Life Science—Biology Concept and Skill Progressions



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CONCEPT & SKILL DETAILS

Initial Ideas




Conceptual “Stepping Stones”




Culminating Scientific Ideas

Before instruction, students often believe and can:





Students who view the world in this way believe and can:




Students who fully understand this topic believe and can:

Pre-instruction




K-2

3-5

6-8




High school

Levels of organization

Students know their body has certain functions they can control. They know they need food, water, and they have to be able to breathe. They cannot breathe under water but fish can.


Possible misconception:

Children think animals act like people but don’t think of people as animals (AAAS, 1993).
Cardiovascular System:

Students know there is an organ called a heart and it pumps blood. They know a cut will cause bleeding.



Respiratory system:

Students know they need air or oxygen to live and understand that breathing pertains to simply inhalation and exhalation (ventilation).



Possible misconception:

Students may believe that the respiratory system LETS air in and out so you can breathe. (Wright, unpublished research)







Levels of organization

Cardiovascular System: Students can identify the heart, blood and vessels.
Students understand systems are made of several different parts that carry on different functions to keep the body going.

Students can take measurements such as pulse and see the variations and yet the similarities of their pulse.


Possible misconception:

Students often think there is no connection between other systems and the cardiovascular system. (Wright, n.d.)



Respiratory system:

Students know that they breathe using their nose or mouth and that when they breathe in, their rib cage moves up and out. They notice that when they breathe out, their rib cage moves back down and in.


Students know that they need to breathe to stay alive. Students know that it is hard to hold their breath for too long and breathing rate increases with exercise.
Students know of (respiratory) diseases such as asthma.

Levels of organization

Cardiovascular System:

Children know that the heart pumps blood and that blood is “important.”


Circulatory system is integrated with the other systems of the body, particularly the respiratory system.
Cardiovascular endurance is increased with exercise. A person can exercise longer and more efficiently with an improved cardiovascular system.
Students know there are various blood cells with different functions, including white blood cells that protect the body from foreign organisms such as bacteria or viruses (Benchmarks of Science Literacy p. 145).
Possible misconceptions:

Students do not understand that cells must get rid of waste to stay alive. (Wright, n.d.)


Blood characteristic changes depending what it is carrying. If it is carrying oxygen it is “clean” if it is carrying carbon dioxide and waste it is considered dirty. (Wright, n.d.)

Respiratory system:

Students can explain that when they breathe, air containing oxygen moves into the lungs. They know they breathe out carbon dioxide.


Possible misconceptions:

Students may think that “air” gets to the tissues in special “tubes.” (Wright, n.d.)
They may also believe breathing and respiration mean the same thing. (Wright, n.d.)

Levels of organization

Cardiovascular System:

Students understand that blood carries oxygen to cells of the body and removes carbon dioxide and waste so cells can continue their activities. Oxygen enters the blood as it passes through the lungs.


Student can explain that the heart is two pumps, one after the other. Each pump is made up of two chambers separated by a valve. The right heart pumps blood through a valve and then through arteries to the capillaries in the lungs. Blood leaves the lungs in veins and returns to the left heart. The left heart pumps blood through a valve to the arteries and on to the rest of the body (the capillaries in all the tissues). Blood returns to the right heart in veins.
Students understand that the circulatory system includes various vessels all of which contain blood, but that they are of different sizes that have different functions.
Possible misconceptions:

After leaving the heart, blood is carried to several organs (kidney, liver) before returning to the heart. (Wright, n.d.)


Very small chunks of fat float in blood to heart where they can clog the vessels and cause heart attacks. (Wright, n.d.)
Student may believe that the cardiovascular system is an open system. (Wright, n.d.)
Cells exist in isolation with no connection to circulation. (Wright, n.d.)
Respiratory system:

Students understand that breathing is a mechanical process: They understand the structures and functions of the trachea, lungs, bronchi, bronchioles, ribs, rib-cage, and diaphragm and understand when the diaphragm contracts, air rushes in, and when the diaphragm relaxes, air is pushed out.


