Tag Archives: PBL

Cells & Homeostasis: Unit 1 Final Exam Review

As Unit 1 draws to a close, today students spent the first part of class completing the HAB PBL Post-Assessment worksheet which will be used to assess student growth in understanding the content and in helping to determine how individual points are allocated for each member of the group.  For the second half of class, we reviewed for the Unit 1 exam by matching a list of cell organelles with a list of organelle functions:


Next, we reviewed the structure of cell membranes and then finished with a review of osmosis:

IMG_0103 IMG_0104

Cells & Homeostasis: PBL Presentation Day

Our Project-Based Learning mini-unit concluded today with students presenting their solutions to the problem of harmful algal blooms.  Special thanks to our many “stakeholders” who visited with students today.  The students did a great job sharing their ideas, answering questions, and engaging with the stakeholders to learn more about career paths.  We will debrief the experience tomorrow and then transition to a review of Unit 1 content in preparation for the Unit 1 Exam scheduled for Thursday.

Updated June 1, 2016: To conclude the WABS PBL, I presented the results of our efforts in the form of a poster at the Showcase of Success meeting at the Hyatt Hotel in Seattle on Thursday, May 26.  Again, a huge thank you to my students, the Environmental Science Center, the chaperones who made our field trip to Seahurst Park possible, the groups who worked with my students on the field trip, the stakeholders who shared information with student groups, stakeholders who attended our in-class poster session, and of course, WABS and King County Public Health for inspiring our work.


Cells & Homeostasis: Practice PBL Presentations

On the final day of work before students share their work by presenting to stakeholders tomorrow, groups put the finishing touches on tri-folds and formulated responses to questions they should anticipate during their presentations.  Each student should be prepared to share their understanding of the following list of questions:

  • What exactly are algae?
  • How do algae obtain energy?
  • How do algae fit into the ecosystem?
  • How do algae make more algae?
  • What does it mean for algae to “bloom”?
  • Why do algae bloom?
  • When do algae bloom?
  • What happens to the ecosystem when algae bloom?
  • Why do algae only bloom at certain times?
  • What are the conditions that lead to algal blooms?
  • Why do algal blooms end?

There are a number of excellent resources on the Internet to help students formulate answers to these questions and many more.  Here are a selection:

Cells & Homeostasis: Revise PBL Posters – Day 2

Students spent the short Friday class period putting the finishing touches on tri-folds in preparation for presentation day on Tuesday.  While they worked, students were reminded to discuss questions (and their own responses) they might anticipate from audience members, and to consider how to engage their audience members with questions about career paths.  On Monday, students will share their lists of anticipated questions, receive a list of questions they will be asking audience members about career paths, and then spend the class period practicing their presentations and fine-tuning their tri-folds.

Cells & Homeostasis: Practice PBL Presentations

Students worked on their tri-fold posters all class period, printing content and practicing presentations.  While they worked, student groups were challenged to come up with three questions to anticipate from visitors to their group’s poster on Tuesday.  Examples of questions to anticipate:

  • Why did you pick your solution?
  • How did you select your group’s members?

Cells & Homeostasis: PBL Research – Day 6

Due to a last-minute scheduling change, we had the opportunity to spend our final lab in the computer lab today instead of tomorrow.  This worked out nicely, as many groups realized yesterday their tri-fold presentation boards needed additional content.  After today, students will need to arrange computer time outside of class if additional research is needed to complete the project.  We will be back in the classroom tomorrow assembling tri-fold presentation materials and discussing anticipated audience questions.

Cells & Homeostasis: Assemble PBL Posters

Student groups received their printed Google Doc materials and a used tri-fold poster board.  They were provided with Pirate yellow paper to re-cover the tri-folds and then began sketching out how their content would be attached to their boards.  The process helped students identify remaining areas of need so they can focus their efforts on Thursday, our final class day in a computer lab.  The pictures below show an example tri-fold layout for students who need some inspiration and guidance, as well as a list of goals for the rest of the week.

Tri-fold example
Goals for the week

Cells & Homeostasis: PBL Research – Day 5

We completed our first week of problem-based learning (PBL) with a quiz about Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs), an opportunity for students to reflect on how well their group has been working together, and a call for questions about the work we have been doing.  Based on student feedback, here are several documents for students to review, reference, and print if desired to better help them understand our work:

Information about the HAB PBL

Rubric for the HAB PBL Research phase of the project

Rubric for the HAB PBL Presentation phase of the project

Multiplier Worksheet (for groups with inequitable member contributions)

We will work today in a computer lab, with students encouraged to use the time efficiently to discuss the current state of their group’s project and to identify any opportunities for research to fill gaps in group knowledge before spending the next two days in class working on the tri-fold (or equivalent) presentation content.

Cells & Homeostasis: PBL Research – Day 4

For our final day with the Chromebooks, students were asked to research how algae fit into the Puget Sound food web.   After a student mentioned that algae obtain energy through photosynthesis, students were introduced to the formal scientific concept of limiting factors.  We used the example of phosphate, a chemical students measured while on the field trip which is also a critical component of ATP.  Photosynthesis is the process of storing the energy from sunlight within a molecule of glucose, and that energy is transferred to ATP during the process of cellular respiration.  ATP, or adenosine triphosphate, consists of an adenine group with three phosphate molecules attached.  When there is an excess of phosphate in the environment, the organisms that live there are not limited in their ability to multiply.  Therefore, phosphate availability is a limiting factor for algal blooms.  Michigan State University has a more in-depth scientific explanation of limiting factors in aquatic environments.

As student projects take shape, students were reminded that they need to dig deeply into the science to explore why their proposed solution will reduce the frequency of harmful algae blooms.  Next week, they will have some additional computer time coupled with time to work on their posters and presentations.  The posters and presentations will be the action piece of the project – students will present their work to their stakeholders and seek feedback about their proposed solutions.

Cells & Homeostasis: PBL Research – Day 3

After reaching out to stakeholders yesterday, many student groups were excited to report their stakeholder had replied back!  Energized by the connection, students embraced the task of researching and then using their understanding of science to propose a solution to reduce the effect and frequency of harmful algal blooms on the Puget Sound ecosystem.  To help guide their research efforts, students were encouraged to review the Know and Need to Know lists they assembled last week when we kicked off the Problem Based Learning task (see October 15th post).  Today, students also learned that they will have a few additional days of computer-based research time, and they began thinking about how they will represent their individual projects to their stakeholders on Tuesday, November 3.