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Speak Easies Photosynthesis & Cellular Respiration board kits.

Speak Easies Photosynthesis & Cellular Respiration board kits (http://www.speakeasies.biz; photosynthesis board kit, $70; cellular respiration board kit, $75)

These kits are visual magnetic manipulatives that allow teacher and students to engage in understanding all the fundamental steps in the processes of photosynthesis and cellular respiration. I'm always looking for some new and better way to explain these biological processes in a way that students really understand. With experience, I've found that no combination of reading, PowerPoints, graphics, worksheets, or video clips truly promotes understanding among my students until I can find a way to engage them in the process. Speak Easies has found a way to take the abstract processes of photosynthesis and cellular respiration and make them more concrete by actively engaging both the students and teacher in the processes. Each kit allows the teacher to progressively display the stages of photosynthesis and cellular respiration during discussion, and then can be used by the students for practice and review. Imagine your students at the board, explaining photosynthesis and cellular respiration. As a teacher, seeing that "aha" moment in my students is powerful. Seeing them work through the process themselves was all I needed to convince me of the impact these kits can have. Students learn and remember the process because they are enacting it.

Learning Goals & Standards

Speak Easies is setting a new standard by creating high-quality educational products, and this is clearly evident when one opens their kits and reads the supporting teacher's manual. The manual was clearly designed to be practical and to assist the teacher in implementing the activity and reducing preparation time. Copy-ready student note sheets, example lab activity stations, optional lecture outlines, and teacher preparation pages have been well designed to maximize the interactive experience while reducing overall preparation time and cost. To help teachers and students get the most out of this interactive experience, basic background information, detailed preparation notes, and extension activities are provided. In this age of accountability, it would be nice to see the National Science Education Standards and objectives clearly outlined in relation to the use of these kits, as well as a brief overview of what students are expected to do, along with potential assessment techniques -hopefully, these improvements can be easily made.

Materials & Preparation

Each Speak Easies board kit comes packaged in a hard cylinder for cost-effective transport and protection. The kits come on magnetic sheets that average 24 x 30 inches; they are easily cut into their individual components using scissors. I'm not a master with the scissors, but I was able to successfully cut out both kits in about 30 minutes, and the cost savings of not having the pieces precut makes the kits much more affordable. All the magnetic pieces can be easily stored flat until you're ready to implement these interactive lessons in the classroom. Compared to other manipulatives that I have utilized in the past, the quality of materials, simplicity of operation, cost effectiveness, and ease of preparation cannot be beat.

Instruction & Evaluation

In this digital age with an almost endless supply of new images, animations, and video clips, one can often neglect the true engagement of students using hands-on manipulatives. With experience, I have found that PowerPoints and videos don't always engage my students in a way that promotes true understanding, especially when it comes to difficult concepts like photosynthesis and cellular respiration. For years, I have spent countless hours drawing out the steps of photosynthesis and cellular respiration on the chalkboard class after class. With Speak Easies, I can quickly and effectively diagram these processes repeatedly, engaging the students more actively in the process. The moveable pieces make it clear, and the accompanying script and suggested class activities are there to help. You control the level of complexity by selecting which pieces to use. Once my students became more familiar with the processes, they found it exciting to race for time to see what team could properly diagram both photosynthesis and cellular respiration. For additional engagement at the start of class, I also improperly diagrammed either photosynthesis or cellular respiration on the board using the Speak Easies, and the students had to determine what was wrong, describe my errors, properly diagram the process in small groups on their whiteboards, and then fix my diagram on the board as a class.

Speak Easies has created a product that really works and has a strong positive impact on student understanding of photosynthesis and cellular respiration as compared to a traditional lecture and worksheet approach alone. In my comparison of two equivalent biology classes of students, I found that the students who were engaged through the use of Speak Easies showed 12% greater growth in their understanding of photosynthesis and cellular respiration than those who were taught utilizing only traditional instructional techniques. Even beyond this, I felt that students who had hands-on exposure to Speak Easies gained a true clarity of understanding the processes that went beyond just the traditional memorization of the steps of photosynthesis and cellular respiration.

Summary

I was very impressed with both the Photosynthesis and Cellular Respiration board kits. What really sold me was the reactions of my students as I could see the lights come on with that "aha" look in their eyes. Speak Easies has creatively taken the abstract concepts of photosynthesis and cellular respiration and created simple and engaging manipulatives, allowing students to visualize these fundamental processes in a way they can understand. I found the content to be accurate and developed in a way that promoted my students' understanding. They were excited by the engaging approach of these board kits.

DOI:10.1525/abt.2013.75.1.15

Lance Brand

Biology Teacher

Delta High School

3400 E. State Road 28

Muncie, IN 47303

lbrand@delcomschools.org

CHRIS MONSOUR is a teacher at Tiffin Columbian High School in Tiffin, Ohio. He earned a B.S. in Environmental Biology and an M.A. in Education, both from Heidelberg University, Tiffin, Ohio. His interests include nature photography, travel, and camping and hiking. His address is Tiffin Columbian High School, 300 S. Monroe St., Tiffin, OH 44883/ e-mail: chris_monsour@tiffincityschools.org

CHRIS MONSQUR, DEPARTMENT EDITOR
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Author:Brand, Lance
Publication:The American Biology Teacher
Article Type:Product/service evaluation
Date:Jan 1, 2013
Words:1029
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