Students are able to collect and analyze breathing rate and heart rate data and explain the relationship between the two.
Possible misconceptions:

Air moves in and out of the esophagus to the lungs. (Wright, n.d.)


Gas exchange is different at the level of the lungs and the cells. Gas exchange is different for oxygen and carbon dioxide. (Wright, n.d.)




Levels of organization

Living organisms carry out functions at many different levels of organization simultaneously (from atoms to the whole organism) that exist on different physical scales.


Processes occurring on one level can often be explained by mechanisms occurring at lower levels (reductionism).
Cardiovascular System:

Students understand that the cardiovascular system: is a closed system bringing blood flow into every tissue and organ; functions to deliver all needed nutrients (glucose, oxygen) to all cells; and removes all waste products (carbon dioxide and waste products of metabolism) from cells.



Respiratory system:

Students understand that breathing occurs because of air pressure differences between the lungs and the atmosphere and they know that air moves from an area of high pressure to low pressure.


Students understand that gases are exchanged during breathing between the air in the alveoli and the blood in the capillaries entirely by diffusion.
Students understand that breathing is an autonomic response and that maintaining the oxygen to carbon dioxide ratio in the blood is related to homeostasis.
Students understand that the respiratory system: obtains oxygen from the atmosphere; transports oxygen in the blood bound to hemoglobin; disposes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere; moves air into and out of the lungs by muscle contraction.
Students understand oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange and that carbon dioxide is produced by cellular metabolism.

Information flow

Nervous system:

Students know that there are senses (hearing-ears, vision-eyes, taste-tongue, smell-nose, touch-skin) which determines behavior ( for example, if they see a car on the road they do not cross the street; if they are cold they put on coat).

Reproductive system:

Students know that women have babies and men do not.


Students have a sense of human development, baby, toddler, and older persons.
Students are aware of variation among people.




Information flow

Nervous system:

Students know that there are, and can comprehend, senses (hearing-ears, vision-eyes, taste-tongue, smell-nose, touch-skin; for example, they know color, odors, thorns, temperature changes, and pain).


The body is made of components that help people to look, find and ingest food when hungry and know when there is danger.
Children know that the brain is important and that we “think” with it.
Students understand that the skull is bone and protects the soft brain tissue. They can also explain why it is important to protect the brain (such as by wearing a bicycle helmet) so they can maintain their senses (Wright and Bork,

Unpublished research, 2010).


Reproductive system:

Students know that a woman cannot have a baby without a man. Students can explain that men and women have different parts and that what differentiates the genders.


Students understand that certain characteristics are inherited (eye color) whereas other characteristics are learned like language

Information flow

Nervous system:

Students can explain that the brain receives signals (from their senses), acts on the signals, and sends signals to controls responses of various parts of the body.



Reproductive system:

Students are aware of similarities in appearance between parents and children.

Students recognize that traits are related to (the result of) DNA.


Information flow

Nervous system:

Students understand that their muscles (skeletal system) are controlled by the brain (nervous system).


Students realize the nervous system allows learning to occur and therefore, people’s ability to interact with their environment.

Reproductive system:

Students understand sexual reproduction at the level of the specialized gametes.

Students are aware that there can be mutations in genes that can cause diseases.
Students learn about sexually transmitted diseases and how easily they can be spread.





Information flow

Life requires information flow within and between cells and between the environment and the organism.


Information is passed from neuron to neuron by chemical transmission at synapses, some of which are excitatory and some of which are inhibitory.
Information is also passed from cell to cell via ion flow through the gap junctions that connect them.
Nervous system:

Students recognize that the nervous system is made up of special cells called neurons which generate electrical signals that travel over long processes throughout the body carrying information from the external world and the internal environment and information to muscles and glands.


Students understand that the nervous system and endocrine system work together.

Reproductive system:

Students know that the reproductive system in both males and females produces sex hormones that regulate reproductive behavior and produces the gametes (sperm and ova) required for actual reproduction to occur.


Students understand that meiosis allows for genetic variation due to gene recombination brought about by independent assortment, crossing-over and random fertilization.
Students recognize that reproduction is essential for the survival of a species.


Homeostasis

Students know that water, food, and air are necessary for life.


