A Quick Way to Grasp Any Subject

This is one of my best study tips. Many teachers (and most students) overlook this. Too bad.

You can grasp almost any subject more easily with this science learning tip. The secret is to understand the relative levels of organization of your subject.

Things come in a lot of sizes. If you look at clusters of galaxies or other very big items, our planet seems tiny in comparison. But if you compare the planet to the size of your hand, the Earth seems huge.

Then again, your hand is gigantic. Just the tip of your pinky dwarfs the millions of cells that are found inside. And every cell is a vast galaxy of molecules. Here's where the physicists will step in and remind you that a molecule is extremely large in comparison to atoms and sub-atomic particles.

(Just as a fun fact on the side, if you ranked all the known objects in the universe from largest to smallest, we would be somewhere right near the middle. To help visualize the scale of the universe, visit this website: http://htwins.net/scale2/)

The importance of choosing whether you need a telescope or a microscope.

In an earlier study tip, you looked at schema.  One of the best ways to build some really good schema around science is to have a general understanding of the relative size of things, and how they are organized to fit in with one another.

Whenever you pick a branch of science to study, you should arrange a mental picture (maybe even draw one) showing the levels of organization. Here's an example.

In biology, you can start with an ecologist. She studies the interactions between plants, animals, and climate in a tropical rainforest. The rainforest consists of many living and nonliving features, and collectively these make up an ecosystem.

When you study just the living things in your ecosystem, you are looking at what is known as a community.

The ecosystem, in turn, contains many populations of plants, animals, fungi, bacteria, and other organisms. All the organisms that are of one species in the same area are called a population.

A population is made of many individuals. Each individual has a body served by organ systems (digestive, respiratory, etc.) The organ systems consist of organs.
Each organ is made up of various tissues. Each tissue is made of cells.

A cell, in turn, has many organelles within it. The cell has mitochondria, or the endoplasmic reticulum,and many others. An organelle is made of molecules. Molecules are made of atoms. Atoms are made of protons, neutrons, and electrons.

The protons and neutrons form the nucleus of the atom, and they in turn consist of quarks and other particles.

So now, when you come across a process, a term, or a phenomenon in biology, you can pigeonhole it in a level of organization. This will help you know how to study it. It's an instant clue about how and why biologists think it's important:

Ecosystem
Community
Population
Individual
Organ system
Organ
tissue
cell
organelle
molecule
atom
particle

For Example...

Let's say you have to study the nitrogen cycle. Now that you've divided biology into neat levels of organization, you can use your map to break down the problem into easier chunks.The Nitrogen Cycle
On the molecular level, there are maybe three or four different nitrogen-based molecules you have to know about. You can probably memorize them all in just a few minutes.

On the level of organisms, it's probably enough just to grasp that all organisms need nitrogen.

On the ecosystem level, you have to focus on a few groups of organisms and their roles in the nitrogen cycle: plants, animals, bacteria, and decomposers.

You probably know what they do, or you can figure it out from a good text and a diagram.

And then you've got it.

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