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SciTech Daily Review

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Under The Microscope

CURRENT TRENDS IN BIOLOGY, by Anne Riggs, Bev Farmer & Ivena Olejnik; Stanley Thornes Ltd; 1993; 114 pages; $199.95

Written to investigate contemporary biotechnology applications, this fully-photocopiable, UK-published, authoritative resource book succeeds admirably.

It deals with 31 resource sheet-type topics such as "Mycorrhizae -- Fungal Friends"and "Biocells --  Need an Environmentally Friendly Power Pack? Try Bug Power". They are subdivided into nutritional, medical, environmental, farming and agriculture, genetics, microbiology and industrial groupings.

The layout is user friendly, with a catch-'em title followed by a bold introductory paragraph. The text is well subdivided with numerous headings. All the topics have clear, well-drawn line diagrams, although there are one or two poor-quality, unnecessary photographs. There is often a relevant cartoon which makes a topic look particularly interesting and invites further attention from the reader.

Each topic has a series of sensible, and usually graded, questions. These can be general, interpretive, or thought-provoking. Each topic has a glossary which my biology students found useful, although not all the technical terms were covered. Certainly students need to have a sound biological knowledge to fully understand the topics. Senior biology students should have little problem.

Because of the language, I do not think the text is suitable for junior classes without modification. The authors suggest that it would also be good for general studies and the humanities; however for most topics the teacher would need to provide background information on biological systems and concepts. For those students or teachers who wish to delve more deeply, a list of references is provided.

There is a refreshingly different and succinct teachers' resource section in the last 14 pages. It includes a summary table of concepts for each topic. Each topic has a portion covering concepts, economic and social issues, and teaching strategies, which are especially good. References for more detailed techniques are given, and there are answers for the applications and more difficult questions.

Although the price is hefty, the book has little padding and is a ready to use set of resources to be used in conjunction with practical activities covered in other texts.

Suzanne Turner is a biology teacher at Christchurch Girls' High School.