Plant Science Bulletin archive
Issue: 1959 v5 No 2 Summer
PLANT SCIENCE BULLETIN
A Publication of the Botanical Society of America, Inc.
VOLUME 5 APRIL, 1959 NUMBER 2
The Secondary School Biological Sciences Film Series of the American Institute of Biological Sciences
I. History and Background
The first standing committee authorized by the American Institute of Biological Sciences in 1955, when the Institute incorporated as a separate entity, was a Committee on Education and Professional Recruitment. This reflected the concern of Member Societies and the Board of Governors of the AIBS for the improvement of education in the biological sciences. The charge to the Committee was to develop a vigorous program of education at all levels which could become the basic policy of the Institute.
The Committee is made up of ten biologists representing private universities, state universities, land grant colleges, small liberal arts colleges, private preparatory schools and secondary schools. From the start it was intended that this Committee should bring together people from as wide a range of biological fields as possible.
At present, this Committee is composed of:
Dr. Oswald Tippo, Chairman
Dean Ronald Bamford, Graduate School, University of Maryland
Dr. John Bodel, The Hotchkiss School, Lakeville, Connecticut
Dr. Harriet B. Creighton, Wellesley College
Dr. Harvey Fisher, Southern Illinois University
Mr. Phillip Fordyce, Oak Park-River Forest High School, Oak Park, Illinois
Mr. Paul Klinge, Indiana University
Dr. Leland S. McClung, Indiana University Dr. Gairdner Moment, Goucher College
Dr. C. Ladd Prosser, University of Illinois
At its first meeting, in 1955, members of the Committee agreed fully on the desirability of a reorganization and redesign of the curriculum content of biology courses at both the college and high school levels. Since this first meeting, there has gradually been developed by the Committee a series of proposals for strengthening the course content of high school and college biology curricula and developing means by which these courses can be taught more effectively. The approaches are varied and some of the proposals already have been put into effect. An example is the highly successful Visiting
Biologists Program, in operation since early 1956. Two other projects are also now underway.
The first of these is the preparation of a complete course in biology, making an extensive and integrated use of film directed at the high school level. This has been designated The Secondary School Biological Sciences Film Series which may be used for classroom or television instruction. The second project involves a thorough reappraisal of the course content of biology taught at all levels, and evaluations which would lead to recommendations for the development of textbooks, lab manuals, monographs, review journals, supplementary films, film strips, magnetic tapes, as well as recommendations for the improvement of pre-service and in-service training of teachers. This comparatively long-range project is known as the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, located in Boulder, Colorado.
The Secondary School Film Series was originally recommended unanimously by the Education Committee at its December, 1957, meeting. It was presented to the Executive Committee of the AIBS at its Spring meeting in March, 1958. The Executive Committee recommended to the Governing Board that the AIBS embark upon such a project. The Governing Board unanimously accepted the recommendation of the Executive Committee in May, 1958, and directed the Executive Director of the AIBS to proceed with the project and to seek funds in support of it.
The RIBS, through the Executive Director, Dr. Hiden T. Cox, contacted the Fund for the Advancement of Education and the National Science Foundation concerning available funds for the project. Since then the Institute has had frequent contact with not only these agencies, but with the National Academy of Sciences, the National Research Council, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and other organizations interested in the development of such projects.
Funds for the Secondary School project have been made available by a grant from the Fund for the Advancement of Education of the Ford Foundation for staff and the preparation and organization of the project. The capital for production and distribution of the course materials is being provided by the chosen producer-distributor.
II. Why is the AIBS Supervising the Project and Serving as Contracting Agent?
The AIBS is organized biology at the national level. It exists solely to do those things for biology which cut across narrow disciplinary lines or which are for the common good of all biologists. Presently composed of forty-five professional societies with a representation of approximately 80,000 biologists, the AIBS is the one organization that unifies all fields of the life sciences. Professional biologists in the fundamental disciplines, in the agricultural sciences, and in the medical and clinical fields are all represented in the AIRS. A high school course developed and produced by the AIBS will have the immediate and practical advantage of carrying the prestige of full endorsement by the Institute.
