This site was initially developed by CJ Kazilek with the help from a Howard Hughes Grant. A group of undergraduate and graduate volunteers have steadily maintained the site. The intention of the author and team is to provide information on various subjects related to Biology. It is maintained by Arizona State University. Through the site a visitor may access activities, ask pointed questions regarding biological issues, respond through feedback option, access articles and profiles on biologists, view images at a gallery page, and connect to related sites through an active link option. The collection includes experiments and articles on biology research projects being conducted at Arizona State University. The articles are written in simple language about core science content that is appropriate for middle school or upper elementary school life science classes.
To provide general knowledge on biology to students and teachers.
To provide instructional strategies on biological concepts for teachers to use in the classroom.
To promote and perpetuate an interest in biological concepts and their applications to daily life.
To shows connections between actual science research projects and the vocabulary and life science content studied in middle school or upper elementary school life science classes.
To provide instruction and experience in using the internet as a research tool.
Target Student Population:
Students from kindergarten through twelve grade are encouraged to actively engage in the site?s pages, but the content is most appropriate to grades 3-9. Pre-service and inservice life science teachers are able to access and develop activities and strategies from the same pages.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Use of the internet and ability to maneuver through web pages would be helpful but a minimal understanding will suffice.
Type of Material:
Collection of information including biographies, experiments, and science stories.
The material would be appropriate as learning materials for K8 life science teachers to learn about the processes of science or as enrichment for advanced K8 students. As an informational resource, this site provides the user with the ability to query any biological concern by submitting questions to a team of experts. There is also a section developed to provide engaging online activities that have biological connections. A page is also provided for teachers to acquire information and instruction on strategies and activities pertinent to specific biological subjects. Many of these activities can be accomplished without computer assistance. A variety of activities engage the student through the use of computer assisted direction.
Computer and internet access. Some Adobe pdf documents are associated with the collection. Intel? Digital Puzzle Solver (a free download) is also required for some activities.
Evaluation and Observation
The approach is to provide a diverse collection of biological content as through submissions from various scientists, teachers and other contributors. This provides a very broad collection of material with little connection. This is not to say that the content is not relevant. Three strengths are notable. First, the content selection is grounded in basic biology appropriate for foundation or core understandings of life science (butterflies, color, seed growth, beetle reproduction, camouflage) yet the stories illustrate cutting-edge research. Second, the seed growth visual and quantitative time course displayed with Time Traveling Plants and the BACK YARD EXPERIMENTS provides raw data for discoveries while encouraging simple scientific experiments at home or school. Finally, for the visitor who may be searching for specific answers to content there is the ability to submit a query. All information is provided in a manner that makes reading and comprehending the material easy for middle grade levels.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
A section in the backyard experiments page includes selected activities from Access Excellence. These activities are suitable for various instructional strategies including inquiry. Each is complete in explanation and can be manipulated by the teacher to fit the needs of the classroom. The Ask a Biologist section provides excellent data in story form that can be used as advanced organizer. Visitors will want to examine one Ask a Biologist activity in particular - the Pocket Seed Experiment with detailed instructions for an experiment that can be done by children at home or at school. Comparison data is provided in the form of a -Dr. Biology pocket seed experiment- to involve students in analyzing both visual and quantitative data that has already been collected and carefully organized. It would not be possible for most teachers to collect the quality of data displayed,
so this instructional material efficiently promotes understanding of seed germination, development, plant response to gravity, experimental design with experimental and controlled variables, and diversity or life. Along with each activity, the vocabulary, web links, and self-assessment quizzes provide materials appropriate for enrichment for children through independent study. The same material can be used to challenge accelerated students to think deeply about change over time while engaging basic students with material that is visually comprehensible. Diversity of the web site faciliates multiple use by the teacher and student. The intent was not to provide a guided instructional tool and this is evident. The instructor should decide what portion or portions of the site are appropriate for the learning experience. The links in the activities section are exceptional. Many more can be reached after the intial search.
Feedback for the quiz section might include instruction on the items marked wrong. Currently only the correct answer is provided. According to the authors, instruction about wrong answers is on the list for future upgrades.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
With very little knowledge regarding internet access or web page use the site is exceptionally accessible to all users. The video animation of the Dr. Biology Virtual Pocket Seed Experiment requires only a web browser. The animation shows change over time in ways that would be impossible for the average science teacher to enact in a classroom without this resource. The animations can be used to show how science distinguishes itself from other ways of knowing, with wonder, curiosity, and respect toward nature used as the invitation to delve deeper and to encourage students to think critically and independently,
reason using empirical criteria, question, openly criticize, and demonstrate evidence rather than deferring to authority. Each page provides clear and obvious links and instructions.
The collection is extensive and navigation is complex, although the authors attempted to make it easy to return to content branching points. Users might not at first notice the site map listed under the -About This Site- and the -Site Toobox- sections. Once a user moves from the main page of backyard experiments there is no way to return other than to use the back button of the browser.
Other Issues and Comments:
This site is a very useful addition to any classroom instruction. The video animation of the Virtual Pocket Seed Experiment was highlighted as part of A Walk Through the Vineyard: Teacher Education's Salute to Excellence at the fourth annual MERLOT International Conference held at the Costa Mesa Hilton, Costa Mesa, California, August 5, 2004. These materials developed with the assistance of Elena Ortiz-Barney, author of Time Traveling Plants and the graduate student that worked with Charles Kazilek on the Pocket Seed Viewer, have been used effectively in pre-service and in-service teacher education courses. The collection offers appropriate items for all age, grade and ability levels. The resources are not a stand alone exercise. The teacher should spend time becoming familiar with the many pages and opportunities and spend some time planning how to use the material. If the teacher does not have the Intel puzzle solver it will be necessary to download the free software.