We spoke with a teacher who teaches 9th-12th grade at a high school in Indiana. The school where she teaches is K-12 and quite small with about 1,000 students. Most of her students are in her classes from 9th through 12th grade and she teaches these same students biology, chemistry, environmental science, anatomy and physiology. She has been teaching for nine years and has a background in biochemistry and pharmacy. She enrolled in the SoS online course, In the Field with Spiders, in Summer 2005 because she wanted to teach at the local university as well and needed a certain number of graduate hours in biology to qualify.
Exciting content and skills for the classroom: Black widow spider bites and spider identification. The teacher we spoke with uses content from the SoS course to enrich her classroom teaching. As an introduction to lessons about observation skills she reads an account, from the course, about a scientist who purposefully allowed a black widow spider to bite him.
It seems to pique their interest, because everybody thinks, number one, you die from a black widow spider bite, and they really don't know what happens when you do get bit by one. Here is this crazy guy that does it on purpose to himself, just to make observations. They really get into it. They like it a lot. They tend to ask more questions, like 'Why would someone do that?' Then you end up with ethics questions such as what scientists should do or shouldn't do, and can you make good observations when it is on yourself?
She also learned how to identify spiders during the SoS course and uses this skill both formally, to support her curriculum, and informally to answer students' questions.
[Before the course] to me, a bug was a bug. Now, I can identify whether it is a spider. Most of them have eight legs and they have a cephalothorax and a head region. I have kids now that bring me spiders and I use the identification book [from the SoS course] and I can give them an idea if it is a spider, or not a spider, or be able to differentiate between different types of spiders.
We do a macroinvertebrate species experiment in my environmental science class where we go out and we test water quality by seeing what type of insects or spiders there are. The book helps us identify whether it is a spider, or another organism and it helps us maybe key it out and get what family it is in. Then, I use another book, not from the SoS course, to tell us what kind of environment they are living in and if they thrive in polluted environments or they are better off in an area where it is cleaner.
What do scientists do: Providing real life examples for her students. The teacher we spoke with has taken numerous SoS courses. She weaves stories about the work of researchers at AMNH into her teaching to illuminate what people with science degrees do in 'real life.' As she pointed out, she herself provides her students with another example of what scientists do-they teach!
The kids rarely see actual scientists doing work. If I can tell them about that, that usually makes it a little more exciting for them. You can bring in too that there are scientists out there doing a job instead of doing research-I have a science degree, but I am in here teaching. Every once in awhile, if they say 'When am I ever going to use this?' I can throw things in like that.
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