The staff pick for this blog comes from Jon Ownby, one of NICERC’s Curriculum Development Specialists.
As a teacher, one of my favorite modules was the Genetics module from the STEM Explore, Discover, Apply (STEM EDA) curriculum. My students sometimes struggled with the concepts of heredity, cell division, parts of a cell, roles of organelles, DNA structure, and the like. Making the material interesting, engaging, and relatable was a challenge.
The approach taken by the Genetics module engaged the students and gave them a scenario they could relate to and be involved in. From an alien species taking refuge on Earth to genetic alteration via mystery comet, my students incorporated imagination and reality to internalize the concepts. This made the information more meaningful, and my students retained that information so much easier. This was also true for even more difficult concepts like genetic mutations or DNA codon structure.
Students who normally struggled in class found themselves engaged and participating in meaningful learning. This has been one of the driving forces for me promoting this material. There was a clear difference between my students before and after incorporating the NICERC material in my class. Students not only learn new information, but practice it in real and practical ways. The material also encourages higher-level thinking and reasoning as students work cooperatively with real scenarios that they test hands-on. This approach fostered a curiosity and enjoyment in my students in the areas of science, math, and engineering.
After incorporating NICERC material into my classroom, I received messages and notes from parents telling me that their child was building and testing projects and ideas at home because they wanted to further explore something we had covered in class. Teachers, parents, and even students noticed an increased energy in relation to science and its different fields. As one student told me, “Things are starting to make sense now.” Modules such as the Genetics module revolutionized my classroom and made a real difference for some of my students.
Genetics is part of NICERC’s STEM: Explore, Discover, Apply middle school curriculum. To gain access to this lesson along with a multitude of other great lessons for middle school and high school classes, click here.