Hi everyone! Last year I did a 5 day of holiday cheer celebration, and it was a hit. I'm happy to announce it's back! Each day from 12/12 - 12/16 I will have a different promotion running in my TpT store. Check them out below:
On day 4, if you purchase an item from my TpT store, you can pick out another item of equal or lesser value free! All you have to do is email me your name, what you purchased, and what you would like free and I'll send it over!
On day 5, be sure to check back here to get the link for a free mega bundle from top TpT science sellers! It won't be available for long, so set a reminder on your phone! You won't want to miss out.
Wishing you a happy holiday season, and a relaxing break from your classroom!
Lately there is a big push for STEM in the classroom. Data has projected that STEM related jobs will increase to 9 million by the year 2022 (www.bls.gov). As teachers we need to not just teach science, but let students truly experience it first hand.
Every year when I teach cells, students do a good job memorizing what the organelles do but have a hard time understanding how the organelles actually work together. I wanted my students to really visualize cell processes and how the cell functions as a whole. I came across a website from MIT that allowed students to create animated videos. I decided I was going to have my students create a video for a specific cellular process. This project can be scary for many students that aren't tech-saavy (although most students are better with technology than we are!) To ease their minds, I let students work in pairs- one student could do a lot of the research and the other student could do more of the video building. Next I came up with a list of 15 different cellular processes (endocytosis, mitosis, DNA replication, etc.) that they could pick from. I have class sizes around 30 students so each group had a different topic for their video. This project could be used for any topic, not just cells!
Here are a few tips that will make the project run smoother:
1. Before you assign the project, play around with the website yourself. It was also helpful for me to watch youtube tutorials (like the one HERE) as I was learning. If you are familiar with the website then it is easier for you to help students when they hit road blocks... which they will.
2. Students will need to create a login for their video. I told students to use their school ID number as their login and their school password. Many students have multiple usernames for their emails and social media accounts, so I didn't want them to forget their login. Also, when students shared their videos with me I could see whose video it was based on their ID number.
3. Before students begin, have them map out what they want their video to look like. I gave them a storyboard timeline worksheet (see image 2 below) and made them draw out their cellular process and write captions. I had to check and approve their worksheet before they could begin working on the video. It was a good way to check in with them and give them feedback to ensure they weren't missing anything.
4. Allow students to look around at videos that are already made. On the scratch homepage you can search for videos that other people have shared. If you find a video you like, you can click See Inside (see image 3 below) and see how they actually built the video. I made it clear that students could only look there for ideas, but couldn't copy what other people made.
5. It will take time, and get ready for the whining. If I had a dollar for every time I heard "can't we just make a powerpoint instead?" I would be going to a steakhouse for dinner tonight courtesy of my students. One student even said "Come on Mrs, we've been making powerpoints since we came out of the womb!" That is exactly why I didn't let them make a powerpoint. In the end (I gave them a week), they came up with some awesome videos. The great thing about this site is they don't have to be at school to work on it, just anywhere with an internet connection. If they don't finish in the assigned class time, they can work on it at home.
6. Chances are you will have a group or two that just can't figure out the website and how to make things move and work. As a last resort for these groups, I showed them how to make it "powerpoint-like." When you click on the "backdrops" tab, you can create multiple backdrops, which is essentially like powerpoint slides (see image 4 below). Then all they have to do is add a script that when the space bar is clicked, it moves to the next backdrop.
7. When students are finished, they need to click SHARE before the video goes live (see image 5 below). Once they clicked share, I had them copy and paste the URL into an email and send it to me for grading. I made it clear to students that the majority of their grade would be based on the video content, not the animations. For example, if the mitosis group had awesome visuals but forgot to tell me about what mitosis is, why cells divide, and which cells undergo mitosis then they wouldn't get a great grade. That lowered the stress level for students who struggled with the animations.
Even though both teacher and student felt frustration at times, I'm so glad I had my students create these videos. Below is a sample from one of my students. Enjoy!
This lab is one of my top sellers in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. It is easy to set up and doesn't require a lot of materials. However, I frequently get questions about the lab so I'm hoping this blog post will be useful to those teachers out there who about to set up this lab.
