Exploring Life

Where teachers and authors meet to discuss biology and teaching with Exploring Life.

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21st Century Learning with Exploring Life

October 21st, 2009 by Robin Heyden
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Today’s students will spend their adult lives in a multitasking, multifaceted, technology-driven, diverse, and vibrant world. And they must arrive equipped to thrive there. But the technology and the tools change so rapidly, it’s difficult to keep up, let alone know exactly how to structure the best learning opportunities for our students.  The goal of 21st Century Learning (the Partnership for 21st Century Learning is a great resource site) is to bridge the gap between how students live and how they learn – to help create nimble learners who can adjust and adapt to a quickly changing technology landscape – to help ensure every child’s success as citizens and workers by helping teachers and learners to think about the unique affordances of these technology tools (what they can do for us) and the problem solving approaches embedded in using them.

The new updated edition of Biology: Exploring Life includes material to help reinforce 21st Century learning. Each chapter in the textbook now begins with an activity geared toward one or more 21st Century skills.  In order to extend the effectiveness of these activities, we’ve devised the attached grid which provides specific student project suggestions for each EL chapter that underscore the approach to a new tool, rather than the tool itself.  We hope you’ll find this helpful and, as always, we welcome your suggestions for improving and extending this resource.

Click to download the 21st Century Learning grid.

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Differentiated Instruction Worksheets

September 4th, 2009 by Robin Heyden
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Differentiated Instruction Worksheet

One of the advantages to using the EL web activities with your students is that they provide a natural vehicle for differentiating instruction. Take the activities for a topic like protein synthesis like (11.4 and 11.8). These two activities work together to tell the story of how proteins are manufactured in the cell. There is a carefully developed build in these activities from the basic overview of how proteins are made to the details of mRNA, tRNA, the genetic code, and amino acid sequences.

In order to differentiate instruction on this topic, you could assign your more capable students to do all the activities, while your students who are struggling could stop at the overview. So, everyone in the class in working on the topic of protein synthesis but some are going further with it than others. Attached here you will find two sample worksheets (created by Gena Barnhardt at Hickory High School) that set out plans for this sort of differentiation – one for the photosynthesis chapter (CH8) and one for the DNA chapter (CH11).

As you can see on the worksheets, Gena has indicated three levels of students (L1, L 2, and L3) to indicate the assignment for the various student groups in your class. These are intended as a model.  You might want to try making a differentiated worksheet yourself that better suits your specific needs.  If you do, let us know!  We can post them to this site so that other teachers might try them.

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Exploring Life Site Maps

September 4th, 2009 by Robin Heyden
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Exploring Life site map.There are so many activities on the Exploring Life web site (6000 web pages in all!), it’s sometimes difficult to remember where exactly a particular activity is located.  Say, for instance, you remember seeing an interesting activity featuring Venus Fly Traps – but was it in the plant physiology chapter or the plant diversity chapter?  I put together these unit by unit overview tables – or Site Maps – to help address that problem.  Here you’ll find a series of eight (one for each unit) tables, listing the chapters along one axis and the concepts along the other. The activities that correspond are in the table’s cells, along with short descriptions to help jog your memory.  In the final column, you’ll see the special features for that chapter noted.  A Site Map can also be used as a planning device, to give you an overview of all the activities in a given unit, chapter, or topic.

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