Students understand the difference between being sick and well.
Students are aware of the urinary system beginning with potty training and if they drink a lot of liquid they urinate more often. They know they have control urination to a certain point.
Students may be familiar with certain (endocrine) diseases such as diabetes.




Homeostasis

Students understand that the body needs to maintain a constant temperature to keep it operating appropriately and food and water are necessary to maintain health.


Students know that body systems need to work together to maintain life.


Homeostasis

Students understand that cells make up the body and need specific requirements to operate effectively.


Possible misconception:

Students believe the body contains cells but not that the body is made of cells. (Wright, n.d.)
Students know that the body must get rid of waste products through the urinary system.


Homeostasis

Students know that energy balance is important and that the lungs provide oxygen to use in the combustion of food.


Students can discuss how the circulatory system moves substances to or from cells where they are required or created; acting in response to changing needs of the system as a whole.
Students understand that human heart rate and the components in blood stay within normal ranges. These ranges are used to determine whether people are well.
Students know that kidneys make urine from blood and that urine is a waste product.
Students know the basic structures of the urinary system and the function of the structures (kidneys filter blood to separate molecules; ureters are muscular tubes that takes the urine to the urinary bladder; the bladder stores the urine; and the urethra takes the urine out of the body).
Students are able to compare and contrast the different functions of the urinary system and the digestive system in removing waste from the body.
Students know that hormones are released from glands for regulating growth, development and reproduction.

Students know that the body is made up of a variety of types of cells.


Students know that specific systems are made of specific types of cells and the systems are coordinated together to maintain balance.




Homeostasis

Students understand the principal of homeostasis: humans normally maintain a “steady state” internal environment that is different than the external environment and that the stability of the internal environment occurs via information flow in the form of negative feedback which is integrated by the nervous and endocrine systems.


Students understand that the activity (behavior) of all of the systems is to maintain a state of constancy in the body.
Possible misconception:

Many student think that homeostasis means “normal,” and, while the homeostatic mechanism tends to return a system back toward normal. The new steady state may still represent abnormal function.
Students understand that kidneys eliminate waste products and contribute to the maintenance of a constant chemical environment in the body and water balance (blood pressure).
Students understand that the endocrine system produces chemical signals (hormones) that regulate:

* Metabolism (storage and use of energy);

* Water and electrolyte balance;

* Reproduction; and

* Growth (bone and soft tissues) and development.

Hormones accomplish this by altering the metabolism (the biochemistry) of cells.



Causal mechanisms

Children realize when exercising, breathing increases, sweating starts, maybe feel heart rate increase and can cause the desire for water (thirst).






Causal mechanisms

Students can describe basic cause and effect relationships (for example, if they feel hungry and eat then they feel better, if the hit their body accidently with a hammer a bruise occurs).



Causal mechanisms

Students understand that healthy habits will help the body whereas unhealthy habits can harm the body.



Causal mechanisms

Possible misconception:

Students have difficulty distinguishing between cause and effect within body systems (does a pressure change cause a change in lung volume, or visa versa?). (Michael, 2007)





Causal mechanisms

The laws of physics and chemistry describe the functioning of the organism, and there are knowable physical causes for physiological phenomena.


Students can explain the mechanisms producing a response or predicting the occurrence of responses.3

Matter/energy transfer and transformations

Students know they need energy to be active4 or know it is important to eat for energy, growth and development.



Gastrointestinal system:

Students understand food is important for the body.


Possible misconception:

Students often believe the body uses food in its original form.


Musculoskeletal system: Children know bones are hard and muscle is soft.
They also know muscles are attached to bones and help us move.




Matter/energy transfer and transformations

Students know food is changed into energy.



Gastrointestinal system:

Children know that food goes into the stomach. They know that “poop” comes out the other end.



Musculoskeletal system: Children know that bones are “strong,” that they can break, and they can “heal.” They know that muscles are used to move.


Matter/energy transfer and transformations

Students understand that everything that happens in the body requires the expenditure of energy that is derived from the food we eat.


Students know cells need nutrients for cellular work and making structures. Additionally, food is changed into various molecules to be used for energy.


