Why Intro Bio Should Blow Your Mind…and Why It Probably Doesn’t.

Hey, Mom and Dad,

Classes are going ok, I guess. I dunno. I thought I liked biology, but I really don’t. Now I’m not sure what I’m going to major in. Sigh. It’s not that it’s hard, really, I just don’t get all these stupid experiments we’re doing because we go so fast and just follow all the stupid steps in the lab manual and I don’t even learn anything. And the professor goes so fast and the lectures and the labs don’t match up with each other. I feel like I’m in high school biology again, but there’s just 100x more stuff to know. Whatever. I like that art class I’m taking. Maybe I’ll major in that. Maybe if the other kids in my bio class actually cared about what we’re learning, it would help, but they don’t. And the teacher is always so grouchy. She’s a grad student or something (you went to grad school, right, Mom?) and always seems tired. I thought I wanted to do the cancer research thing, but it just seems so unrealistic now. Grr…can’t wait to come home for my birthday.

Love,

me

vs.

Hey, Mom and Dad,

Classes are going really well. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually think biology is my favorite class. Who knows, maybe I can be a doctor or something one day! I have a pretty good teacher and the lab is really fun. You’re not gonna believe this. Last week we learned how to extract DNA from our own cheek cells!! It was awesome. My group made a few mistakes, but by the third try we got it and we were even able to compare our DNA on this thing called a gel that used electricity to move the DNA. It was really cool. This week we learned how to put DNA from one organism into the cells of another organism! It’s like I’m a bioengineer! Next week, we’re going to take the DNA from jellyfish that glow green under a black light and put their DNA into bacteria cells (the bacteria are E. coli, but don’t worry, I won’t get sick from it!) and then the bacteria will glow green, too, if we do it right! (Remember the green glowing bunny on that episode of Sherlock on PBS!? It’s just like that!) But first we have to figure out how to do it. That’s the best part — figuring it out. My group is pretty good and messes up a lot, but we usually get it right before the other kids in the class, which appeals to my competitive side! I can’t believe how much better this class is than I thought it would be. It helps that the lab instructor is really enthusiastic and takes her time to explain stuff to us. Some of my other teachers aren’t like that. And the best part is, she explains why this is important. We’re not just doing stuff for the sake of doing it. She’s a grad student and she actually uses this stuff in her Ph.D. research. I mean, she said one day I could probably work in a lab doing cancer research or something! Wouldn’t that be awesome? I could cure cancer! Woo! Gotta run. Lots of laundry to do.

Love ya!

me

Advertisements

About Paleophile

This is my personal blog and the views presented here are not those of any academic institution where I am enrolled, any agencies that choose to fund my research, or my places of employment. View all posts by Paleophile

4 responses to “Why Intro Bio Should Blow Your Mind…and Why It Probably Doesn’t.

  • Preston Garrison, Ph.D.

    Way back in ’72, Intro to Biol blew my mind as a senior in college. The course included the beginnings of molec. biol., the classic experiments by Griffith, Avery Macleod and McCarty, etc that showed DNA to be the genetic material. And on to the phage genetics and Watson and Crick and how the genetic code was worked out by Nirenberg and the others. I had only taken the course to fill some elective hours, and I was amazed that there was a field of science that I could see myself doing, unlike the esoteric mathematics of physics, which had blown me away in a different sense. I completely changed my plans and became a biochemist. Modern biology is exciting. If a teacher can’t transmit that, they shouldn’t be teaching the subject.

  • Paleophile

    Thank you for your comment, Dr. Garrison. Modern biology is absolutely fascinating, isn’t it? I just hope those of us in the position of being educators can transmit our passion and enthusiasm for the beautiful human endeavor that is life science (and science generally!) to our students.

  • John S. Mead

    Great posting! As a 20+ year veteran teacher of biology at the Middle/High School level, I see that the secret of getting that “WOW” factor is to NOT fall victim to the pedagogy of ” these facts will be on the test & you must score high on the test to be deemed a success” Such thinking leads to the phenomenon of students “Doing School” where you have dutiful but uninspired robots (oops – students) going through the motions of “learning” to rack up a score. When teachers can be freed to teach the fascination of biology (or ANY subject), students become genuine partners in mastering content and soon begin to ask / answer deeper questions for their own love of knowing why and how everything fits together as it does.

    Seeing Dr. Garrison mention his exposure to the early stars of molecular biology, I enjoy teaching those great “Genetic Material” experiments to my 6th graders and having them struggle through the details in a meaningful way so that they can develop their own questions that are “Nobel Prize Worthy” in our classroom.

    Simply put – I am saddened by the lack of passion that I hear about in so many science classrooms today. However, with inspired people it can change!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: