Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Final Research Project Assignments

Parents, the semester-long process of student research projects is coming to an end! I am so proud of my students for adding this project to their already-long list of responsibilities and seeing it through to the end, and I am certainly looking forward to seeing them present to the class about what they did, why, and what conclusions might be drawn from their results.

There are two grades remaining to be entered into the Research Project category of their grade. One grade will be based on their final printed report, logbook, and abstract. They have already received instructions on how to put together their final printed report, which is due on Monday, December 11. The logbook and abstract are due Wednesday, December 13, and they will receive further instructions about these items before the end of this week.

The second grade remaining is for a display board and in-class presentation. The display board is due on the 13th, and that is also the date we will begin presentations. Students have already been given detailed instructions for creating their display boards (they need a 48" x 36" board).

Hopefully, some students will desire to compete in the Cobb-Paulding Regional Science Fair to be held in February. I plan to recommend to selected students, based on their overall body of work, that they compete. Of course, Science Fair participation is optional and will not factor into their grades. More information on the Science Fair will be forthcoming as appropriate.

Thank you for supporting and assisting your child as they have worked on their project this semester! As always, feel free to email me with any questions at Grant.McDurmon@cobbk12.org.

Friday, November 17, 2017

EOC Test December 6 & 7

The state-mandated standardized test, called the EOC test or the Georgia Milestones test for Biology, will be taken by students on Wednesday, December 6, and Thursday, December 7. The EOC test will count as 20% of students' final class grade. The test consists of eighty online multiple choice questions; students will answer the first half of the questions on the 6th, and then answer the second half of the questions on the 7th.

Already, students have been provided with instructions on how to use USATestPep, an online test preparation tool, that is specifically designed to help prepare students for this particular test. We have also spent time in class using USATestPrep. After the Thanksgiving break, we will spend a majority of class time between November 29 and December 5 reviewing material and looking at practice test items.

At home, please encourage your child to use USATestPrep, but also to begin reviewing materials provided in class in the days leading up to test day. If you have any questions about this important test, please feel free to email me at Grant.McDurmon@cobbk12.org.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Unit Test Tuesday, November 28

Our 6th unit test will be administered on Tuesday, November 28. Students have been provided with a study guide to help them review, as well as numerous notes, handouts, and specific textbook chapters for reference. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Project Results Due Friday, November 17

Students have been provided with detailed instructions and a grading rubric for submission of their experiment results, due this Friday the 17th. By this Thursday evening, students should be completely finished with the experiments and should not be continuing their experiments beyond that date. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Approaching the End of the Semester

Good afternoon parents,

We now have less than five weeks remaining in the semester, which means several important events are coming up in your child’s Magnet Biology class. At this point in the class, students in some cases have a tendency to relax their study and class preparation habits, reasoning that they have already demonstrated all that is required and that their grade will not change much in the final days of the course. This tendency needs to be avoided! These are actually the most critical days of the class. Take a look at what is coming up:

  • Research Project: Students should either be finished completely with their experiments or nearly finished, and ready to begin focusing on compiling data, creating graphs, and discussing results. In the coming weeks we will devote some class time to discussing the expectations for the final portions of the project, including how to prepare an excellent display board and class presentation. Most of the effort in this area will need to be made outside the classroom, however. Detailed instructions and rubrics will be provided to students in a timely manner, including via their Google Classroom account. Your child should be ready to submit experiment results, including at least one graph, by Friday, November 17.
  • Units Remaining: We are currently in a unit on biological evolution and organism classification, with a unit test to be given on Tuesday, November 28. We will conclude the semester with some lessons and activities on ecology, and students will take a unit test over those concepts on their final day in my class.
  • End Of Course Assessment: This state-mandated test will be comprehensive and will account for 20% of each student’s final grade for the course. The test will be given over two consecutive class days, December 6 and 7. In the week leading up to the test, we will spend time in class reviewing key concepts and students will be provided with study guides, practice test questions, and other assistance as needed.

Like I have stated before, students should be spending at least 30 minutes most evenings doing biology homework. Most days there is not a specific individual assignment (though sometimes there is), but between test preparation and textbook readings and the research project, there should always be something for students to do.

Regular updates for parents about major due dates and test dates are posted at http://magnetbiology.blogspot.com.

As the semester draws to a close, feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns that may be able to be addressed before final grades are posted at the end of December.

