by Zackary Grimsley
The session that had the largest impact and held the most for the examination of my current practices at the OSTA Fall Conference was attending the “Show me the Moo-ney! Determine the Genetics of a CA$H-Cow. '' This session was the furthest from my current teaching assignment and at first I wondered how it would be useful for my current grade level. I was pleasantly surprised by both the task which the session had all the participants work on and on how it challenged my approach to a science class.
Often there is the debate on whether starting with a phenomenon or leading with foundations and building from there is ideal for a unit. In “Show me the Moo-ney!”, the class was asked to perform a genetic analysis to determine which of the cows should be selected in looking for a particular known genetic marker. The speaker opened with a brief outline on the traits that a dairy farmer would be looking for and why. This was a solid example of a phenomenon in nature and how the market is currently using it. The speaker discussed various factors that a farmer could be looking for such as the largest volume of milk produced or if the milk produced would be usable for cheese making. The farmer that we were tasked with helping wanted to make sure that the new cattle being brought into the farm had the factor that was conducive to cheese production. Using known genotypes of three cows with either two, one, or none of the factors presenting, we were asked to examine samples from five mystery cows.
The process of how to use the gels and pipets was first modeled by the presenter. The whole class got a chance to practice with the pipets and to make a plan for how to use the provided materials. This guided instruction with a gradual release is a practice that I strive for in my classroom, and seeing this done in a different content area helped reassure that this process is beneficial. The samples were loaded into the gels by each of the participants and
placed into the MiniOne System to have the samples separated into their components. After running the MiniOne for 20 minutes it became clear which of the five mystery cows had genetics that showed they had either two, one, or none of the ideal traits.
This lab followed a structure that I would like to emulate within the classroom after I have been able to find an appropriate phenomenon to use as a jumping off point for each of the subject matters that 7th grade addresses. This process reinforced starting with a driving question, leading through possible procedures with a gradual release to the student directed learning, and bringing back the groups to share their findings. It was through starting with a clear question, but leaving it open ended for the class to process how and what it would look like to devise an approach to the problem, that processing was able to occur. It reminded me how important it is, at both the close and during a unit, that students are given a chance to share their findings with their peers and to revise their thesis statement from the beginning.