Louise Mead – Intro

I’m a little late in getting my introduction up, and I’ll confess to being new to blogging, but am very excited to participate in the NABT BioBlog.  I am the Education Project Director at the National Center for Science Education.  While NCSE is known for having to deal with the evolution/creationism controversy, I am more involved with promoting strong evolution education and doing outreach to teachers!  Such a position works well for me because after getting a Ph.D. in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, I am passionate about evolution and consider it to offer one of the most powerful, and awe-inspiring, scientific explanations of all time!

I remember learning about Charles Darwin and evolution in 9th grade biology, and thinking that it made the entire world make sense.  A visit to the Galapagos Islands when I was teaching high school in the 1990′s also fueled my passion for evolution.  These two experiences were certainly instrumental in my decision to leave teaching and pursue an advanced degree in evolutionary biology.  [The other was a course with Lynn Margulis, but I'll save that for another post].  I am particularly interested in understanding the evolutionary processes that create and maintain biological diversity, and even more specifically, how genetic drift and sexual selection shape patterns of evolutionary change and influence the evolution of sexual isolation and speciation.  I’ve had the opportunity to reserach the courtship behavior and pheromone communication in plethodontid salamanders, use quantitative genetic models to simulate speciation, and describe a new species of salamander from northern California.

What I love about my current position is getting to work with teachers, whose enthusiasm for biology is contagious!  It is my hope that I can help identify common misconceptions about the nature of science and evolution,  which will ultimately clarify why evolution really is THE organizing principle of biology.

Finally, all the above work is really eclipsed by watching my 3 year old daughter begin to show the same passion for the natural world that I have, a passion that was certainly inspired in me by my mother!


Written by louisemead in: Introductions |

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and Biology Eduation?

Kevin L. Lindauer

Kevin L. Lindauer

I want the world to know I work hard to teach my students the principles of biology.  Moreover, I want the world to reinforce the necessity of continued professional development and collaboration among teaching professionals.

Does being national board certified actually make you a better biology teacher?  That is something each individual must answer for themselves.

I am in the middle of renewing my National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS.org) certification as a teacher of biology.  So, my answer is, apparently, ”yes.”  But what IS the value of reflection in teaching?  Should we really take time to self-evaluate?

In my case, I have never given up the good fight of pursuing excellence like Dr. Richard Kimble’s pursuit of the “One Armed Man.”  The strange part is, like the fugitive himself, I often feel like I am the one being pursued.  Educational stakeholders–our students, parents, and communities–have every right to demand excellence in education.

But are they the ones pursuing me?  No.  Typically, they are the ones supporting our efforts to educate America’s youth.

Those in pursuit are those who fail to understand the actual rigor to which professionals hold THEMSELVES.  If we want to regain the respect professional educators once held, we must make it obvious that we DO monitor ourselves, that we DO pursue difficult tasks because they are good for all, and that we DO intend our students to make positive progress in a complicated world.  This is why I am renewing my National Board Certification.

Make no mistake…this is a difficult, reflective process.  The process forces me to look inward at how I really spend my energy, and outward at the results attained.  It WILL make me a better teacher.

Because biology education is more critical than ever in a world moving ever faster, can we rely on professionals to self-reflect and improve on their own?  Outside of rigorous processes like the NBPTS, we are the ones who encourage each other to improve, and the NABT is our rally point.

How do we involve more professionals in the NABT?

This is the question that we need to answer….


Kim Foglia — Introductions

Kim Foglia and her students at the American Museum of Natural History

Kim Foglia and her students at the American Museum of Natural History

It’s been a long strange trip!

Right now, most people know me as a biology educator and one of the handful of mentors on the College Board’s AP Biology listserve. I teach AP Biology and Regents (NYS 10the grade) Biology at Division Avenue High School in Levittown (America’s 1st suburb!), Long Island, New York. I have actually taught biology at many levels over the course of 25 years. I used to teach Introductory Biology at Cornell and also served as the laboratory coordinator for the Cornell Institute for Biology Teachers. I developed CIBT’s popular Lending Library Program in which biology teachers can borrow equipment kits to perform biotech labs in their classrooms.

