Sodus: First Lesson Taught and First Lessons Learned

Teaching, its never quite what you expect.

June 12th, 2019 marked our transition from learners to teachers. It also proved that as educators we are never done learning. Especially at the start of our educational careers there will be a rapid period of learning even though we are teaching.

The Run Down

Our team; Julian, Ryan, and I had been working diligently on our investigation into , what makes the perfect apple for Sodus? Then even more importantly as we planned our lesson, how can we make selective breeding interesting and comprehendible for students? We complied the results of our investigation, its successes and its failures. The results of our investigation were not particularly tantalizing, but they were indicative of the powerful effects of selective breeding. We presented this information in the form of a colorful and visually engaging infographic.

The infographic that depicted the results of our initial investigations.

However, that information was not the focus of our lesson plan. Instead we looked to New Generation Science Standards for guidance, as we planned an engaging and inquiry driven session. We included a dilemma that we needed the students to help us solve. We asked the students about their pets, to draw a picture of them or write about them. In doing so we invited the student’s to share their world, their experiences, and acknowledge their value in the science classroom. Next we took the collaborative knowledge from our activity of making the perfect dog for Ryan’s apartment and extended it to how we can make the perfect apple. We preformed a taste test of a variety of apples, had the students describe the differences they noticed, write characteristics of each on a sticky note, and then post them on the class white board. We then reviewed how we each prefer different characteristics and we can take the most desired traits to make the perfect apple.

The model we developed to visualize the process of selective breeding in apples and apple trees in our pursuit to create the Perfect Apple for Sodus.

From there we discussed the investigations we preformed to test our premise that apples and apple trees, just like pets, are the result of humans selecting for desired traits. Finally, we discussed how we hope to further our investigations at camp.

The Hiccups

Our lesson plan had several changes to it even before we got to Sodus. There were multiple adjustments to the time we would have with our groups of students which caused to revise our lesson plans multiple times. Then once we arrived at Sodus, the classroom we would be in changed multiple times. Once we were all set up and ready to go we ran into some more unanticipated hiccups. The first group of students arrived late and continuously trickled in making the flow of the lesson plan choppy with several restarts. Ten there was the issue of the biological methods that make selective breeding possible, we were able to dance around the awkward conversation and loop back to our core ideas with out needing to explain it anymore. These hiccups were aspects of our interaction with the students that we did not prepare for which signified the importance of having a backup plan, of expecting the unexpected, and being intentional with all of our inquiries and conversations with students. One other area we need to improve in is our use of wait time after posing questions, providing scaffolds for student thinking, and incorporating more “Think, Pair, Share” activities. I believe incorporating these aspects into our lessons will take our teaching skills and our connection to our students to a higher level.

The Successes

The students were able to become comfortable with Julian and I a few minutes into our lesson. We developed a nice rapport that allowed them to have confidence in themselves and participate meaningful in our discussion. We emphasized that there were “No, wrong answers” and they heard us. We affirmed their contributions to that discussion, experiences from their lives, and their ways of knowing. The students were engaged in our activities, interested in our investigation, and even asked us if we had flyers for camp! It was amazing to have the students so invested in our research and camp idea. These areas are ones in which we can continue to capitalize on and build upon our skill set.

Next Steps

As we move towards camp we have some revamping to do to our lesson plans. We have scaffolding techniques to develop and implement. There are mini lessons to plan, questions to purpose, language use to consider, a field trip to finalize, and discovering how to effectively collaborate with colleagues. There is so much to do and so little time, but isn’t that always the plight of the teacher? Thus one of our main focuses will be how to most effectively use our time with the students, and how we can learn from our students while teaching them.

(EN)Danger Alert: The Honey Bees Need Your Help!

And you need their help too here’s why…

This Post’s Premise: I was driving home from class last week, and unwinding by listening to some podcasts I had previously downloaded. That is when a Ted Talk came on about the honey bees. It quickly garnered my attention. This podcast left me resolved to save the honey bees. Please take a listen, I hope you will be persuaded to do so as well. The link to the Ted Talk and other sources of information are included at the conclusion of this post.

The bees have been all the bees knees lately in ecological studies and for good reason, they are dying at a rapid pace. You may be thinking so I will get stung less, awesome! Or simply, so what? What do I care?

