Tuesday, June 25, 2013

CASE AFNR Days 5, 6, & 7: Lions & Tigers & Elodea! Oh my!

Well, maybe there weren't any lions or tigers at the AFNR CASE institute over the past few days, but there was plenty to learn about animals and plants alike!

As we reached the midpoint of the institute, we dove into many scientific applications of plant & animal science through various hands-on experiments. Here are a few photos of what we have been investigating over the past few days.

Each group created a poster to explain the flora (plants), fauna (animals),  location,  and major characteristics of any biome within the United States.  Where do you think a grassland would be located? What biome do you live in? 

The name of this experiment was "Passing Gas."   If that doesn't catch your students' attention, I don't know what else will!  Utilizing lots of Elodea and a few snails, we set up an experiment to measure the pH and dissolved oxygen levels.  Which organism would lower the pH of the water? The dissolved oxygen level?  Justify your hypothesis using the formula for photosynthesis and respiration.  The results are quite gaseous!

What happens to the rate of photosynthesis in a plant that hasn't seen sunlight in a week? Utilizing some boiling isopropyl alcohol to boil a few plant leaves and adding Lugol's solution, we found out quickly!  

And last, but not least, build-a-bloom! How many times have you had students label a diagram on a piece of paper? This activity allows students to be creative and build their own flower model utilizing a few crafty items then labeling the 3-D model.  Can you recognize any of the parts of a flower? Is this flower complete or incomplete? Your students could answer these questions after building their own flower.
The 10-day institute is quickly winding down with more and more homework assignments being completed and checked each day.  In order to receive their CASE certification, teachers participating in the workshop must complete a portfolio of assignments that are checked by the lead teachers.  These assignments will serve as samples of work to students during the first year of instruction for the AFNR curriculum.  

Each day, more collaboration, energy, and enthusiasm is evident between participants talking about extension activities, modifications, and how CASE will look in their classroom this fall.  It is hard to believe how quickly this time has gone and how the institute has created such a positive momentum for Agricultural Science Education and challenged everyone to expand their repertoire of tools for the classroom!

Stay tuned for the final installments of CASE AFNR 2013!


Thursday, June 20, 2013

CASE AFNR Day 4: Earth, Wind, & Fire! (And Water!)

Ok, maybe not so much on the Wind & Fire, but today's CASE AFNR curriculum focused on several environmental issues dealing with water and soil conservation.  Today was the perfect day for hands-on learning at its finest!

This activity aimed to replicate the effects of
rainfall on soil.  After 3 "rainstorms, we
evaluated our streambed for damage.
In the morning session, I explored the world of water and soil with my fearless lab partners Mackenzie and Greg while rotating through 7 lab experiment stations.  We explored topics of porosity, erosion, and soil classification all while learning from each other.  We walked away from many labs with dirty hands but a sense of accomplishment knowing that these lab experiences will increase the rigor and relevance of our classroom instruction.

Water, water, everywhere...but not a drop to drink.  The afternoon session was all about water and exploring the numerous tests that can be performed on a sample of water.  We tested out Labquest equipment that could measure the temperature, pH, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, and total dissolved solids of any liquid sample.  With some patience and a bit of instruction interpretation, we maneuvered through the exercises learning more about a sample of water than we thought was possible!

We also investigated
the effects of topography on
runoff utilizing this plastic
Taking a step back and reflecting upon the rigor of this lab exercise, I quickly realized that I hadn't encountered much of this equipment until upper-level college courses (or even at all during my college education).  How awesome will it be that Freshmen students in high school will be exposed to this highly-technical equipment before they even graduate?  The power of this science-based agriculture curriculum will set up my students for success as they enter post-secondary education or the workforce.

The day concluded with the participants working through the task of creating their own lab procedure (an excellent inquiry-based activity that stretches students to synthesize a procedure from their past lab experiences and evaluate the validity of their experimental design).  Although a tough challenge to end the day, all lab groups worked efficiently to complete the inquiry-based activity!

Stay tuned for Friday's adventures before a well-deserved weekend break!


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

CASE AFNR Days 2 & 3: And the Science Begins!

A DNA sequence after successful
After diving right into our homework on Monday night, we knew that Tuesday and Wednesday would be filled with many activities and projects in the laboratory (the portion of the CASE experience that I had been long-anticipating).  During my student-teaching experience, I incorporated hands-on lab sessions, but none as meaningful as the experiments that we were going to conduct.

Here, I am practicing the proper
technique to weight out a substance
on a digital balance.
The day kicked off with laying a foundation in laboratory safety by incorporating a lab equipment 'scavenger hunt' in which participants were given a description of a piece of equipment, then asked to locate it within the lab and then explain the purpose of that item to the class.  Basics of measurement were also introduced via an excellent activity that allowed participants to practice measuring length, mass, volume, and density all within the same lab.

The strawberry DNA slowly
rises to the top off the
separating solution.

Today's session was packed with agriculture science experiments that creatively wove elements of Chemistry & Biology into many aspects of the tasks.  Cells, DNA, and dichotomous keys were the hot topics of the day as the lead teachers did an excellent job of putting new twists on routine Ag. Science lessons.  Utilizing models, new software programs, and some strawberries, participants excitedly participated in this series of experiments.  The energy in the room was contagious and many teachers walked away with many new ideas from collaborating with their lab partners on how they can tweak lessons and improve their other non-CASE courses with the information learned today.
Alex Barzydlo working hard to gather
DNA extracted from a strawberry.

With another exciting day of learning slated for tomorrow, I continue to preview for tomorrow's experiments that focus on Environmental Science.

Don't forget to follow the action in real-time by following #PSUCASE13 on Twitter!


Thanks to K. Weinberger for photographs used in this blog entry!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Making the CASE for Agriculture Education

Today begins a new adventure about taking Agriculture Education to the next level.  For the next 10 days, I will be participating in the Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education (CASE) Institute to become certified the "Introduction to Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources (AFNR) curriculum.  There are 21 Agriculture Educators from 7 states participating in this CASE institute that is being hosted by Penn State University and Cumberland Valley High School.

CASE is a one-of-a-kind curriculum that shifts the classroom towards student-based learning and inquiry-based instruction where students apply critical thinking skills and problem-solving each and every day in the classroom.  Students are challenged to take control of their learning and become an active member of the learning community.  For many agriculture programs, this curriculum is implemented to increase the rigor and relevance of agricultural science while preparing students for diverse careers in the field of technical agriculture.

Throughout the course of the institute, attendees are given the opportunity to experience the 150+ days of curriculum as a 'student.'  With 8 hours of instruction during the day and homework assignments at night, the institute challenges attendees to become familiar with the numerous activities, problems, and projects around which the curriculum is based.

For more information about the CASE Curriculum and other institutes being offered, visit www.case4learning.org.

To "follow" the action at the PSU/Cumberland Valley CASE Institute, follow the hashtag #PSUCASE13 on Twitter.

More entries to follow! Stay tuned!