#BreakoutEDU Science

Recently, I and my Digital Learning Coach (DLC), Trisha Goins @heartinlife, discussed #BreakoutEdu. We both were interested, but hadn’t found much in our research. She then texted me and asked if I had time for a breakout activity in my class. I am always game for innovation, and that is how our journey began!

We met several times to design our breakout session for a genetics activity for seventh grade science. We started a little lost as we still couldn’t find a tangible example of a breakout lesson that wasn’t expensive nor broke down the lesson in steps to show the design. We went to Youtube and watched some videos and got some ideas. And, our design started to develop in our planning.

I love the Dollar Tree, a teacher’s best friend. I found two small tool boxes, key locks and combination locks. This does beat the hundred dollar kit you can find online.

The Case of the Missing Chromosome became the breakout activity with four challenges, 1  per group, duplicated for eight groups. Each group of four where challenged to “breakout” their missing chromosome from a normal male karyotype. I set aside two class periods of fifty-two minutes each for completion as I did not know how long it would take the groups. You can see in the photo below, I have a missing chromosome at 6 and 21, one for each of the two large groups. I made these with pipe cleaners.


I designed four challenges, one for each small group of the two larger teams. My challenges were: DNA Model Challenge, Natural Selection Challenge, and a Punnett Square Challenge.  I used Learn.Genetics for the digital resources. I love, love this site. You should check it out. (My all time favorite is Lick Your Rat Pups! Seriously.) My fourth challenge was a puzzle with the clue below.


This puzzle was a challenge to me! I wanted to cry at times when I made it. Really, I did. I persevered and did like my product. Well, at least one of them. I’ll share that news in a minutes. So, I don’t know why it was so hard to keep blocks straight, facing the same direction, not flip them, etc. BUT, IT WAS?!! Oh my goodness! I questioned my intelligence and if I should really be teaching young people. Again, I persevered. My husband’s comment after two episodes of Big Little Lies and Shield, “You’ve worked on that for a really long time.” Yep. Be quiet now. Cry a little on the inside.

It took me several hours, but I do like the product. The idea is, that they should know from class, that a flower reproduces sexually. They should put the puzzle of a picture of a flower together and then find the code to the combination lock when they flip it over. The other pictures are of a hydra and a bacterium; which would give them the wrong code. Mrs. Goins used Google Drawings to create the photos that I Mod Podged on the block. I purchased the 1X1 blocks from Amazon. In hindsight, I would not use so much white on the blocks. Three sides all have white corners and  even though I did it to be challenging, that lead to some confusion.

However, I mentioned I share some other news? Well, one puzzle wasn’t so successful. My students put the flower together and flipped it over to find a bit of a mess. Mrs. Goins, my DLC partner in crime, tried to help. Then I looked. Hmmm. I gave them the code; which you could kind of see in the mess on the back. Here is their reflection video App Smashing Pic Collage and ChatterPix. (Don’t you love their honesty?!) We were stumped. Mrs. Goins stayed in class trying to make the puzzle work. Our brains were tired. I tried the next day as well and still got my learners’ results. I swear every time I finished a side I flipped it to check the code! Cry a little on the inside. Resist the urge to throw the puzzle across my office.

That was really the only hiccup in our #BreakoutEdu challenge other than my students finished it in about twenty-five minutes! They were intently focused. So, in the future, I will add challenges or make them harder. This was also my learners’ requests. Check out their feedback on this Padlet. They loved the pressure of the challenge, the competitiveness and that it reviewed what they already new, but also challenged in some new ways.

Finally, I wanted learners to summarize their process and reflect on this breakout session for their learning and for my learning. Here is the the reflection assignment to close the breakout activity. On the first day, I had them end with capturing their process and taking the  photos listed in the reflection and any others they wanted. On the second day, we completed the Pic Collage and ChatterPix App Smashing sharing them on our discussion board in our LMS (Learning Management System), Schoology. I liked using ChatterPix suggested by Mrs. Goins. It had been a while since I used it and it worked well for this activity.

