Friday, November 1, 2013

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Hands on Science


The first two weeks of school was very enjoyable and I hope the students of Silver Creek are getting used to lot's of hands-on science in all of the science class offerings.  Students have many science options including:  Biology, Environmental Science, Botany, and Forensic Science.  In all the classes, activities and labs offer students the chance to assimilate skills and learn the content.  Traditionally, science classes offer many lectures, worksheets, and few labs.  But here, we are focused on developing skill sets.


On the first day of Botany, students learned how to "sow" seeds and plant various garden vegetables, herbs, and flowers.  As of today many Botany students have nearly 20 plants each!  Students planted from seeds and also cuttings.  Some of the cuttings were planted directly from plants (spider plant), some using rooting hormones (Begonia), and others using rooting hormone in water (willow). Nearly all plants are growing and students have begun to record notes on ten plants of their choice.  We also used diagrams to learn plant anatomy.










The Scientific Method




In Biology and Environmental Science, students designed an experiment to determine the effect of salinization on Mung Bean growth and germination.  Salinization of soils is a serious problem for agriculture and crop selection is one solution that we tested.  After studying the scientific method where hypotheses and creating controlled experiments were discussed, results of the Salinization experiments were compiled and a group lab report was submitted.  It is clear that the students have not been exposed to creating a cooperative document and I am sure they will improve as I continue to emphasize cooperative learning.  Here are some examples of lab reports that were completed using google docs share function:  Environmental Science Lab Report and Biology Lab Report.  Not bad for a first effort!





Forensic Science has the largest number of students and most students are engaged in the three quests that were offered in the first unit.  In the Observation Quest, students practiced using their senses to observe "out of the ordinary" evidence.  They also explored how the brain "fills in blanks" or draws conclusions that taint reality.  Most of the discussions and exercises demonstrated the various filters that affect the "Truth."  


The Eye Witness Quest addressed the physiological stress hormones that may affect testimony and perceptions.  Investigators may lead eye witnesses or victims into affirmations that may turn out detrimental to the truth.  Project Innocence is an attempt to use current technologies to re-evaluate cases.  In The Story, we listened to a victim describe a vicious rape and the mis-identification that lead to a man being jailed for 11 years.   Another aspect of eye witness testimony included "how to spot a liar" skill sets.  Understanding gestures, language, and emotions can lead investigators to lie-identification.

The Google Chromebooks have created an enormous excitement at SCHS (and some frustrations!).  These gifts are very powerful tools that have allowed students opportunities to "share" documents and also create blogs.  I have shared my entire teacher folder with each student and they are becoming very adept at accessing and using some of the resources.  Some students have shared documents, websites, and other materials with  me and other students.  Using Google Calendar, students can access our daily activities and they seem to use it as a reminder of what we did earlier in the week.  The blogs are being used as digital composition books and I am really excited to see where the blogs might take our science classes.  This Friday during lunch, students will enjoy a free google chromebook pizza seminar in my room.  

Keep on Truckin'.
Differentiation using Cooperative Learning

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Welcome to my classroom!

I would like to extend a warm welcome to all the young dragons that will be joining me in a science adventure the upcoming 2013-14 school year.  I am sure that you will enjoy the activities, labs, and organization of my courses.  

I will be offering Integrating Chess and Critical Thinking, Biology, Botany, Environmental Science, and Forensic Science.  These courses will all include Leveling Up!    Instead of penalizing students for under-performance, my goal is to help students learn the course objectives by gaining experience  in order to master the content.  This allows students to choose options, exercises, and activities(or quests) that suit their needs and allow for learning to take place at their own pace - similar to the way one plays a rpg game - experimentation and trial-and-error.  Students earn experience points (XP) and XP allows leveling up as students gain skills, knowledge, and abilities  in order to master the content (complete the game - the class).  Levels correspond to the grade - the higher the level, the higher the grade.  Along the way, gear, badges, and currency is earned to help the student (player) complete the quests and side quests.  Quests can be completed solo or as a group.  The GEMS you find and earn will allow you to upgrade or purchase privileges and open up additional opportunities to gain XP.  A sense of adventure and danger are necessary to compete and complete the main quest or defeat the Dragon Boss (final exam).  Get ready to explore the realm of your science class!

