Written by Amanda Hartwick Oxby.
Have you considered introducing your grade 10 students to mitosis through the use of Oreo cookies?
Throughout the duration of my practicum placement at Laurentian University, I had the opportunity to teach and explore science topics in both elementary and secondary schools. It was from this experience that I learnt that incorporating engaging and interesting activities are essential to student learning. Although this may be difficult to do at times with the various strands of science and the specific curriculum guidelines, I was able to create and implement creative lessons that made science enjoyable for all students.
I found my practicum placement to be most challenging when given the opportunity to teach grade 10 academic science. It was from this experience that I came to realize that there is a large jump between the grade 9 academic and grade 10 academic curriculum expectations. Grade 10 sciences have a considerable amount of detail in terms of the three science strands: chemistry, physics, and biology. The details contained within these strands are crucial in determining student’s interest in science and their ability to go further in senior courses. I feel that the teachers who are teaching at this grade level are fully responsible for shaping the minds of young adults and promoting the love of science. Therefore, teachers should strive to make science enjoyable and construct a positive and exciting learning environment so that students may continue in the science fields.
I demonstrated the ability to create a positive and energetic learning environment when teaching the grade 10 academic strand of biology. This unit is dense with information that often requires many notes to help students grasp key concepts of cell division and body systems. However, through my studies at Laurentian University, I approached lessons with the use of differentiated instruction and scaffolding methods to meet the needs of the various learning abilities among students. That being said, I avoided lengthy notes, and chose to use entry cards, warm-ups, mini-lessons, and activities instead. I developed and enhanced my abilities to make all science lessons engaging and interesting for the grade 10 students.
One of my favourite and most engaging lessons began with an introduction to mitosis. To begin the lesson, students were required to brainstorm what they thought the word “mitosis” meant. At this time, students were also given the opportunity to discuss this with their peers. I feel that think-pair-share and discussion activities improve students’ learning abilities, as it does not put limitations on “right” or “wrong” answers. As the discussion carried on, I was busy creating a word web of the various links to mitosis that I had overheard within the groups. After the discussion ended, students were given a mini-lesson on the phases of the mitosis process. This was a quick note that covered the general content required from the curriculum documents. Oftentimes, when learning a topic such as mitosis, my initial thought would involve having students practice the phases through worksheets or organize cut-outs of the phases of mitosis in the correct order on their desks. Although these are great ideas to bring into the classroom, I felt that something more interactive would be beneficial and potentially eliminate the confusion students often have regarding the phases of mitosis. Moreover, I created a hands-on, interactive Oreo mitosis activity.
The Oreo activity was a creative and thought provoking activity that sparked interest among all students. Students were split into pairs and each pair was given six Oreos, a bag of sprinkles, and a toothpick. Each group was required to pull apart their Oreos (very carefully so they did not pull apart the cream filling), and begin to design the phases of mitosis right on the cookie. The Oreo itself would represent the cell, and the crème filling would be representative of the cytoplasm. The students then used the different types of sprinkles to represent centrioles, chromosomes, spindle fibres, and so forth. Once the students had created all the phases of mitosis, they got their work checked by the teacher. After it was corrected and checked, students were required to draw their Oreo-mitosis creations onto a worksheet. Beside the diagrams, they were required to write what was happening in each phase. To conclude this lesson, I displayed some of the student Oreos in the class (that way students were able to correct their mistakes or see how their peers presented their work). This was followed by a short discussion about mitosis and why we participated in the activity. This lesson was the perfect way to teach an information dense subject.
The students absolutely loved this activity. It was an engaging lesson that allowed students to relate science to everyday, simple materials (and some even ate the cookies and sprinkles after!). It was amazing to hear students talking in the hallways later that day about how “cool” science was. I was even informed by other teachers in different departments within the school that the students kept commenting on how awesome their last class was and how they “could not wait” for science class again the following day.
To hear such positive comments after one lesson is an extremely exhilarating feeling. It is the little comments and the excitement from students that ignites my passion and dedication to teaching, as well as my passion for science. It is absolutely fantastic to think that something as simple as using Oreos and sprinkles to enhance a lesson can make a world of difference with regard to an individual’s learning experience. As a new graduate from the concurrent education program at Laurentian University, I am excited to influence and promote young adults to continue in the science profession for future generations.
Teachers Pay Teachers (2014). Biology Lab Experiment. Mitosis and Meiosis with Oreo Cookies. Retrieved from http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Lab-Mitosis-and-Meiosis-with-Oreo-Cookies-7-10-132940
Amanda Hartwick Oxby – 2014 Galbraith winner