Category Archives: Homeschool

Biology Lab Questions

This will be linked to the FAQ question post.

Reader’s question:  Could you explain what you require in a formal lab report and if you feel that all labs lend themselves to a formal write up?

I have my students write (type) a semi-formal lab report. I do not have them write a hypothesis for Biology, but I do require it for Physical Science and Chemistry.  For the conclusion, the students are to write a paragraph (high school level) describing the object they are looking at.   For example for the worm, they should write how it breathes, eats, crawls, explain the different systems, etc.  Students opinions are not acceptable.   I use to say write what you learned and all I would get was, “This was a fun experiment.”  or “The worm really stinks.”  or nothing at all because the student said he didn’t learn anything new.

Here are links to my handout for each student.

How to write a lab report

How to set up your lab notebook.

The labs in the textbook are written as if Dr. Wile is talking directly to the student.  Therefore; they get a little wordy.  I tell my students to write the labs in their own words and cut out the wordiness.  For example: Experiment 1.2 Part C

“Step 4:  If you were to look at the cells under the microscope right now, it would be hard to find them, because they are almost transparent.  To help make them easier to see, you will add a dye to them.  This dye is called a stain, and it will help contrast the cells against the light, making them much easier to see. Place a drop of methylene blue stain on the area where you placed the cells. (This stain will not come out of most fabric, so use it with care.)”  From Exploring Creation with Biology, 2nd Edition, page 32.

That is what the student needs to hear/read, very important.  It is not what they need to write in their lab report.  Instead, write this or something like it:

Step 4:  Place a drop of methylene blue stain on the area where you placed the cells.

 

A reader’s question:  We will have 24 weeks, meeting weekly for about 45 minutes to an hour. The plan is to have the kids read and do the work outside of class and do the experiments during class. Are there any experiments you would skip or chapters that can be left out or gone over quickly?  This is probably my most asked question.  🙂 The list below is what I usually do and it is not meant as a replacement schedule for what is in the book.  You as the teacher know what you can and cannot do and what is best for your students.

 

I do not have students write a lab report for all experiments.  Here is what I usually do:

  • Experiment 1.1 – Lab was not written up.  I made a worksheet the kids filled out at home.
  • Experiment 1.2 – Write section C, the cheek cell section.  Students do play around with the microscopes to understand it and know the function of each part.    
  • Experiment 2.1 – written up.  
  • Experiment 2.2 – written up.   We also try to do experiment 3.1 at the same times as 2.2,  but only look for the specimens mentioned.  3.1 was not written up.  If anything was found it was written in the result section of Exp. 2.2
  • Experiment 4.4  – skipped.  Cheese is expensive and we couldn’t find anything on it anyway.
  • Experiment 5.3 – skipped because we never had time for it in class. We will be doing this for 2016.
  • Experiment 8.4 – skipped. I don’t remember why. LOL
  • Experiments 8.2 and 8.3 – not written up. Instead, the kids filled out a punnet square worksheet during class time.
  • I totally skipped Module 9- I didn’t have time.  Some students read this on their own at home.  No test or quiz.  I may do this module for 2016. 
  • Experiment 10.1 – skipped.  I can never get this one to work. 
  • Experiment 12.2 – skipped  Bug board was done instead.   Bugs will be sketched for 2016.
  • Experiment 14.1  No lab was written, but they had to make the book with the leaves.
  • Experiment 16.1 -skipped only because we cannot see the slide that came with this textbook.  I found a great video to watch instead and we just talked about it.
  • Experiment 16.2 – skipped because we went on a day-long field trip.  The students had a list of items they had to find and identify.    For 2016 year we will do the Great Backyard Bird Count in February.

How long does it take to complete the labs?  That depends on the lab.  A few labs take days and these are done at the students home.   Others are very quick, but I can’t think of a specific one at the moment.   The time consuming part is sketching and dissecting.  If you have a student who hates to sketch, it will be very quick.  If you have a student who loves sketching, it will take forever. LOL  I schedule at least an hour for the longer labs.

Tip to make labs go quickly and smoothly:  Have your students write the labs up through the procedure BEFORE coming to class.  This ensures the students have actually read the experiment and they know what to do.  The student can use their notes instead of the textbook, which takes up space on the table.  I take off points if the lab is not written in advance.

I’ll add more if I think of anything else.

Enjoy the experiments!

Guana River State Park Field Trip

Once again I forced my Biology student on a field trip to Guana River State Park,  but is really called Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve.  It was a perfect day to take the mile long hike to the river.  High was 78 degrees, sunny, breezy, and oh so georgous.

