Biology EOC Exam Prep

The season of end-of-course (EOC) exams is upon us!  This week, students have EOC exams in Geometry (Wednesday) and Algebra (Thursday).  The Biology EOC exam is scheduled for next Friday, June 6.  Biology students taking the Biology EOC took a practice exam during class today.  We will walk through the exam step-by-step during the next class to ensure students have a strong understanding both of the content and of how the exam will be scored.  For additional 2013 Biology EOC exam information, visit the Washington State OSPI website.

Systems Biology – Lesson 12

In lesson 12, students learned about the systems of the human body.  After taking a quick pre-assessment, we watched a video explaining biological organization.  Organ systems were included in the hierarchy, and that led in to a second video about the human body.  Students were given a worksheet and each student was assigned one or two questions per video to answer.  At the end of the videos, everyone shared responses.  The final video focused on the respiratory system, and students followed along with the breathing exercises.  After the lesson, students received copies of two additional worksheets.  The first worksheet directed them to the website which they were instructed to use to learn about the various body systems.  The second worksheet guided students through the process of integrating their understanding of body systems relevant to the Heredity Project trait they completed as part of the Genetics Unit.  Students will have at least two additional class periods to complete the assignments from this lesson.

Systems Biology – Lesson 11

In this lesson, students were challenged to think outside the box.  With Odyssey sophomore and senior student defenses in full swing, students have been practicing the art of reflection.  As we transition from the study of ecosystems to the study of human body systems, we briefly returned to our study of financial ecosystems (lesson 3).  Students were introduced to the idea that our existing financial system is limited when it comes to integrating the value of natural resources.  We watched economist Pavan Sukhdev’s TED Talk “Putting a value on nature” where he explains the economic tools he uses to integrate natural resource valuations into his economic models.

We then transitioned to a discussion of cryptocurrencies as an alternative to traditional fiat currency.  I shared the final tally of the various eco-themed cryptocurrencies donated by generous members of the public in support of my biology students.  Students had previous elected to consolidate our crypto holdings into dogecoins, and I shared the news that each student could elect to receive either 5,650 dogecoins (currently valued at just under $3), $3 cash, or a free yearbook valued at $7.  About half of the students elected to receive their share of donated cryptocurrency, and I encouraged them to visit the Getting Started page.  Some students elected to set up accounts through Cryptsy, while others chose to receive their coins via the @tipdoge feature on Twitter.  Several students asked how they could spend their cryptocurrencies, so I explained that many retailers accept various currencies, including my good friend Bo Saxbe, operator of the Cheese Wizards sandwich truck.  A local news station recently profiled Cheese Wizards as part of a larger story about the first Bitcoin ATM to arrive in Seattle.  The cryptocurrency ecosystem is rapidly evolving, and it will be exciting to observe whether cryptocurrency will take hold and find a niche in the modern economy, or whether it will go extinct.


Systems Biology – Lesson 10

In lesson 10, we continued with our study of osmosis, focusing on the extreme environment of the Great Salt Lake.  Students learned that a railroad causeway was built across the lake more than 60 years ago, physically separating the lake into two sides.  Only the south side of the lake receives a continuous supply of freshwater, causing the salinity of the south side to be much lower than the north side.  As a result, the ecosystem of the south side of the lake is much more robust than the north side which is inhabited primarily be halobacteria.  Considered extremophiles because of their unique ability to live in extremely salty water, halobacteria are present in such abundance that they color the water in the north side of the lake purple (because of the rhodopsin protein they produce).  As evidence of their learning, students completed a case study worksheet and hypothesized what might happen to the existing Great Salt Lake ecosystem if the causeway were removed.