The demonstrated interest of the AIBS in educational matters is another important factor. It is significant that, as previously stated, the first authorized standing committee of the AIBS was its Committee on Education and Professional Recruitment. Since the establishment of the AIRS as an independent organization in 1955, this Committee has been the Institute's most active permanent policy-forming group. About 75% of the members of the AIBS are teachers of biology. Every officer except one is a teacher. Only four out of twenty-two members of the Governing Board are not teachers. One of the strong Member Societies of the AIBS is the National Association of Biology Teachers, a group of over 3400 school teachers and university instructors concerned with the training of high school teachers. It is difficult to imagine that the AIRS would default in its responsibilities to education at all levels.
There is great advantage in having the same organization supervise all major programs of curriculum improvement in biology. This high school course should be and is the first stage in the AIBS' long-term course content study. Some of the same people are involved in both phases of the program. Both projects are under the policy direction of the Education Committee.
As an established and sound national organization, the AIBS possesses many resources which can be used effectively in supervising this large and important pro ject. The Institute's annual gross business is presently of the order of a million dollars. The Headquarters now has a permanent, paid staff of 30 people, and has necessary auditing and legal personnel on permanent annual retainer. The AIBS routinely administers contracts and grants—currently numbering over thirty—ranging from $900 to $155,000 per year. Through its fourteen periodicals, the Institute reaches the biological community and most of these can be used to inform biologists as to aims and purposes of projects it sponsors.
The AIBS maintains close and effective liaison with major all-science organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The record of cooperation with sister scientific organizations is excellent and the AIRS was a moving force behind the recent forming of an informal organization of principal executive officers of the American Institute of Physics, the American Chemical Society, the American Geological Institute, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, the American Psychological Association, the American Meteorological Society, the American Mathematical Society, and the AIBS. The executive officers are in almost daily contact with the federal science agencies and the effectiveness of this cooperation is attested by the many contracts granted the AIBS by these agencies. The AIBS is called upon for advice by congressional committees with gratifying frequency.
In the final analysis, however, the greatest asset of the AIBS is the 80,000 scientists who belong to it through its Member affiliate Societies. There is no shortage of talent which can be used in this project. Thoughtful, able and dedicated teachers at all levels and in all fields of biology are available through the AIBS. A biology course produced by the AIBS will reflect the ideas, the philosophy, and the experience of the great majority of practicing biology teachers today.
III. The Need for This Course
The premise that a knowledge of science and mathematics is indispensable in general education is accepted by all thoughtful persons. Science is as necessary now to the educated man as are the humanities. A basic grounding in understanding of the sciences must be imparted to every student at every level of schooling.
A very considerable part of this basic science is the understanding and appreciation of biology. Biology is important in the development of intellectual insight. It is important because of its vast practical applications in agriculture, medicine, anthropology and psychology. In many less readily recognizable ways, biology has a profound impact upon human culture and civilization. Terrible wars have been fought because agricultural productivity could not keep pace with exploding populations. Lack of understanding of biology has produced race conflicts and tensions. Ignorance of the simplest elements of medical science results in literally billions of dollars being wasted on quack cancer "cures," youth revitalizers and the like.
To remedy this situation will require a variety of measures which must be taken now. Better schools, better teachers, and better courses are all needed. The building of better schools is, too, an indirect responsibility. The Institute can now contribute in large measure to the training of better teachers and to the design of better courses of instruction. The Education Committee is concerning itself with standards that should be met by all persons who plan to teach in the secondary schools and in colleges. It is concerned with the raising of the prestige of the teaching profession which is so vital in attracting students into teaching as a career. The Biological Sciences Curriculum Study is aimed directly at improving the course content of biology offerings at all levels of instruction.