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Here we are heading out on our one mile hike to the river.  Mixed in this group are the Biology students, Photography Students, Siblings, and The Awesome Parents.  Love having the parents come along.    This photo was taken by Jen Mauser of A Knittery Life.

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The youngest of the group lead the way.  But there were many stops before we arrived at the river.  So much to see.

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And photos to take.

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At the river, everyone heads to the rocks to take in the view.  The place is just beautiful.

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Photography students were to take photos of anything they wanted to.  My daughter, who is in the photography class and my Biology class, thought taking photos was optional. :/

The Biology students were to fill out a worksheet I had made for them.  They were to find, identify, and sketch three different trees, water plants, birds, amphibians, and record if they found anything  hadn’t listed on the worksheet.

The students took off….

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Beach to the left.  And sunshine all around.

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Jen Mauser and I took off after some lunch and came across raccoon tracks.  That is Jen’s shadow below.  Looks just like her!

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Once we returned to the starting point, my daughter realized photography wasn’t optional, so she took a few photos of a different kind of wild life. 😀

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I didn’t know she was also taking pictures of me.   We are also doing an insect board and most of the students brought something to collect insects in.  Here I am with a student trying to catch a flying creature.

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It was a great day all around.  The two classes worked well together and everyone enjoyed themselves.  This is one of my favorite places to be. 🙂

Come back tomorrow to find out what we did find.

The Inside of a Frog

The last animal dissection of the year!  WOOT!

Nice picture, huh?

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Handing out the specimens is always fun.  It’s like handing out cupcakes!  The students love it. LOL

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Yep, the students line up with their trays and receive this totally cool gift.  Yes, the specimens do have a smell, but not as bad as when I was in school.

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For this experiment, I made a worksheet for them to fill out.  It had fill in the blanks and very little sketching.  I wanted them to really work hard on the dissection instead of spending most of their class time sketching.

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I used the following websites to put my worksheet together.

I picked some things from each link and added some things of my own to make a good worksheet.  You can do the same or just use their worksheets. 🙂

As always we begin our experiment by looking at the exterior of the specimen.  We found all to be females and thankfully none had eggs.  I don’t like dealing with the eggs.  blah….

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Then we move to the inside.  Love, love, love the double injected specimens.  Arterial system is injected with red latex and the hepatic system is injected with blue latex .  Thumbs up all around!

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I think all of the students were glad when this was over.  It got busy real fast and I didn’t get as many photos as I wanted.  You can see previous post with some great photos.

Frog Guts – 2011

Here are some extra helpful links for frog dissection.

Youtube also has lots of videos that are useful.

Enjoy!

Invertebrates – Continued

Exploring Creation with Biology – Module 11  Invertebrates 😀  Ya’ll know you want to hear more about worms.  Plus some other goodies I want to share.

See yesterday’s post.

Classification:

  • Kingdom:  Animalia
  • Phylum:  Annelida (segmented worm)
  • Class: Clitellata (has a clitellum)
  • Order: Haplotaxida
  • Family: Lumbricidae  (33 species)
  • Genus: Lumbricus

Some interesting facts I found around on the web.

  • Length can be around 3 inches to 11 inches
  • Roughly 2700 different kinds of earthworms
  • In 1 acre of land there can be more than 1 million worms.
  • Largest worm found was 22 feet long. South Africa.  😯
  • Worms are cold blooded
  • Baby worms hatch from cacoons
  • If their skin dries out they die
  • If their skin absorbs too much water, they drown.
  • They are made of 80% water.
  • Worms are excellent composters and are used in many compost piles.  See Vermicomposting.
  • They aerate the soil and move nutrients around.
  • They have both male and female sexual reproductive organs.
  • They usually live 3 to 4 years.

And here are the awesome photos that I showed in a powerpoint.  Yep, oversized in your face worm guts.

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Pretty aren’t they?  Feel free to copy and use in your class.  You could even use them for wallpaper in your bedroom.   You’re welcome!

Let’s back track to the beginning of the module, because I totally forgot to blog about it.

There are three types of symmetry: Spherical Symmetry, Radial Symmetry, and Bilateral Symmetry.   Humans are Bilateral.  To prove that we may look the same on the left and right sides, but actually are not, I took mugshots of each of the students.  Them I promptly lost a couple somewhere inside my computer and had to use different photos that were not really mugshots.

