Category Archives: homeschooling

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!

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First Day of Biology

Class went ok. I was not completely organized and I got off track. I have no idea if the students even noticed, since 6 out of the 7 attending had glazed eyeballs. 🙂

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Usually the first day of a high school Biology class can be a little scary, but it will all work out very soon.  I think they enjoyed playing with the microscopes.

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Well, maybe some enjoyed it more than others. LOL

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This coming Tuesday we will check out our cheek cells.

A Sciencey Rant

I am not a person who cleans their house.  I actually hate housework and it shows. Which is why I never want Kristy to visit my house.  It isn’t going to happen, unless our house is up for sale because then it just might be clean.

That said, I do care about other people’s property.  I make sure that the area I am visiting or the items I am borrowing stay nice and tidy. After a year off from Biology, I needed to check what slides needed to be replaces.  A class was taught late year and used the equipment, so I figured a few slides, blades, and such needed to be replaced.  So, when I opened the Biology supply bucket from our co-op, I was shocked to see the mess it was in.  This is the science cabinet that I took apart and reorganized. I had expected the supply box to be fairly clean when I opened it.

This is partly what I saw. Prepared slides that should be neatly stashed in a slide box, were just thrown in the storage bin.   Some were scratched and very dirty. Lots of things just thrown on top of them.  These slides are expensive and should be well taken care of.

20140725_202842 Dissection tools were not cleaned.  In fact, I don’t even think they made it to a sink to be cleaned.    Most of the scalpels still had blades on them and they were usually stored with the sharp side up.  Now that is what I call a safety issue.  The light colored things you see in the upper left corner are fish scales and other pieces parts.  Yes they are.

20140725_202908 So people, even if you are messy at home, please take the time to clean up after yourself when you use other people’s belongings.  Especially if you are using science equipment!

That is the end of my RANT.

Now on a slightly different topic…. I placed my order with Home Science Tools this week.  Even though I received a 10% off discount, the total came to around $2.00 over my budgeted amount.  It turns out the amount of shipping I budgeted for was a few dollars less.

I decided to look at shipping options.  I wasn’t in a complete hurry so thought the ground shipping would work better.  Turns out ground shipping was already selected. Hmmm… Looking at UPS I see the shipping is CHEAPER!  Who knew!  It brought down my order under budget by a $1.00!  AND I get it in about three days.

The lesson here is to always check for the cheapest shipping! The cheapest may not be ground shipping.

In one week, I’ll be ordering the specimens!  Woo-Hoo!

I Built a Calorimeter and Determined the Specific Heat of a Metal

That title sounds like I am awesome smart doesn’t it?

In reality, I just stuck two Styrofoam cups together and plugged numbers into an equation.  Do I still sound awesome smart?  Didn’t think so.

We just finished Module 2 of Exploring Creation with Chemistry by Jay Wile. For Experiment 2.2 a calorimeter is needed to perform the experiment.  Styrofoam cups are a great insulators, so they work well as a calorimeter.

A calorimeter is a device used to measure quantities of absorbed or released heat or for determining specific heats.

Lab 2.2 requires two styrofoam cups, but does not state there should be a top on the cups. I kept thinking a lot of heat will be lost out the top.  So, I took a look in the All Lab, No Lecture book and it gives instructions on how to make a lid for the cups.

You need two circles for each calorimeter.  I made one for each student to save time in the classroom.  I bought two thick foam sheets from Michale’s and cut one 3 1/8″ diameter and the other 2 3/4″ diameter.

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Elemer’s Glue was used to glue the first two together, which didn’t work very well.  A hot glue gun works a lot better.   Glue the smaller circle to the larger one.

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Drill a hole through the center of both lids.  The hole needs to be big enough for the thermometer to slip through.

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The smaller side sits down into the cup, while the larger side sits on top of the cup.  This helps trap in the heat to get a more accurate measurement.

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Now to figure the specific heat of a metal:

A large piece of metal measuring at least 30 grams is needed.  Two heavy nuts were used to get the amount of mass I needed for the experiment.  Measurements are below.

We need the metal heated to 100 ºC, boiling point. Once the metal was heated to 100 ºC, they were quickly removed and placed in the calorimeter, and lid closed.

