Monday, 12 March 2018

Play-doh Chloroplasts With Year 12

Today in Y12 biology our lesson was in two parts; learning about the structure of a chloroplast first, followed by learning the stages of photosynthesis. 

To help with learning how to draw and label a chloroplast we made play-doh models of them, using different colours to represent different structures.

For all of the models (bar one) green is used to represent the thylakoid discs stacked into granum (the plural for these is grana), because the thylakoid discs are where chlorophyll is found. Chlorophyll is the pigment responsible for absorbing red and blue wavelengths of light for energy and reflecting back green wavelengths, which gives plants their green colour.

Pink: outer membrane. Yellow: inner membrane: Red: stroma. Green: thylakoid stacks in grana. White: lamellae.

Yellow: outer membrane. White: inner membrane: Pink: stroma. Green: thylakoid stacks in grana and lamellae joining them.

Pink: outer membrane. Red: inner membrane: White: stroma. Green: thylakoid stacks in grana.

Pink: outer membrane. Green layer: inner membrane: Yellow: stroma. Red: ribosomes. Green: thylakoid stacks in grana.

Yellow: outer membrane.  Absent: inner membrane: Blue: stroma. Green: thylakoid stacks in grana.

Green: outer membrane. Red: inner membrane: Yellow: stroma. Pink: thylakoid stacks in grana.

Mikayla made an adorable miniature model.

Priscilla with her chloroplast.
Yellow: outer membrane. White: inner membrane: Red: stroma. Green: thylakoid stacks in grana.

After the class was comfortable with the structures inside a chloroplast they were ready to move on and learn about how photosynthesis happens in two of these structures; the thylakoids and the stroma. 

Students will have to work hard filing this away in their long term memory in a way that makes sense to them; drawing diagrams of the process, explaining it out loud, teaching others, or writing the story of photosynthesis in their own words. This is one of those concepts where I can be around to answer questions but I can't physically MAKE students learn it, and when it becomes tricky they need the resilience to wrestle on! 

Friday, 9 February 2018

Layers of the Earth Cake

Year 9 has just started their Third Rock From the Sun unit, which begins inside the Earth as students learn about the layers beneath their feet. 

I know that this topic is both popular and successful because the year-group it was first taught to in Year 9 is now in Year 11, and when I surveyed my Year 11's about which topics they remembered best and felt most confident in, "volcanoes" and "layers of Earth" came up again and again. Because of that my Year 11's will be doing the Surface Features of NZ internal assessment later this year, to play to those strengths. 

Anyway, back to the current Year 9's. I thought a good way to welcome them in to science this year and introduce the idea of modelling in science would be with a cake!

If anyone wants the recipe for sponge layers then here it is:

Pre-heat oven to 175 degrees C.
Beat 7 small eggs (or 6 large ones) on high for 1 minute. 
Slowly add in 1 cup of sugar and beat on high for 8 minutes.
Measure and mix 1 cup of flour with 1/4 teaspoon baking powder.
Sieve and fold in the flour mixture to the eggs 1/3 at a time, making sure to get the flour off the bottom of the bowl (where it likes to sink to).
Pour half the mixture into a baking-paper-lined cake tin.
Add some food colouring to the rest of the mixture and then pour that into another cake tin.
Bake for 25 minutes.

Make sure students can name the layers of the Earth before they get to take a piece on the way out the door!

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Class Korowai on Mr Bones

Every year I get my students to decorate two feathers for their class korowai - one with images or words that represent who they are, and one with a specific goal for their time in science. 

This year I decided to merge all the feathers from my four classes to make one large korowai rather than four smaller one, and actually have it worn as a cloak by Mr Bones rather than displayed flat on the classroom walls. 

Here is the finished product:

Sunday, 28 January 2018

New Tool - EdPuzzle!

Hello! I'm back after my year-long hiatus, refreshed, engaged, calm and ready to roll.

I've just been checking through the first Year 9 unit called "Third Rock From the Sun" and found that one of my favourite tools (Zaption) doesn't exist any more.

A quick Google search later and I've discovered a replacement with even more features and useful tools.

Meet EdPuzzle :) It's a tool to help you to help student engage with information on videos by including questions, notes or voice-overs throughout.

First you import any video from youtube.

You can trim the clip down.

You can set due dates.

You can add questions throughout the video, as well as voice-overs and notes.

You can block and prevent 'skipping' through the video or skipping questions.

When presented with a question, students can submit their answers or choose to 'rewatch' the segment it relates to.

You can share it to your class when you're done, or embed it with an iframe.

You can see how many/which students have engaged with your activity and what they've scored (I am guessing the score only applies to multi-choice questions, though you can read their answers on open-ended ones).

You can see how individual questions were answered. 

And if you are interested in seeing the one that I made as a model, you can click here to engage with it (and maybe learn a few things about the Layers of the Earth as well!)

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Professional Learning Update

I may be on holiday but I've still been Twittering and Tweeting and Twerking - wait, ok I'm lying, not actually the last one! 

Hop on over to my professional learning blog for a summary of some research I engaged in before teaching at a boys school in England for 10 weeks!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Goodbye for a Year (or Two)

Kia ora visitors! 

This is just a short notice to let you know that I've been granted a year's (or twos) leave to go and travel the world! 

How exciting for me :) 

There won't be many blog posts from me during my time off.

To keep yourselves entertained during that time you can check out my teaching from 2016 at

or if you'd rather be kept up to date with current Class OnAir teachers then visit where I'm sure the glorious and golden Matt Goodwin will continue dazzling his students and watchers from around the globe for the second year in a row.

In the meantime, I have two New Zealand-based digital Science Curriculum projects up my sleeve that will hopefully be ready to roll by the time I return in 201*cough*9.

See you all then!

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Respiration Rap

Today our respiration rap from 2015's Year 12 Biology class clocked over 2,000 views on youtube! 

It was also retweeted by Dr Rich Allen, a teacher-trainer whose 2-day course was the most inspiring PD I have ever been to. 

His use of music and movement in teaching and learning is something that really resonated with me, as well as 'riding the wave' of engagement by 'changing state' near the peak of engagement. 

I'm so stoked that he thought what the Bio kids did was a good example of learning through movement and music :) 

Unfortunately this year I haven't had time to record and film another full music video in time for the Manaiakalani Film Festival, despite having 3 songs already written and ready to go about photosynthesis, genetic variation and hotspot volcanoes! 

Time seems short this year :( Hopefully we'll get on to filming one of the songs in Term 4 - the challenge is out to the 2016 Year 12 Biology class!! 

Instead, I'll just repost the Respiration Rap to enjoy :)