Final Projects

With the Biology EOC finally in the rear-view mirror, it is time to take what we have learned in Biology class this school year and create something new.  Final Projects are all the rage!  Select a topic below or create your own.  Need a rubric?  Create one.  Your work will be published to our class website for the world to see!

Project Ideas:

  • Redesign HHS
  • Science and Politics
  • Rewilding Burien
  • Tools Scientists Use
  • Science vs Pseudoscience
  • Get Creative!

The Evolution of Education:

You have been tasked with re-designing Highline High School.  Your design must meet the Highline Public Schools Strategic Plan and Instructional Focus criteria.  You are constrained only by the property outline of the school.  Additionally, students must demonstrate mastery of the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards using 21st Century Skills.

What is your vision of the ideal high school?  How will it work?

How will students learn?  How will they demonstrate what they have learned?

What will the school look like?

Justify your vision.  What evidence do you have that your solution will improve upon the current school design?  How will your vision result in an improved educational experience for the students who attend?  Why should existing stakeholders support your vision?  

Resources for consideration:

Changing Education Paradigms

Re-Imagining Work

The Power of Introverts

The Invented History of ‘The Factory Model of Education’

Science and Politics:

Have strong opinions about a candidate for President in the 2016 election?  Use your understanding of biology to explore one or more positions taken by the candidate, then research the topic and write an essay exploring your findings.  Your claim must be grounded in fact.  Your evidence must be credible.  Your reasoning must be logical and rigorous.  Your essay should also include a discussion of how science and politics intersect. How do candidates determine their political ideologies? How can voters influence the political process?

Scientists traditionally stay out of politics, choosing instead to let the data stand alone. In your opinion, should science and politics maintain a respectful distance, or should scientists be more vocal in the field of politics? How many scientists hold elected office in local government?  At the state level?  At the national level?  How is science funded?  At the national level, 39 members of the US House of Representatives comprise the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. What is the purpose (jurisdiction) of the committee? How are members appointed? What states or regions are over- or under-represented and what impact might that have on residents and businesses in our state?

Rewilding Burien:

In his TED Talk, British writer George Monbiot introduces us to the concept of “rewilding” – the idea that to promote healthy ecosystems, we must bring back the megafauna and the tertiary consumers that once roamed the land long before humans.  Monbiot reminds us that plants native to a given location co-evolved with other species previously living in the same location, so by studying the native plants we can make inferences about those species even if they are no longer found in that location.  He also argues that humans may simply need to stop trying to “fix” damaged ecosystems and instead step back and let natural selection and homeostasis determine the shape of future environments.

Apply what you have learned to your favorite place on Earth: Burien!  Describe the location as Charles Darwin would have done: what are the major plants, animals, and geologic formations present?  How has the environment changed over time?  Is the ecosystem currently in balance, and how do you know?  From your perspective, what would a healthy ecosystem look like in Burien?  Include credible scientific evidence to support your perspective.  Finally, create a before and after model of the ecosystem and write a detailed explanation of the differences.

Tools Scientists Use:

Real science requires access to real tools.  Scientists working in the lab are surrounded by tools to conduct the experiments that extend knowledge.  To prepare for a career in the lab, visit the HHMI Virtual Lab website and select the lab you are most interested in.  Download and complete the worksheet corresponding to the lab.  While working through the lab, make a list describing the equipment you use.  In addition, make a list describing the assays (types of lab experiments) you use and explain why each assay was used.

Looking for even more challenge?  Research cutting-edge biology lab tools and techniques like CRISPR, RNA Seq, and Seahorse Metabolic Analyzers, Multicolor Flow Cytometry, and Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T cells.

Science vs Pseudoscience:

Where is the line between fact and fiction?  How do you know?  Watch the Baloney Detection Kit video below and answer the worksheet questions.

Apply your learning to the concept of genetic memory.  As scientists and the public struggle to understand the field of epigenetics, the idea of genetic memory has been proposed in which epigenetic modifications to DNA can be passed down through generations, resulting in memories encoded in DNA also being passed down through generations.  What do you think?  Explore the field of epigenetics and determine the boundaries of what is known (backed by science) and what is conjecture (ideas lacking scientific backing).  Are memories encoded in DNA the realm of science or pseudoscience?  What exactly are memories?

Suggested readings:

Gene Regulation, Illustrated

Grandma’s Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Genes

Mice Inherit Specific Memories, Because Epigenetics?

How Our Brains Make Memories

Get Creative!

