Unleashing the Inner Child

March 6th, 2008 by webmaster

Unleashing the Inner Child

Who doesn’t love kindergarten. Crafts, colouring, and learning new things makes for an enjoyable time, what’s not to love?
Now, replace “kindergarten” with “glycolysis”, and you have a conversation killer.
The process of cellular respiration - glycolysis, the Krebs cycle and oxidative phosphorylation - has been glazing eyes of stunned Biology students for decades. And yet, if approached carefully, it is quite straightforward - thare is just a lot of pieces to the puzzle. So in order to pull my senior Biology students away from the brink of the memorizing abyss, I decided to bring them back to kindergarten. I stopped in at the dollar store and purchased a set of bingo markers (also called daubers, dobbers or dabbers - tubes of brightly coloured ink with spongy tops), and a roll of paper from the art department. The students’ task was simply to draw cellular respiration. To draw it big, and draw it bold.
At first, the students began reproducing the diagrams from their text. When I suggested that perhaps fun and whimzy should play a part in their work - after all, we were using bingo markers - they became genuinely excited. Enzymes became hearts and hats and stars. Sugar molecules became faces with one hair for each carbon, and ATP became magical.
Instead of copying the diagrams from the text, they began interpreting them. Identifying what was important, why they were presented in a particular way, and how they related to each other.  A few of them made mistakes - drawing arrows or molecules where there were none - which forced them to observe the diagrams more carefully, and recognize why there wasn’t an arrow there. It also forced them to make decisions - how do I fix this?  In short, learning happened.
The lesson, of course, does not stop there. I will be posting images of the work, and will be asking the students to provide critique and feedback, which will force them to analyze the interpretations, and compare them with their understanding.
The class wasn’t entirely without incident. There was some misbehaviour with the markers, and there was one boy who decided (after doing some good work) that doing Art in Bio class was not worth his full attention.
But then, if I could have all but one student fully engaged in my class every day, I think I would be getting somewhere. 
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