Thursday, June 9, 2011

Teaching Zoology

This coming school year, I will be teaching a high school Zoology class for the third year in a row. That may not seem significant, but if you knew how unstable our science curriculum has been over the last decade... Anyway the class is a semester long survey course. I focus mainly on the large groups of organisms and the progression through time and complexity. We do a number of survey labs where the student examines and answers questions about multiple specimens from a phylum, and we do a series of dissection labs where the students look more closely at a single specimen.

Students are expected to become familiar with the Linnaean classification system, and this generally provides a bit of angst when a student is faced with the following power-point slide:

Phylum Coelenterata: Coelenterata is an obsolete long term encompassing two animal phyla, the Ctenophora (comb jellies) and the Cnidaria (coral animals, true jellies, sea anemones, sea pens, and their allies). The name comes from the Greek "koilos" ("full bellied"), referring to the hollow body cavity common to these two phyla. They have very simple tissue organization, with only two layers of cells, external and internal.

This is of course followed by a discussion of what these things are (jellyfish and corals), lots of pictures,  and a rudimentary classification system where the student is faced with:
Anthozoa—corals and sea anemones 
Cubozoa—box jellyfish, sea wasps
Hydrozoa—hydroids, hydra-like animals
Scyphozoa—true jellyfish
Staurozoa—stalked jellyfish
* bolded words are the only ones they HAVE to know for quiz/test

After reviewing the phylum, the students then get to, in the laboratory, examine actual preserved specimens. Some of these are cool, some are gross, some are blah...