Category Archives: CAS

A Plastic Ocean. Genuinely Terrifying.

Streaming now on Netflix and available through other means, A Plastic Ocean is a terrifying (but well done) feature-length documentary on the rapidly growing crisis in the oceans as a direct result of human impacts.

IB Bio and ESS students will find many curricular connections in this movie, from food webs, water cycles and ocean currents to animal behaviour, biomagnification and endocrinology. Including the impact on human and animal health, this film raises and alarm and shows where we’ve gone wrong. There are some really insightful sections of scientists at work, where we can see “how we know what we know” and what actions are being taken. The final section has some fascinating solutions and actions. Give it a go.

Tanya Streeter, world-record freediver, narrates and is featured in much of the film. Her TEDx Talk tells a similar story.

Taking Action

Ocean plastics have really come into vogue the last couple of years, and it is a safe bet that someone near you is involved in taking action. From beach cleans, reef surveys and cleanups to campaigns to ban single-use plastics (chapeau, Costa Rica), plastic is clearly one of those issues that is indisputably – embarrassingly – human made.

What’s your school doing to reduce the scourge of plastic?

 

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Don’t feel hopeless, despite the world right now.

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IB Learner Profile

With the world at fever-pitch for humanitarian crises, discrimination, widening political divides and environmental problems becoming compounded, it can seem like we are powerless to make a change.

This might be even more true if you are underage, personally affected (directly or indirectly), a holder of a sensitive passport, living in a delicate location or even shielded from the reality of the situation by the privileged bubble of international schooling. But it does not need to be hopeless.

Our missions as IB schools and international schools around the world should be in clear focus right now. Our education, through the disciplines, service, TOK, approaches to learning and international mindedness is our toolbox as a global citizens.

You can help and give without putting yourself (or those around you) at risk. Here are some suggestions, framed through the Learner Profile.

Be Caring

Above all, be caring, empathetic and understanding. Care for yourself and others. Know that sometimes people do bad things from positions of ignorance and sometimes positive intentions have unintended negative consequences. Remember that all humans deserve empathy and understanding, that the world is our shared responsibility and that we can make greater positive impacts when we work together.

Be Knowledgeable

Keep learning, focusing on your studies and the goals ahead. Ensure you do the best you possibly can. We can have a greater impact in the long-run if we are successful, competent and educated. Through your lifelong studies you will become more knowledgeable and along the journey you may well hit upon valuable ideas and relationships, big and small, that may make a positive difference in the world.

Be Thinkers & Inquirers

As we drown in information and media, we may feel passionate, reactive or flooded with confusion. Knowledge is power, but understanding is powerful. Fact-check (try Snopes), and evaluate fake news. Consider the issues from different perspectives and try to understand why others might feel that way. Understand that global issues have multiple contributing factors, that solutions are interdisciplinary and that we need to be agile critical and creative inquirers if we are to move forwards with clarity. Don’t be ignorant about the world.

Be Principled Communicators

It is all-too-easy to add to the noise in reaction or from a position of excitement, but over-reaction or ill-conceived prejudice may cause more problems than we intend. In an age where populism and charisma seem to have more sway than facts, we need to practice our rhetorical skills, to present clearly and with compelling and supportable reasoning. Avoid logical fallacies and ad-hom attacks, focus on reason but understand how emotion, language and other ways of knowing influence the received message in our communication.

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Logical Fallacies poster, free from YourLogicalFallacyIs.com

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Be Open-Minded, Balanced and Reflective

We must presume positive intentions in those we meet and speak to, listen actively and practice empathy (video below). We must balance media types and viewpoints to understand multiple perspectives and break out of our bubbles and echo chambers. We must reflect on our learning, interactions and own prejudices, privilege and state of mind. We must ensure that we remain balanced, healthy and active – we can achieve nothing if we are burned out.

Hope motivates, educate for it. Remember too that we are living in a world that is better than it has ever been. Through science, reason, diplomacy and interconnectedness, we have greater health, wealth and potential. Although the noise of the awful deafens us to the good, we must find it and use the positive news as a beacon. You thought 2016 was awful? Well here are some counter-claims (with sources).

Be Courageous Risk Takers

We must take part in new things, broadening our horizons through service, travel and academics. If we live in a position of privilege, we should honour that, making the most of the hand we have been dealt. Don’t squander time or opportunities that millions of others are fighting for. Live a positive life and use our influence to better ourselves and others. Take risks academically, trying new ideas, thinking creatively and engaging with topics that challenge or frighten us.

