I teach 10th-grade Biology at an inner-city comprehensive high school. The school is considered a neighborhood high school as it draws students not only from the surrounding neighborhoods but also from surrounding towns. We have a revolving door policy, serve a transient student population, and take in students throughout the year. This makes teaching especially challenging as students that move into the neighborhood from across the country as well as across the world are mixed with other students. The student population is culturally diverse and is at different levels of the learning process.
My high school utilizes a block schedule wherein students attend four sessions per day, each running for about 90 minutes. Students have eight classes total and any given class meets either 2 or 3 times per week. This presents challenges for teachers concerning homework and turn-around time for feedback because of long gaps between class meetings. What the block schedule does offer is a longer class period wherein lab experiments could be carried out with ease. The biology classes are predominantly designed for 10th graders. Biology is a mandatory class for all students and is a graduation requirement. This unit is designed with the 9-12th grade students in mind. This unit could be applied to students who are enrolled in Biology, Human Physiology, Public Health, and Science and Research classes.
The target audiences for this unit are the biology students. The unit was designed with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in mind1. The State of Connecticut adopted the NGSS in November 2015. The main objectives of these standards are to engage learners in meaningful and exciting science learning. This approach teaches K-12th -grade students to learn science in their way while collaborating with others. Some of the major features of the NGSS are incorporated in this unit. These main features include the three-dimensional learning that encompasses the science and engineering practices, using science to explain the real-world phenomenon, and lastly the engineering design. The school district recently adopted the NGSS and is currently in the process of aligning the K-12 science curricula with these standards. The absence of this information in the current curriculum is one of the main inspirations behind the development of this unit.
According to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), the High School, Life Science curriculum consists of five topics: 1) Structure and Function, 2) Inheritance and Variation of Traits, 3) Matter and Energy in Organisms and Ecosystems, 4) Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems, and 5) Natural Selection and Evolution. This unit covers a part of the first topic, Structure, and Function. “How do the structures of organisms enable life’s functions?” This topic has tremendous potential to introduce problem-solving skills, the NGSS Science and Engineering Practices, challenge students to attain basic knowledge, and apply it to the real world. This unit will also incorporate the NGSS practices of Asking Questions and Designing Solutions, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Obtaining Evaluating, and Communicating Information2. Science and Engineering Practices covered by this unit include NGSS-HS-ETS1-2: Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering.