Guest Teacher Blog: Engaging Science Students of Varying Ability


Editor's Note: Heather DeLuca-Nestor teaches 8th grade science at South Middle School in Morgantown, West Virginia. In this guest post, she describes how Curriculum Pathways resources meet the critical-thinking needs of her science students. This is the first in a series of blog posts written by West Virginia educators sharing how they have integrated digital content in their classrooms. This series is part of a larger collaboration between Curriculum Pathways and SETDA, one that includes this October 2017 webinar.

Curriculum Pathways is an invaluable resource that combines both content and technology. I teach five classes a day with students of varying abilities and am responsible for the differentiation of content for all students. Because I teach science, no co-teacher is available: math and reading take priority.

I use the VLab: Mendelian Genetics resource when teaching a unit on genetics to my 8th-grade classes. This virtual lab acts as a culminating activity. Students have already learned about Gregor Mendel, Punnett squares, terminology such as homozygous, heterozygous, dominant and recessive, and much more. Students have to explore five butterfly traits and identify alleles, differentiating between genotypes and phenotypes.

VLab: Mendelian Genetics helps students see segregation and independent assortment in action, perform genetic crosses, observe traits, and determine genotypes.

The lab walks students through a step-by-step process to create monohybrid and dihybrid crosses. The lab scaffolds all students as it progresses in difficulty, incorporating math as they calculate the ratios of dominant and recessive traits in offspring. Lastly, students become curators at a butterfly museum, and they must identify a mystery butterfly , clarifying the traits and determining whether they are dominant or recessive.

This lab is designed for grades 9-12, but my 8th-grade students love it and are successful -- even students who need more one-on-one attention. The lab allows me to differentiate content for all students and work individually with those who need more help while keeping the entire class on task and learning. I walk around the room as students work at their own pace. Instructions are user-friendly and broken down step-by-step. A glossary clarifies terminology. All tabs are easily accessible. Most important of all is this: The lab helps my students with IEP's feel productive because they are working along with regular education students, succeeding at the same activities without being singled out.


About Author

Lee Ellen Harmer

Outreach and Collaborations Manager

Lee Ellen Harmer is a member of the Social Innovation Division at SAS, a team committed to finding innovative ways to apply SAS® technology to the world's most pressing needs. While focused heavily on global sustainability issues, the Social Innovation team also works to support the next generation of innovators, introducing young learners to data, how it can be used to better understand global issues, and how to turn those insights into action in their own communities. Lee Ellen's role encompasses marketing, communications, and Data for Good partnerships, all focused on education. She also facilitates awareness and adoption of SAS's K12 education outreach programs, promoting learning for all, with the goal of building a global community of innovators. Lee Ellen has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business with a marketing concentration from Wake Forest University (Winston Salem, NC).

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