Outdoor Classroom

Real-Life Biology Lessons
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Using the high school campus as an outdoor classroom, biology teacher Bill Palonis led ninth grade scholars classes on a mini-field trip last week to illustrate biological systems and how they use molecular building blocks to grow, reproduce and maintain equilibrium within the environment.  Students saw up close how damage to a pine tree causes sap to flow. Mr. Palonis then revealed the gender of the sapling by the flower or pine cone it produces.  Walking across school grounds, Palonis uprooted Queen’s Anne Lace, the ancestor to carrots, allowing individuals to smell the root to discover it has the same scent as the common vegetable. 

As the students were led to the nature trail, they learned the trail includes a long-abandoned coal mine that was sealed off before the high school building was erected. Chunks of the black, shiny coal could be found along the trail and some gathered and pocketed pieces as a keepsake. Mr. Palonis called attention to the different trees, explaining the root system, the types of bark and pointed out the tall, straight growth of a yellow pine, which is largely harvested for telephone poles.

During the tour, students carried clip boards and took notes, later to be discussed in the classroom. The outdoor adventure was just a small part of the hands-on biology class that studies living plants, animals and organisms to bring about a better understanding of the biological balance between internal and external environments.

Some photos of the outdoor lesson:
Smelling the root of the Queen's Anne Lace
Taking notes during the outdoor excursion
Examining a fern and its biological function in the environment  
An outdoor classroom
Pieces of coal along the nature trail
Fungi and its growth on rotting wood
Examing a puff ball filled with spores

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