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Oconto Falls Teachers Give Presentations

Issue Date: June 20, 2019

Oconto Falls High School science teachers, Candice Behnke and Constance Rauterkus, were invited to share ideas at both the Wisconsin Society of Science Teacher's Conference in Madison and at the National Science Teaching Association's National Convention in St. Louis, MO. During the summers of 2017 and 2018, they along with 12 science teachers from area schools participated in a four-week professional development opportunity at the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

Instructors participated in a two-part course entitled "Empowering Teachers Through Modeling" which offered through the Center for BioMolecular Modeling (CBM) required instructors at the CBM to "work closely with talented science educators from across the US to create innovative instructional materials that make the molecular world real for students. Instructors host a collection of professional development courses that introduce teachers to these materials and provide them with the experience necessary to confidently use them in their classroom".

As a result of participation, both instructors were introduced to the molecular world through hands-on models and provided models ready to be used in their classrooms.

After participation in this professional development opportunity, Behnke and Rauterkus decided to share their knowledge with other science instructors around the state. In March, they attended the Wisconsin Society of Science Teachers Conference in Madison, where they offered a 50 minute "Science Explained" session on protein synthesis. During their presentation, instructors used several models to facilitate a comprehensive understanding of the process of protein synthesis. The session began with a general understanding of DNA and continued through transcription, translation and protein synthesis. Participants used models to understand the molecular forces that determine the folding process and ultimately hold proteins together. The session ended with a brief discussion of epigenetics and how the integrity of DNA can be altered. The OFHS teachers, who are both National Board Certified instructors, focused on the incorporation of Next Generation Science standards, including standards in life science as well as organic chemistry.

At the High School NSTA Share-a-thon, Behnke shared three lessons she developed that focus on project-based learning. In project-based learning, students explore real-world challenges and problems. Lessons she highlighted included identifying the ink from a ransom note written to return the classroom mascot, determining the percent salt in samples collected on a global research expedition in which all labels were washed off during a hurricane, and using models to predict how quickly various liquids would evaporate. The teachers she interacted with came from all over the country and when examples of OFHS student work were shared, many were impressed with what students are doing at Oconto Falls High School.

Rauterkus also shared three hands-on activities at the NSTA conference. She once again highlighted the use of biomolecular models as a method to offer student-centered learning of genetic information, but also presented two lessons used in her Anatomy and Physiology course. These two lessons, "Homer-ostasis" and "Pickle People Autopsies" were both very well received by many teachers from across the nation. The "Homer-ostasis" lab activity allows students to understand the complexity of the human body in maintaining homeostasis. The other activity, "Pickle People Autopsies", has students participate in a simulation of victims of an unsolved death. In this activity, students are medical examiners and must conduct an autopsy in the case of a "dead pickle". Students dust for finger prints, use appropriate terminology and dissection techniques and write a scientific report in which they share their results. From her presentation, Rauterkus was invited to write an article on "Pickle People Autopsies" for a national science publication.


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