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HHMI | Biointeractive Suite

Lesson plans are a lot like food, they require the right recipe for the right patrons, and when they're done well you can't help but fill yourself up! The life sciences discipline has a unique set of challenges to designing lesson plans, having to balance between content and skill heavy course loads with engaging experiences for students. Because students t various levels of education respond better to varying levels of each, focus surrounds creating distinctions between resources for the respective levels fo education. HHMI|Biointeractive sought to change that, and change it they did, by designing a set of life science lesson plans which are both effective at the undergraduate level, and palatable enough for high-school classrooms. Their recipe includes engaging videos, hands-on individual and group activities, and well-written, simply fun content. The lessons challenge students to think like scientists, but don't inundate them with saturated content.

Going beyond the students, the site also offers resources for professional development and access to a selection of science news articles suited for discussion or as a rewarding treat to curious minds.

To understand what the full suite of classroom resources offers, read a breakdown below of the tools available to educators looking for additional tools and activities for their students.




Storyline Viewer

Learning is not the collection of mere facts, nor solely their contextualization, but the development of a coherent story which explains a set of both observations and intuitions. Humans naturally weave our understanding of the world around us into a cohesive series of cause and effect, building upon the foundations of yesterday's experiences, and doing the same tomorrow. An educational philosophy emphasizing the progression of information is necessary to sustain an engaging learning environment. With the storyline viewer, the entire educational suite is prepared for educators to plan, implement, and visualize coherent lesson sequences, or storylines, driven by students' questions about phenomena.

The included material of each lesson includes resources grouped by the following sections:

  • Learning Goals and Science Content

  • Science Practices and Crosscutting Concepts

  • Connections between Phenomena

  • Reveal Student Thinking

  • Support and Relevance

  • Assessments

  • Additional Resources

To dig into the mechanics of the tool, let's go through one of the lesson plans available: Genetics of Lactose Intolerance.

Genetics of Lactose Intolerance includes 7 lessons which cover:

  1. What can I learn about genetics from studying lactose tolerance?

  2. How are traits passed between generations?

  3. How can knowledge about enzymes help explain why some people can digest milk? Where does a cell store the information to make proteins like the enzyme lactase?

  4. What is the evidence that lactose tolerance is inherited and might be influenced by genes? What regions of DNA are related to the phenotypes of lactose tolerance and intolerance?

  5. How can I demonstrate what I’ve learned about the inheritance of lactose tolerance?

Lesson 1 offers the relevant teaching materials, and the guide for how to prepare and deploy the materials.

Teacher Notes offer details on how to prepare for the lesson.

Teacher Notes offers guidance on how to run through and deploy the lesson.

Teacher Notes links to the resources at the bottom in downloadable pdfs.

Under the Reveal Student Thinking tab, educators can find common student questions, misconceptions, and the relevant answers and explanations to address them. Two such misconceptions are that lactose intolerance is abnormal, and that most adults throughout the world are lactose tolerant. There are accompanying questions teachers can ask students to get them thinking about how to analyze the data, and how to form data-backed beliefs.

Most materials are offered in both English and Spanish.

Additional resources include powerpoint slides, videos, and even assessments that educators can provide to their students to gauge the absorption and retention of information from the lesson.

Genetics of Lactose Intolerance lessons are assumed to take roughly 50 minutes, and each lesson can be used for a single class session. In the case of this storyline, there are 7 lessons which corresponds to 9 class sessions, and the calendar offered within the storyline offer a sample template for the resources used, and the preparation of the materials which can be a huge help to educators planning to use these tools for the first time.

Scheduling can be planned in-suite, creating a full user experience for educators all in one place.

The Storyline Viewer offer an expansive full-suite series of lessons plans which students digest easily with the help of the free resources found online. It is a formidable tool for educators.


Resource Playlists

HHMI Biointeractive's videos and accompanying activities can be used independently as supplements to an educators existing lesson plans, and offer a well-produced selection of videos and sequences for classroom projection. Below you'll find the dissection of their Teaching Natural Selection and the Genetic Code Using the Rock Pocket Mouse resource playlist.

The resources in this playlist include a card activity accompanying a student handout and a series of videos. These help students learn about and understand color variation in Rock Pocket Mouse populations. Students will then learn about adaptations and natural selection, and use this knowledge to explain changes in fur color of a population over time. This culminates in a molecular genetic explanation for the processes taking place.


Science News

HHMI Biointeractive's list of science news articles provide a selection of interesting pieces sure to get students thinking and, more importantly, talking. Student discussion is a fundamental asset to engaging their minds and teaching them to consider things from various perspectives.


Professional Development

The HHMI Biointeractive site provides free tools for professional learning which guide the use of their resources, as well as promote the individual development of educators, particularly those teaching at the high school level. The resources for professional development include:

  • Workshops

  • Online Courses

  • Educator Voices

  • Science Talks

The workshops provide opportunities for educators to develop their skills in particular areas, with such topics as The Biology of Skin Color, The Great Elephant Census and Modeling, and a Bee Case Study. Workshops take place throughout the United States offering educators all over the country an opportunity to engage their professional development.

The Educator Voices tab features a great set of videos discussing the work and thoughts of several great educators who consider the ways in which education takes place, and the systems in which it does. Four great examples are below (and found here):

Currently there is only the single online course entitled Evolution. It provides educators the strengthen their content knowledge surrounding evolution, with a special emphasis on knowledge appropriate for teaching at the high school level. There are three units:

  • Unit One focuses on the mechanisms of evolution. It includes how to build an explanation based on evidence for natural selection.

  • Unit Two focuses on sources of evidence supporting evolutionary theory, including fossils, anatomy, biochemistry, genetics, and cell biology.

  • Unit Three focuses on patterns of evolution, including phylogenies and macroevolution. 

The course offers certificates for the completion of the course. Because education consists not only of facilitation but of the contextualization of problems that may escape the scope of the prepared curriculum, ensuring that educators have an appropriate background refresher is a great way to ensure the quality of the students' education.

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