VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — What do biology, the SOLs, and coloring have in common? Well, during the pandemic, a teacher in Virginia Beach created a common thread and helped her students get ready for testing in a unique way.
Breanna Calkins is a biology teacher at Green Run Collegiate. This past school year, she taught students both in her classroom and virtually. She wanted to come up with a fun way to get students ready for the SOLs.
“The idea actually came to me during kind of the tail end of term one when my first term kiddos were getting ready to take their SOLs, and as per usual, they were getting stressed out about it, and so I was kind of reflecting back and thinking about how in the past I’ve done coloring sessions with the kids, and it always kind of eased their anxiety, and I try to integrate art as best as I can in bio. They used to love it. They’d eat it up and really start thinking about how, like, you know, ‘How can I color code this to help me remember it?’ And the idea kind of struck me like lightning that in this virtual world that we’re in right now, I could make something for my kids that could help not only ease the anxiety that they’re feeling, but also kill two birds with one stone and they could review at the same time,” said Calkins.
So, Mrs. Calkins created “Color Me, Bio!” It’s a coloring review book for biology students.
“I spent four months worth of nights and weekends diligently working on it and trying to think of design ideas and how can I explain this in such a way and integrate visual aspects of things.”
That work paid off according to biology student Brooke Trice.
“The coloring kind of makes you focus on it, so it’s like, embedded into your memory,” Brooke said.
Brooke took the SOLs after using the coloring book and passed! Mrs. Calkins says the book takes students on a review journey.
“It … starts small and gets big, and so students are going to go through the properties of water and why these properties are so important for life to be able to stay on our planet, because without water we wouldn’t be here. There’s whole segment on anatomy because, let’s face it, people want to know what’s happening in their bodies. It’s pretty extensive, and I will definitely be adding in the inheritance and biotechnology aspect, because that is covered in my classroom for both the SOL and the IB exams as well. I tried to make it so it would include content for AP exams, so it would be as multi-faceted, and hit as many targets as possible so that it would be worth the money that students would be spending to purchase the book.”
Brooke’s mother, Jennifer Trice, teaches with Mrs. Calkins and says the effort behind this book goes beyond anything she could have imagined for her child.
“For Bree to have taken that idea of ‘When I color, I relax. When I color, I focus. When I color, I’m just right here,’ and then to combine that to a biology review, I’m like, ‘You’re a genius and I love you!'”
Mrs. Calkins published the coloring book on Amazon in May.
“It’s been doing pretty well. Especially when it first published, there was quite a surge of interest. The first weekend it actually hit number one on the AP review charts, and I was like mind blown, like, oh my goodness!” Calkins said.
She is thankful this book can reach kids not only in Virginia Beach, but around the world.
“I want to help as many kids as I possibly can, and luckily Amazon allows me to reach multiple marketplaces. So, I can make it available in the UK, in Spain, Australia, anywhere that the IB curriculum reaches, anywhere that there’s a student in need of a review resource, because, you know, no matter where you are, biology is biology. It’s the the same thing. It transcends cultures and languages. My goal is just to get the word out there to help as many kids as possible, because I really do believe in the value of integrating that coloring aspect, and having that connection made in your brain, so that once a student sits down to take any test, hopefully they’ll remember what they did in that coloring book and the content will just come right along behind it.”
It’s important to note, the coloring book is not required for students. It was strictly created to help them if they are interested in a unique review. Calkins says she is working on a second biology review coloring book, and she plans to create a chemistry review coloring book. If you’re interested in checking out the original review book on Amazon, click here.