Outside the laboratory
Fieldwork can be undertaken in a range of contexts. In particular, ecological concepts lend themselves to learning through fieldwork experiences. Schools could use sections of gardens, particularly soil and leaf litter or artificial aquatic ecosystems in aquariums. However, wherever possible, investigations of such ecosystems should be supported by fieldwork in local natural ecosystems such as a local stream, remnant vegetation and parklands. If using local or state parks, regulations regarding activities and the collection of organisms should be checked and followed. Activities should be planned to create minimal impact on the ecosystem under investigation. Alternatives to the collection of biotic and abiotic materials should be considered, for example scientific drawings, photography, digital imaging and video capture.
The undertaking of fieldwork is likely to be affected by availability of resources, physical conditions and accessibility of local ecosystems and weather conditions. It is important to consider these factors when sequencing learning activities.
Bioinformatics is an integral part of biology and biological research. For VCE Biology, the availability of free bioinformatics secondary school sample lesson plans and online genomic databases and tools for the analysis of biological data can enrich the teaching of concepts related to human biology, genetics, evolution and molecular biology. The International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB) offers bioinformatics lesson plans on their website at:
Inclusion of bioinformatics into courses also provides increased opportunities for differentiated learning and individual student research. Bioinformatics tools such as BLAST and Cn3D can be used to explore how bioinformatics is applied in a variety of contexts; for example, investigating the genetic and molecular consequences of a mutation to the Breast Cancer Susceptibility 1 (BRCA1) gene; comparing genes and proteins; finding model organisms; investigating the genes involved in speech or intelligence; exploring the genetic basis for lactose intolerance; and considering the evolutionary origin of the plague.