I tried to slice the faces (That sounds bad, doesn’t it?), straight down through the nose.  These kids didn’t look weird as previous students.  I was seriously bummed about that, but you can still see a difference when the left sides are paired together and the right sides are paired together.

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Oliver

That was fun. 🙂

Now on to my favorite videos for this module.  I whole heartily belive sometimes you need a video done in real life to get the wow factor in Biology.  Just learning how a sponge pulls water through its walls and out its osculum isn’t as exciting as seeing the real thing.

Barrel Sponge Filtering Water  – really nice video showing a sponge filtering water.  Must see, of course.

Oh and jellyfish or other animals that have nematocysts that sting.  Yeah, not so exciting as seeing the real thing.  Here are two videos for you.

Nematocysts Firing – no sound

Jellyfish Stinging Microscopic Slow Motion – This video is just over 6 minutes but worth watching.   It does speak of evolution, so please preview before showing to the students.

Moon Jellyfish Life Cycle – no sound.

As always, don’t read the comments on YouTube.  Want a way to see the videos without all the comments and unwanted videos on the side?  I use Keepvid to download the videos and then show them to the class.

Wow, this is a long post. Thank you for reading it!

Let me know if you have any questions.

Read what we have done in the past here.

Worms

With many groans, I handed out the worms.  This tube of 12″ Earthworms is from www.carolina.com and all were in excellent juicy shape!

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Once the first one was out, most of the students were looking forward to the experiment.

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Except one.  I had to remind everyone in the class that there are NO WIMPY kids in my Biology class.

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I talked a few minutes about each of the systems:  Digestive, Nervous, Circulatory, and Reproductive.  The slimy tube reference in the Reproductive System didn’t go over too well with the students. I kinda went very fast through that system and told them to make sure they read that section.  LOL

First thing first, touch it. 😀  You can name it if you want to.

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The dissection lab and the write-up will be the hardest grade the student will earn.  I warned them with this email message.  Feel free to copy it to you students.  It worked wonders and all had their lab write-ups prior to class.  Next week, I’ll get their final write-ups and let you know how they did.

Ok Students, listen up!

Commence lecturing…

You must have your Exp. 11.3 Worm Dissection, written up before coming to class.  You must read this module before coming to class.  For this experiment you will only be using your notes.  Since lab write-ups are to be written in such a way that anyone can pick it up and perform the experiment, you should be able to complete this assignment without any help from me. laugh

Points to remember:

  • Your lab must be written-up prior to class.
  • Leave your books at home. You don’t need them in class this Tuesday.
  • You will be sketching. Please bring UNLINED paper for your sketches.  This is a High School college prep course. Step up to it.
  • You will make the sketches in a reasonable size.  One inch sketches are not acceptable. Huge kindergarten sketches are not acceptable.
  • Use pencil, not a pen.  Cover your pencil in plastic wrap to protect it from worm guts.  I do have gloves, but they are not to be used for the pencil.
  • You will take your time with this dissection.  You will make detailed sketches. You will not make sloppy sketches.  You will learn something.  You will NOT finish this in 5 minutes.
  • If you need a surgical mask, please bring it.
  • If you need to step out of the room for some air, please do so and come right back.
  • Every student will dissect their own worm.  Every student will complete this dissection.  I know there are no wimpy students in my Biology class.  yes

You have been writing labs since the beginning of this class.  Some of you have done well, some of you have done ok, and some of you have not done so well.  The dissection write-ups will be graded the hardest out of all our write-ups.  Please keep this in mind and do an excellent job with your write-ups.

Terminate lecturing….

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Getting the first cut is a little nerve wracking for the kids.  It isn’t easy to judge how far you should cut through the skin, but it all went well.

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Except for the ones that went a little too far.  Yep, not much left to see there!  Thankfully, I had visuals.   Bigger than life photos of previous dissections.  I will post them tomorrow for your enjoyment. My favorite videos for this module wil also be posted. 🙂

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Only one student brought in a mask. I couldn’t smell it very much, but some of the kids could.  Carolina Biologicals do not use You can read about our specimens from Carolina  here.

Quotes from Carolina: Carolina’s Perfect Solution® – an alternative to formaldehyde – is a revolutionary fixative that produces superior specimens while improving the safety of your classroom or lab. Tissues and organs are extremely lifelike and retain better color and texture than with other preparations.

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Here is a pretty good cut, but this student needed to cut a few more of the septa.  The Septa is the string like thing that separates the worm into sections.  Once you slice those, your worm can be pinned back and expose the organs better.  Was that TMI?

