The activity described in this article is designed to provide biology students with opportunities to engage in a range of academic language as they learn the discipline-specific meanings of the terms “drug,” “poison,” “toxicant,” and “toxin.” Although intended as part of an introductory lesson in a comprehensive unit for the high school level, this approach to teaching academic language can be adapted for use with older or younger students and can be modified to teach other terms.
Pressing concerns about sustainability and the state of the environment amplify the need to teach students about the connections between ecosystem health, toxicology, and human health. Additionally, the Next Generation Science Standards call for three-dimensional science learning, which integrates disciplinary core ideas, scientific practices, and crosscutting concepts. The Bio Bay Game is a way to teach students about the biomagnification of toxicants across trophic levels while engaging them in three-dimensional learning. In the game, the class models the biomagnification of mercury in a simple aquatic food chain as they play the roles of anchovies, tuna, and humans. While playing, the class generates data, which they analyze after the game to graphically visualize the buildup of toxicants. Students also read and discuss two articles that draw connections to a real-world case. The activity ends with students applying their understanding to evaluate the game as a model of biomagnification. Throughout the activity, students practice modeling and data analysis and engage with the crosscutting concepts of patterns and cause and effect to develop an understanding of core ideas about the connections between humans and the environment.
Recent scientific studies are providing increasing evidence for how microbes living in and on us are essential to our good health. However, many students still think of microbes only as germs that harm us. The classroom activities presented here are designed to shift student thinking on this topic. In these guided inquiry activities, students investigate human–microbe interactions as they work together to interpret and analyze authentic data from published articles and develop scientific models. Through the activities, students learn and apply ecological concepts as they come to see the human body as a fascinatingly complex ecosystem.