I am the publisher of the ExploreBiology.com Web site, offering biology teaching and learning resources. I am also the author of the Instructors Guide for the AP Biology edition of the popular Raven & Johnson textbook from McGrawHill.

But it’s been an eclectic path along the way and I’ve tried on many hats. In the 80s, I was a baker running a natural foods bakery outside of Ithaca, NY. In the 90s, I worked for CNN and CNNfn helping launch their news Web sites. In the early 2000s, I launched my own dot-com company developing Web sites for large enterprises. I also returned to the family farm for a while and helped run our flowering perennials nursery.  But I’ve always come back to teaching. That is the only endeavor that left me satisfied and excited on a daily basis.

Kim Foglia & her mother out birdwatching

Kim Foglia & her mother out birdwatching

And I bring this eclectic life into the classroom. I have never approached teaching as all you need to do is walk into a classroom and lecture, then walk out again. I believe a classroom is a setting for exploration and learning, so my classroom is always filled with ongoing projects, lots of plants, interesting critters, intriguing oddities, models, and the occasional out of place tshatshke just to keep the students wondering. My biggest pet peeve about science teaching is approaching biology as a second language — making it an exercise in vocabulary memorization — rather than an approach to questioning how the world works and on the flipside an understanding of interwoven concepts explaining how the world works. And ultimately, I believe if it’s fun to do, it’s easy to learn.

My life is measured in seasons. My interests extend to gardening, birdwatching, hiking, camping, mountain biking, snowboarding, kayaking, and sailing.  Life is rounded out with two growing children, 2 dogs, 2 snakes, a turtle, a bearded dragon, a degu and waaaay too many mice.

Written by kfoglia in: Introductions | Tags:

Passionate for teaching Biology

moore2Hi!  My name is John Moore.  Brad has asked that I provide some background about myself and provide some discussion for our blog site.  I am excited to help stimulate discussion for the benefit of developing better biology education.

I have been teaching science (biology) for 36+ years. After graduating from college I began teaching in Indiana on the Junior High level where I taught for ten years.  I loved working with those students, their minds were so eager to learn and they were so excited about most things I taught.  I then moved to high school where I taught for another ten years.  While at the high school I taught all levels and types of classes for the advanced students (microbiology, physiology and AP biology).  I also taught courses for those students who were disengaged in the education process.  I have now been teaching for the last 16 years on the university level including the science methods courses.  I am now beginning to develop an education centre for my university in Cuenca Ecuador.  I plan to live there this year in August to help develop the centre.

My ares of interest in biology also changed over the years.  When I first attended college I was an animal biologist and ecologist.  I loved studying the outdoors.  As I went back for my masters, I was seen as weak in plant biology, so my masters in biology had a plant emphasis.  Well when finally going back for my terminal degree in biology, my advising committee felt it was time for the cellular molecular world.  Now I am working in the area of the philosophy of science education.  I wonder where I will be in the next ten years?

Well after all these years in education, I have seen many debates about science education and the varied approaches to teaching it such as: learning styles, inquiry based, cooperative learning, constructivist approach to name a few.  One thing has remained constant over these years, in spite of the varied approaches; science is still perceived as a hard academic discipline.  So many of the students I now get in the university talk about how they were affected positively or negatively in science education by their high school biology teacher. It is always good to hear the good stories about the teachers in high school, especially after spending my first 20 years there.  However, in my non-major class, I often hear the sad stories of their science experiences.  One of the comments that I heard about a few years ago from a student in a biology class was.  “Biology, oh that is a field of study based on memorization of boring facts that have little relevance to my life.  People who are almost always right, never unsure of them, relatively emotionless, and often arrogant, practice it.  They are not at all like me.”

How many of you have heard students with the same opinion of biology, science and scientists.  How do we help teachers move from teaching just content and information? How can we help teachers find ways that excite students in such a way  so they can fulfill what they think the science standards are asking of them and begin to address the real biology?   So if you were asked the question, what is biological science, how would you respond?  I hope that these questions can provide a form of discussion on this blog that will help all of us to be better biology teachers.

