Tuesday, November 10, 2015

College Prep Chemistry Studies Nuclear Chemistry

We are closing out Quarter 1 in College Prep Chemistry with a unit on nuclear chemistry.  We have discussed types of radioactive decay, the concept of half-life of an isotope, and the differences between fission and fusion.  Each student is also writing a two page argumentative essay on nuclear power by taking a position on the question "Should the United States expand the use of nuclear power?".  We would like to thank our librarian Gayle Peirce for showing us how to access library online databases and explaining how to write our papers using APA formatting and citations. We have also been discussing the historical aspects of nuclear chemistry by reading a graphic novel about the Manhattan Project called "Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb" by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

New Honors Biology Blog - We Are The Genome Generation!

In Honors Biology we have started work on our genetics unit.  We are performing some advanced DNA labs using equipment borrowed from The Jackson Laboratory (thank you!) and we are also discussing topics in personal genomics.  To document what we are doing we have started a class blog.  Please visit it at http://genomegeneration.blogspot.com/ and check out the posts and photos. Feel free to leave a comment or a question!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Slightly Interrupted Start to Second Semester

Second semester came in like a lion with a blizzard knocking out two days of school on Tuesday and Wednesday and more storms forecast for this Friday and next Monday.  Here is a quick update on what my classes will be doing over the next few weeks.


We are leaving behind our Arduino experiments and looking at computer hardware.  Our school IT staff donated three used desktop computers to our class and we will be identifying the parts, taking them apart, and putting them back together again.  If they still work, we will research open-source operating systems and install them to learn how they work.


We will be wrapping up our cell unit with lessons on photosynthesis, cellular respiration, and cell growth and division.  We will do a number of labs like separating photosynthetic pigments, looking at algae and leaves under the microscope, and investigating fermentation by yeast.


We are about 60% of the way through the AP Chemistry curriculum and next up are our final remaining topics on chemical equilibrium: buffers, titrations, and solubility.  The AP exam is about three months away!


We have one week left in our Jefferson unit where we will be discussing Jefferson's views on religion. After that will be a three topic look at human rights: women's rights, gay rights, and civil rights.

Photo courtesy of Mark Jenkins

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Honors Biology Ecology Unit

As we enter Thanksgiving break we are finishing up our Ecology unit in Honors Biology.  We explored how energy flows through food webs, cycles of matter in ecosystems, the interactions between the living and non-living parts of an ecosystem, population dynamics, and our role as humans in shaping local and global ecology.  We finished up with a couple of concluding activities.  First we read a chapter from The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Colbert and listened to an interview with her on NPR Fresh Air. Right now each student is finishing up a project on one of the following topics: Global Climate Change; Invasive Species; Sustainable Agriculture and Feeding the World; and Extinction/De-Extinction.  The students had a choice of what topic they studied and the format of their project.  I can't wait to see the results!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

When I was a senior in high school in 1980, "Cosmos: A Personal Voyage" with host Carl Sagan, captured the imaginations of many and spoke eloquently for the power of science to understand the world around us as well as the worlds beyond us.  Although I had already made up my mind that I wanted to study science and become a microbiologist, watching "Cosmos" fueled my desire with Sagan quotes like "Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known."  What could I learn, what could I discover?  Over the course of my now 28 year teaching career, I have sometimes become discouraged at the lack of support for science and the anti-science rhetoric of some politicians in areas such as evolution, human-induced climate change, vaccines, and more.  It just seems sometimes like we are going backwards as a society and that could have profound implications for our future as a species and the future of our planet.

Could a reboot of "Cosmos" raise the visibility of science education and inspire the next generation of scientists?  After watching the first episode of "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey" with host Neil deGrasse Tyson at the helm of a "spaceship of the imagination", I think the answer might be an emphatic "YES!"  The series is on FOX on Sundays @ 9:00 pm and then repeated on NATGEO on Mondays @ 10:00 pm.  I encourage all of my students and their families to watch the series and talk about what great mysteries are still waiting to be discovered.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Mid-Term Exams

Mid-Term Exams are this week.  Here is the schedule for my classes:

Intro to Computer Science - Black 1: Tuesday, January 21st @ 7:55 - 9:20 AM
Intro to Computer Science - Orange 2: Wednesday, January 22nd @ 9:25 - 11:00 AM
Honors Biology - Black 3: Thursday, January 23rd @ 7:55 - 9:20 AM
AP Chemistry - Black 4: Thursday, January 23rd @ 9:25 - 11:00 AM