Phase one complete… (XP points in the classroom)

On Tuesday, I plan to implement phase two of my goal for my AP Biology students this year, which is for them to take a pile of my resources and learn about a unit almost on their own (constructivist theory, for you psych folks). Granted, there will be checkpoints and various discussions throughout this unit, but I want them to eventually be in charge of their daily tasks, both in and out of the classroom.

Phase one involved incorporating an experience point (XP) system in my grading plan. Students gain experience through various instructional activities, and the sum of these experiences at the end of each unit correlates to a rather hefty (30%) portion of their overall grade. This is the first time I have tried anything like this, but I think it is going well. I have been at a loss the past few years as to getting more of my students personally engaged in the process of learning this extremely cumbersome curriculum. Thus far, I think this is the hardest that I’ve had an AP class work overall. I’m not sure if it’s the students themselves or the XP system. Perhaps, both.

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Molecular Biology – A PBL Unit for AP Biology

This unit plan was designed as a result of my externship experience at BASF during the summer or 2013.

Here’s a blog post I wrote about the results of that externship.

And here’s a video I made to thank the scientists at BASF for working with me for the two weeks that I was there.

Essential Questions
  • What is the primary source of heritable information, and how are cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in the expression of this heritable information?
  • How can genetic engineering techniques manipulate the heritable information of DNA?
Topics covered
  • plasmid construction
  • polymerase chain reaction
  • bacterial and plant transformation
  • restriction enzymes
  • gel electrophoresis
  • plant physiology
  • GMO crops

The GMO Debate: A stations-based lesson for AP Biology

The Transgenic Crop Debate (Click for links to all stations materials)

What are the pros and cons surrounding GMO crops?

Students must complete station 5 stations (approximately 15 minutes each) to investigate the GMO/Organic food debate. Students should be instructed to pay special attention to the sources of the information and examine these sources for reliability and bias.

Culminating task
  1. What was a misconception you had about GMO foods? About organic foods?
  2. Before this investigation, would you say that you leaned more towards GMOs, organic, or no preference? How about now?
  3. What do you notice about the “facts” you have encountered based on the sources from which they originated?