Hands-on Workshop Presentations

View the Conference Schedule at a Glance here

Hands-on Workshop Presentations

In addition to the 8 workshops being offered during the conference, we are also holding a pre-conference workshop on Thursday October 2nd . This will be a 4 hour introduction to teaching topics in bioinformatics.  There will be a $35 fee for the pre-conference workshop.


Use the conference topic icons to quickly identify relevant sessions!

Evolution in Action Ecology and Earth Systems Dynamics
Other Structure and Function


Pre-Conference Workshop

Location: Martin Luther King Jr. Library, SJSU at the northwest corner of campus, Room 217

Thursday, October 2, 2014    1:00pm – 5:00pm (4 hour workshop) ($35)

Teaching about Topics in Bioinformatics 

Joshua Mackie, San Jose State University;

Intended Audience:  Grades 9-12, Undergraduate Lower Division

Bioinformatics has influenced the way we study biodiversity – for example in the phylogenetic recognition of species (all Kingdoms), and in studying bacteria and viruses which cannot be grown in the lab. And still, the scope of bioinformatics is increasing. The future may well involve personalized genome medicine.

The bioinformatic concepts central to biological exploration complement teaching and research in ecology, and genetics, and foster many generally useful proficiencies (e.g. computer literacy, report writing, project planning, hypothesis testing, or group work).

The resource pool for teaching bio-informatics is vast (and software and data sets are very often free!).  Assuming computers are available, students can easily become involved in ‘data mining’, perhaps setting their own biological questions within a biology class.

This workshop will provide hand-on experience in the tools used to explore biodiversity using DNA sequence data.

The concepts covered are:

A. ‘Gene barcoding’

B. Generation and assembly of genomic sequence data (DNA sequencing methods)

C. ‘Metagenomic’ studies of organisms in real environments

D. Phylogenetic trees

Materials used: The workshop will be run as a computer lab. Computers can be provided. Alternatively, please let me know if you would like to bring your personal laptop (and if so the system you use – Windows, or Mac and version).

1. We will conduct an alignment of the DNA sequences (using the freely available genetic data analysis Package, MEGA. This program is free to download: http://www.megasoftware.net/

2. We will select versions of the COI gene from different organisms from GenBank (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/genbank/)

We aim to further explain and expand on some broad themes:

-Sources of useful, real life data for teaching

-Experiences of group-based and self-motivated research approaches in bioinformatics teaching.

To conclude, our goal is to share a draft set of learning objectives as a basis for a discussion, developing ideas and a rubric to assist in teaching.


Friday, October 3, 2014    1:30pm – 2:30pm ( 1 hour workshops)

Using Google Geo Tools For Education 

Student Union Ballroom 1

Friday, October 3, 2014   1:30pm – 2:30pm John Bailey, Google Inc.; Emily Henderson, Google Inc., Conference Track: Hands On/Minds Engaged;

Intended Audience:  All levels

Recently Google released several new geo tools designed to help connect people to place. These new tools have the potential to change how teachers teach and students learn about their communities and the world as a whole. This workshop will introduce and reinforce how the suite of Google Geo applications, such as Maps Engine Lite, Google Earth Tour Builder, and Earth Engine Timelapse, that can be used to create powerful and engaging opportunities for students of all ages. The Google Geo Edu Team will lead participants through a series of hands-on, content relevant tasks that will help to build your understanding and skill with these tools using content relevant to biology students.