Written by John Moore in: Introductions |

Kirk Brown Intro

kbrown2Hi, My name is Kirk Brown and I have been a teacher for 22 years at Tracy High School in Tracy California.  Since 1987 I have been teaching Higher Level International Baccalaureate Biology.  Over the years, I have had the opportunity to teach so many outstanding students.  I have taught long enough to have students graduate from some of the most prestigious universities in the world, become physicians, professors,teachers, lawyers, bankers, you name it, they have done it.  Teaching is certainly a profession that has given so much to me.  I’m sure you all agree, the success stories of our profession, makes all of the long hours, meetings, and work well worth it.  Tracy High has about 25% of our students go to a 4 year college directly.  One out of five are on free and reduced lunch.  The diverse population of students and their equally diverse ability levels certainly make for a challenging bunch to teach.  Since 1996, I have worked very closely with Bio-Rad labs in helping to develop the Biotechnology Explorer program.  I help with their professional development and have a well developed business partnership with my local school district.  Since 2000, I have been teaching a Biotechnology course the hour before normal school begins.  Forty four brave souls come at seven in the morning.  I also teach a Biotechnology course for San Joaquin Delta College.

In today’s uncertain economic times, with all of the concern on energy and the environment, it is so very important that teachers stay connected to current developments in the field.  Students respond to the connections that we make as teachers.  This blog site will give us an on-going forum to connect and communicate.  To share the years and years of experience that we have accumulated and to help give that information to the next generation of teachers.  It is my pleasure to be part of this Bioblog.  I look forward to hearing from everyone.

Written by kbrown in: Introductions |

Bob Melton Intro

down-houseHello!  I’m Bob Melton and I currently work as Science Curriculum Facilitator for Putnam City Schools in Oklahoma City.  School district boundary’s in Oklahoma are often unconnected from those of the municipalities they serve so to give you geographical perspective, we serve 19,000 children who live in the Northwest quadrant of Oklahoma City.  I have been working in public education for 34 years and have been in this job for 14 of them.  A lot of the job of being curriculum facilitator (or coordinator) concerns developing the intended curriculum and helping teachers, especially our many new ones, to bring that design to fruition.  I was a part of the development of the Oklahoma Priority Academic Student Skills and the student assessments that are aligned to them.  I’m a Teacher/Consultant with the Oklahoma Writing Project, direct the Oklahoma Science Olympiad, and serve on the boards of  Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, The Oklahoma Science Teachers Association, and the Coalition for the Advancement of Science and Mathematics Education in Oklahoma.

I am very excited to be a part of this NABT BioBlog.  We recently transformed the tired old quarterly newsletter of our state science teachers association to a blog.  Although the focus of that effort is different from this, it’s a lot of fun to maintain.

Outside of my professional interests, I enjoy fly-fishing, organic vegetable gardening, hiking, geo-caching, bicycling, and mountain-biking (although my wife says I need to stop the later because “You always come back hurt”.  She is, of course,  most often correct. Still, it’s the code of blood, sweat and gears.)  I am also active in Boy Scouting currently serving as Chairman of our local Council’s Venturing District. My wife, Fern, is a Speech Pathologist and our son is a graduate student at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.

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Web 2.0 – Why Should I Care?

web20people1Hello. My name is Robin Heyden and I am a science writer and editor. I’ve worked in educational publishing for over 20 years, publishing science books, software, and online materials. I am a co-author (along with Brad Williamson and the late Neil Campbell) of the high school biology program, Biology: Exploring Life. These days I am most interested in the question of how new media technologies (blogs, wikis, and social networking tools) can be most effectively applied to the teaching and learning equation. For this newly launched blog, I will be writing about that question and would love to hear from all of you. What do you make of these new, participatory media tools? How are you using them with students? What challenges do you face and how can we address those challenges together?


With all the pressures of teaching — too much information/too little time, slashed budgets, unmotivated students, highly variable student backgrounds, and over-stuffed classrooms — why should I bother with all of this new media technology? Afterall, throwing a few new, web 2.0 tools around in my classroom will not solve the complex teaching and learning issues I face everyday. Right?

Well, yeah, maybe not. But there’s still an excellent reason for bothering with the world of web 2.0 tools and literacy. And here’s what it is: your students are already there. Outside of school our students are authors, producers, animators, film makers, photographers, and designers. They are writing fan fiction, creating anime music videos, building social networks, writing on sports blogs, devising complex battle strategies, and posting homemade movies on YouTube. In other words, they are engaging in the kind of work that educators value, the kind of work you wish they were doing in your course. So why not transfer all of that excellent effort over to the study of biology?

