A workshop for developing learning modules for science classes based on biogeochemical research
A challenging aspect of educating secondary students is integrating complex scientific concepts related to modern research topics into lesson plans that students can relate to and understand at a basic level. One method of encouraging the achievement of learning outcomes is to use real-world applications and current research to fuel student interest and excitement. This approach can be reinforced by use of demonstrations, which spur in-class discussions and can be integrated into out-of-class assignments. To attempt to develop improved curricular materials, a workshop was organized that combined the teaching expertise of a number of secondary school teachers with the research experience of a number of scientific experts to produce lesson plans centered around trace metal cycling and toxicity. These areas are important current research topics but are often neglected in pre-college education. A significant portion of the material presented at the workshop involved the use of visual and hands-on demonstrations of chemical principles that relate to geochemical processes that impact the environment. Materials provided to the instructors included suggestions for hands-on, interactive activities for use in the classroom, as well as teacher-administered demonstrations that would explore the physical and chemical bases of the principles being discussed. The participants all expressed positive feedback in terms of their confidence to administer student-centered lesson plans on the topic of biogeochemistry and their personal understanding of the subject matter, and a number of lesson plans were developed for use by the teachers to integrate the scientific principles discussed in the body of their courses.