Until the supply of good teachers is adequate, other measures must be taken. One of these is to make avail-able more widely the talents of the good teachers we have now. The Visiting Biologists Program accomplishes this to a limited extent. The present project to produce a new high school course is another major effort. Such a course will extend to all high schools the opportunity of offering a superior course in biology. The integrated use of film classroom teaching and printed materials represents a most effective way of bringing to students everywhere teaching of the very highest order of excellence.
The need for such a course is widely felt. A recent staff paper of the National Research Council Committee of Educational Policies states that 90% of the high schools of the United States offer tenth grade biology. These high schools enroll 97% of all high school students. Of this number, 75% take the high school biology course. Admittedly, in many of these high schools, the caliber of teaching is high and the biology course offerings are first rate by any standards. On the other hand, thousands of high school teachers have expressed the desire for more aid in preparing and teaching a better biology course to their students. There is wide variation in the biology courses currently taught in American high schools. Many courses labeled biology are, in fact, merely courses in human hygiene; others are heavily slanted toward animal science with little or no plant science offerings. A course designed and produced under the supervision of the AIDS, its content organized by more than 100 of the greatest contemporary biologists in the United States, and giving the nation's teachers the fullest help of modern teaching media, will necessarily tend to increase the interest in and knowledge of biology for today's youth.
IV. Committee and Staff Organization of the Project
The AIBS Committee on Education and Professional Recruitment is a policy-making group and does not consider itself an action committee. It, therefore, established, with Governing Board approval, a Steering Committee for the Secondary School Film Series of fifteen members with Dr. Oswald Tippo of Yale University acting as ex officio chairman. The Steering Committee consists of:
Dr. Oswald Tippo, Chairman Ex Officio, Yale University
Dr. Herbert Albrecht, Pennsylvania State University Dr. Marston Bates, University of Michigan
Dr. John Bodel, The Hotchkiss School
Miss Jean E. Cooper, Cheyenne Senior High School, Wyoming
Dr. Harriet B. Creighton, Wellesley College
Dr. Ralph Emerson, University of California
Dr. Ralph W. Gerard, University of Michigan Dr. Philip G. Johnson, Cornell University
Mr, Frank Lindsay, California State Department of Education
Dr. L. S. McClung, Indiana University
Dr. Dorothy Matala, Iowa State Teachers College Dr. Richmond Mayo-Smith, The Phillips Exeter Academy
Dr. Daniel Mazia, University of California
Dr. John A. Moore, Columbia University
Dr. Albert E. Navez, Newton High School, Massachusetts
The Steering Committee has so far met twice, on October 8th and 9th in Washington, D. C., and on February 24th, 25th, and 26th in Santa Barbara, California. At these meetings, the general areas to be covered by the course were established, its major goals, and themes outlined, and lists of consultants made for each subject area of the course.
At the same time, it appointed the Steering Committee, and the Education Committee appointed Dr. H. Burr Roney, Professor of Biology at the University of Houston, Texas, as Director of the Secondary School project and the principal teacher in the filmed lecture core of the course.
Dr. Roney's background fits him well for the multiple requirements of the project. He received his doctorate at the University of Illinois in 1938 and was a member of the faculty of the Biology Department at Western Reserve University, Cleveland, from 1936 until 1953.
Since the summer of 1953, Dr. Roney has taught over 3000 college students during more than 500 hours of televised and filmed biology lectures on Station KUHT (the country's first educational television station) at the University of Houston where he is also Coordinator of Instructional Television. With perhaps more experience in instructional television and film than any other teacher, Dr. Roney has also produced and "starred" in a series of thirteen films, "The Nature of Life," sponsored by the National Educational Television and Radio Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan, for national showing by educational television stations. He is now completing a second series of thirteen films, "Heredity," under the same auspices.
