Last night, I decided at the last minute to do my laundry banking on the forecast of good weather to come! I chose the perfect time to do it since it is supposed to rain later this week. By the time the laundry was done, it was dark out, and I was ready for bed. I wasn’t able to take it down from the line until this afternoon; I’m glad the weather held up during the day. What am I saying? The weather should always hold up in Australia! I’ve noticed just the opposite; in fact, much a lot of Victoria and New South Whales has received wet weather over the past few weeks. There are a lot of people in these areas who have had to evacuate due to flooding. Apparently, Sydney had to open the dam to let the water through, a first since in the 21st century (according the news on television, the last time was in the 90s)!
I certainly felt the bike ride this morning when I woke up. My legs were sore and the ride to school was somewhat of a struggle. I’m hoping to get over this by biking a 30 km ride once a week. Next time I will take my camera; hopefully I will see some more wildlife. I think I’ve become addicted to the bike…certainly not a bad thing.
The first few periods were used to plan the week. I spent much of it working on the assignment that I am distributing to the students while they are at the zoo. The first task asks that they each bring a camera with them (a phone will suffice) on the rip. I am asking that each of them take at least 20 pictures of various animals. I will have the students use the pictures that they take next week and will ask that they construct a dichotomous key using a concept map software on the school computers. They will be asked to organize the organisms based on their prior knowledge and on the knowledge that they learned while at the zoo. I’m really excited to see the products of this task because each of the students will have a different representation.
The next task will ask the students to find examples of homologous structures in a few of the animals at the zoo. This won’t be a hard task but it will allow them to think in an evolutionary perspective when they are observing the various animals; kind of like Chuck! This is certainly a skill zoologists use in their field studies, and one that I use all the time when I’m outside and see something new! I especially like to use this evolutionary perspective when fishing. The other day when I caught the Australian Salmon, I could right off the bat tell that it wasn’t a true salmon based on a few of the characteristics that I knew of true salmonids that you would find in the Northern Hemisphere. Like many animals in Australia, Arripis trutta was named the by early European settlers because of a few similar characteristics it had with fish belonging to the Salmonidae family. Truly, the Australian Salmon is a marine perch.
The next task that I will ask of the students is that they observe the zoo characteristics very closely. I want them to see how the animals are enclosed and the considerations that the zoo makes to ensure the safety of the animals and the people who visit the zoo. I am more concerned with the safety of the animals than the people. I am curious to find if the students see the zoo as a benefit to the community. In my opinion, the true value of a zoo depends on a few things. For one: the location. A zoo in a developed country like Australia will certainly be better sustained, and will have facilities to humanely sustain the animals, than one is say Romania. I have been to a Romanian zoo and will never go back again. And two: the space that the animals are given. I would expect that a zoo would allow each animal enough room to do what it needs to do to live comfortably. On the opposite end of the spectrum from zoos, the safari reserves in Africa allow the animals to roam their native ecosystem and allow them to fill their natural niches without too much disturbance. I do see the benefits of a zoo but it just isn’t like the real thing (see the pictures from South Africa and Namibia)…I’m curious to find out what the students think.
The final task will ask the students to reflect on their trip. I’m curious to see what the students find to be interesting and exciting. I’m hoping that the students will get back from the zoo with hundreds of questions about what they saw and what they learned! This will indicate to me that the trip was a success! I can’t wait until Friday!
The rest of the planning period time was used to plan some of the other classes. I had “Bones” in the afternoon. The students were still struggling with the maths associated with the levers but I’m getting the impression that more and more are starting to understand. The next class period will be devoted to tying the maths with skeletal system with a model. Eventually, I will ask the students to build a model lever based on one that can be found on the human body. Should be interesting!
Tomorrow is another busy day at school! I have 3 periods on and will be teaching all of my classes besides “Bones.” The year-11s will be working on finishing up the practical that they left last week. I will also ask them to discuss why cells are small. This, of course, will lead into a discussion about surface area to volume ratios and the importance of having a large ratio as opposed to a small one. Cells with a small ratio will not be able to get substances quickly from their environment needed for reactions inside the cell. Also, they won’t be able to get rid of wastes quickly (as volume increase, surface area doesn’t increase to the same proportion therefore larger cells have smaller SA:V). I’m hoping the students come to the conclusions on their own with a few prompting questions and models.
The “Animal Inside” class will be working on differentiating a hindgut from a foregut and the importance of each. They will also be able to discuss which types of animals have each. It is a great comparative digestion lesson. I want the students to leave class knowing that “hindgut fermenters” have symbiotic bacteria in the caecum and proximal colon, which ferments some of the herbaceous material into absorbable fatty acids that the animal uses as energy. They will know that “foregut fermenters” have a similar process except that the fermentation happens prior to the ingested material going through the stomach and are much more efficient than the “hindgut fermenters.” This is why you may observe elephants, horses, or guinea pigs (all “hindgut fermenters” practicing coprophagy (http://www.merriam-webster.com/medical/coprophagy). This allows the animals to reuptake the bacteria that may have been lost from the colon, and allows them an attempt to digest the undigested material that passed right through…now you know…I’m sure the students will find this interesting!
I’m exhausted and am off to bed, big day tomorrow!
Happy Monday America! Happy Tuesday Australia!