For most of us, our first forays into the world wide web were read-only excursions. We had a question and we went to the web to find the answer. Today, the web has become a read and write environment. A place where people read, yes, but they also write, produce, mash-up, sing, and build. This next generation of widely available, easy-to-use and free web tools and services, collectively referred to as “Web 2.0″ , is driving online behaviors in an unprecedented way.

Let’s sketch a hypothetical example. Students in a biology course could be assigned the task of creating a course wiki on climate change. Over the semester, they could research and write articles to post to the wiki, comment on each others’ work, and initiate discussions on the more controversial topics. They could use RSS feeds to tap into climate change articles from the New York Times and compare those to parallel stories from The Tribune in India and China Daily. They could scour the blogosphere in search of climate change experts, evaluating their biases and respective areas of expertise. They could collect a series of annotated and tagged bookmarks online, using Delicious or Diigo, so that others could follow their thinking trail and in so doing, develop their own ways of organizing and structuring the information gleaned online. Using Skype, they could interview the experts they deemed appropriate and perhaps broadcast those interviews using UStream or Mogulus. Some students could create content modules, using Voicethread, embed them in the course wiki and collect comments and feedback on their ideas from outside experts. Through the personal learning network that these students construct, they could seek out feedback and critical evaluation, to challenge their thinking and further engage them in a conversation about the material. As the semester draws to an end they have a living, breathing portfolio of their work and their understanding. Online, for all to experience, comment on, and add to.  For you, their teacher, that portfolio would not only be an intriguing assessment tool but a handy method for getting a peek into their minds.

Through activities like the ones I describe, new media tools offer students powerful incentives to engage deeply with the material at hand. And as they engage, they build connections to what they already know, make associations with things they care about, and lay down pathways to continue the process as a life-long learner. As you read the verbs in that paragraph (create, evaluate, comment, research, compare, discuss, write), it becomes clear that these tools are vehicles for the active learning and constructivist approaches that we know work with students. We already know that students learn, really learn, not when they are told, but when they do. But to teach this way, we must be willing to try the tools and services ourselves. It’s not that we all have to become expert geeks but it is necessary to get inside the web 2.0 world enough to understand the affordances of these tools and services. Once we do that, we will know best how and when to use them for the particular course and students we teach. We will be able to guide our students pedagogically effectively, ethically, and safely. And we can teach by example.


Written by rheyden in: Introductions | Tags: ,

Rich Benz Intro

Rich Benz (and friend) G’day all.
I thought a little intro might help everyone get to know me.  Currently I am the Lake County Science Specialist at the Lake County Educational Service Center (another name for our county board of education.) Lake County is in Northern Ohio about 15 miles east of Cleveland, along Lake Erie. This is my third year as the “County Science Specialist.” Prior to this I was the Science Department Chairman and taught biology for 34 years at Wickliffe High School (also in Lake County.) I taught general bio, Honors Bio, AP Biology, Biology 2, Photography and many years ago Earth Science. I am the author of the NSTA Press book, Ecology and Evolution; Islands of Change, and wrote the on-line student lessons and laboratories for the PBS Evolution Series web site. In addition, I wrote the teacher’s guide for the IMAX movie Galapagos. I also helped to write the current State of Ohio Science Education Standards and was on the advisory board for the State Curriculum Lessons. I have traveled far and near spreading the word about biology having taught teacher workshops throughout Ohio, around the country, and internationally in South Africa, Great Britain, and Australia. I have visited and led trips for teachers to the Galapagos Islands. I have presented at both state-level and national conferences on topics ranging from biotechnology, genetics, evolution, and using technology in education. My most current project has been to help with the science programming of the newly constructed Lake Metroparks Environmental Learning Center.


I enjoy fly-fishing, photography, technology in general, and wandering along trails and in streams. I live in Concord with my wife Betsy and my naturalist cat Fitzroy. I have two step daughters, one a genetics counselor at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital in Manhattan, and the other that is currently living and working and raising my granddaughter, Maddie, in Bethlehem, Pa.


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