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Peer Review

Smile Programs Biology Index



Overall Numeric Rating:

3 stars
Content Quality: 3 stars
Effectiveness: 2 stars
Ease of Use: 3 stars
Reviewed: Jul 23, 2002 by Biology Editorial Board
Overview: This site is hosted by the Illinois Institute of Technology and provides approximately 200 biology lessons divided into nine broad categories: 1) Anatomy & Physiology, 2) Zoology, 3) Botany, 4) Microbiology, 5) Genetics, 6) Environmental Studies & Ecology 7) Biochemistry, 8) General Biology and 9) Miscellaneous. The site serves as a clearinghouse for lessons describing a demonstration or simple experiment submitted by various teachers. Lessons use easy to procure materials and cover a wide range of classical scientific topics. The lesson title is given with the name of the teacher who
submitted the lesson, and his or her school. The site does not introduce, comment on, or provide guidance as to the use of these lessons.
Type of Material: Activity-based lesson plans.
Recommended Uses: Sources of ideas for hands-on science activities.
Technical Requirements: None
Target Student Population: Middle school

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 3 stars
Strengths: Quality of content: (2.5), 2.5) = 2.5

Features of Excellence:

  • A wide variety of lesson plans for use predominantly at the middle school
    level, although many of the ideas presented could be modified for use in a high
    school physical science or life science classroom.
  • Units are relatively simple in approach and use inexpensive supplies.
  • Many of these are well-known activities that have been time-tested in K-12


  • No attempt to connect lessons to new National Science Education Standards,
    or to any other component of the science education reform movement.
  • Lessons emphasize observation, but not data collection, analysis or prediction, do not promote problem solving or critical thinking. Hypothesis testing is absent from most lessons.
  • Some units have factual or conceptual errors.
  • How some units demonstrate relevant scientific principles is not always clearly presented.
  • Most units could present more suggestions for background information that should be presented.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 2 stars
Strengths: Potential effectiveness as a teaching tool: (2.5) , (2.0) = 2.3

Features of Excellence:

  • A good source of inspirational ideas for creating new curricular units.


  • Most units need more rigorous assessment standards, that should include creation of data tables, simple mathematical manipulations, graphing, and sample exam or quiz questions/assignments.
  • Units would benefit from requiring students to make predictions, and then gather data to test the predictions.
  • Simply providing lesson plans without any guidance as to how these activities fit into a larger framework of standards and benchmarks is the approach that we are trying to move teachers away from. Sites that promote (even implicitly) teaching science as just doing a series of hands-on activities do little to forward the standards-based reforms.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 3 stars
Strengths: Usability: (4.0), (3.5) = 3.8

Features of Excellence:

  • Very simple to navigate.
  • No bad links


  • No organization other than sorting 200 lessons into nine basic categories. The use of sub-categories and short annotations would make it much easier for teachers to find the kind of lesson they are looking for.
  • No correlations to standards and benchmarks.

Other Issues and Comments: Overall score: 2.8