day 6 and 7 can be dedicated to addressing additional questions students might have for further investigation.

Annie Chien


School of the Future
127 East 22nd Street
New York, New York 11373

Annie comes from a background of biology, psychology and educational technology. She received her undergraduate degree from Barnard College, Columbia University and graduate degree from New York University, Steinhardt School of Education. This year (2006 - 2007) is MsChien's 8th year at SOF. She loves performing action research. She enjoys massages, tea and reading. Her favorite student is ____________ (your name here).

Important documents for this lesson plan.



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