Dr. Roney's staff on the project consists of:
Mr. Jack Steuerwald, Houston, Texas, Assistant to the Director
Mr. William H. Amos, St. Andrews School, Middle-town, Delaware, and
Mr. Joseph P. McMenamin, Oak Park-River Forest High School, Oak Park, Illinois, Authors and Consultants for the preparation of the study guide and a teacher's manual
Mr. Robert B. Lewis, Aspen Public School, Aspen, Colorado, Demonstrations and Preparations Consultant; and
Mrs. Jayne Szaz, Secretary
V. The Secondary School Biology Course
The course, which is planned to be ready for use in 1960, will consist of 120 basic lecture-demonstration films of 30-minute duration. These will be direct teaching films primarily directed at the tenth grade level. They will be available in both color and black and white, either individually or up to the total of 120. They will be designed and produced in ten major topics or parts consisting of twelve films each.
Designed to be used with these films by the classroom teacher will be a Teacher's Manual and Study Guides.
In addition to these basic films, there will be made from thirty to forty special additional films consisting of more advanced treatments or more detailed treatments of the same material or of additional subjects. Later, it is intended to develop still further supplementary materials of various sorts based on the basic and special films. These supplementary materials will consist of film strips, shorter films, documentaries, etc. Also, later, it is intended to supply a laboratory guide to go with the course.
This material will be designed for maximum use, in that it will be available in any size lots from one film to the entire course and will be as flexible as possible in arrangement of its parts. Maximum use will be made of the film medium (including visual aids, "field" inserts, cinemicrography and animation), within the limits of scheduled production time and available funds, and consistent with the primary objective of instruction rather than entertainment only.
It is not the intention of the various committees and consultants involved to create a course so new or different in its approach as to be almost unusable by the average teacher. It is, however, their intention to create a strong course which places more emphasis on con-temporary biology than has been common in the past at the secondary school level.
The format of the films will consist of: 1) a continuing teacher in a studio-classroom situation using models, demonstrations, living materials, and other visual aids; 2) guest lecturers and visits to other biologists' laboratories and field excursions; 3) use of cinemicrography and still photographs; and 4) animation. All this within the set limits of time and capital. In other words, if someone provides the students, a classroom teacher, a place for them to meet, and probably a text-book, this project will provide a film teacher, a teacher's manual in ten parts with tests and a student's study guide designed to go with the films.
Titles of the ten major areas to be covered in the course, each representing twelve half-hour films, are:
Part I Cell Biology
Part II Microbiology
Part III Multicellular Plants (structure and function)
Part IV Multicellular Animals (structure and function)
Part V Reproduction, Growth and Development
Part VI Genetics
Part VII The Diversity of Plants Part VIII The Diversity of Animals
Part IX Ecology
Part X The Machinery of Change
Our goal is maximum use and maximum flexibility. A pattern consisting of units or parts which in many cases may be interchanged to suit the convenience or preference of the teacher was thought desirable. Further, it is the intention to encourage development of laboratory and field work and for this reason, the basic course is designed to allow time for such laboratory or field work.
Continuing themes which will be emphasized wherever appropriate throughout the course include the following: (the order does not indicate rank on the basis of significance, and it should be remembered that the terminology is that of the professional biologist, not that of a tenth-grader.)
Theme 1. Homeostasis: the organism as a dynamic, energy-transforming system, maintaining and increasing itself through the expenditure of energy. This means an emphasis on general, cellular and comparative physiology greater than has been usual in introductory courses. The emphasis is to be on the verb rather than the noun, on the process rather than its static record, on the motion picture rather than the still picture.
Theme 2. Evolution: the continuity of organisms through time which has resulted in their present adaptive diversity.
Theme 3. Ecology: the organism-environment complex, particularly the broad bio-geo-chemical patterns of the circulation of matter and energy. Adaptation as a dynamic process links ecology and evolution.
Theme 4. The complementarity of structure and function: this is another example of the Janus faces met so commonly in science, the ever-present twins of matter-energy, structure-function, organism-environment.
Theme 5. Man's Role in Nature as a Basis: from which it can be seen that conservation is one of the
highest and most enlightened forms of self-interest from the biological point of view.