Not feeling inspired by the existing list of ideas?  Come up with your own!  Maybe you have an idea for designing a better biology class – let’s hear it!  Interested in global warming, vaccines, or the future of space travel?  Craft your interests into a solid project and run with it!  Speaking of crafting, how about sharing your love of biology within the context of Minecraft?  Create a virtual learning environment and inspire future biology students!  Perhaps you would rather investigate the biology of your favorite sport?  Should Barry Bonds be in the Hall of Fame?  Will the NFL develop technology to protect players from concussions?  With the Olympics on the horizon, athletes are debating whether to participate and risk exposure to the Zika virus.  What is the Zika virus and how does risk of exposure compare to reports of bacteria completely resistant to all known antibiotics?  What is the future of medicine, and how will our understanding of the microbiome factor in?  A deeper understanding of the bacterial world may pave the way for better understanding soil science: what will future farming look like?  How about farming in space or on Mars?

EOC Review: Evolution Review – Your Inner Monkey

We concluded our Biology End of Course review by watching the PBS video Your Inner Monkey.  The video does a nice job of bringing together the key concepts from our units on evolution and central dogma.  Tomorrow, students will sit for the EOC.

All three episodes of the movie series are listed below:

  1. Your Inner Fish
  2. Your Inner Reptile
  3. Your Inner Monkey


EOC Review: Unit 4 Review / Research and Explore

With several students in each of my classes absent because of the Algebra EOC, we used the class period to review a variety of concepts up through Unit 4.  Students reviewed the water, carbon, and nitrogen cycles by reviewing posters they had made earlier in the school year.  For students who were absent, an example of one poster is provided below:


We also reviewed genetics (vocabulary, single-trait Punnett Squares, and dihybrid crosses) along with mitosis, meiosis, and fertilization.


Students in attendance also received a copy of the EOC-style writing prompt called Research and Explore.  We spent a few minutes discussing the prompt and looking at the rubric, and students are welcome to practice working through the prompt as homework.  The prompt will not be collected as homework.

EOC Review: Jeopardy

With multiple students scheduled to take both the Algebra and Geometry EOC exams tomorrow and Wednesday, followed by the Biology EOC on Thursday, today was the final day available for a whole-class content review.  We used the class period to play a special biology edition of Jeopardy! Students partnered with one or two other students and they worked together as a group to answer questions using white boards.  With only 45 seconds to answer each question, students had to draw primarily from content they have already mastered.  Several of the questions came directly from previous Biology EOC practice exams, with the intent to prepare students as well as possible for what they will experience on Thursday (although they will not have notes available to consult during the exam).

Ecology: Ecology

With an extended advisory scheduled to support the Pirate Pride work party, we used our 30 minutes of class time to sprint through the key learning about ecology.  Some of the content originated previously during the Harmful Algal Bloom portion of Unit 1 as well as during the energy and metabolism unit (Unit 2).  The notes below highlight the key learning about ecology that students should commit to memory prior to the Biology EOC Exam.


EOC Review: Unit 3 Review / Test Solution

Class today was divided into two parts: a review of Unit 3 followed by practice with an EOC writing prompt called a Test Solution.  Our review began with students drawing a cell and labeling the organelles, weaving in key vocabulary terms.  The review ended with students drawing out the process of Central Dogma, with an emphasis on vocabulary and a refresher on the connection between DNA, RNA, proteins, and the subunits that comprise them.  Pictures of notes from today are shown below.


EOC Review: Criteria and Constraints

Our focus today was to become familiar with and practice responding to the Criteria and Constraints biology EOC writing prompt.  The practice prompt asked students to consider the scenario of 3D-printed coral reefs, so to help students better understand the prompt and formulate some ideas, we watched short segments of three different videos:

Students then had at least 15 minutes to respond to the Criteria and Constraints example prompt. After that, we came together as a class and shared out ideas. A selection of student ideas are listed below:

  • Materials could dissolve / erode / cause pollution
  • Algae may not grow on the materials
  • Ocean acidification is dissolving the shells of marine organisms, and the artificial reef will not prevent that process
  • Intentional placement / size/ shape of reefs
  • Access to skilled workforce and heavy machinery / power requirements
  • Could affect the life cycles of coral reef organisms
  • 3D printing process may not produce detailed enough coral

After the share-out, the remaining few minutes of class time were spent addressing some of the student-provided constraints by watching a video detailing one sculptor’s efforts to create an enormous coral reef habitat in the Bahamas.

