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Probing Science: Celeste Best

Lab Quest_ Celeste Best
Celeste Best Reviewer:
Celeste N. Best

Position: Biology and Anatomy Teacher, Technology Mentor

District/School:  Oyster River Cooperative School District/ Oyster River High School, Durham, N. H.

Number of Students in District/School: 2,100/700


Vernier Handheld Probeware including LoggerPro software, Vernier Video Physics, Labquest, EKG/EMG sensors, heart rate monitors, spirometers, accelerometers, hand dynamometers, respiration belts, pH sensors, colorimeters, CO2 sensors, O2 sensors, turbidity sensors, conductivity probes, flow rate sensors, dissolved oxygen sensors, ion selective electrodes, salinity sensors, spectrophotometer, UVA and UVB sensors

Reviewer’s Notes:

I teach heterogeneously mixed classes and my goal is to ensure that students get to do science and not Student2_ Celeste Best just learn about science.  Science is about thinking and asking questions and the best way to do that is to put students in the role of the scientist who creates, conducts, and analyzes the results of an actual experiment. Using Vernier equipment has allowed me to create a hands-on, laboratory environment where students can take responsibility for their own learning.


The goals for using the Vernier probeware is to create an inquiry based learning environment for all four of my science classes. 


Each June our senior science students (Anatomy and Environmental Science classes) exhibit their scientific research projects at a Science Exhibition Night. More than 300 community members attend and engage in a conversation with the students about how they conducted their experiments and what the analyzed data shows.

Other teachers in the district have started to use the probeware as a way to engage their students. Each year we do collaborative investigations with the 8th grade science classes and the 4th grade classes at our middle and elementary schools.  The enrollment in my three elective courses (marine biology, forensics, and anatomy) has increased exponentially because students are excited about the opportunity to conduct real world experiments.

Learning Curve:

Vernier technology is incredibly easy to use.  All of the sensors come with specific instructions on how to calibrate, clean and fix individual sensors. The LoggerPro software works with most operating systems and updates occur approximately two times a year. The updates are available from the Vernier website and easy to install.

The great thing about Vernier is that once you buy the software, for a very reasonable price, you have an unlimited license, which means you can put the program on all of the computers you have in your school, faculty computers at home, and you can allow the students to load the program on their home computers, too. 

Vernier has several curriculum books for different disciplines such as biology, anatomy, physics, chemistry, etc., and these have great labs in them, especially when you are just getting started. The lab instructions are very specific and cover how to set up the equipment, run the experiment, and how to do the statistical work with the data.  All of the labs are in the form of a word document so you can modify them however you see fit. 

The Vernier website has great information about grants that are available to help supplement budgets. Vernier’s technical and curriculum specific support is amazing. An email or phone call is quickly returned with expert advice on how to fix a broken sensor or help with how to use equipment in a unique way.  The company also stands behind their equipment and will quickly send new equipment to replace something that is broken or faulty.

Student1_ Celeste Best How We Use It:

I use Vernier probeware in all four of the classes I teach, biology, anatomy, marine biology, and forensics; it is a core component to my curriculum.

In biology and marine biology, we team up with all of the fourth grade classes in the district to do an ecological study on a local watershed. We investigate the aquatic (fresh and marine) and terrestrial components of the watershed and use the Vernier sensors to collect data on turbidity, dissolved oxygen, flow rate, ionic components of water, pH and many more.  Our goal is two-fold in this project, first I want my students to act as mentors to the fourth graders and show them what science is and how it can be used to study the world we live in, and secondly, to answer—“How Healthy is the Lamprey River Watershed?”

The biology students also use the UV-Vis and colorimeter sensors to investigate the essential question—“What color leaf absorbs the most light?” It allows my students to study photosynthesis and what effects the changing of leaf colors has on a tree. 

The forensics students investigate a “mysterious white powder” by using the conductivity probe, colorimeter, pH probe, and UV Vis. 

In anatomy, we use Vernier equipment on a weekly basis. Heart Rate monitors are used to examine the Fight v. Flight response, Respiration Belts are used to test the dive reflex, Spirometers test the effects of asthma, and EMG sensors test how the musculoskeletal system functions. The Vernier Video Analysis Program is a critical component to the final project in the class where students design a scientific study based on the question—“How does biomechanical analysis improve athletic performance?”

What’s Ahead?:

The goal in the near future is to receive funding to purchase Vernier biotechnology equipment, which would allow my biology and forensic classes to do electrophoresis gel analysis. Another future goal is to increase the use of Vernier technology in all science curriculum, K-12.


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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Best in Tech Today are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.