BANR Instructional Stories
Explore how other teachers have taught BANR topics with their middle and high school students
"I integrated BANR activities into my 6th grade classroom’s ecology and energy units. During the ecology unit, we focused on cycling matter, the flow of energy, and incorporated a lab looking at plant biomass and height.
Our energy unit incorporated BANR activities dealing with non/renewable energy sources, biofuels, and biochar. The BANR topics were a great real-world application of what we were learning about in class. The lab related to BANR had students conduct an experiment testing the effects of adding biochar to plant growth. This exercise aligned well with the NGSS Practices of Science and Engineering by having students collect, analyze, and interpret data, use mathematics and computational data, make arguments based on evidence, and communicate information.
A challenge of incorporating BANR content into my teaching was making it fit tightly enough that it wasn’t an “extra” taking away time from content curriculum required by the state. My advice to other teachers is to pick something from BANR that is relevant to your students, so it’s not a stretch for them. Impress upon the fact that BANR content is actual research being conducted."
"I included BANR activities in my 7th grade Life Science course. I began instruction on BANR topics during my Ecology Unit. The sequence allowed me to introduce the idea of using beetle-killed trees as a fuel source. The lesson presented students with ecological connections between beetles and forests. We then looked at how to measure the impact beetles were having on our trees with the Data Nugget: Destructive Forest Sampling. Students then had an opportunity to practice forest sampling in the Forest Biomass Lab, which exposed them to how scientists “do” science. Finally the BANR field day exposed students to a variety of topics that allowed them to make connections between beetles, their impact on the environment, and how that impact potentially affects humans.
Integrating BANR activities helped me meet curricular goals because I am required to include an ecology unit in my science course. The BANR topics provide an opportunity for students to examine a disturbance in an environment and how that disturbance affects the biotic and abiotic factors associated with the said environment. BANR also gives students the opportunity to practice data collection and analysis. The NGSS standards that are most prominent in the lessons I completed are MS-LS1-1, MS-LS1-5, MS-LS1-6, MS-LS2-1, MS-LS2-2, MS-LS2-3. I found that the lessons were very engaging and the students enjoyed learning about the BANR topics that I presented.
I would caution however that teachers will need to take some time to set the stage with a narrative about BANR. Students aren’t aware of all of the environmental issues that make BANR seem like a great idea. There will be some room for debate on what to do and why, therefore it is a good idea to present the students with lessons about climate change as well as economics while introducing the topics associated with BANR. Many of our lessons are set up for high school students so the teacher will also need to adapt the lessons to fit their needs. I found that it was effective to present the information without any of my own personal bias so students could feel like they owned their decisions about how to manage this issue. Many students changed their mind about what to do after completing the lessons. They stated that the evidence just made it logical to support the idea of alternate energy sources."
"As a High school biology teacher, I was able to incorporate several of the BANR activities into my plant unit. Expanding on the flow of energy in the process of photosynthesis to include the role of plants as carbon sinks and how plants can be utilized as a renewable resource in a variety of ways was a very logical progression for students. I think that it also broadened the students’ appreciation for plants and their role not just in a local ecosystem but also in a larger global ecosystem as food, fuel, and habitat.
As a Wyoming teacher, the BANR topics were easily embedded into our curriculum to meet state standards. As we move towards implementing new NGSS standards, BANR activities will continue to be used as part of our curriculum.
An activity that stands out involved our Biology classes making biochar. We discussed the history of charcoal and how it was made. Then we invited art classes to the Biology lab to share in the discussion and observe the process of making charcoal. The art classes were studying prehistoric art and were able to take charcoal sticks with them to draw with in class, while biology students ground up the sticks and added them to soil to test how various amounts affected seed germination."
Lori Ann Lynch
"I included BANR in two sections of my 6th grade Earth Science classes during our weather/climate unit. I taught the climate portion of the forest monitoring framework where students explain the relationship between the carbon cycle, the formation of greenhouse gases, and the effect on climate. Students then conducted labs investigating the drivers of climate change, including adding carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, sea level rise, and the effect of decreasing sea ice on temperatures. Finally students explored the general bark beetle ecology, the effects of bark beetles on forest health, the influence of climate on bark beetle populations, and the influence of forest management practices on forest health.