In this lab, students will be testing whether or not aquatic plants do photosynthesis in the dark or light, and also testing if they do cellular respiration during the dark or light. The plant I usually use for this experiment is called elodea, which is available at any local pet store in the fish area. One nugget of information you will need to know- pet stores call it anacharis, not elodea. It is usually sold in bunches of 4-5 stems for a few bucks. Two big bunches should get you through the day. If they don't have elodea, any other aquatic fish tank plant will work fine, but make sure it is a tall skinny plant that will fit down into your test tubes.
One reason this lab is great is because it can be used in multiple places in your curriculum:
~ Cells unit: When you are teaching cells, chances are you will be talking about chloroplasts and mitochondria. Along with these organelles you will be discussing photosynthesis and cellular respiration. This lab fits in great because it shows that plants not only do photosynthesis, but cellular respiration as well.
~ Ecology unit: During my ecology unit, we cover the 3 major biogeochemical cycles (water, carbon, and nitrogen). What better way to talk about the carbon cycle than to demonstrate the relationship between plants, animals, and gas exchange?
A little background....
This lab uses the chemical bromothymol blue. This chemical is used as a pH indicator. When the pH is above a 7 (basic) it is blue, but when the pH drops below 7 (acidic) it starts to turn yellow.
Image below is courtesy PureySmart on Wikimedia Commons.
Before beginning the lab, I like to demonstrate to the students how bromothymol blue works. I get 2 erlenmeyer flasks (beakers will work just fine too) and fill them 3/4 of the way full with water. Add enough bromothymol blue for the water to be visibly blue. (In a beaker of 200mL of water, I add about 4mL of bromothymol blue). Call up a student, and have them blow through a straw into the beaker. As they blow (it will take 3-4 big breaths) the water will slowly change from blue to yellow. This is because when the carbon dioxide in our breath reacts with the water it forms carbonic acid, lowering the pH.
Inquiry, Inquiry, Inquiry
When I do this lab, I do not tell students how to set up the experiment. I split the class into lab groups, and assign each group one of the following questions:
1. Do plants to photosynthesis in the dark?
2. Do plants do photosynthesis in the light?
3. Do plants do cellular respiration in the dark?
4. Do plants do cellular respiration in the light?
Obviously the group that gets assigned "do plants do photosynthesis in the light" will know the answer, but they will still have to set up a controlled experiment that can demonstrate it. I give each group a big white board and have them set it up like the image below. They will have to fill it out based on the specific question they are assigned. If you don't have whiteboards, butcher paper works great too. Students will know what materials they have to work with because they are listed on their lab worksheet (available in my TpT store).
As we walk around the room and discuss experimental design, students will begin to see that each group will set up their test tubes the same way, the only difference being if their tubes get left in the light or wrapped in foil and put in the dark for 24 hours.
Two notes: I get asked how much bromothymol blue to add to the test tubes. I have each group add 1mL to each tube. If you would like to add more or less that is fine, as they add the same amount to each test tube for consistency. Also- make sure to fill the test tubes to the top and cap them tightly, or use parafilm to cover the tops. We want the gas to stay in the water, not escape.
When students come in the following day they will pick up their test tube rack and fill out their data tables on what happened. They will see that the elodea did photosynthesis in the light, and cellular respiration in the dark.** (see note below)
**One thing you will have to discuss with your students: Plants are doing cellular respiration in the day time as well, but since photosynthesis is also occurring the indicator stayed blue.
A great extension activity is to add aquatic animals to this experiment and see how the added respiration affects the color change. If you can get your hands on some small snails, they will fit great into the test tubes. I had trouble finding snails in Arizona, so I went to my local pet store and picked up two feeder goldfish. I filled up two large erlenmeyer flasks with water and bromothymol blue, and turned one yellow. I added elodea and a goldfish to each flask. Next, I asked my students what will happen when we leave these in the light for 24 hours. The next day we came in and saw both flasks were a shade of bluish green (somewhere in the middle of where the two flasks began). If you don't add a ton of bromothymol blue, and only leave the fish in for 24 hours the fish will not be harmed.
