Complex biological phenomena, such as how the body heals, how trait variations can be both inherited and influenced by the environment, and how organisms’ body structures can change over millions of years require explanations that connect components, interactions, and mechanisms working across multiple levels (at multiple scales). Traditionally, instructional materials have fragmented these complexities for students by starting instruction with the smallest components of the system or the simplest mechanism first (cells, genotypes, mitosis, or natural selection). In this session, we will show a different approach in which students explore the most directly observable levels and most complex aspects of these phenomena first in service of creating more authentic and accessible opportunities to leverage students’ own experiences and questions. These experiences and questions then lead to developing complex science ideas over time. Participants will explore the anchoring phenomena from three OpenSciEd middle school life science units to see how students’ prior experiences and ideas can be used to generate thoughtful questions about the mechanisms involved that will lead students to uncovering the smaller components, interactions, and mechanisms in the related systems through subsequent investigations.
Participants will explore examples of three life science units that use accessible entry points to support students in making sense of complex biological phenomena.
Gail Housman (Northwestern University: Evanston, IL), Michael Novak (Northwestern University: Evanston, IL), Jamie Noll (BSCS Science Learning: Colorado Springs, CO), Dawn Novak (Science Educator: Grayslake, IL)