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I would love to say that ALL the students enjoyed this, but… I can’t. Guess who this kid belongs to.

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Enjoy!

Genetics and Spudoodles

This past Tuesday was our last  Biology class before Christmas break.  We are covering Module 8 – Mendelian Genetics.  Which is, genes determine traits.  Each living creature’s has two alleles that make up that trait.  One from the daddy and one from the mommy. 😀

Since we are going to continue with Module 8 when we return after the new year, I spent the class time going over genotype, phenotype, alleles, and dominant alleles and skipped the punnet squares.  To help with this and make this last class time a fun one, we made Spudoodles.   You can see what we did in 2010 and in 2013.   As you can tell in the two posts sometimes the kids are not too thrilled with this project.  Actually only two kids were NOT happy with it.  So, give this project a try, because the majority of the kids like it.   Like this year!

I updated my Spudoodle worksheet to fit this class.  I don’t think I saved a copy, but you can get the previous version here.   I put enough alleles (letters) in each bag to make sure the selection was different.  For example, I made sure some of the spuds were bald, some had 2 legs and some had 4 legs, etc.  Two of the alleles were on lime green paper.  That meant they were mutations.  One spudoodle had long skinny legs, instead of stubby thumb takes.  The other had three ears instead of 2 or 4.

The students were to pick an allele from the blue (dad) bag and one allele from the pink (mom) bag for each trait.  There were 8 traits total.

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Next the students listed what their genotype was (the two alleles), and the phenotype (hair, no hair, curly tail, etc).  Once that was done I gave them a spud with a diaper on it.  I don’t know why I did put a diaper on it, but it was funny.  I did tell the students since parents don’t get to pick their kid, the students don’t pick their spud.

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Then they were to build it using the items I provided.

  • Hair – toothpicks
  • Eyes- brads
  • Nose – gum drops
  • Ears – Gummy bears
  • Mouth – pennies
  • Female – pink straight pen for the head.  I forgot to bring bows.
  • Legs – thumb tacks and long paper clips (mutation)
  • Tail – pipecleaners

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Most of the students had a great time with it.  Like this girl below.

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She said the worksheet was the birth certificate.  She gave it a name, DOB, time, weight, lenght, Mother and Father names, and look to the left you’ll see the spudoodles little foot print.  LOL   This has never happened in my class before. Once she did that, the others followed.  Even the boys.

spud chart

All enjoyed and didn’t mind if I took pictures.  Except for this student.  Yeah, she is excited to have her picture taken.

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See, she is thrilled!   Just so you know, this is my daughter.

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Here is the family portrait!  I just realized there are four with diapers and four without and they are every other one.  That was not planned.  LOL

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Module 7 – Cellular Reproduction and DNA

I believe my class is ready for Christmas break.  The last few Tuesdays, the students have been lethargic.  I thought for sure the extraction of pea DNA would wake them up.  Nope.

It is always a good idea to practice your experiments before going into the classroom.   Rule #1: If it doesn’t work at home, it will not work in the classroom.  Yeah, it really doesn’t.

What you will need:

  • A good blender
  • Toothpicks (long wooden skewers work best)
  • Clear liquid soap  (Dawn works best and we used the blue one)
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Strainer
  • Glass jar
  • Meat tenderizer
  • Rubbing alcohol  (cold)

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I did this experiment at my home the night before co-op.  I used Sam’s Club antibacterial hand soap with light moisturizers.  It didn’t work, people.  It didn’t even work the next day at co-op.  See Rule #1 above.

The next week, we begin again.  We follow the directions and whirl some peas around.

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Then strain the liquid out using a tea strainer.

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Add the soap. This time I used the blue DAWN liquid dish soap.  The experiment said to use clear, but I didn’t have any.  We had no problem with the blue soap.

A coffee stick was used to stir.  A wooden skewer works so much better.

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After adding cold Rubbing Alcohol (I put it in the refrigerator), there is DNA!  Woo-hoo.  Students did not care. LOL

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The white stringy stuff is the DNA.  Looks like nose goo.  Lovely.

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If you use a long wooden skewer, the DNA will stick to it and you’ll be able to bring the DNA out of the jar for a closer look.

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Please have a look at my post from 2009, DNA from Peas!    I don’t know how we did it, but this is the best example of this experiment.

I am sorry for not keeping up with what is going on in Biology.  This week I have several post scheduled to get us caught up, then we break for Christmas.

Enjoy!