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Service Learning Cycle, using Design Cycle to approach Service, inspired by Cathy Berger Kaye

BUT: seek reliable advice when taking action, ensuring the risks we take are managed, that we don’t cause harm to others in the process of trying to have a positive impact. Put the Service Learning Cycle to good use in planning your action.

It’s a delicate line, tread it with care. If you don’t know what to do but want to help, reach out to those that do: the charities and organizations that work in the issues day-in, day-out, service leaders in your school, reliable media. Many organizations will take donations directly and safely online, and so will accept the proceeds of your efforts.

If you need help finding reliable organisations, ask reliable sources.

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How To Give through Biology4Good

Years ago, when this site started gaining popularity, I wanted to use its impact as a kind of personal service project. Now it seems like the right time to boost the fundraising efforts. Thanks to i-Biology users, we’ve raised over GB£5,600 (US$7,000) in donations for a selection of ten charities. 100% of this money goes directly to the charities, and UK taxpayers can also boost their donation (for free) with GiftAid.

If you use this site a lot – and I know, I’m sorry it has not been updated in a long time – please consider boosting this appeal. If you donate £20 or more through the list, I’ll give you access to a folder of powerpoints and IBBio resources.

Three charities on our list having a direct impact on the current humanitarian crisis are:

You might also choose to donate to HopeHIV, WaterAID, Marine Conservation Society, Tree Aid, AfriKids or Save the Rhino by visiting the team page here.

Before the Flood: The Science is Clear, the Future is Not.

New from Leonardo DiCaprio and National Geographic, Before the Flood is a compelling and powerful climate change documentary. Where are we in the world right now with our understanding, challenges and potential solutions. What actions need to be taken right away?

The full movie is was available initially for free on YouTube, and their action website hosts more resources for use in class or discussions. Click here for other platforms where you can view, rent or buy the movie.

 

Thank-you! Some huge milestones…

This weekend, i-Biology.net passed 4,000,000 page views and GB£5,000 (US$ 7,500) in donations to charity through the Biology4Good project!

Thank-you to all who have supported the site and especially to those who have shown their appreciation through helping me support a selection of my favourite charities. In a time of big changes for IB Biology (and in my own work), these donations provide the motivation to keep the site alive.

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Do Something That Matters

If you know me you’ll know I’m a keen surfer and have spent years in Indonesia (now in Japan). This TEDx Talk by Dr. Dave Jenkins is inspirational and informative, as he describes their work at SurfAid International (2007 NGO of the Year). He describes how we can harness doing what we love for the good of others, but also discusses the importance of community connection and authenticity in service projects and the danger of the ‘founder sydrome’.

Watch it – maybe use it for inspiration for your CAS projects – and share with those responsible for service in your school.

Although they don’t have a JustGiving page to add to my Biology4Good fundraising team, you can support them with donations (and T-shirts) here.

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When you are developing service learning projects, you might consider using the Service Learning Cycle. Find out more about it here.

A Service Learning Cycle, developed by Stephen Taylor & Midori Nishizawa for Canadian Academy, Kobe, Japan. It is based on various IB sources and the work of Cathy Berger Kaye, service learning guru.

Ecosia – the search engine that helps plant trees

Thanks to David Faure for pointing this out. 

Have a go at Ecosia, a search engine that donates 80% of its profits to reforestation projects in Brazil. Find out more about how this work on this page, and give it a go!

Try Ecosia now. You can add it as a Chrome extension, too.

Try Ecosia now. You can add it as a Chrome extension, too.

Surviving the Peace: Mines Advisory Group

Suport the Mines Advisory Group

We support the Mines Advisory Group

As global tensions appear to heighten, it is is easy to get sucked into side-taking on facebook, twitter or other media, yet this is rarely helpful. There is nothing to be gained by sharing yet another horrific photo or vitriolic screed to elicit comments from your followers. As compassionate, educated global citizens we should look instead for ways to support those who are making a positive difference.

Here’s my example.

Mines Advisory Group (MAG) started in a caravan in my hometown of Cockermouth in the UK, and has blossomed over the last two decades into a major worldwide organisation dedicated to making war-torn areas safer by surveying and removing landmines and unexploded ordnance. They were co-recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for their work on the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and are well-deserving of all the funds we can raise.