Evolution in Action in the Classroom with Avida-ED Digital Evolution Software 

Student Union Ballroom 3

Friday, October 3, 2014   1:30pm – 2:30pm Wendy Johnson, Michigan State University; Robert Pennock, Michigan State University

Conference Track: Dynamic Teaching/Active Learning, Hands On/Minds Engaged

Intended Audience:  All levels

Avida-Ed is a free software program that provides an instance of evolution allowing students to develop and test questions about the mechanisms of natural selection. Software and lesson plans provided.  The process of biological natural selection is difficult to observe in the classroom for a number of reasons, but digital evolution provides an instance of evolution in a modeled software environment that is readily observable in the classroom. Researchers at Michigan State University are studying the processes of evolution using self-replicating digital organisms similar to computer viruses. Their research platform, Avida, has been simplified into an educational version called Avida-ED for use in undergraduate and high school biology classes. Avida-ED provides a user-friendly interface that likens the digital organisms to bacteria growing in a virtual petri dish. Observing the evolution of digital organisms allows students to participate in scientific inquiry to investigate the process of natural selection in engaging and relevant ways that overcomes the time and resource barriers to observing natural selection in biological organisms in the classroom. Introductory lessons utilizing Avida-ED have been developed that provide guided inquiry highlighting the concepts of random mutation, fitness, and selection and allow students to examine variation at the organismal and population levels while learning to use the software. This workshop will introduce the Avida-ED software and allow participants the opportunity to gain hands-on experience using it with the lessons that we have developed. We will share the teaching materials we have developed and discuss the benefits of the guided inquiry approach as well as how to adapt the lessons to varied student populations and learning goals.  Participants may wish to bring a laptop.

The Celery Challenge    WITHDRAWN

Friday, October 3, 2014   1:30pm – 2:30pm Marshall Sundberg, Emporia State University

Conference Track: Hands On/Minds Engaged

Intended Audience:  Grades 9-12, Undergraduate: Lower Division

This activity challenges students to integrate their understanding of the structure of a celery petiole, the physical properties of plant cells, and the process of osmosis to achieve maximum bending of a 6 cm long segment of celery petiole.

Plant Tissues, such as potato, are commonly used to demonstrate the effect of osmosis and verify expectations. The celery challenge can be used as a first experiment demonstrating osmosis, but more interestingly as a challenge for students to integrate their understanding of osmosis, the structure of a celery petiole, and the physical properties of plant cells to maximize bending of a section of celery stalk. The main objective of the activity is to encourage students to integrate different aspects of plant biology, which are traditionally taught individually, to achieve a visible and quantifiable result. A secondary objective is to encourage students to modify their experimental design based on analysis of initial results. At this level the activity is set up as a team challenge to achieve the greatest natural curvature from a six cm long section of celery stalk. Each group begins with an entire stalk of celery and can vary the shape of the section they use, its location along the length of the stalk, and the solution for soaking the celery. Relevant plant variables include: tensile strength of vascular bundles, collenchyma bundles, and epidermis, as well as osmotic potential of parenchyma cells and the shape of the segment containing one or more of these cell types. Other variables include position of the segment along the length of the stalk, concentration of the soaking solution, and application of a diffusion barrier (e.g., Vaseline). In the end, each group must explain the rationale for their experiment. The group producing the greatest curvature “wins”.

 Back to Top



Friday, October 3, 2014   1:30 pm-3:30 pm (2 hour workshop)


Connecting Scientists and K-12 Students with The GLOBE Program 

ENG 301

Friday, October 3, 2014 1:30pm – 3:30pm Peggy Foletta, The GLOBE Program

Conference Track: Hands On/Minds Engaged

Intended Audience:  Grades 9-12;

