BIOS rewriting the biology text book

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  • Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS) Education Coordinator JP Skinner and scientist Dr Mike Lomas.

    Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS) Education Coordinator JP Skinner and scientist Dr Mike Lomas.

  • Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS) Education Coordinator JP Skinner.

    Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS) Education Coordinator JP Skinner.


High school biology classes are in for a change, courtesy of a new text book involving the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences.

Massachusetts’ Tabor Academy will work with BIOS and marine institutions in New England, to produce a biology text book geared more towards the ocean than the land.

“Biology is a required subject for almost all high school students,” said BIOS education coordinator JP Skinner. “An understanding of the structure and interrelationship of life on our planet is considered essential knowledge. But throughout the history of biology education, teachers have explained concepts with reference to terrestrial life. You want to explain photosynthesis? Let’s look at a bean plant. Cell structure? Zoom in on a leaf. Ecology? Let’s look at a forest ecosystem.

“Yet, two-thirds of our planet is covered by ocean. In fact, the vast majority of life is found in the sea, the greatest diversity of life is aquatic and the health of the ocean is essential to the health of the planet. A growing recognition of these facts among educators has resulted in a new focus on ocean literacy in the classroom.”

Tabor teacher John Crosby is spearheading the initiative. He has assembled a board of scientists, ocean experts and educators to write the ground-breaking textbook, ‘Oceans First’. It will teach all of the required biology objectives, but will draw material and inspiration from the marine world.

As a result, students will first look at plants that grow in the ocean when studying photosynthesis. Although such plants aren’t as well known as those on land, they actually make most of the oxygen that keeps us alive.

“They are really fun to grow in the classroom,” said Mr Skinner.

He said the concept should be particularly fascinating to young people, with the ocean the real final frontier on the planet as only five percent of it has been documented.

“That should provide plenty of motivation for students to dive headlong into their investigations,” he said.

Mr Skinner, along with a panel of international scientists and Dr Mike Lomas from BIOS, is helping to write and edit the lessons to be included in the textbook. Additional resources are being designed including websites, teacher workshops, and virtual field trip opportunities.

“It is here that BIOS is playing a leading role,” said Mr Skinner. “Real-life exploration is a huge motivator and when students get to participate, even virtually, their understanding takes off. Naturally, the research carried out at BIOS and around Bermuda is a perfect fit.”

He said climate change was a good example of how this works. Bermuda is considered one of the planet’s barometers, because it is one of the best locations anywhere to study and address the climate change issue.

“Climate change will be covered by ‘Oceans First’,” said Mr Skinner. “In fact, it is a great way to teach required material like currents and plant growth and the acidity of the ocean. A teacher might ask ‘how does the Gulf Stream affect ocean temperatures? Let’s look at the information BIOS scientists have collected in Bermuda’.”

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Published Oct 18, 2012 at 8:00 am (Updated Oct 17, 2012 at 1:55 pm)

BIOS rewriting the biology text book

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