Hopefully you are ready to start this experiment! If you have any questions, drop them in the comments below!
Need a great inquiry lab? This soda lab is FUN! And I know what you are thinking.... "what a mess it must be!" But I've done this lab multiple times, and never had a spill. Students will get 3 types of soda, and will measure which brand has the greatest amount of carbonation. The best part of this activity is there are 4 different versions included- you can choose which you think is best for your students.
~ EASY~ Great for lower grade levels. Students pour the soda into a cup, and measure the amount of time it continues to bubble.
~ MEDIUM~ (Pictured bottom left) Students cover the top of the bottle with a balloon. After shaking the balloon covered bottle, students will measure the diameter of the balloon with a string.
~ HARD~ (Pictured bottom right) Students will measure the amount of carbonation by putting a tube into the bottle, and catching the gas that escapes into a graduated cylinder. This is the most accurate way to measure the carbonation. I used a tube that was from a fish tank bubbler.
~ EXPERT~ Students will come up with their own experimental design (They may come up with one of the other three ideas already discussed). Great for inquiry, collaboration, and practice writing procedures.
To save money on this lab I buy the smaller bottles of soda, and usually snag them when they are on sale, even if I'm not doing this experiment right away. I love that this lab is a great time to review the scientific method, experimental design, and discuss variables such as temperature, rate of shaking, and other factors that could impact the results. This is a great lab for days before holidays or testing days when the kids are antsy. They will have a blast! Interested? Check it out in my TpT store HERE!
pH.... one of those chemistry topics that us biology teachers get to teach. In biology I don't make my students calculate pH and pOH values, but they need to understand what pH is and why maintaining a healthy pH in your body is so important. You may love biochemistry, or you may hate it, but either way there are plenty of resources to make teaching pH easy!
One of the first things I have my students do is make a pH foldable. As we go through the lesson, they take notes on acids and bases, and label the pH scale at the bottom. Foldables are really easy to have students make on their own, but if you are interested in a template, click here.
After students learn what pH is, I have them complete a pH lab. The lab available in my TpT store is editable, so you can use whatever liquids you have on hand. I try and find a couple acids, a couple bases, and some neutrals (especially water!). A few hints to make your lab go more smoothly: First, don't let the students grab the roll of pH paper themselves. Save yourself some money by making your pH and litmus paper go further by pre-cutting them. I cut the litmus paper in half and cut the pH paper into small strips. Students can use tweezers to dip them into the liquids, so small pieces work great. By cutting them in half I could get through the whole day with one vial of red and one vial of blue. Also, put your pH color keys in a ziplock baggie. Students always hold the wet pH paper up to it for comparison, and if it is in a baggie it won't get ruined.
Since I teach pH right before I dive into cells, this is a great time to talk about enzymes and denaturation. When the pH of our body changes, these enzymes can unfold, or denature. Once enzymes change shape, they no longer function. Enzymes are very specific, so enzymes that are in your stomach will work best at an acidic pH, and enzymes in your bloodstream will work best around a neutral pH. If you have some extra pH paper it is fun for the kids to put a piece on their tongue and measure the pH of their saliva. We talk about how there are enzymes in their saliva that start the digestion process.
Another good topic to talk about is neutralization in the body. I usually start by telling students if I drink orange juice on an empty stomach, I will inevitably get a stomach ache. Why? Students usually recognize that orange juice is an acid and the acid is causing the belly ache. Next, I ask them what do they do when they have a stomach ache? We talk about Tums and Pepto Bismol, and how the alkaline medicine neutralizes the acid in my stomach. It is also fun to talk about bee stings vs. wasp stings. Bee venom is acidic, so putting baking soda on it will help take the pain away. On the other hand, wasp stings are alkaline, so baking soda won't help at all. Instead, putting vinegar or another weak acid should help with the pain. Students are always find these topics engaging and try and come up with other situations where they have needed to neutralize their body pH.