Thank you,


Monday, October 30, 2017

Unit Test Thursday, November 2

Students have been provided with a study guide and other materials to review for our next unit test, to be held this Thursday, November 2. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns as we are now entering the final weeks of the semester.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Field Trip Monday, October 23

Students participating in the all-day Magnet freshman cultural experience field trip on Monday, October 23 should report directly to the Freshman Academy Cafeteria when arriving to North Cobb that morning. We are wanting to leave on the field trip as early as possible--hopefully by 8:15 A.M. Following the experience, students will return to North Cobb for regular dismissal at 3:30 P.M. Please contact Mr. Auld with any questions.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Unit Test Wednesday, October 18

This test, our 4th of the semester, will cover molecular genetics. Students have been provided with a study guide and vocabulary list, and should contact me with any questions as needed.

Early Release Thursday, October 12

Thursday, October 12, 2017 - Early Release @ 11:30 a.m. Grab and Go lunches will be provided in the MAIN cafĂ© at the conclusion of 2nd block.  Students who choose to purchase lunch may NOT eat them on the buses.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Is Your Child Interested In A Science-Related Career?

Is your child interested in a science-related career? They should apply for the 2018 Emperor Science Award program! 100 high school students from across the country will be paired with university-level mentoring scientists. These scientists and mentors will present exciting opportunities for students to explore the world of science, grow their skills, build confidence and conduct rewarding research. Most importantly, this program will encourage students to follow their passions and help them take an important step forward towards a future in science. DEADLINE IS NOVEMBER 1. For more information and to apply, click here.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Unit Test Tuesday, October 3

This will be our 3rd unit test of the semester, and it will cover concepts relating to cell energy, especially photosynthesis and cellular respiration. Students have been provided with a thorough study guide (posted on Google Classroom), and should prepare for the test using their class notes, textbook chapter 8, diagrams and other handouts from class. We will spend some time reviewing during our regular class meeting on Monday, October 2.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

PSAT Registration Ends September 29

The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT) is a great tool for students considering college. The PSAT/NMSQT measures critical reading skills, math problem-solving skills, and writing skills. North Cobb High School recommends that students take the PSAT/NMSQT in order to receive feedback about strengths and weaknesses, enter the competition for National Merit Scholar scholarships (11th graders), and to help prepare for the SAT.
Students who wish to take the 2017 PSAT/NMSQT at North Cobb High School will be registering online. This registration will take a few minutes and can be completed from any computer with internet access.

Online Exam registration, for all 9th and 11th grade students, will begin on Monday, August 28, 2017 at 5:00 p.m. and end on Sept. 29, 2017 at 11:59 p.m. In order to register, students should click on this link www.TotalRegistration.net/PSAT/110005 to register. To complete registration, students must answer all of the required questions. Registration is not complete until students have printed the pdf of the confirmation page that is provided at the end.  

North Cobb High School is excited to offer families the convenience of paying exam fees online at the time of registration. The cost for the PSAT is $18.00.  Please be sure to have a debit or credit card available before beginning registration. Students may also pay for their exam with either CASHIER’S CHECK or MONEY ORDER, and mail it directly to Total Registration.

Here are the important dates for the registration process:
Registration Ends  Friday, September 29, 2017 
at 11:59 p.m.
(NO late registration available)

TEST DATE Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

How to Assist Your Child in Writing a 1500 Word Paper

My students are aware that on October 16 they are to turn in a background research paper (essentially a literature review) that will eventually become the Introduction section of their final research report they submit in December. The background research paper should be approximately 5 pages in length (not counting a references list at the end) which probably comes to between 1200 and 1500 words. For most students, this is the longest paper they've ever had to write in a science class. Here is how you may help:
  • Encourage them not to procrastinate. We are spending two days' worth of class time getting started, but between now and October 16 they are responsible for completing the assignment outside of the classroom. This means that, until they finish, there is always something they can be working on at home for their biology class! Our Media Center is also open every morning beginning at 7:30 A.M. if they would like to use that space to work.
  • Remind them to be patient, and to save a link and citation information for any reference they find that they might be able to cite in their paper. They are using multiple databases available through Cobb County Schools to find peer-reviewed science journal articles.
  • When they are working at home, allow them a block of uninterrupted time in a quiet place with no distractions. This will help them stay focused and better able to articulate their ideas on paper.
  • Confirm that they are citing their paper appropriately with parenthetical citations throughout and a growing reference list at the end. Students have been instructed to use APA style to format their paper, and links to online help for this are posted on Google Classroom (or will be in the coming days).
Before turning in their paper on October 16, I am asking all students to turn in a draft copy of their References list on October 6 so that I can review it and provide feedback if necessary.

