Earth Day: Students Take Action

Happy Earth Day!

Today marks the 41st Earth Day since its formation in 1970; not to mention the 25th anniversary of my own birth, and I can’t think of a better day to share my birthday with.

Some would say the foundation of Earth Day served as the launching point for the modern evironment movement. Its goals include increasing advocacy, awareness, and changes in human behavior related to climate change, conservation of biodiversity, energy use, and natural resource consumption.

The pilars that Earth Day stands for are all issues I feel strongly about and  emphasize strongly throughout my instruction. So,  maybe it was fate that I have become a Biology teacher. Being born on a day which focuses to increase responsible and sustainable use of Earth’s resources. Maybe its just a happy coincidence, but I like to think the latter. Either way, I’ll take it.

In honor of this important day I have decided to postpone the genetics vocab quiz scheduled for today, hopefully my students don’t mind, and will spending the day both discussing the goals of Earth Day, but also taking action.

We will be using this opportunity to practice what we’ve learn and some have ‘preached’ in their homemade conservation videos from earlier in the year. The main work we will do today is a collaborative effort with all my classes to collect all the bottles, cans, and assorted trash that has accumulated around our school grounds over the past few months, and until recently have been hidden under the snow.

A second project we are working on hopes to increase biodiversity of bird life by creating a variety of types of bird house and feeders to attract more species of birds. This will hopefully lead to a greater variety birds, but also other forms of life in our surrounding ecosystem.

I hope this break from genetics, inheritance and punnett squares will serve to remind students of prior topics, but also instill that they can make a difference in protecting and conserving our environment and no action is too small to help.

Afterall, in a few months I’m sure most of them won’t remember what homozygous means, but hopefully all of them will think twice before throwing trash out a car window.

Sorry Mendel some lessons might just be a bit more important than green wrinkled or yellow round peas….

Happy Earth Day! What will you do today to help make a difference?

“Is that a clip on?”

“Mr. Reid is that a clip on?”

This was one of the first things a student said to me as I started my class with him. Apparently, I had done such a nice job tying my tie this morning that I could pass it off as a manufactured clip on. I’ll take that as a compliment, and I’m sure my Dad would be proud since he was my instructor.

This then evolved into a couple guys saying they didn’t know how to tie a tie, or had never worn one before. It isn’t often that I’m pulled so fully into such tangents, but they had me hook, line and sinker.

So, 20 minutes later, after instructing on my tie tying technique, and practicing it; we ended with this culminating fashion show shot. A couple of students even kept their ties until the end of the day.

Let’s just say we were the classiest Biology class in school today.

It just goes to show that most times, the best things learned in a science class, or any class, are the unplanned ones.

And as they left, I smiled and asked myself… well, you know.

No Generation Left Behind

Sunday evening I watched Higher Ed Live, a web-based interview show that promotes conversation about current events in higher education, technology, and the use of the social media to promote higher education.

The topic of Sunday’s show, in a nut shell, was a debate regarding how higher education failed YouTube EDU, or from the opposing side, how did YouTube EDU fail higher education. From what I’ve gathered of YouTube EDU it is a branch of YouTube that academic institutions can apply to be part of as a easy and identified place to share educational content.

One of the key points that grabbed me was that higher education institutions fail to provide academic content, thus falling short of YouTube EDU’s guidelines for being a member. So, the membership is not what it could be.

This is how my brain has processed the plethora of ideas in the discussion during Sunday’s show, if you are interested in more information check out the link above.

How does this connect to my life as a high school teacher you may ask? Well part of the gift and curse of being in education is it’s always on your mind.

So, as this discussion regarding use of YouTube was happening I thought, hmmm all the content I post to YouTube is academic, do I qualify? My channel is dedicated to posting student produced video and linking to videos we have watched in class.

Seems pretty academic to me, check it out: youtube.com/reidbio

Beyond this though, my main reflection was that technology is not going any where, and it needs to be embraced. Here is a group of people, both those involved in producing the weekly show as well as its loyal followers who are actively engaged in keeping their field up to date in the ever changing world of technology, embracing it with a big ole bear hug.

Unfortunately, if you’ve walked into lots of public schools recently, you may have noticed let’s say a “mature” and experienced population of teachers. This is not the same population that is so willing to embrace technology.

For instance, the solution to my computer glitching because Office 2003 and Office 2007 were installed on my computer was to uninstall Office 2007, teachers didn’t like the new version… yikes.

Don’t get me wrong these a good teachers, who have been working in schools for a long time and have many great ideas. However, in general they would rather use an abacus than a calculator. (An exaggeration, but you get the point)

In an age when most students have a smart phone in their pocket, they have access the the web and its endless supply of content, good and bad. As teachers it’s now part of our job to help instruct and model how this amazing tool can be used as an educational resource.

How we can empower ourselves and students with its limitless capabilities?

As teachers it is  our responsibility t0 move out of our comfort zones and learn about the new technologies available to us, and then engage students with it. If we don’t, we risk leaving an entire generation of wired in adolescents behind, failing to engage and instruct them. Or even worse, get left behind ourselves as they realize we are no longer relevant.

So, I say to YouTube EDU, if you want academic content, go to the source. Make it easy for those with the academic content, teachers and professors, to provide it. Don’t make us jump through hoops to become a member, accept us for who we are and we will provide.

Finally, let us as teachers look to our higher education counterparts as role models and strive to stay informed and up to date. Who should know better than us that knowledge is power.