The GLOBE Program (www.globe.gov) is a science and education program that connects a network of students, teachers and scientists from around the world to better understand, sustain and improve Earth’s environment at local, regional and global scales. By engaging students in hands-on learning of Earth system science, GLOBE is an innovative way for teachers to get students of all ages excited about scientific discovery. To date, more than 100 million measurements have been contributed to the GLOBE database, creating meaningful, standardized, global research-quality data sets that can be used in support of student and professional scientific research. Since beginning operations in 1995, over 58,000 trained teachers and 1.5 million students in 112 countries have participated in GLOBE. This workshop will present various components of its program, including the GLOBE International Scientist Network (GISN), which helps bridge scientists with K-12 students to conduct scientific research investigations. GLOBE will present examples of data collection protocols and learning activities in its five investigation areas (Atmosphere, Earth as a System, Hydrology, Land Cover/Biology, and Soil), data entry, the GLOBE data visualization system, and examples of student research investigations. Participants will learn about the manual mapping protocols, LandSat images, and the application of MultiSpec software as it relates to GLOBE’s Land Cover investigation and its Earth System Poster Activity along with its Carbon Cycle and Seasons curricula. Additionally, this presentation will discuss benefits and pitfalls scientists may face when working with K-12 students, as well as provide best practices and examples of how GLOBE scientists overcome these challenges to successfully work with students internationally. Participants will receive GLOBE Earth System Poster booklets (activity guide and satellite images guide) as well as one-pager on GLOBE.

  Back to Top


Saturday, October 4, 2014   1:30 pm – 2:30 pm (1 hour workshops)


Dyeing to Learn Objectives: Developing learning objectives for a lab on making natural dyes from plants 

Student Union Ballroom 2

Saturday, October 4, 2014 1:30pm – 2:30pm 

Sunshine Brosi, Frostburg State University; Karen Hall, Botanical Research Institute of Texas

Conference Track: Assess Learning/Adapt Teaching;

Cross Cutting Topic: Ethnobiology

Intended Audience:  Grades 9-12, Undergraduate: Lower Division, Undergraduate: Upper Division, Other: informal education

This is a participant-driven, active-learning workshop designed to allow participants to experience team-based learning, a form of active learning, and share practical ideas concerning how to implement team-based learning successfully in their classes.  In this workshop, we will use the activity of making dyes from plants and each participant will create a handkerchief using natural dyes. We will discuss how to take an activity and identify objectives from that activity. Objectives will be written from the student’s perspective as an overt and measurable action verb that is aligned with Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains. The learning objectives will be evaluated as being SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-Focused, and Time-Focused). Participants will then align the learning objectives to core concepts and competencies identified in the National Science Foundation’s document Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education (visionandchange.org) and the Open Science Network’s Vision and Change in Ethnobiology Education (opensciencenetwork.org). Participants will also develop assessments that are linked to both the appropriate level of Bloom’s Taxonomy and the specific concept or competency. Participants will have the opportunity to access and evaluate the activity on the Life Discovery Ed Digital Library (lifediscoveryed.org). The intended audience for the workshop includes educators and researchers who teach, or graduate students who plan to teach courses. The outcomes of the workshop will be practice in writing and peer-reviewing course objectives and aligning these objectives to Vision and Change concepts and competencies. The workshop will focus on access to a network of educators interested in promoting and enhancing ethnobotany education, training, and dissemination of ethnobiological knowledge through the Open Science Network and the Life Discovery Ed Digital Library.

Back to Top

Saturday, October 4, 2014   1:30pm – 2:30pm


Teaching Biology Using Team-Based Learning 

ENG 301

Saturday, October 4, 2014 1:30pm – 2:30pm 

David Grise, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

Conference Track: Dynamic Teaching/Active Learning

Intended Audience:  Undergraduate: Lower Division

Science is a collaborative effort, but until recently science was rarely taught in a collaborative manner.  This workshop focuses on “team-based learning,” a form of active learning that can also help students experience the collaborative nature of science. It is designed to not only introduce team-based learning to participants, but also give them experience as a student and the opportunity to discuss issues relating to implementing it in their own classrooms using team-based learning techniques.  In this workshop, I will briefly introduce participants to the basics of team-learning and then arrange them into groups for a “hands on” team-based learning assignment. The assignment is one that I have used to “teach” community ecology in my large-lecture introductory biology course.  Participants will then be divided into groups to discuss, various aspects of the experience including: 1) Formation of groups (including size of group) 2) What activities do you want students to accomplish? 3) Evaluation – how instructor counts points for group work 3)  Peer evaluation of the group members 4) Frequency of group work in the course 5) Product produced by group work 6) Increasing buy-in among students 7) How to help students prepare for assignments and work effectively in groups