Systems Biology – Lesson 9

In lesson 9, our first lesson of the week, we circled back to osmosis, a concept students learned about early in the school year.  We connected the theme of “Water Follows Salt” with the reality that cell membranes contain pores and channels that regulate the flow of everything across the cell membrane.  We discussed the vocabulary of osmosis in the context of blood, recognizing that blood cells in plasma (isotonic) behave much differently than blood cells in water (hypotonic) or in saltwater (hypertonic).  We then thought about how salmon might be able to transition from freshwater to saltwater during their life cycle.  By connecting pore protein expression (via the Central Dogma) with evolution, students now have the foundation necessary to explain how salmon can hatch from an egg fertilized in a freshwater stream, migrate through the brackish waters of an estuary out into the Puget Sound, travel for years in the salty Pacific Ocean, and eventually find their way back to the steam from which they were born to complete their life cycle.   We wrapped up with a video about ice cave exploration, in which the concept of extremophiles was presented.  Students then transitioned to Work Time where they read an article and answered questions about extremophiles.

Systems Biology – Lesson 8

Our exploration of the Tyee Campus ecosystem concluded with a return to modeling energy flow using Microsoft Excel 2013.  Students worked individually to construct an energy flow model using a worksheet which provided the calorie requirements of a variety of organisms found on our campus.  The worksheet also included the Excel formulas to connect the various pieces of data into a model.  The lesson provided students with an opportunity to practice using the formula functions in Excel, taught them how to create a linked graph of the data, and asked them to derive explanations about why organisms are found in numbers approximating what might be anticipated by their understanding of the trophic pyramid.

Systems Biology – Lesson 7

Our efforts to understand how our campus ecosystem fits within the larger Puget sound ecosystem culminated today.  During the first two class days this week, students worked in groups to create presentations comparing and contrasting the Tyee campus ecosystem with the larger Puget Sound region ecosystem.  Students were tasked with identifying at least one aspect of CHON+Energy cycling absent from our campus that could be added back to make our campus more like the larger Puget Sound region ecosystem.

In the current lesson, students watched George Monbiot’s TED Talk about the concept of “rewilding” to encourage them to think big about how to improve the ecosystem of the Tyee campus.  After watching the talk, students worked individually to complete an evaluation of the project their group proposed the previous day to improve the campus.

Consolidation of Crypto Holdings

In preparation for our lesson integrating the concept of cryptocurrencies into the ecosystems portion of our systems biology unit, I have been researching exchanges for the various eco-themed altcurrencies we have received from many generous donors.  Ideally, there would be one exchange to house all of these currencies, but the reality is quite different.  In an effort to maximize class time and provide students with an opportunity to learn how to execute trades, I have decided to consolidate currencies I have donated (from @dogetutor) on Cryptsy in the form of DogeCoins.  I will discuss with students our options for handling the remaining donated coins.  Options include:

1. Students sign up for additional exchanges to receive the altcurrency

2. Students download the altcurrency wallet on their own computer and send their deposit address

3. I trade our holding(s) for DogeCoins, transfer the DOGE to Cryptsy, and distribute to each student

My purpose in sharing this is to reinforce the importance of transparency.  I have selected DOGE as the common currency because of the low transfer fee, it’s ubiquity on the various exchanges, and the interest students have shown in acquiring that particular currency.  Feedback is welcome and appreciated!

Systems Biology – Lesson 6

What a week!  We took advantage of the summer-like weather early in the week with a survey of our local school ecosystem.  We then transitioned to a deep-dive reading of matter and energy cycling in an ecosystem, and wrapped up with Lesson 6, where students shared their learning with their group members to construct two models of matter and energy cycling.  Students received a graphic organizer to help them compare and contrast the cycling of carbon, water, and nitrogen (CHON) as well as energy on two very different ecological scales.  For the large scale, we evaluated matter and energy cycling of a more generic ecosystem like the Puget Sound region.  For the smaller scale, we focused on our school campus.  Students realized that some, but not all, aspects of matter and energy cycling are present on our school campus in contrast to what is found in the larger Puget Sound region.  Next week they will craft and deliver presentations to the class explaining the ecological implications of, and possible solutions to, separating a school campus from the native local ecosystem.