Here is why it is totally not awesome, and why we care a whole heck of a lot about what happens to our bees:

The loss of any species is a tragedy, and this loss will have serious repercussions for the human race. The honey bees are among the most important pollinators in our ecosystem, and as Noah Wilson (2018), argues in his ted talk we are coevolved with them. We have an codependent relationship with bees. We plant the food they eat and they pollinate ours. We rely on their pollinating services to produce the flowers, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and even grains that we love. Without the bees we could be in an agricultural and environmental crisis that included increases in produce prices, decrease produce production, and a loss of natural beauty in out world as plants fail to be pollinated.

Why are the bees dying?

The bees are dying due to three main factors; urbanization, insufficient nutrition, and disease. First up urbanization, as we increasingly urbanize the plant we destroy the bees’ natural habitat. With the gain of each new structure is the loss of trees and wild flower patches. Additionally, as we create more space for our houses we destroy theirs, the hive. Secondly, while we may think we are contributing to the health of the bees with our aesthetically pleasing gardens, we aren’t. All too often the type of plants in our gardens are not sufficient sources of nutrients for our number one pollinators paired with the chemicals we introduce via mulch, fertilizer, and pesticide are gardens are a anything but bee friendly. Lastly the bees are suffering from diseases. This third factor is the most complex and requires the work of experts in bee immunology who at this moment are investigating measures to help save the bees through eradicating and preventing disease. While we cannot all be experts in bee immunology there is a lot we can “bee”.

What can we do to help the bees?

We are not all research scientists in bee immunology or ecologists fighting the effects of urbanization, and we do not have to be to help the bees. We can do so much by making simple changes in our own homes and communities. We can due away with mulch allowing dirt between our plants, limit fertilizer and pesticide use, and plant a wide variety of flowers. If you do a quick google search of “flowers bees pollinate in (your region)” you can find out, start planting, and start saving the bees! My search included plant varieties such as milkweed, goldenrod, sunflowers, and so much more. Furthermore, you can leave the bees be, The hive in your backyard? Do not get rid of it, instead coexist. Setup a fence to keep animals and children out if that is a concern, respect our tiny heroes! If you want to go the extra mile you can become an amateur bee keeper of sorts. Noah Wilson (2018) references in his Ted Talk the collaboration of community volunteers to help save the bees by host hives at their homes in their yards, on their rooftops, basically where ever they have space and it is making a difference! That being said while we cannot all be the bee immunologists and ecologists, we can “BEE” community leaders, practitioners of coexistences, environmentally concise, volunteers, well informed, and scientists in our own right.

What else? What is next?

There was one topic covered at the close of Wilson’s (2018) Ted Talk that really left me awe struck. That is the super secret super power of the bees, their honey. I am sure many of you are familiar with honey and its claimed health benefits; that its good for your hair, skin, allergies, sore throat, and various other ailments. Besides all that is delicious! Well honey is so much more than that. Honey is an ecological pot of gold. Honey can be analyzed and used to restore environments devastated by a natural disaster to their ecological set up before. How is this possible? Much like our DNA honey contains information of all the flora that compose it. In other words the honey will tell us exactly what plants the bees in that area visited and in what ratio allowing us to replace the exact plants to the exact levels they were in prior to habitat destruction. This is a huge breakthrough! With the surge in superstorms, wild fires, and other natural phenomena this technology will be crucial in restoring ecological balance to environments suffering from catastrophic events. Even better is the fact that locally source honey is a hot commodity thus it has been bottled, stored, and dispersed. That means even with out the actual hives from the area we are looking to rebuild we can still have access to our guide, honey. In turn we will be creating an environment that is environmentally sustainable for our tiny heroes, the bees.

One other bee~yond cool topic to I “nerded out” about…

Bee Immunology! How fascinating is that?! A whole field dedicated to investigating diseases of bees in the hopes that e can create prevent and eradicate in disease, maybe even create a healthier bee! This is a field I never even would have thought existed. The idea that we can take our medical knowledge and technology and apply it to helping save the bee species is astounding. It also lends me hope that this same approach can be applied to other species that are endangered and give them a fighting chance against extinction.

Links to make you think:

Check out the article if you want, I recommend watching the video; “DID YOU KNOW HUMANS HAVE RELIED ON BEES FOR 9,000 YEARS?” and going through the fun facts!

As always, Thank You for Reading & Happy Friday!

