Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What a Little Bit of Relevance Will Do...

As I've mentioned before, our standards are changing next year. One of the grades getting worked over the most - SURPRISE! - is seventh grade science. We're losing about half our curriculum (matter and weather) to 6th and 8th grade, and we're inheriting new curriculum (DNA, genetics, geology, simple machines) from the 8th grade.


So, since the current 7th graders will get about nine weeks of matter - again - next year, and will miss DNA, genetics, geology, and simple machines, we're trying to cram some of this stuff in where we can so they don't hit high school without having been exposed to this stuff. (Of course they currently hit high school having forgotten nearly everything they learned in middle school so in some cases, it's a moot point.)

Since we're wrapping up the cell cycle, it was decided that this would be a good time to do a brief unit on DNA and genetics. Mrs. Eagle and Mrs. Duck have never taught this curriculum and it's been 8 years since I have, so we are, shall I say, a bit rusty.

Our book is void of any information on DNA outside of the fact that it's in a cell, so we've had to come up with ways to present this information to our kids. Fortunately, Mrs. Eagle and I went to a publisher's dog and pony show in December and got a whole bunch of free goodies that we're sort of test driving with this group of kids. (I'll be honest, I'm liking these materials.)

The past few days we've done Brainpops as introductions, and then moved on to some PowerPoints that we adapted from the sample materials. Since it's a lot of material to cover (and not much time due to benchmark testing - don't get me started) we are doing guided notes so the kids get the information down, and it's accurate.

I'll be honest. I love genetics. It's cool stuff. And it doesn't really get much more relevant for a kid than they realize how and why they ended up looking like they do, and how they go their nose from mom and their eye color from dad, and so on. It's neat. And you can talk about cool things like mutations (a good time to bring out the story of the Scottish Fold cats), and how diseases are passed on and just really cool stuff like careers and genetic engineering and, well, it's fun. Even if all you're doing is showing a PowerPoint and the kids are taking notes.

So here we are, the end of seventh period, and we've blasted through our notes and the bell has rung and two of my critters, Huggy Girl and Shy Boy come up to my desk.

"Shy Boy and I have decided that we'd rather stay in your class all day and learn about genetics than go to any of our other classes," said Huggy Girl. Shy Boy nods in agreement.

"Really?" I say. This is a surprise because these kids are not, not, not, A students - they're C, maybe, if they try, so this is something.

"Yeah, this was totally fun," says Huggy Girl. "We can't wait until tomorrow." More nods from Shy Boy.

Wow. I was stunned.

How often do you get a review like that?


Ms Characterized said...

Wow. That is amazing. What a feeling!

ChiTown Girl said...

That's awesome!

Anonymous said...

Nice going :D

Your enthusiasm must have shown!

bev said...

Another type of cat to talk about are tortoiseshells or calicos. I think they're an interesting lesson in genetics and I'm an art teacher.

Okay, fine. So I'm an art teacher who's a likely candidate for future crazy cat lady. Still...