Terry M. Bella
I teach biology at Cooperative Arts & Humanities Magnet High School. This is a performing arts magnet school, located in the city of New Haven, CT. I teach the regular state required biology curriculum as well as Advanced Placement (AP) Biology. Being a magnet school we draw 30% of our students from surrounding districts that are a mix of urban and suburban school systems. In general our students perform well academically due to their desire to be in this school and to the rigor of school. We utilize a block schedule with four 90 minute periods a day. A day will be either even or odd, resulting in any given class occurring every other day for our students. The students study their art every day because 2 blocks are used for art instruction.
In New Haven biology is taught as a sophomore year course and must address the state's science framework objectives and content strands. The course is designed to cover all of the necessary content and skills that are tested on the Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) in April. The structure and function of enzymes is a topic covered in biology
. The topic is only afforded one to two weeks of instruction and incorporates a compulsory laboratory activity provided by the state as an embedded task. Instruction time is limited therefore some creativity concerning the delivery of the content is something that must be addressed.
There is a discrepancy between the engagement of my AP Biology students and my biology students. The level of engagement is noted with the questions asked by the students indicating their level of interest in the content. Day after day in regular biology not a single question will be posed by the students. In contrast the typical AP Biology student is asking relevant questions daily, indicating an investment and interest in the content. This involvement by the higher achieving student facilitates a more active and positive classroom environment. Cleary the students are invested in their learning and engaged in the content. Their motivation is more intrinsic and I hope to encourage the same behaviors in the general biology course by presenting the compulsory content in a more interesting context. This unit will offer some general exposure to bioremediation using enzymes, a very relevant and fascinating use of enzymes. This modern and ground-breaking application can be brought into the class room to help inspire the un-engaged student and motivate them to take a more active role in the class. Students know that the world is being polluted by human activity and they are eager to learn about methods for cleaning up their world. Teaching enzymes through this modern application provides instant relevance for the students that will translate to increased buy-in and interest ultimately resulting in increased student performance.
I will also provide examples of enzyme instruction delivered through different content strands in the state biology curriculum. I will provide for you first some general information about enzymes. Secondly I will discuss specific information about enzymes that can be incorporated into the respiration content strand. Lastly current uses for enzymes in bioremediation will be addressed. Throughout the unit I will discuss the delivery of the content in a fashion that generates question-asking by students.
As teachers we are provided with a list of content strands and learning objectives. It is easy to structure a class to proceed in order through the objectives. This is an easy way to plan for the year and be certain that you, as a teacher, meet your responsibilities. This is functional for the teacher but unfortunately may not always be the best delivery method for the students to learn the information. For example, because enzymes are a required content strand, one may teach about enzymes as if enzymes were isolated molecules that perform a task for no other purpose than it being the function of the enzyme. When taught singularly as a content strand the true understanding of the unilateral importance of enzymes to facilitate reactions is lost. Although lessons can be constructed and delivered, that are focused narrowly on the definition of an enzyme, with fair results, this does not provide any context for the phenomenon that is enzymatic activity. Without context the idea of an enzyme becomes more abstract and thus harder to learn about and internalize. This makes it very difficult for students see relevance in the content and take enough interest to ask questions. Therefore this unit offers several examples of opportunities to teach the key understandings about enzymes. In addition this unit also demonstrates how an instructor can connect the seemingly isolated concept of enzyme activity to another tenth grade state content strand. Lastly, this unit will provide content to teach about what are some current applications of enzymes in bioremediation of herbicide pollution and petroleum product pollution.