-Fish Out


Noah Wilson-Rich: How you can help save the bees, one hive at a time | TED Talk. (2018). Retrieved June 7, 2019, from

How About “Dem” Apples?

What makes apples so delicious and good for us? What constitutes as the perfect apple? Do all of us agree on what is the perfect apple? (Of course not!) And what factors influence our ideal product? An exploration into the wonders of everyone’s delicious crispy fruit and how selective breeding has been used to produce the “perfect” apple.

As part of the Get Real Science program we are invested in changing the way science education is done and a prominent aspect of that is intertwining multiple ways of knowing. These multiples ways of knowing are often generated by our community, culture, self perception, and personal experiences among other influences (Dierking, Falk, Bang, & Medin, n.d.) . The blending of science and these other ways of knowing lead to rich science education program. With that sentiment in mind let us get into the topic at hand, apples.

For our first major assignment my cohort has been presented with various science based phenomenon present in a local community, Sodus. The topic that I will be investigating along with my group is selective breeding, particularly in the apple trees of Sodus. Selective breeding is the process by which organisms such as animals and plants are bred to produce an offspring with desirable characteristics.

Selective breeding is present in the everyday things that we enjoy, such as our pets and our produce including apples. While this topic is interesting to us science enthusiasts, how can we investigate it in way that is meaningful to the Sodus community? Enticing to students? And out of the ordinary? A few ideas were tossed around and then thrown out including genotyping various apple and apple trees for evidence of the selective breeding that we know is already there. That would not do. Instead we landed on a more abstract premise, what makes the perfect apple?

Our study design will investigate three questions. What makes the perfect apple for consumers in the Sodus community? What makes the perfect apple for Sodus farmers? How can we take these idealistic apples and create the overall perfect apple for Sodus? Our answer lies in selective breeding! The consumer’s perfect apple will be investigated using first an individually generated model of the perfect apple. Following that, we will look to analyze characteristics contributing to the individual’s gustatory experience measured by measuring cell size that may affect texture, as well as acidity and sugar levels influencing taste. Additionally, we will speak with local apple farmers to garner a better understanding of what they believe the perfect apple to be and how that my vary from the consumer input. For this portion of our experiment apple trees will be investigated seeing as they are product the farmer is buying and cultivating. Characteristics under investigation are as follows; height, buds or flowers per branch, and space required per tree. Finally, we will look at the empirical data, community input for both questions, and process them using the phenomenon of selective breeding. The end result will be the perfect apple for Sodus (at least we hope)!

Eventually our experiment will be used to create an inquiry based learning experience for students of Sodus middle school during a summer camp. It is our hope that community involvement, inquiry driven learning of a phenomenon, and the delicious taste of apples will allow the students to blend their ways of knowing as well as realize science is everywhere, it can make a difference in their community, and so can they.

Here are some photos of different apple trees at Burnap Orchard in Sodus!

More to come on this! Thanks for reading Fish Out of Water!

Happy Friday, fish out!

Welcome to Fish Out Of Water!

Hello and Welcome! My name is Clara also Ms. Clara, Coach Bates, and eventually Ms. Bates Biology Teacher Extraordinaire! I am an educator, a coach, a daughter, a sister, an athlete, a scientist, a student but mostly I am a fish out of water. The title speaks to my preference for a life aquatic (also a great Wes Anderson movie), as well as my passion for nature, and science. Our world is full of amazing phenomena, in our environment and within ourselves all of which can be explained using science! Through my blogging I hope to share with you fascinating wonders of the world and attempt to do just that.

Secondly, this blog will journal my trials and tribulations as I navigate my way from student to teacher through the Get Real Science Education Program at U of R. The title of my blog is also intertwined with GRS. Sometimes it is still surreal I am here in such a rigorous program. I feel out of place, out of my league, out of my element in this outstanding program. Not to mention I am a long way from my coastal home. Nonetheless I feel lucky to be here and be surrounded by a group such of incredibly intelligent individuals referred to here as my “My Cohort”. All members of my GRS cohort have their own spectacular science spewing blogs as well I encourage you (if you’re still reading this) to check them out using the side bar links under “My Cohort”!

Both images included in this post are my own one of my hobbies includes photography I hope to post content using my own images when possible. To me they showcase the natural beauty that surrounds us as well as remind me of home, and of course my preferred element!

Thank you for visiting Fish Out of Water, I hope you enjoy, laugh, and learn some science!