Science concepts are based on evidence, but this may not be obvious to students taught with traditional texts. Information is presented without supporting data or the stories behind the discoveries. When students study DNA replication, they are expected to learn the steps and outcome of the process but not about how this was discovered. They will dutifully learn the fluid mosaic model of the cell membrane, but with no information about how scientists determined that this was an acceptable model. Reading Nature seeks to address this lapse, highlighted after the release of the Next Generation Science Standards in 2013, by providing structures to encourage students to ask “Why and how do we know that?”
This supplemental textbook contains 15 lessons ready to be incorporated into standard biology curricula. Each lesson is organized around the use of historical texts to illustrate the story behind the discovery and primary peer-reviewed sources adapted for readability (grades 8–12). The stories are centered on the people involved and the questions they asked. Descriptions of their investigations and presentations of their data are included for students to analyze. The lessons provide students authentic opportunities to reach conclusions based on real data used by the scientists they read about. For example, the DNA replication lesson offers the competing models of conservative, semiconservative, and dispersive replication before describing the methods used by Meselson and Stahl to find evidence supporting or refuting the models. Students use the data to provide evidence for acceptance or rejection of each model. A blank Claims-Evidence-Justification Chart for students is provided, as well as several possible responses for each lesson to aid the teacher in assessing student understanding. Lists of group-discussion questions are included to stimulate additional higher-level thinking about each concept as well as a choice of investigative questions that can be used for students to gain skills in planning investigations.
Every teacher is a reading teacher. Biology teachers are no exception. The reading level (according to the Flesch-Kincaid Scale) is included for each lesson, ranging from 8.6 to 12.3 (with most of the lessons in the range of 10 or 11). The lines in the reading passages are numbered to aid in locating information in the text. The accessibility may be beyond some beginning biology classes but is well suited to advanced classes such as AP or IB. There are hints provided in the Teacher Guide for adapting the lessons for English language learners who might struggle with the reading comprehension but would benefit from the data-analysis activities and subsequent discussion questions.
The activities allow students to follow the steps scientists took to arrive at several biological concepts that they are expected to understand. The importance of using evidence to justify those concepts is emphasized throughout the lessons. Anytime you read a book and look forward to trying out a lesson or two in a future class, that could be evidence that students will find it engaging, too.
AMANDA L. GLAZE is an Assistant Professor of Middle Grades & Secondary Science Education at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia. In addition to science teacher education, she has taught courses in biological sciences for grades 7–12 and undergraduate students over the last 13 years. Her interests include evolutionary biology, science and religion, and the intersections of science and society – specifically where scientific understandings are deemed controversial by the public. Glaze holds degrees in science education from The University of Alabama and Jacksonville State University. Her address is Department of Teaching & Learning, Georgia Southern University, P.O. Box 8134, Statesboro, GA 30458; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.