EOC Review: Review of Units 1 and 2

To help prepare students for the Biology End of Course exam, students received two different practice worksheets.  By treating the cell organelle matching worksheet (page 1) as a quiz (no talking, no cell phones, no collaboration), students were able to self-assess their preparedness for that section of the EOC.  After about 15 minutes of private think time, we reviewed the answers as a class.  Students were then tasked with answering the cellular respiration and photosynthesis questions on the back of page 3 of the worksheets.  Again, we reviewed the answers as a class after some quiet work time (pictured below).  Finally, we concluded with 15 EOC-style questions (13 multiple choice and 2 short answer) that reinforced the organelle practice.  Students were then encouraged to review the organelles at home, and blank note cards were offered to students who want to make flash cards as a review tool.

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Chapter 17: Toxic Cleanup

For Chapter 17, students will each participate in a project designed to meet the learning targets of the chapter while de-emphasizing the focus on daily worksheets.  Students are still responsible for reading the individual lessons in the chapter and applying their learning to the project.  While the project is an individual assignment, students are encouraged to collaborate and time will be allocated for students assigned the same topic to share and compare their work.

Part 1: Locate your assigned reactant pair below.  Each reactant in the pair is hyperlinked, and the link will take you to the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the chemical.  The MSDS contains 16 different sections.  Read through the sections, locate the following information for both reactants, and summarize in a Google Doc:

  • Chemical Name
  • Chemical Formula
  • CAS #
  • Oral LD50 for Rat

Next, read through MSDS Sections 4-16.  Summarize the most important information relating to safety, exposure, handling, and disposal.  If the information for proper disposal is not specific, refer to the schools chemical database on the King County Rehab the Lab website.

After locating and summarizing the information above, use the rat LD50 (oral exposure) to calculate the LD50 for a human with a mass of 80 kg (176 pounds).  Repeat for humans with a mass of 50 kg and 20 kg.  Graph the results in Google Sheets and then copy the graph into your Google Doc.  For step-by-step instructions, watch the video below:


Reactant Pairs:

  1. NaCl + KNO3
  2. NaClMg(NO3)2
  3. NaClCu(NO3)2
  4. NaClAgNO3
  5. Na2CO3 + KNO3
  6. Na2CO3Mg(NO3)2
  7. Na2CO3Cu(NO3)2
  8. Na2CO3AgNO3
  9. NaOH + KNO3
  10. NaOHMg(NO3)2
  11. NaOHCu(NO3)2
  12. NaOHAgNO3

For specific information on NaOH toxicity, view page B2 of the BASF Chemical Emergency Medical Guidelines document.

Part 2: Next, determine the missing product of your assigned reaction.  To assist in your efforts, one of the two products is provided:

  1. NaCl and KNO3 → NaNO3 + ?
  2. NaCl and Mg(NO3)2 → NaNO3 + ?
  3. NaCl and Cu(NO3)2 → NaNO3 + ?
  4. NaCl and AgNO3 → NaNO3 + ?
  5. Na2CO3 and KNO3 → NaNO3 + ?
  6. Na2CO3 and Mg(NO3)2 → NaNO3 + ?
  7. Na2CO3 and Cu(NO3)2 → NaNO3 + ?
  8. Na2CO3 and AgNO3 → NaNO3 + ?
  9. NaOH and KNO3 → NaNO3 + ?
  10. NaOH and Mg(NO3)2 → NaNO3 + ?
  11. NaOH and Cu(NO3)2 → NaNO3 + ?
  12. NaOH and AgNO3 → NaNO3 + ?

As with the reactants, repeat the review process with the NaNO3 MSDS.  In addition, after correctly solving the equation for the missing product (confirm your answer with Mr. Swart), search for the MSDS for the confirmed second product and again work through both the MSDS summary process and the LD50 calculations with graphing.  A simple Google search for the chemical formula and MSDS will help you locate the MSDS.

Now that you know all of the reactants and products in your assigned equation, balance the chemical equation.  Practice balancing the remaining equations by first solving for the unknown product and then balancing them out.  Record all of your work in your Google Doc.  We worked through multiple examples on the white board and the work is pictured below:

Part 3: Focusing once again on your assigned chemical reaction, calculate the number of grams per mole of each reactant and product.  Does the total reactant mass equal the total product mass?  Why or why not?  Show how you can use the mole ratios (the numbers written in front of your balanced equation) to demonstrate the Law of Conservation of Mass.  Again, record your work in your Google Doc.  Compare your work with the other students who were assigned the same reactants as you were.  You will be working together as a small group to complete the lab portion of this project.