For more information or to answer questions, please visit, Mr. Porth's Classroom FAQ's

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Inquiry is hard but Essential

Human Physiology students using digital scopes to identify tissue types
Current educational trends are emphasizing "inquiry" -based laboratories and exercises.  These are found in the National Science Standards and the state core requirements.  My classes are emphasizing these concepts and it can be very challenging for students that are used to recipe or cookbook science.  I would encourage students to challenge themselves to recognize that the great mystery of science is more enjoyable when students take risks and grow as knowledgeable, principled, inquirers.  This makes science intriguing, interesting, and more fun.

Acid Rain and Salinization Inquiry Labs
When scientists and researchers have a question and begin to engage in the science process, there are all kinds of questions that need to be addressed for the various tasks.  What pH should I create? How much water should I add?  What happens if the meal worm dies?  This can be frustrating for students because they  have been trained by our system to follow the directions.  Well, what if the directions are to create the directions?  Wow, this is a new concept that the students are just beginning to recognize.  Trial and error are heavily penalized in our society, but not in my classroom.  If your experiment fails, that is a critical and important part of education.  I encourage students to try something different, adjust, reassess, and try it again.
Ecological Footprint Analysis

Ecological Footprint Analysis
Students . . .it is okay to redo or start over. It has cost you nothing other than time, which you have, but more importantly, if you think about it, you just learned something.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Grants drive our Class

Skulls of are mammals and specimens representing all the animal plyla
Several grants written this past year have really benefited science students in mine and other science classrooms at WRHS.  Last year I wrote two large grants for technology:  Vernier Probeware and Classroom Laptops totaling $42,000.  Theses grants have greatly enhanced science laboratory exercises and activities and encourage scientific inquiry.  The new technologies challenge students and transform laboratories that traditionally followed a "recipe-based" curriculum.
Analyzing Data on the Laptop Computers
I also received four smaller grants from the Blaine County Education Foundation including one that purchased zoological specimens for biology classes, a large flower model for Botany students in Mr. Tuxhorn's classes, a centrifuge and drying oven for biology and AP Environmental Science classes, and one for two vacuum pumps that benefit physical science students in four science teachers labs.  The old oven melted some lab experiments and even caught some on fire!  The old vacuum pump electrocuted me during a demonstration and reminded me of something out of Willy Wonka in the sounds that it emitted.
Ultimate Frisbee in Human Physiology
Collecting Heart Rate Data during Homeostasis Lab
Traditional data collection is enhanced when coupled with Vernier Probeware
Gathering data after exercise
Students work together and collaborate during lab using Vernier Probeware 
Without outside support, these new technologies would be out of reach for science classes.  "We are fortunate!"  I feel that students appreciate the "cool" new technologies and like the new lab equipment and materials.  The donors and efforts of the Blaine County School District and the Blaine County Education Foundation are greatly appreciated by the WRHS Science Department and deserve a big thank you for their generous gifts.
Nothing excites a science teacher more than. new lab equipment (excepting higher test scores!)
A new vacuum pump.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

APES and Biology Experiment


       Ever see a field and the crops in a low area are not as tall as the others?  Or, have you observed a white powder on some soils?  Whether the land needs irrigation or has enough water from a high water table, soil salt can cause problems.

       Farmers in the central valley of California, and many areas around the globe are increasingly concerned about the build-up of salt in the soil.  In this experiment, students will determine the effects of salinization on germination.    
       Soil salinization is a serious threat to agriculture. Excessive salinity costs the United States billions of dollars each year. As new land comes into use, it is often in arid areas, which are highly susceptible to the problems associated with soil salinization. Irrigation water contains a variety of dissolved salts including NaCl, MgCl2, CaCl2, Na2SO4, CaSO4, MgSO4, Na2CO3, CaCO3, and MgCO3 among others. When a field is irrigated, much of the water can evaporate, leaving these salts behind as a thin layer on top of the soil. If you take a glass of tap water and leave it in the sun until all the water evaporates, a film will be left on the glass. These are salts. Over time, salts build up on fields until the soil is so salty (salinized) that seeds will no longer germinate in the soil.

Salt of the Earth

Planning an Experiment takes a bit of Time







Don't Forget to complete a proper Lab Report.