Hopefully, this helps any of you that may be wondering what is the #BreakoutEDU thing! Let me know if you have questions or comments! Try it! Your kids will love it!

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Blog Challenge (Day 4-yes, out of order) HeLa Cell Topic & Debate

 I’m jumping ahead in the sequence of days in the 20 Day Blogging Challenge because I am so HAPPY with today’s and yesterday’s activity in class. I like to bring in current events linked to possible historical events in class to have debates in ethics. This past August a seed was planted in my head that came to fruition this week. In August I attended a teacher workshop at The Perot Museum and was introduced to the lab from CellServ, Preparation of Human Chromosome Spreads; or commonly known as HeLa cells. The day of this workshop was actually the day that the National Institute of Health and the Lacks family came to an agreement as to the future use of HeLa cells. I am in the process of ordering the kits for class as it is taking longer than expected I went ahead with the activity below.


Henrietta Lacks Radiolab
Debate Ethics in Science
Day 1: We listened to the Radiolab session above on Totally Tumors (just the section over Henrietta Lacks) and then had small group discussions about the impact the information had on students individually and then shared as a large group these ideas and posed questions.
Day 2: I set up four corners: The Progress of Science, Ethics, John Hopkins University/Hospital and the Lacks Family. Students were given colored paper as they entered the room that coordinated with the four corners. We reviewed what we had learned the day before to get focused and then I challenged the students to look at the viewpoint of each of the stakeholders listed above. The students had 15 minutes to collaborate and research if wanted their viewpoint. Then we shared large group each side and then moved to rebuttals. In several classes I had to stop the debate due to time restraints. Students were so interested and invested it made for some great discussion/debate. I finished with the summary video, Video 2013, from PBS that summarizes the current agreement between the Lacks family and National Institute of Health or NIH. Students also had their questions answered on how the cells grow so rapidly outside of the body and the true wants of the family. In the closing of the class, I showed students my sample slide of HeLa cells obtained in the workshop previously described. Here is a picture:

I took this picture with an iPad through the lens of a microscope. (It takes a steady hand and practice!) The students were in awe that they were looking at the chromosomes from Henrietta Lacks. They were in the room 60 years later! Very cool! Definitely will repeat this lesson in future, hopefully with the lab itself allowing students to obtain and observe the cells as I did.

20 Day Blogging Challenge To Get Me Started! Day 1: The Spirit of Lo

I have been wanting to start professionally blogging for some time. It, of course, gets shuffled to the back of the long line of things to do. A fellow teacher sent me this 20 Day Blogging Challenge designed by Kelly Hines. I am going to use this Blogging Challenge as a jumping off place for my personal blog on education.

I would like to share a book that I have used in class as a connection to genetics. The book, The Spirit of Lo, is a wonderful read and a true story written by Terry and Don Detrich. Terry and Don are Lauren’s or Lo’s parents. Lo has cystic fibrosis. You will definitely need a box of tissues as you read this book. The book was a great addition to the science classroom as it gave a face to a genetic disorder discussed in class from the science viewpoint. Now, students are learning about genetics, but they are getting a real vicarious experience from the viewpoint of the parents, Lo’s sister and Lo. What is also really neat about the book, is it is written when Lo was my student’s age, 13-14. They can directly relate to her experiences. The book also does a wonderful job of defining the cause of cystic fibrosis and the related symptoms and toll it takes in the body and family. I believe any activity  in English with their freshman reading list can be done with the nonfiction book, The Spirit of Lo. A social connection can be made about the cost insurance and the red tape that families deal with to navigate medical costs. In addition, a service learning connection can be made as Lo herself is a wonderful fundraiser for cystic fibrosis from a young age. The sky is the limit with this book and the relative connections the classroom can make to the world in which we live.