Part 4: Lesson 90 lab!  Students combined the reactants from their assigned chemical reaction and created a class data set by reporting whether or not the products formed in their reaction produced a solid.  The Lesson 90 Worksheet provides details of the lab.  Our class results are shown below.  Note: according to the textbook, reactions 6 and 10 also should have produced a solid product.

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Part 5: For the final part of the research report, students should update their data to include which chemical reactions from the Lesson 90 lab produced solids and which did not.  The research report should include a discussion of questions 5 and 6 from the Lesson 90 Worksheet.  Explain why you think mixing certain compounds produces a solid while other mixed compounds remain in solution.  Research reports are due Wednesday, June 1.

Research Report Checklist

□ For both of your assigned reactants and the products formed after the reaction:

  • Chemical Name
  • Chemical Formula
  • CAS #
  • Oral LD50 for Rat

□ Summary of MSDS sections 4 through 16.  Note: summarize each section in one sentence, focusing on the theme of the section rather than specific information.

□ Calculate the lethal dose for a human with a mass of 20 kg, 50 kg, and 80 kg using the oral rat LD50 for all 4 of your compounds.  Graph the results with mass on the X axis and lethal dose on the Y axis.  Copy the graph into your Research Report.

□ Balance all 12 of the reactions, solving for the missing product in each reaction.  Remember to first balance the individual compounds based on charge, and then balance the overall equation using molar ratios.

□ For your assigned reaction, calculate the molar mass of each compound in your reaction.  If the reaction is properly balanced, the reactant mass will equal the product mass.

□ Include the results of the Lesson 90 lab, specifically including which products formed solids and which did not.

□ Discuss what generalizations you can make about the results of mixing aqueous salt solutions.

□ Apply your learning by predicting what solutions you could mix together to form Ca(OH)2.  Repeat for ZnCO3.  There are many possible solutions.  Identify one solution for each product.

□ Share your Research Report with Mr. Swart.

□ Explore the Recology CleanScapes website and the King County Household Hazardous Waste Collection Options website for information about how to properly dispose of (and identify what is and is not hazardous) different household waste products.

□ Should you be concerned about lead and arsenic contamination from the Tacoma Smelter Plume?  Visit the Washington State Department of Ecology website to learn more about this important public health issue.

□ Locate your address on the map to find out how your environment has been impacted.

□  Given that much of the soil in south King County has been contaminated by the smelter, visit the learn more about cleanup options by reading through the Dirt Alert Soil Sampling Brochures available on the Dept of Ecology website.

□ How will you use information like this when considering where to live in the future?

EOC Review: Unintended Consequences

With the Biology End of Course Exam less than two weeks away, we used the short Friday class period to work through one of the types of writing prompts that students will need to prepare for.  Students received a writing prompt asking them to brainstorm and then explain two unintended consequences of mosquito eradication to help prevent the spread of malaria.  During the final 10 minutes of class, students shared out their ideas, and their most thoughtful responses are summarized below:

  • Food web disruption – organisms that rely on mosquitoes for food will have less to eat, causing populations of organisms to decline
  • Pollution – soil and local waterways will accumulate large concentrations of insecticides, causing dead zones that affect current and future populations of organisms
  • Off-target effects – the use of an insecticide that kills insects in addition to mosquitoes may negatively affect the food web.  For example, if the insecticide kills insects that pollinate flowers, birds that rely on nectar for food will have less to eat and their populations may decline.
  • Bioaccumulation – the insecticide may be ingested by organisms eating insects killed by the insecticide, causing it to build up to toxic levels in the larger organisms.  Toxicity may prevent reproduction or result in birth defects.
  • Selection for resistant mosquitoes – mosquitoes not killed by the insecticide may carry genetic mutations causing them to be resistant.  Overuse of the insecticide may select for insecticide-resistant mosquitoes which are more efficient at transmitting malaria.
  • Loss of sickle cell allele – humans have co-evolved with malaria, resulting in the preservation of the sickle cell allele in the human population.  Without malaria, the frequency of sickle cell allele may decline, leaving the population at risk should malaria once again return to the area.
  • Over-population – diseases like malaria maintain human populations at a level that may greatly increase in the absence of malaria.  The increased consumption of natural resources by growing populations can have negative effects on the ecosystem.
  • Bad precedent for future generations – the idea that mass killing of an unwanted organism may be short-sighted.  For example, wolves are predators of livestock, and yet most humans value the human-dog relationship.  Given that dogs and wolves share a common ancestor, imagine if mosquitoes represent the common ancestor of a future organism that may be viewed as more favorable to humans.