The following NGSS standard were prominent in my BANR instruction: MS-ESS3-3, MS-ESS3-4, MS-ESS3-5, and ESS2.D. The biggest challenge I had incorporating BANR content into my work was when I made a switch from teaching life science to only earth science. This made it more difficult to use all the resources that were created."
"The BANR project is an excellent opportunity for placed based education. This is a significant scientific undertaking that is taking place right outside my students’ back doors. The success or failure of this project could have direct implications for many of my students. For example, if this project were to be successful it could increase jobs in the timber industry and employ them or their parents. The physical impacts of beetle kill, fire, and logging are visible to my students every day. This makes the BANR project an excellent opportunity for very relevant and meaningful instruction, which I hope will be motivating for students.
The BANR project aligns well with the Next Generation Science Standards in that it provides an excellent opportunity to participate in science practices rather than just learning about science discoveries. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received as a teacher was, “Always start with a question.” This is the beauty of the BANR project. It brings up questions to which many of the answers are unknown. We as teachers will have to answer many student questions with, “We don’t know.” I think that is powerful and students don’t hear it enough. The BANR project creates an opportunity for students to ask, and possibly investigate, their own questions. Hopefully you’ll see an effort from me to emphasize these questions in my lessons below.The central reason for the BANR project is finding sustainable energy resources that will have less impact on our climate. Therefore, I think it is important that students have a basic understanding of photosynthesis, cellular respiration, and combustion, and the role they play in cycling carbon and moving energy through our ecosystems, if they are to understand connections between the BANR project and Climate Change. That is why the first sub-concept in the BANR framework has to do with the role forests play in the carbon cycle.
In my biology class we spend several weeks earlier in the year on these understandings, so I won’t cover them in detail here. Recently I have moved to using the Carbon Time curriculum. I think Carbon Time is an excellent resource for teaching these concepts in the spirit of the Next Generation Science Standards. I used four units from the Carbon Time Curriculum: Systems and Scale, Animals, Plants, and Ecosystems. The Systems and Scale unit teaches students about atoms and molecules and how to trace matter and energy through chemical reactions. They also learn about basic chemical combustion. The Animals unit helps students understand how animals move and grow. This includes the most important parts of cellular respiration (that animals break down sugars in the presence of oxygen to get energy, and that in the process they produce carbon dioxide and water) and biosynthesis (that animals use some of their food not for cellular respiration but to make organic molecules for growth). In a similar way the Plants unit helps students understand how plants grow and use energy through photosysnthesis, cellular respiration, and biosynthesis. The Ecosystems unit helps students put it all together and trace matter and energy through ecosystem food chains and trophic levels. I thought all of the lessons were excellent and had a strong focus on gathering data, analyzing evidence, and building models. However, I am sure many of you have your own instruction in these areas, so feel free to teach these concept how you see fit!
We also spend some time in my class earlier in the year discussing Climate Change, the evidence for humans as the driving force of climate change, and the likely consequences. So students are familiar with the topic before we start the lessons."
I teach 6th grade in a middle school. The BANR investigations fit very well with Colorado 6th grade science standards. Concepts like the cycling of matter (i.e. carbon) and the flow of energy are easily demonstrated in the biochar investigations. In addition, the Practices of Science, as written in NGSS, can be exercised by students, initially as guided practices, showing students how scientists think about phenomena, and later as something they have internalized.
I used investigations with the soil additive called biochar. The properties of biochar are different depending on the source material (or feedstock). As an introduction to biochar, students conducted a simple investigation comparing plants grown in different types of biochar. Students compared the dry plant biomass after several weeks of growth. The results of an investigation like this could be followed by a variety of experiments as students develop their own questions.
