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Name: Gerry A Adams
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Question:
I teach biology to a very mixed ability group of 10th graders. I am tearing my hair out trying to teach the subject of Cell Respiration and photosynthesis to students that are in some cases on a basic skills level of understanding. How should I approach the subject and to what depth? Should I expect them to understand the Light and dark reactions let alone Glycolysis or the Krebs Cycle? I feel as does a person I quote who said that "the study of science is not very exciting... Doing science is!!!" How can I do this kind of science with my kids? Help!



Replies:
I'm grappling with the same dilemma. One way to approach this is by asking what information or concepts will help your students in 10 years. Will they need to understand the dark reactions? Will it help them to understand why their muscles are sore after extensive exercise? Will it help them to understand some of the disorders that might result from not getting enough ATP into their system or how poisons work by blocking some part of the electron transport chain? I've tried some things like using those applications; I've also tried role playing, assorted labs, tons of worksheets/slides/videos - I still don't have a solid answer. But I'm starting to feel more strongly that they don't really need the detail as much as they need the understanding that things are linked together by the transfer of energy, that photosynthesis is fundamental to the continuation of all life on earth and that it is linked to all other life by respiration.

Ellen Mayo


I taught under a very dynamic professor at the University of Wisconsin. He had a way of introducing respiration that has stuck with me, and I am sure has stuck with the students. He would explain that chemically, the process of respiration is the same as burning a piece of paper. The react ants and products are the same. As he explained this, he would take a sheet of his notes and set fire to it. This really gets the students attention. He then goes on to explain that the same chemical reaction that converts paper to heat and light and CO2 can be used in the cell to generate ATP to be used for useful work. The cell is able to accomplish this because it break s the process down into steps that can be controlled and links the reactants and products using enzymes. He also demonstrates the importance of compartmentalization of the various reactions in producing useful work from respiration. Viewing respiration in this way will allow students to reach a good basic understanding of the process that will stay with them for a long time. It also allows one to demonstrate the importance of enzymes and compartmentalization in biochemical processes.

Brian Schwartz



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