Back to Top

 Saturday, October 4, 2014  1:30 pm – 3:30 pm (2 hour workshops)

Natural History Collections as Resources for Vision and Change in Undergraduate Education  

Student Union Ballroom 1

Saturday, October 4, 2014 1:30pm – 3:30pm 

Eileen Lacey, UC Berkeley; Joseph A. Cook, Museum of Southwestern Biology, University of New Mexico; Kayce Bell, Museum of Southwestern Biology, University of New Mexico; Corey Welch, Biology Scholars Program, UC Berkeley

Conference Track: Dynamic Teaching/Active Learning, Hands On/Minds Engaged

Intended Audience:  Undergraduate: Lower Division, Undergraduate: Upper Division

The goal of this workshop is to outline the multiple ways in which the vast physical and digital resources associated with natural history collections can be used to promote the critical modifications to undergraduate education outlined in the AAAS Vision and Change document published in 2011. The organizers of the workshop are members of AIM-UP!, an NSF-funded Research Coordinating Network (aim-up.org) established to explore the use of natural history collections and collections data in undergraduate education. Through a combination of short presentations, demonstrations, and hands-on activities, the workshop will introduce attendees to the significant role that natural history collections can play in reforming undergraduate biology education. Natural history collections and digital collections data have the potential to significantly improve undergraduate education in biology in multiple ways (Cook et al., in review). In particular, ongoing efforts to digitize the extensive and diverse forms of information associated with natural history specimens are creating exciting new opportunities to incorporate these resources into undergraduate learning experiences. For all students – those who will enter academia as well as those who will move into the private sector or state and federal agency workforces – there is an acute need to understand interactions with the natural world. By engaging in inquiry-driven, hands-on activities built around natural history collections data, students are exposed to real-world examples of fundamental concepts in evolutionary biology. In the process, students gain critical skills associated with implementation of the scientific method, data analysis, and digital literacy. Because nearly all aspects of biodiversity and biotic change have implications for human biology, these learning experiences have direct relevance to many of our most pressing societal issues, including preservation of biodiversity, development of biosecurity guidelines, and response to emerging global pathogens.


Teaching Statistics in the High School and College life science courses using free Biointeractive resources    

Student Union Ballroom 3

Saturday, October 4, 2014 1:30pm – 3:30pm   

Paul Strode, Fairview High School; Peter Szameitat, Fariview High School

Conference Track: Dynamic Teaching/Active Learning, Hands On/Minds Engaged

Intended Audience:  Grades 9-12, Undergraduate: Lower Division, Undergraduate: Upper Division

Most students entering our college and university life sciences programs have few statistical skills for data analysis. However, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the redesign of the AP Biology curriculum call, in large part, for more data analysis instruction and practice. In addition, Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education calls for an increased focus on biological literacy and argues that “the application of quantitative approaches (statistics, quantitative analysis of dynamic systems, and mathematical modeling) is an increasingly important basic skill utilized in describing biological systems.” First, we will present the argument for more data and error analysis from the NGSS and describe the statistics curriculum that we have woven throughout our middle and high school science curricula and stress the need for a more vertical strategy for preparing students for college science courses. Second, participants will analyze finch data from Peter and Rosemary Grant that are available in two HHMI Biointeractive graphing and statistics activities that accompany the HHMI short film, The Beak of the Finch. We will also use the recently published free HHMI teachers’ guide titled Math and Statistics in Biology that is designed to help with all of the HHMI data analysis activities. Participants will learn several components of data and error analysis: (i) the difference between a hypothesis and a prediction, (ii) the meanings of the alpha level, p-value, and degrees of freedom, (iii) how to calculate variance and standard deviation, and (iv) how to perform a t-Test and interpret the results. Activities like this coupled with more sophisticated statistical analysis skills will give our students authentic practice of scientific methodology in general and real life science research in particular.