Check out their 23-minute film, “Surviving the Peace“, which focuses on Laos and outlines how they work and the lasting impacts their work has on the lives of survivors of war. If you want to support them, please make a donation via my Biology4Good page for MAG, on JustGiving.

And here is a more recent video on “Surviving the Peace: Angola“:

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A challenge to i-Biology users

Use your online influence to share links to organisations that focus on protecting our environment or alleviating suffering. I have eight examples on my Biology4Good fundraising page, and you might want to do something similar. Tell the world why you care about their cause and how they’re making a difference. Maybe even work it into a CAS project.

The Future of i-Biology

iBiologyStephenThis post is in response to a number of emails, comments and other messages I’ve received recently regarding plans to update the site. 

A new IB Biology guide has been released for first teaching in summer 2014 and first examinations May 2016. It outlines significant changes to the course, especially in terms of internal assessment and examinations and the prescriptive nature of the content coverage has shifted to be more open-ended.

Much of the content-based work on here will remain useful, though will need to be reorganised (eventually). I will leave the IA support stuff up here for the coming year and will work over the coming academic year to update the site as far as possible. I will likely remove a lot of IA-related content, as we are to expect significant teacher support material on the OCC, and that is where teachers should be making their first stop for reliable documentation.

Personally, my load has shifted a lot in recent years. It has taken about seven years to build this site and all of its assets, and I am happy to continue to share them freely. However, most of my time is now taken up with being an MYP Coordinator and teaching MYP science classes, as well as being HOD for science and having larger groups of students with no lab support. My IB Biology class are currently in IB1, and I will keep them next year on the current guide. I also have family, MA studies and other commitments, so will not likely be able to revamp the presentations in the immediate future. Please give it time and use your judgment as to what is useful and valuable if you are starting teaching of the new guide this summer.

Update: October 15 2016

My load has shifted again, and I am now Director of Learning and MYP Coordinator, still at Canadian Academy, Kobe. With no teaching load and being stretched very thin for time, I am less likely than before to make any major updates to the site. I will keep paying for site hosting as long as it proves useful to teachers and students. I will start to prune some pages where possible.

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Biology4Good Charity Project Update

Biology4Good - click to make a donationWe have now passed 3.4 5 million views on the site, with over £4 5,000 in charity donations made through Biology4Good. If you donate £20 or more, you can have access to a folder of all the editable resources I still have. These donations and the ability to support a selection of my favourite charities are significant motivators for continuing to update this site, so thank-you for the ongoing support.

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Update: June 7 2014

It was sad to see John Burrell’s announcement that he plans to close Click4Biology, as he has given a great service to students and teachers through his online notes over the last decade. However, his reasoning is sound – the change in the subject guide to move away from such defined assessment statements makes producing these resources more challenging. At the same time, the text resources, such as Allott & Mindorrf’s Course Book, with it’s online edition, have really upped the quality of what is available to students from the publishers.

Looking at this year’s statistics on i-Biology.net, there was the usual big spike around the May exams (around 10,000 on peak day, compared to 2,000-4,000 on regular days), but it was far below the record of over 20,000 last year. From the discussions around #IBBio on twitter, it seems that much of the review traffic has swung towards BioNinja’s apps and notes that are set up for mobile learning and review. Again, this is a great service to students, and there is little point trying to replicate that.

I will think carefully over the coming year about how this site will continue, and it will likely be more streamlined in terms of course content but with more organised ideas for teaching and ed-tech.

If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments below, or find me on Twitter (@sjtylr).

Three Million Views on i-Biology!

i-Biology.net recently passed three million views!

Biology4Good: click to find out more.

Thank-you everyone for the support over the last six and a half years, and especially to those who have been showing your appreciation by making donations to my chosen charities through the Biology4Good lists on JustGiving; we have raised GB£3,415.86 so far (US$5626.95), which is great and helps all this work make a difference beyond the classroom.

If you want to make a donation, please visit the Biology4Good page for more information. 100% of all donations go to the charity (not to me), and the donation can be enhanced with GiftAid if you are a UK taxpayer.

With best wishes for 2014 to all i-Biology.net users,

Stephen.

Good Luck May 2013!

Good luck to all students in the May 2013 exam session!

As always, this time of year drives a spike in views at i-Biology.net. If you have found the resources and presentations here useful (as a student, teacher or study group), then please consider making a donation to one of my chosen charities through Biology4Good, my JustGiving team. All donations go to the charity chosen.

Donations can be given to:

I hope your hard work pays off and that you have learned something along the way that will come in useful during your life.

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