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Back Biology 2010 Initiative:  A Reflection

21 June 2010

To: Kevin McGowan, Debby Baker
From: George Smith, for the Biology Team
Cc: Nancy Hackett, Brian Gee, Jamie Porta, Tom Hall, Biology Team, Gretchen Shafer (BEF)

Subject: "Biology 2010" - Summary & Reflections

Prior to development of the "2020 Vision" by former Superintendent Chris Manaseri, the Biology Team had already embarked on the "Biology 2010" plan - a shorter-term and more modest initiative to upgrade laboratory instruction through the use of quantitative, analytical equipment - mainly IBM laptops running Vernier probes using LoggerPro software. We anticipated that directed experimentation with the equipment would enhance learning and improve higher-order thinking skills by increasing our students' ability to collect and analyze quantitative data. The Chemistry Team had been successfully using the earlier-generation CBL-based probes for many years, and we wished to emulate their successes at the 9-10th grade Living Environment/Biology ES level, as well as to upgrade and update our instruction in AP Biology and Environmental Science.

With the help of outside funding obtained by former Assistant Superintendent Jeanne Strining, District Technology and BHS Science Department funding, and funding through the Brighton Education Fund and Brighton Teacher Center, we were able to purchase a lab set of laptops, a laptop cart, and class sets of the following probes and sensors: temperature, conductivity, pH, dissolved oxygen, oxygen gas, carbon dioxide gas, and heart rate. We also purchased lesser numbers of turbidity, relative humidity, and UVA and UVB probes, as well as accessories - two types of respiration chambers, multiple USB connectors, USB hubs, etc. Subsequent proposals completed our set of DNA gel electrophoresis equipment, and funded lighting and materials for the construction of a hydroponic system.

Overall, we have been very well supported and are well-equipped to instruct students using modern analytical equipment for investigative, quantitative laboratory activities.

The past 4-5 years have emphasized curricular development associated with the Living Environment, Biology ES, AP Biology, and Environmental Science courses - mainly adding and adapting labs to take advantage of our more quantitative data collection and analysis capabilities.

Whether or not Brighton students will improve significantly on standardized tests is unclear, but in the meantime we have substantially enriched the learning environment for all BHS students, all of whom take Living Environment or Biology ES. As the field of biology becomes increasingly quantitative and molecular, we are providing students with appropriate instruction and preparation.

The attached labs are examples of labs that we have developed and used in our Living Environment course over the past 3-4 years. In general, these lab activities emphasize important-but-abstract concepts - e.g., cellular energetics, enzyme-mediated reactions, diffusion - all core curricular concepts, and all concepts that lend themselves well to quantitative data collection and real-time graphical display and analysis. The attached student projects are examples of required independent projects conducted as part of Biology ES. Biology ES students characteristically launch themselves into this assignment with a great deal of gusto. At this point, we typically lose one or two probes each year due to damage - a small cost associated with the enthusiastic pursuit of science!

We look forward to continued educational innovation as we progress through the next 10 years!

Brighton Education Fund
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