The importance of extant biodiversity, concerns regarding the rising Anthropocene extinction rates, and commitments made by signatories to biodiversity conventions each increase demands for timely data. However, as species and conservation indicators become more complex, the less accessible they are to educators. New pedagogies are needed so that students can generate their own data for studies of biodiversity and extinction. I present a simple indicator of species diversity that examines declines in species’ populations and whether or not these species subsequently recovered or faced extinction. Using such data, 14 threatened species are used as examples of the time taken for each species to reach a point of either recovery or extinction. The learning and pedagogical context for this information is reviewed, student use of the data demonstrated, and the lesson evaluated according to its learning objectives.
A standard part of biology curricula is a project-based assessment of cell structure and function. However, these are often individual assignments that promote little problem-solving or group learning and avoid the subject of organelle chemical interactions. I evaluate a model-based cell project designed to foster group and individual guided inquiry, and review how the project stimulates problem-solving at a cellular system level. Students begin with four organism cell types, label organelles, describe their structures, and affix chemicals produced or needed for each organelle’s function. Students simulate cell signaling, cell recognition, and transport of molecules through membranes. After describing the project, I present measures of student participation and a rubric, compare individual versus group work, and highlight future modifications, including alignment with the Next Generation Science Standard of “Structure, Function, and Information Processing.”