My students have looked at adding biochar in different percentages by volume to sand, topsoil and potting soil. They have also looked at the ability of biochar to mitigate the effects of salt in the soil (by watering with 1% calcium chloride solution). Each investigation yields usable data that can be graphed, analyzed, and written about. See example:
A highlight of my involvement in the BANR project was problem solving with the BANR team during a research experience with forestry personnel at CSU. Another highlight was using BANR materials to bring current research into the classroom. BANR topics have been integrated into both my Earth System Science (ESS) & Biology classes for 9-10th grade students.
Using current data in data nuggets connected my classes to real-life problems faced in the field. BANR curricula also helped my students make personal connections to current environmental issues.
My focus for the ESS classes was to look at the environmental impact of alternative energy sources and to explore the use of biochar as an amendment to soil. Using life cycle analysis allowed for a deeper understanding of the complexities scientists face when looking for alternative energy sources from social, environmental, carbon footprint, and/or economic perspectives.
In the Biology classes, since the curriculum is less flexible, our focus was looking at ways that carbon cycling is affected with the burning of the dead trees in the current forest management plans vs. the carbon cost for bioenergy production via woody biomass conversion.
The biggest challenge for me in teaching BANR-related topics was fitting more curricula into an established, core class. I think it would be easier to integrate these topics into a more advanced class with older students.
"I used a variety of BANR topics/activities mostly in my Biology courses with 9th and 10th graders. I focused on biochar and forest monitoring topics that I integrated into my ecology and cellular processes units.
I was able to meet my curricular goals by applying what students were learning about to relevant/real-life topics. For example, I incorporated the Soil Respiration Lab into my unit on cycling to focus on how soil organisms contribute to carbon cycling and it was also a way to review cellular respiration which tied back to my cellular processes unit. The Biofuels and Sustainability activity also paired nicely with carbon cycling topics. The RMNP Food Web assignment is great for incorporating the pine beetle life cycle into topics such as energy flow and trophic levels.
The Life Science NGSS standards that I focused on with my BANR instruction included: HS-LS1-5, HS-LS2-5, HS-LS2.3, and HS-LS2-7. The highlight of using BANR materials to teach these concepts is that students are able to connect what they are learning to real-life situations and problems. Teaching with BANR increases relevancy which increases student buy-in.
The challenge is that there never seems to be enough time to do all of the labs and activities that I would like to do. Considering how many standards I must address, it is impossible to do all of the BANR activities that we have developed. My suggestion would be to try many and decide where they fit best in your curriculum and which have the biggest impact on your students. Like anything in education you will have successes and failures in the classroom. Keep learning from the failures and make the best choices for your students."
"I teach BANR topics in my 10th grade Honors Biology 1 class. I teach a unit that combines plants and ecology. I start the unit with two basic questions that serve as the anchor phenomenon. 1) Why are there so many beetle-killed trees? 2) What now? I then weave BANR topics throughout the unit. I use forest ecology topics to teach energy and nutrient movement. I include food webs, energy pyramids, symbiosis, and nutrient cycling.
I must say that I have never been a fan of teaching nutrient cycling and have struggled with making it interesting and engaging for students. Incorporating BANR topics into the carbon cycle has made it relevant to students (including photosynthesis and respiration)! Students also perform a plant growth experiment where they plant seeds in soils with and without biochar. This experiment takes about seven to eight weeks to complete so it is carried out throughout the unit.
Our school district expects teachers to have a similar order and pacing to other teachers. This can make integrating BANR topics more difficult. Although I am the only teacher who teaches Honors Biology 1, I try to align my curriculum to a similar order as the regular biology courses (but I do have more flexibility). I find that I can still teach the required content and skills in a similar amount of time when I weave the concepts throughout the entire unit.
The NGSS standards that best fit my BANR instruction are: HS-LS2-1, HS-LS2-3, HS-LS2-4, HS-LS2-5, HS-LS2-6, HS-LS2-7, HS-LS1-6, and HS-LS1-7. As mentioned above, the expectation of common pacing and sequencing are the challenges I face in BANR-related topics. I would suggest jumping in and trying out some activities from BANR. It can be overwhelming to incorporate all of the material. I am still in the process of changing my teaching to add more NGSS-aligned lessons into my classroom. In the coming years, I am looking forward to adding more activities that will address the other standards in a way that is more meaningful to my students!"