Sample lessons

Syllabus and Welcome Page

The syllabus and LMS welcome page are often a student's first impression of a course setting the tone for what they should expect not only in terms of the course structure and workload but also the classroom climate. Because of this, I have designed my syllabus and welcome page to be inviting and and engaging with the hope that it helps to excite students about the course and while engaging them before they even begin the course curriculum. Below is my Bio 100 for non majors course syllabus and an image of the welcome page they would encounter when entering the course LMS site. When embedded in the course LMS site, the welcome page is clickable enabling them to access various course information and pages.

Adapting In Person Lessons for the Online Modality: The Carbon Cycle

I love using the Colorado Plateau Carbon Cycle Activity developed by a group of biologists at Northern Arizona University (http://perceval.bio.nau.edu/MPCER_OLD/CCEP/carbonmoveslesson.html) to teach students the carbon cycle. The activity is a role playing game that asks them to become a carbon atom and move through the environment. They trace their pathway along with how long they spend in each of the carbon reserves so that they can draw a carbon cycle. Then, I ask students to compare their carbon cycle to their classmates' and to carbon cycles from their textbook. The activity helps them better understand the carbon cycle and also lends to discussions of how models are used in biology along with the limitations of models. I wanted to use the activity with my online class as well, and so I utilized the original activity cards and art to create an interactive website students can use. This website is used as part of an online, guided lecture. Students learn about the carbon cycle, participate in the activity via the website, and then use a discussion board to share their carbon cycles facilitating a discussion about similarities and differences along with a broader discussion about models.  

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand how a carbon atom cycles through an ecosystem

  • Determine which reservoirs a carbon atom encounters most often and least often

  • Determine which reservoirs contain the most carbon

  • Determine how long a carbon atom spends in a given reservoir

  • Determine how long it take to reach each reservoir via the carbon cycle

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Teaching Aids

In many of my lessons, I utilize teaching aids in order to make material more accessible and relatable to students. Below are some examples that I have used. The first set of images illustrates the use of a Hoberman sphere and baseball to demonstrate the effect of temperature on enzyme flexibility and its ability to bind to substrates. I also use a lung model made from a two-liter soda bottle, balloons, and a straw to demonstrate air movement due to Boyle's law. Finally, I use pool noodles to demonstrate mitosis and meiosis to students in my introductory biology classes.

Temperature and enzyme flexibility

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Enzymes in hot temperatures becomes more flexible.

Lung model to demonstrate Boyle's Law

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Enzymes in cold temperatures becomes more rigid.

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A baseball is used to demonstrate the substrate. When the sphere is in a middle state, the ball can be held with the sphere demonstrating the state of the enzyme at peak enzyme activity.

Pool noodles used to demonstrate meiosis and mitosis

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Natural Selection Lesson: bug natural selection model

In this activity, students use a model of natural selection acting on a population of bugs. The lesson uses the model to help students test the three requirements for natural selection to occur by manipulating them within the model.

 

Learning Objectives:

  • Describe Darwin’s theories and explain how heritable variations and limits on reproductive success lead to differential reproduction (natural selection).

  • Propose explanations for the rise of adaptations that are consistent with evolution by natural selection.

  • Compare and contrast Lamarck’s hypothesis of evolution by inheritance of acquired characteristics and Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection

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Introduction to Active Learning

Because I use evidence-based teaching in my classrooms, I usually begin the semester with an activity to explain to students why I teach using a structured, active learning approach rather than a traditional lecture approach. The activity also serves to break down barriers between the students and me in order to make me seem more approachable.

 

Population Growth using the Logistic Growth Model

This activity is used in introductory biology classes and was adapted from Trenckman et al., 2017.  The students are already familiar with exponential growth models and are introduced to logistic growth using this activity. The lesson is designed to help students become more comfortable with quantitative methods along with learning the concepts.

Learning Objectives:

  • Define and describe the following terms: population density, carrying capacity (K)

  • Explain what factors can cause populations to reach their carrying capacity, K and connect this idea to population growth (S curves)

  • Predict population size using logistic growth models (Nt = N1 + rN1 [(K - N1)/ K])

  • Visually represent how populations change over time by constructing graphs

Lesson Material:

Nest-site Selection in Honeybees

Developing the ability to use the scientific method in order to understand animal behavior is a key component of any animal behavior course. The animal behavior course I teach enrolls 170 students and does not have a lab component. I use agent-based models to give students the opportunity to practice creating hypotheses, designing experiments, collecting data, and interpreting those data in lecture setting. One example of such an agent-based model is a honeybee nest-site selection model I use to teach students about group decision-making and social behavior. The model is based on known honeybee nest-site selection behavior.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Compare and contrast the costs and benefits of group living

  • Ability to develop a hypothesis/prediction and design an experiment

  • Interpret data to explain group-decision making of social animals

Lesson Material:

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