Karah Nazor, Ph.D., McCallie High School


Dr. Karah Nazor teaches Marine Biology to junior and seniors boys at McCallie High School. Her classroom doubles as a jellyfish research lab and she and her students raise moon jellyfish and upside down jellyfish in the classroom in a collaborative project with the Tennessee Aquarium. Her student's most recent research interests are to understand the response of the upside down jellyfish's symbiotic algae, zooxanthallae, to heat stress and ocean acidification.  She and her students are currently building a new culturing system for Mnemiopsis leidyi or sea walnuts and are going to work on reproducing a spawning protocol from Dr. Browne's lab at UM.


Our Approach

To teach the census of marine life is to teach evolutionary biology. Since life originated in the sea, there is no better way to teach the diversity of marine life than using an evolutionary biology approach, and there is no greater tool for a High School Marine Biology teacher than the Shape of Life website.

Our class starts by showmicrobe video graphicing the simplest of marine invertebrate Porifera "Phlya" video and the corresponding "Scientist" interview videos. The video is followed up with discussion of the evolutionary features presented in these animals and worksheet completion. In the 2-3 subsequent days, students study representative animals from that particular phylum through dissections and microscopy work.  Identification of body structures and their function introduced in the Shape of Life videos are integral to the dissection protocol. After viewing the Porifera phylum video, my students dissociated cells from a living sponge (collected from my reef tank) and, were able to identify several cell types, including spicules visible under 4X and the beating flagellated choanocytes that power the pump under 40x and 100X oil immersion magnification. 

The Shape of Life Phyla videos have been an integral tool for teaching the most popular unit of the course “Organisms of the Sea.” High school students love video, especially if it involves predator/prey encounters, and the Shape of Life videos have plenty of action in this realm, and 18-year-old students cheer out loud!  Students always comment on the high quality of the video, especially since some footage has been sped up.