Reviewed by Donald Logsdon Jr.
Too many students find science boring and lacking relevance to their lives. Many of these students pass through science classes without retaining much significant knowledge. For teachers looking to really engage their students, Assessing Toxic Risk is a high-interest curriculum module that uses poisons in the environment to teach scientific methods and concepts. According to the authors, "One of the reasons for studying toxicology at the high school level is its relevance to everyday life. Toxicology provides a natural link between scientific disciplines, including biology, chemistry, environmental science and human health."
This book is a collaborative effort among scientists, science educators, and high school and middle school teachers. "By incorporating critical thinking, communication and technology skills, the Environmental Inquiry Curriculum helps all types of students to succeed in science." Assessing Toxic Risk includes both a student guide and a teacher's guide. The student guide presents some basic concepts of toxicology, then presents some procedures, or protocols, that students can learn to do.
The protocols are described in full detail, including lists of all needed materials and equipment and data record sheets. A series of questions encourage critical thinking, and suggestions are given for research that students can perform using each protocol. The research section includes a number of very useful worksheets, questions, guidelines for poster design, and peer review forms. The Teacher's Guide describes the appropriate National Science Education Standards and teaching methods. For each protocol, discussion questions are included (with answers).
Suggestions are made as to how teachers can effectively guide the research process for effective learning. Toxicity is commonly evaluated through the use of a common aquatic plant, duckweed, which helps teachers avoid the thorny issue of animal use. The teacher's guide includes an appendix on how to culture the duckweed as well as a short list of references.
These experiments are well within the capabilities of high school students, and the use of living plants to test toxicity will make the activities interesting and relevant. Secondary teachers will find this set of materials very valuable to enrich traditional biology, chemistry, or health programs. The series could also provide the basic techniques upon which advanced or independent projects can be built.
Review posted on 1/23/2002