When a biology teacher says to the class, "Today we are going to start our unit on the algae, followed by a unit on the protozoa," the collective groan from the class can be deafening. Nothing can be worse to a high school kid than studying algae! Well..... maybe studying the fungi is worse, but not by much!
My solution? Excitement!! I must be a real science nerd, but I really, really like teaching this topic. And when I get excited, my students (mostly) get excited, too.
The Protista Kingdom contains all organisms that cannot be classified as fungi, true plants or animals. The range and variety of organisms in this kingdom is huge! Some protists are more closely related to plants, fungi, or animals than they are to other protists. Biologists cannot agree on how to classify these organisms, and some scientists have now split the Protista Kingdom into as many as 20 different kingdoms. The term "protist" is still used as a convenient way to refer to eukaryotes that are neither plants, animals, or fungi.
This school year, I wanted to give my unit on protists a little extra punch. I wanted to make it as visual as possible, so I put together a brand new PowerPoint presentation that covers both the algae and the protozoans. Wow! It ended up being 99 slides long with handouts for my students of 19 pages. I did break this up into two units of study, though. I first covered the algae and gave a unit test on just algae, followed by a unit on protozoans.
I packed the PowerPoint with color and as many cool photographs as possible.
Once taught, this is material that needs reinforcement if I expect my students to remember it on test day. I made a second PowerPoint that is just slide after slide of review questions. My high school students like review games, so I put them into small groups and made a contest of it. I would project a question and each group would take a turn at the answer until the question had been answered correctly. I kept score and awarded a box of Little Debbie Santa Claus Brownies to the winning group.
And finally, we finished it all up with a lab on the living protists. My students love to watch anything that moves under a microscope. I purchased a culture of Paramecium, Euglena, Amoeba, Diatoms, Spirogyra, Volvox, and Stentor (my personal favorite!) Oddly enough, my students really enjoyed a mixed culture of 6 algae that came with a dichotomous key. They had to find the 6 different algae in the culture and name them using dichotomous classification key.
All in all, the unit on Protists was not as bad as it seemed at first. Most students escaped unharmed.