Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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Life Science: About the Course

Teacher-Talk Life

[Teacher-talklife] Session 8: Material Cycles in Ecosystems

From: Joan Edgar <jedgar_at_hanoverschools.org>
Date: Sun, 8 Jul 2012 08:34:39 -0400

Hello fellow students--

My final TalkLife posting! This course has really changed my view of so
many things, enriching my understanding of the world around me a great
deal. Just yesterday, I was out pulling weeds in my vegetable garden, and
there were some clover in there. There are also rabbits in my yard, who do
chomp away at the clover as well as some vegetable leaves. I started
thinking about how I had always wondered why fertilizers herald their
nitrogen-rich content, even while gardens everywhere are surrounded by air
that is predominantly nitrogen. In this course, I learned how nitrogen in
the air is not in the right form for usage by the living things that need
it, but that legumes and plants like clover have root nodules growing on
them that cause "nitrogen fixation", changing the form of nitrogen so it
can be accessed by the plant the root nodules are on, and then transferred
to the surrounding plants and the animals that eat the plants. I had never
known this before! So, I started thinking about the rabbits in my rural
neighborhood, chomping away on my clover as well as the leaves on my bean
bushes, and the red-tailed hawks, screech owls and coyotes that live here,
too, chomping away on the rabbits. I realized that rabbits, so abundant in
the world and favorite prey of so many predators (great size, delicious,
abundant), are always eating nitrogen-fixating plants, and getting eaten
and releasing that nitrogen to other living things, and of course the idea
of materials cycling in my very own rural ecosystem (and my understanding
of how the world works) becomes much more detailed than it ever was for me!

I notice things I never would have before, and make great connections
between what I've learned in the course and the real world I live in.

Of course, this leads right into the subject matter for today's post: Why
is it difficult to teach matter and energy? How can these subjects be
taught to help kids learn? I think the answer lies in my first paragraph
above. I was able to make the connections myself, but my students, if they
learn the basics through me and then learn more specific info through a
study of their own backyards, and they SEE the science all around them,
will make the kinds of connections that will help them learn what I want
them to know, and remember it, too. When they have difficulty keeping the
facts straight, going back to their personal connections with the
information will be more effective than going back to a page in a book, or
even video footage.

For all the knowledge I have garnered for myself, and the emphasis on what
children think, I am grateful for this course--I will be an even better
teacher because of it!

Joan Edgar
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Received on Mon Jul 09 2012 - 10:26:19 EDT



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