I have explained to students that even experts and professionals have to be careful when composing their written work to ensure professionalism and avoid plagiarism. For most students this is their first attempt at reaching these goals in science writing. Ideally, this process exposes students to another critical facet of scientific work and encourages them to grow in their appreciation for the peer review process.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

1st 6 Weeks Report Cards Available Now

  • Students and Parents will be able to view their Report Cards by logging into StudentVue/ParentVue and clicking “Report Card” on the right.
  • Then click on “GP1” on the top right.
  • All class grades and comments should then be viewable.
  • Students and Parents will have the option to print their report cards by clicking the notice below their name and picture. This feature will require a desktop and/or networked printer.
  • Any student or parent unable to access ParentVue/StudentVue should reach out to the counseling office for assistance. The counseling office will be able to print report cards for those who prefer a printed copy.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Unit Test Monday, September 11

Our 2nd unit test of the semester will be given on Monday, September 11. Just as with all of our tests, a comprehensive study guide has been posted on students' Google Classroom page. They have been encouraged to begin studying this week rather than waiting until the weekend, and also to ask me any questions they may have in class over the next few days. Their class notes, other papers, and chapters 7 & 9 in the textbook will help them prepare for the test.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Research Plans Due Friday, September 1

This Friday, September 1, all students should submit a detailed research plan that outlines exactly what the parameters of their research project will be, including details such as where their experiment will be conducted, how measurements will be taken, and what living species they will study. Today in class we discussed this at length, and students have access to a detailed grading rubric via Google Classroom. Of course, they should be making these plans only after discussing them with you. Students will not be given final permission to conduct their experiment until a parent permission form is signed. In most cases this is a simple formality, but please do not hesitate to email me if you have any questions or concerns. Generally speaking, I should have a chance to review every student's research plan on or before September 7, and students should receive final permission to begin their research after that date.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

New NCSIS Remind Service

In addition to receiving text messages from me about your child's biology class, it is now also possible to receive informational text messages that are important for all of our North Cobb Magnet school's class of 2021!

On your mobile device, text the words "join d326eh" to the number 81010 to get updates from Mr. J. Auld and NCSIS Magnet via text message.

Friday, August 18, 2017


Grades are now being posted on ParentVUE (and StudentVUE) when available. There was a delay during the first two weeks of school, but as of now you should see grades for your child's classes. Please feel free to contact me with any questions: Grant.McDurmon@cobbk12.org

Friday, August 11, 2017

First Unit Test August 18th

Students will take their first biology unit test on Friday, August 18. The test will cover topics such as the characteristics of life, the scientific method of answering questions, microscope familiarity, graphing data, and some introductory biochemistry concepts. Students have been given a study guide for the test via their Google Classroom page, and should be preparing for the test using their class notes and textbook as needed.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Welcome Letter

Dear Parent,

Another school year has begun, and it is my privilege to have your child in my Magnet Biology class this semester at North Cobb High School. It’s hard to believe, but we are already five days into the semester!

So far in class, we have discussed the goals of science and the scientific method of answering questions. Students have thought critically about the characteristics that all living things share. As the semester progresses, your child will work with other students in our class to investigate important biological concepts such as the chemistry of life, cell structure and function, DNA and the genetic code, the relationship between organisms and their environment, and the relationships between organisms themselves. To do this, we will take advantage of the tremendous resources available to us here at North Cobb.

At this point in the semester, your child may be nervous about the research project we are asking all of our Magnet students to do. Every Magnet Biology student at North Cobb is required to conduct a real scientific investigation over the course of the semester. Students will, with my assistance and advice, select a topic to study, formulate a hypothesis, and carry out a controlled experiment. They will document their procedures in a logbook and report their data at the end of the semester during a class presentation. Also, I will encourage students to submit their work for consideration in the school-wide Science Fair to be held in February of 2018. This project will require extra effort on the part of your child and a good amount of time at home to prepare and carry out an experiment; however, let me assure you that I will guide your child in this process throughout the semester, and am confident they will find the experience a rewarding one!

My goal is the success of your child. If you ever have any questions, suggestions, or concerns, please feel free to contact me at any time via e-mail. I am also available each week to provide additional assistance to your child, or to sit down for a conference with you if needed. Working together, we can make your child’s semester in Magnet Biology a great one!

Grant McDurmon

Friday, June 30, 2017


The first day of school is Monday, July 31. Magnet Biology will meet daily in room 2201.