Is food chains up next in your curriculum? Most students learn food chains in the elementary grades, so how do you make it interesting and rigorous at the secondary level? Here are some great options:
This website is a great review of food chains. It is pretty basic, but if you have an interactive whiteboard it’s a quick and easy way to have students come up and show you what they already know. While the order of the animals is pretty obvious, students will need to know where to put them based on the directions of the arrows. I also like that the food chains include the sun, so students recognize that the sun is the source of the energy.
This is a great youtube video on food chains. It shows a food chain in the everglades, and reviews important vocabulary like herbivore, carnivore, producer, and consumer.
This skull lab is always a hit! I take out the skulls before introducing vocabulary words like herbivore, carnivore, nocturnal, or diurnal. Students will analyze the skulls and make inferences about how the animal lived. They have a really fun time trying to figure out which animals they are too! Don't have skulls handy? Don't worry! I have a great paper version of this lab in my teachers pay teachers store. Check it out here.
Last but not least is a lesson that demonstrates why it is important that trophic levels remain in balance. In this activity, students play the role of grass (producer), rabbit (primary consumer), or a coyote (secondary consumer). Throughout the 5 rounds, students will go around the room and pair up with another student. If they find a prey they get to eat it. If they find another organism of the same species, they reproduce. If they don't eat or get eaten that round, they are out. Students will quickly learn that there needs to be few secondary consumers and a lot of producers for a community to be sustainable. Check it out in my teachers pay teachers store here.
When you make ecology hands on and interactive, students will have a blast. What other activities do you do with your students when teaching food chains? Leave ideas in the comments below!
I like to use a lot of video clips in my lessons. Video clips keep students engaged and it breaks up the monotony of the notes. After lots of searching on the internet for good videos for my symbiosis lesson, I've found some real winners! Your students will love these videos!
MUTUALISM- (Good for me, good for you) This video clip is from the 1974 Disney movie "Animals are Beautiful People." Don't let the year deter you, it's an oldie but a goodie. This video clip shows a guide bird helping a honey badger find food. Check it out here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=_88SRgOGnVQ
COMMENSALISM- (Good for me, doesn't bother you) This video clip shows beetles falling into the opening of an elephant foot yam plant. The beetles act as pollinators for the plant, and aren't helped or harmed during the process. Check it out here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnbiLvzc13g
PARASITISM- (Good for me, harms you) This video clip shows a freshly hatched cuckoo bird in a warbler nest. The cuckoo bird pushes the warbler eggs out of the nest in order to receive all the food and care from the warbler parents. This is also a great time to introduce innate vs. learned behaviors. Check it out here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFtY5D_nYW0
I also like this video that goes over all three types of symbiosis. It is a great follow up video for the following day to help refresh student's memory of what they learned. Check it out here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSmL2F1t81Q
Want some fun symbiosis posters to hang up in your classroom? --> Take a peek here! <--
You're giving a big unit test in a few days so you hand the students a study guide. A handful of the students dive in and get it done, while the rest answer about 3 questions and quit. You remind them that it is worth points, so the not-so-interested students wait for their neighbor to finish, take a picture of the completed study guide on their phone, and copy it later. Does this sound like your classroom? It happened in mine all the time. I needed to find a way to get students to WANT to review the material, and study guides weren't cutting it. I started using a variety of review games and puzzles before tests and it has made a world of difference. Student engagement has risen, test scores have risen, and most importantly teacher headaches are a thing of the past. Here are a few games I like to play:
Bingo- This is a great way to review vocabulary. I especially love it for my ecology unit since there is so much vocabulary for students to learn. It's a cinch to create your own bingo cards! Head over to http://osric.com/bingo-card-generator/ and type in your vocabulary words. Choose how many boards you want generated, hit the generate bingo cards button, and voila! For the bingo card markers, I take old construction paper or scrap paper and cut it into small squares. Each student will need about 25 of the little squares to cover their board with during the game. Now the key to this game is to not just call out the words. I call out the definition and make the students cover up the correct word. It will keep them thinking and engaged at the same time. Check out my ecology bingo cards HERE.
Puzzles- Another fun way to review vocabulary. In this activity, students pair up the matching term with it's definition and put them together like a puzzle (see image below). It will take a little time to cut out the pieces prior to playing, but you can use them over and over again. Check out my macromolecules puzzle HERE.