Gastrointestinal system:

Food is changed into various molecules to be used by organisms.


Various organs and tissues function to serve the needs of cells for food


Musculoskeletal system: Possible misconception:

Students typically believe that bones are inert; that they are not living tissue. (Wright, n.d.)



Matter/energy transfer and transformations

Students can explain that metabolism (chemical reactions) is necessary to provide cells energy to carry out cellular function. Necessary molecules for the organism to survive come from the metabolism of food which also provides energy that can be used for heat.


Food molecules contain energy in their bonds and when the bonds are broken energy is released.
Possible misconceptions:

Metabolism is how fast energy is produced. Food is not involved in metabolic processes. Nutrients and food is the same thing. Nutrients are all the same type of molecule. Energy and metabolism is the same. Energy is only used for movement. Energy and metabolism always increase at the same time. (Wright, n.d.)



Gastrointestinal system:

Cells require nutrients, which are used to provide energy for cellular work. Also, nutrients provide the materials that a cell or an organism need to build cellular structures.


Inside the cell, functions occur such as extracting energy from food and getting rid of waste.
Energy changes from one form to another in living things. Energy is from oxidizing food, releasing some energy as heat
Possible misconception:

Many students believe that the stomach is the organ of the digestive system where most products are transported to the rest of the body. (Wright, n.d.)
Musculoskeletal system:

Students can explain the physics of the interaction of bones and muscle which act like a lever system for movement.


Calcium ions are released from bones into the bloodstream. Calcium plays an important role in the physiology and biochemistry of organisms. Maintenance of a relatively constant extracellular calcium ion concentration is critical to the normal functioning of many physiological mechanisms such as contraction of cardiac and smooth muscles, fertilization, and neurotransmission.5




Matter/energy transfer and transformations

Living organisms must obtain matter and energy from the external world. This matter and energy must be transformed and transferred in varied ways to build the organism and to perform work.


ATP a small high-energy compound that stores energy temporarily in a phosphate bond.

Gastrointestinal system:

Students understand that the gastrointestinal system breaks down large molecules that make up food into smaller constituent molecules and absorbs the products of this breakdown and other nutrients (like vitamins) into the body.


Students recognize that a major function of the GI system is the absorption of water. The greatest amount of absorption occurs across the small intestine.


Musculoskeletal system:

Students know that muscles convert biological energy in the form of ATP into mechanical work (generating force or shortening). For example, contraction of skeletal muscles (those that are attached to bones) is triggered by neurons and results in movement; contraction of cardiac muscle causes the heart to pump blood; and contraction of smooth muscle causes the movement of food in the GI tract and controls the flow of blood through metabolizing tissues.


Bone is a living tissue that has all the requirements of other tissues in the body.







Grades







Pre-instruction




K-2

3-5

6-8




High school







Key Vocabulary













Heart, blood, vessels, pulse, breathe, alive, exercise, asthma, senses (hearing, vision, taste, smell, touch), food, brain, skull, bone, tissue, baby, gender, inherited, characteristic, temperature, health, body system, cause and effect, energy, stomach, muscle, movement

Circulatory system, respiratory system, endurance, cell, white blood cell, bacteria, virus, lung, oxygen, signal, control, trait, DNA, nutrient, cellular structure, molecule, organism, organ

Carbon dioxide, waste, chamber, valve, arteries, capillaries, veins, capillaries, skeletal system, nervous system, learning, environment, sexual reproduction, gamete, mutation, gene, disease, sexually transmitted disease, combustion, heart rate, kidney, urine, urinary system, dissolve, digestive tract, hormone, gland, regulate, growth, development, metabolism, chemical reaction, heat, bond, oxidize, lever, contraction, nerve conduction




Atom, mechanism, closed system, glucose, atmosphere, hemoglobin, neuron, chemical transmission, synapse, excitatory, inhibitory, ion flow, gap junction, endocrine system, gene combination, sorting, recombination, species, homeostasis, steady state, negative feedback, blood pressure, electrolyte, matter, transformation of matter, transformation of energy, ATP, phosphate bond, absorption, vitamin, small intestine


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