In my seventeenth year, I'd simply had enough with certain Biology labs. Akin to worksheets, there was too little discovery, investigation, and scientific method for my liking. Each year, the Biology 12 class would study biochemistry, learn the nature of lipids, saccharides, starches, and proteins, then complete the standard lab testing for each nutrient. Honestly, it had become routine -- boring to complete and assess.
With the opportunity to inject a project-based learning theme into Biology 12, it was with a certain renewed energy that in June of 2015, I reinvented this activity in the semblance of Clue. If you haven't played Clue, it's a game of sleuthing -- a "whodunnit" murder mystery. In the case of my activity, the Ambassador of Yattastania had been assassinated -- poisoned. At the scene are forensic clues, namely two glasses containing unknown substances with unknown fingerprints and palm-prints to match. What might have slain the ambassador is linked to pursuing these clues. What followed was a lab that trained students as forensic investigators to analyze samples and unknowns to cross-reference their nutrients.
During the lab, there were a series of bulletins from a fictional crime lab, announcing tidbits of information, from fingerprints to palm-prints, and detailing the contents of two milky-white substances the Ambassador had consumed. As it turns out, the Ambassador died as a result of an anaphylactic reaction to a trace amount of peanut oil added to one of his drinks.
As students assessed the nutrient content of each unknown substance and analyzed the fingerprints associated with each glass, a picture emerged of who the perpetrators might be. My colleagues at College Heights Secondary were the loving culprits. Mr. Quarenghi, Mrs. Wilson, Mr. Finger, and Mrs. Pearce were our prime candidates. Creating a motive for each to desire the Ambassador's fictional demise, students found themselves immersed further in a whodunnit scheme rift with means, motive, and opportunity. All that remained was to analyze the evidence.
Students were quite excited to create a report detailing which suspect was guilty of the crime. Some students created written submissions, while others created a video account of their analyses. The use of immersive role play worked to increase motivation and student involvement for a biochemistry unit that had little flair in past iterations. Motivation, as ever, remains key to engagement for learning.
As an instructor, I was ecstatic to grade a much more meaningful learning assessment. Using an online rubric generator, grading was transparent and easily communicated. Overall, the activity was a success. Next year, there will be new suspects, motives, and clues. As with all activities, there are areas for improvement and reflection. In this case, the fingerprint & palm-print were supposed to be on different glasses, containing different suspect materials.
Oh well, there's always next year to get it right...
Welcome to the eCampusLive blog. I'm Jerry Bleecker. I teach Biology, Science, Information Technology, Computer Arts, and more. It's an exciting year to share our experiences with our flipped classroom endeavour.