Snakes and Ladders- I like using this game format when doing a trivia review. If you played chutes and ladders when you were a kid, this is basically the same format. The only catch is you need to answer a question correctly before being able to roll and move. If you land on the bottom of a ladder you get to climb up, and if you land on the head of a snake you have to slide down. If you purchase my pre-made versions, you just need the library to print the game boards on large paper and get some dice and game pieces. Students LOVE playing board games, so check out some of them in my store HERE.
It's the beginning of the year, and chances are you are starting off teaching or reviewing the scientific method. If you've looked around on the internet for scientific method labs, you will notice that the majority are not biology related. Don't get me wrong- building paper airplanes, measuring bubbles, and seeing how many water drops can fit on the surface of a penny are fun labs, but not directly related to biology. In my class I want students to understand from the get-go that we are learning about living things, so I want my first lab to reflect that. Here are a few labs that can start your year off right:
1. Pulse Lab- This is a great lab because there are almost no supplies required other than a stopwatch. In this lab students measure their resting pulse, and compare it to their pulse standing up and holding their breath. It is a great way for students to practice writing hypotheses, and identifying independent and dependent variables. Before beginning the lab I start with a class discussion about what your pulse is, why blood needs to be pumped through the body, and where blood cells are made.
2. Firework Milk Lab- I have seen this lab done at ALL ages. Even preschool teachers love this lab. But the beauty of this lab is that high school students still love it, and they can finally start to understand the concept behind the fun swirling colors. In this lab students pour milk into a petri dish, add some food coloring, and put a drop of soap in the middle of the dish. Once the soap enters the dish the food coloring starts swirling and creating "fireworks." The reason the soap begins to mix the food coloring around is because of the chemical structure of the soap. The soap molecule has a polar portion that likes to mix with water, and a nonpolar portion that doesn't like to be around water. The soap molecules react with the fat molecules in the milk and start swirling around, which is visible from the movement of the food coloring. The fattier the milk, the better a reaction you will get. It is fun to have students test whole milk and skim milk and compare the results.
3. Testing the 5 Second Rule- This is my favorite lab to begin the year with, but it requires a little prep work. While you can order sterile agar plates from any science supply site, it is much cheaper to pour your own. If you haven't poured your own plates before, there are a ton of youtube tutorials available to walk you through it. In this lab students get to design their own experiment that would test whether or not food is really safe to eat after being on the ground for 5 seconds. When you purchase this lesson from my TpT store you will get two versions. In the high school version students design their own experiment, write their own procedures, and choose their own independent variable (food type, surface that they drop the food on, etc.) In the middle school version the procedures are given and it walks the students through the lab step by step. If you have an incubator the plates can be ready in 1 day, if not then let the plates sit over the weekend. Students will love seeing how much bacteria is on their food! You can even take it a step further and have students try and kill the bacteria with different cleansers (soap, bleach, 409, etc.) and see which is the most effective.
What other scientific method experiments do you love? Leave them in the comments below!
Can you believe it's already time to go back to school? Whether you are teaching a new subject this year, or just need to spruce up your curriculum, teachers pay teachers has the resources you need! We would love to help you pay for those resources! A bunch of secondary science sellers have some great giveaways for you! There are two ways to win:
1. Individual giveaways- Each seller pictured above is giving away individual prizes on their blogs! Check out the bottom of this post to win $25 worth of resources to my TpT store! There are multiple ways to win, so be sure to check out the rafflecopter below.
2. Group giveaway- We put together one HUGE blog hop giveaway, just for science teachers teaching in grades 6-12: 4 $100 Teachers Pay Teachers gift cards! Each blog post has a secret code word and number. My clue word is 9. Solutions. The number tells you where the word falls in the secret sentence. Collect the words from each blog, write them down in number order, and copy the secret sentence into the joint rafflecopter giveaway. This rafflecopter form is the same on every blog, so you only need to enter once from any one of our blogs!
Giveaway starts Monday at 12 noon and ends at midnight on Friday. Best of luck!
Becca of Science Rocks
Hi, I'm Becca! I've been teaching science for 10 years at both the middle and high school levels.