On Standardized Testing

standardized testing

This is s0 powerful. A public school teacher delivers a spoken word poem about standardized testing including this:

“Students who are not proficient readers by the end of 3rd grade are four times less likely to graduate from High School by age 19. At poverty, these students become thirteen times less likely to graduate on time. Multiply by one out of ten High School drop-outs spends time in prison, divide by racism, take the square root reality, subtract irrational numbers and unreal dreams, where will Monica be in five years?”

See the full poem here.



The Right Dose of Exercise for a Longer Life

In August, Gretchen Reynolds published an article in the NYTimes called “The Right Dose of Exercise for a Longer Life.”

The verdict?

  • No exercise: highest risk of early death
  • A bit of exercise: lowered their risk of premature death by 20%
  • 150 min/week of moderate exercise: 31 % less risk of dying prematurely
  • Walking for 450 minutes per week: 39% less likely to die prematurely
  • People who engage in 10 times or more than the recommended exercise: still about 39% less likely to die prematurely


My Ideal Bookshelf

The other day I was perusing the library, and I came across this gem: “My Ideal Bookshelf” edited by Thessaly la Force.

my ideal booksheld.jpeg

In a nutshell, they had a bunch of people across the board “select a small shelf of books that represent you–the books that have changed your life, the books that have made you who you are today, your favorite favorites…,” and then they showed the cover to the left. I just thought this was the coolest activity, and if I were an english teacher, this is the first essay that I would have them write.

I do wonder if there’s a science version of this though… my favorite invention? the discovery that changed my life? I’ll have to think a bit more on that.

Wowed and Proud I am

proud teacher

Today I had one of my student’s parents come in to talk to us about IVF. She works at an IVF clinic, and we were learning about mitosis/meiosis/genetics, so I thought this would be a perfect fit… and it was.

She just kicked it up to a whole ‘nother level: she started off with who she was and her education and what-not, but then she got into her work in IVF and what it is, and I was just blown away by some of the footage she was showing–embryos being fertilized, DNA being extracted from embryos, some success stories from IVF. Amazing.

But even more amazing was my class’s response to her: they took awhile to warm up to her, but once the questions started coming, it was like opening a water gate.

They were so interested in what she was talking about: they were asking her about the mitosis that happens at the very beginning of embryonic development, about the different stages in development, about potentially harming the egg when injecting sperm into it, about polyploidy, and on and on.

One students even said at one point “you must be heterozygous for Widow’s peak, because Anna (her daughter) doesn’t have one, but you do!”

Furthermore, she didn’t back down when they started asking the tougher questions: so how does abortion play into what you do? How do you feel about genetically altering a fetus? How do you select which fetus you implant into the parents? What if there was a viable fetus that had Down Syndrome? Would you inject it into the parents? To that, she turned it around to the students. What would they do? Some kids said yes, inject it, and some kids said no, but then one of my students said something along the lines of “It’s up to the parents. If they want a baby, and that’s a baby, then it should be up to them to decide, and either way, they’ll end up with someone they love.” And the whole class snapped for them (our way of saying that’s awesome). I was just… so proud I could have burst.

And not only did she handle those questions with grace, so did the rest of the class–granted, they did need a couple of reminders to listen to each other before butting in, but they were so respectful of her and of the subject matter, and of all the bioethics behind it. They learned something. You know?

Part of what was also so great was that she was validating so many of the things that were were learning in class: she tied in the stages of meiosis into showing us what a mature human egg looks like, she had some karyotypes up there, and she even got into some of the dicier issues of genetic editing and such. It was like my class was seeing why we were learning some of the things that we’re learning and how actual scientists need to know it. So now the question is–how can I begin to do more of this? Show them the real world application and bring it to the classroom?



The Biology Of Love

brain in love 1.png

With Valentine’s Day coming up, it dawned on my all of a sudden: have students ever learned about love? Andy Warhol once said “there should be a course in 1st grade on love,” yet I’m pretty sure we only teach sex in school, and not the feelings behind it. So I’m going to try it out this year: teaching the biology of love.

So I came up with this lesson plan:


  • What is love?
  • Are there different kinds of love?
  • What does love have to do with biology?

Activities: I’m going to jigsaw this–have the students divide up into groups of 3-4, and then each group will read their given article, answer a couple of questions about it, and present it to the class in this order:

  • Love and the Brain
    • What areas of the brain become active when someone is in love?
    • What are the “symptoms” of being in love?
    • Which hormones are active when someone is in love?
  • Different Types of Love
    • What are two types of love? Describe each one.
    • Why is romantic love addictive?
    • What are the rewards for long-term passionate love?
    • How do male and female brains respond to love differently?
  • Evidence-Based Dating
    • What are the different experiments scientists have run on dating? What were their results?
  • How to Fall in Love with a Stranger
    • What is the procedure for making 2 strangers fall in love?
    • List 5 of your favorite questions that were asked to the people

Plenary: Class discussion on the biology of love.






Case Studies for a Genetics Unit: A Review

I recently went through the Case Studies on that amazing National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science website, and I scoured it for case studies that I could potentially use in my genetics unit for 9th grade biology. Here’s what I found:

My favorite words


I have a joke with one of my classes–every time I feel them getting off track, I ask them what my favorite 5-letter word is, and they all say “FOCUS!” And then they get back to what they were doing.

I was talking about this to another class today, and they asked me what my favorite 7-letter word is. I said “biology.” Then they asked me what my favorite 4-letter word is. I said “love.”

And there you go. Biology, focus, and love. Teaching in a nutshell 🙂