Giving Biology Purpose at Dalton

Alex Sicurella

If I asked you about Biology, what would come to mind? Is it Animals and Plants? DNA and Genes? Charles Darwin and his Theory of Natural Selection? Instead, maybe you think of long lectures, time spent memorizing details and struggling with obtuse vocabulary, or following lab protocols to find a predetermined result. These experiences are unfortunately all too common in the traditional forms of Biology education, but in Biology, at Dalton, we are unafraid to break the mold and are invested in providing new educational experiences.


Our Biology department prides itself on consistently implementing innovative ways to spark a curiosity for learning in our students and bring deeper levels of engagement to our classrooms. Traditional methods of teaching Biology focus on passive learning, where students are expected to absorb the information provided to them by the teacher, and then later regurgitate the knowledge when tested. Breaking away from this form of teaching, our courses in Biology promote active learning. Students participate in activities, and projects that encourage critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration. Here, learning goes beyond the classroom and allows for the application of knowledge in meaningful ways. For example, in the courses Biology in Action and Marine Biology, students participate in a new era of Biology education.


Debating the future of the Genetic Engineering of Humans

The course Biology in Action is a unique approach to learning Biology. By taking a top-down approach to learning content, the students are able to connect their content learning to current issues and important advancements related to Biology. This semester’s students have recently completed a unit on Genetic Engineering. This unit was focused on helping the students gain an understanding of the core concepts of Genetic Engineering to help them develop their own opinions on a commonly misunderstood and often controversial topic. The unit culminated in a debate on the future of the Genetic Engineering of humans. The goal was to provide students the opportunity to apply their content knowledge in a way that requires critical thinking and the use of evidence to support opinions. This activity challenged students to utilize and practice communication and collaboration skills. These skills are extremely important in the practice of Biology, and more importantly, are fundamental skills in any field. Students were involved in nearly every aspect of the activity and even took part in designing the format of the debate and rubric for assessment of their own performance. As a result, the students were exceptionally engaged in the activity and were able to express their opinions in a mature and logical way. Overall, the activity itself was an outstanding success and wouldn’t have been possible without the passionate and motivated students of Dalton.


Raising Awareness for Ocean Ecosystems

Marine Biology is a newly added elective course to our curriculum this semester. The course is a project-based course that invites students to explore the diversity of life in the Ocean, understand the importance of marine ecosystems, and investigate the impact that human activities have on marine life. From day one, students have been pushed to engage in the content with the idea of applying their learning beyond the classroom. Recently, the students were tasked with raising awareness in the community for various marine ecosystems. The students were required to create a product that would capture people’s attention while simultaneously helping to educate on the importance of protecting these ecosystems. Projects ranged from informative pamphlets about the importance of tidal ecosystems, to animations about the damage being done to coral reefs, to even selling t-shirts and donating the profits towards the conservation of polar bears’ ecosystem. While the students were required to think creatively and do extensive research on their ecosystems, what was most impressive was the way they gave purpose to their learning. It is in these moments that students are able to realize how their education connects far beyond the reach of the classroom.


Giving Biology Purpose at Dalton

I am honored to be able to be a part of our Biology department and even more so a part of the innovative learning community here at Dalton. Nothing inspires me more than getting to explore innovative methods of Biology teaching and witnessing the level of engagement and creativity that our students bring. Our Biology courses support learning that goes beyond the memorization of facts and vocabulary to places where learning is given profound meaning and purpose.

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