Theme 6. Methods: the process of "sciencing" as a human activity with strong roots in the past, a forever "open-ended" present, and tremendous potentiality for development in the future. Somehow, the biologists' pride in what is known should be tempered by his need to know more. He must stimulate an interest in further work in his field by being clear as to what is known, and what still needs to be known, rather than presenting biology as a closed, completed subject surrounded on all sides by acres of terminology. A little of the fascinating (and sometimes confused) intellectual history of biological concepts should help to do this.
Theme 7. Behavior: as a biological phenomenon, with adaptive significance. While the present development of the common ground between the biological and behavioral sciences leaves much to be desired, it is clear that each species has evolved through its own history, resulting in its own adaptive responses. This entire area needs more emphasis from biology. Only organ-isms behave and think; to a large extent, how they behave and how they think depends on the kind of organism.
The various committees of consultants have also agreed that elementary physics and chemistry should be taken up specifically when and as needed in the course; and that no presumption of chemistry and physics pre-requisites shall be made.
Speaking about this new course recently (April 2, 1959), Dr. Roney, Directory of the project, told members of the National Science Teachers Association:
There will be in all this some new ideas for some teachers, but we trust that new ideas are not difficult just because they are new. I hold to the conviction that any topic or principle understandable by any of us can be dealt with at any level of understanding. It is not necessary to pervert knowledge in order to communicate with young students. . . .
It is recognized that such a course cannot please everyone, because there are many good teachers and many ways of teaching that are all equally successful, but it is hoped that the composite advice of many biologists and teachers will result in at least one kind of "good course." One of the advantages of AIBS sponsorship is the fact that instead of creating an individual course that might attempt to become definitive (and thereby do biology great harm) , the AIBS can look forward over the years to continual improvement, revision, elimination of parts or even of the whole course. Knowing the always imperfect nature of human activity, this essential expendability is a great comfort to me. . . .
I think of these films as instruments, as tools—a medium of communication from organism to organ-ism, not as ends in themselves, nor as a substitute for any other aspect of communication. The kind of education we are all aiming at needs to make use of field and laboratory experience with the objects and processes studied in biology, and to make use of films, books, magazines and all forms of printed material, and, to integrate all this, we still need good teachers. We hope our efforts will be received as they are intended.
Awards and Honors
The 1958 AAAS-Campbell Award for Vegetable Research was given to Dr. Karl Maramorosch of the Rockefeller Institute on December 30th, during the AAAS Annual Meetings in Washington, D. C. The award consists of $1,500 and a bronze medal, given for "an outstanding single research contribution, of either fundamental or practical significance, in the fields of horticulture, genetics, soil science, plant physiology, entomology, plant pathology, or other appropriate scientific areas." This was the second time that the award was made; it was established by the Campbell Soup Company and is being administered by a commit-tee appointed by the AAAS.
Dr. Sears, Professor of Botany and Chairman of the Conservation Program at Yale, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Wayne State University last month.
The Cooley Award of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists for the best paper on the southeastern flora published during the year 1957 was made to Dr. James W. Hardin.
Professor Harlan P. Banks, Department of Botany, Cornell University, has been elected a Corresponding Member of the Societe Geologique de Belgique.
Dr. Wendell V. Showalter, Ph.D., Professor of Biology and Chairman of the Department at Hastings College, Hastings, Nebraska, was presented the 1958 Distinguished Teacher Award at a special convocation. The award carries with it a monetary gift of $1,000.
At a meeting in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on October 27, 1958, the Canadian Society of Plant Physiologists was founded. The new society grew out of a series of Annual Research Conferences on Plant Physiology that had been held at various Canadian universities and research institutions over a period of eight years. The officers of the new society are: Paul R. Gorham, President; E. R. Waygood, Vice-President; D. Siminovitch, Secretary-Treasurer; R. O. Bibbey, Eastern Director; Steward A. Brown, Western Director. Correspondence should be addressed to The Secretary-Treasurer, Chemistry Division, Canada Department of Agriculture, Ottawa, Canada.
Botanical Research - The Next 50 Years