I teach Phy-Chem and AP Biology in an urban magnet high school. Phy-Chem is understood to be a freshmen general science class with an emphasis on physics and chemistry. AP Biology is a high school biology class that uses a college curriculum provided by the College Board. At my school AP Biology’s, like all AP classes, enrollment is an open-door policy wherein students can choose to take the class and do not have to meet any requirements to enter. The Phy-Chem curriculum is structured around 21 Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). These standards are drawn from both the physical and environmental science standards as well as engineering standards.
This high school is a performing arts magnet school drawing students from within New Haven as well as the surrounding districts. There are approximately 650 students all of which are focused on an art for their four-year high school enrollment. We utilize a block schedule wherein classes are 85 minutes long and repeat every other day. This presents many challenges concerning homework and turn-around time for feedback on in class work because of the long gaps between class meetings. Conversely it does allow for long class periods that lend themselves to activities that utilize multiple modalities.
The content of this unit is applicable in both a biology class and an earth science class. Thought it might lean heavier towards biology with the flow of water through plants the importance of water cycle in general and the relevance of the properties of water are of top priority in any earth science curriculum. I would expect a student in biology to have a working knowledge of the properties of water so that the when presented with the phenomenon of water flowing against gravity through plant life the focus can be on the plant structures more so than on the water.
The phenomenon, or hook, for this unit is the movement of water against the pull of gravity, in particular to the top of our giant trees such as the
(giant redwood) which reach heights of over 300 feet. Teaching around a phenomenon is the current trend with the States adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I will note the standards applicable to this unit in the appendix. The use of water transport in plants is an effective phenomenon because not only is easy for students to grasp the oddity of water moving against gravity but also because the understanding of this action requires students to grasp scientific concepts from multiple disciplines. Though not immediately exciting to think about, it is easy to find ways to draw students in, for example one can dissect a plant and find that there are no organs or obvious machinery present to pump water against the pull of gravity. There are also multiple hands-on activities concerning the properties of water that will help to keep students engaged as they anchor scientific principles to the phenomenon.
For one to effectively teach about water transport in plants I believe it is necessary to first consider the need for teaching for understanding. One needs to consider the over whelming evidence of the importance of understanding over the memorization of facts. Understanding a concept allows one to apply their understandings to other situations impacting their ability to learn new concepts. Taking the approach that understanding is the goal of teaching a teacher can revisit their teaching methods and adjust them with that goal in mind. Assessing understanding can be difficult because it does not always lend itself to the typical assessment task such as a paper and pencil test. Different methods of assessment will be discussed.