The thermometer was gently swirled to get the heat distributed evenly.

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Record keeping is essential in Chemistry. Always record all numbers.

  • Mass of the metal. 37grams
  • The calorimeter  was weighted to get the mass.  9grams
  • Water was added to the calorimeter and measured again.  124grams
  • The difference is the mass of the water.  115grams
  • Initial temperature of the water.  26 °C
  • Final temperature of the water.  28 °C
  • Initial temperature of metal.  100 °C

Now we can calculate the specific heat of the metal, using the following equations (these are explained in Exploring Creation With Chemistry :

  • q = m •  c •  ΔT
  • -q object = q water + q calorimeter

And here is a photo of my work.

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The specific heat of the two nuts was .36 J/g°C

Each of my students had similar results.

Please do not ask me to explain my calculations.  I cannot do that over the internet.  🙂

Chemistry

Have Pencil, Will Sharpen

Today, the first time in the history of Applie’s Place, I am interviewing someone.  I know, shocking, but I like the product she sells well enough to interview her.

What do I get out of this?  Nothing, Nada, Noodle.  When you get all the way to the end of this interview and place your order (and you will), please tell her Applie sent you. 🙂

Now let me introduce to you, Deb of Not Inadequate blog and the seller of the Best Pencil Sharpener Ever!

Retro Blue

 

1. Stand, raise your right hand, and put your left hand on the Bible.  State your name.

My name is Harriet Moon Gazer Wolfenschnitzel

2. Oh, that is nice.  Perhaps you shouldn’t have put your hand on the Bible. So how did you become Not Inadequate?

Not Inadequate is a running joke in my house. After college, I got a job working as an estimator at a construction company. It was one of those I-took-the-first-job-I-was-offered jobs out of the panic that after 5 years of school I still had no marketable skills, just a big old pile of student loans. It was the most boring job I have ever had. I got stuck in a teeny office in the back corner with a ruler and a big set of drawings. After a few weeks, I asked my boss how I was doing. After a brief pause, he gave me the best answer ever, “You’re not inadequate.”

It probably goes without saying that I got sacked.

So now, of course, whenever my husband and I ask each other things like How Was Dinner or What Do You Think of These Shoes, you can guess what answer comes back.

3. How long have you been homeschooling?

I started homeschooling when Big was 4 (he’ll be 9 soon), in a giant, over-achieving fit of over-achieverness. In retrospect, I should have saved my energy for 3rd grade.

4. Do you enjoy it?

I don’t know if ENJOY is the right word, exactly. It’s more like it gives me a great sense of satisfaction, and I am passionate about it and this lifestyle. The day to day can be wearing, as it is in anything.

5. What is your favorite part?

My favorite part is…can I say my favorite part is when everyone is in bed and I can watch The Real Housewives? No? I have lots of favorite parts, one being that we are not slaves to someone else’s schedule. Another being that the kids have great stretches of time when they can do whatever they want. Playing, thinking, daydreaming… I see value in those.

6. Homeschooling is hard, but very worth it.  Between homeschooling your kids and watching The Real Housewives, you must have gotten some extraordinary advice from experienced homeschool moms. Moms like me who obviously rock this homeschool thing…if only in our dreams.  Did the encouragement help you want to help other homeschool parents?

I HAVE gotten a LOT of excellent homeschooling advice from you and other more experienced homeschool moms. I am often very grateful for the support I get from my imaginary internet friends; if you all knew how much I adored you, you’d collectively take out a restraining orders. I like to help other moms too, but that might just be because I am bossy. Or awesome. One of those.  

7. What do you do to bring in income and help homeschoolers deal with their pencil obsessions?

Is this where I smoothly segue into the Best Pencil Sharpener Ever?

For a while I have been trying to figure out what I could do to develop another income stream for our family without having to get a job. I’ve been fired a lot. I feel like that is a clue I should work for myself. Plus I really believe in our product, The Best Pencil Sharpener Ever.

8. How fascinating! Did you know that I have not one, but TWO of those sharpeners?  One is in our home.  We keep one in our camper, because we all know homeschoolers can travel anywhere any time and still get homework done.

I DID know that! How do you like them?

I love them.  My girls love them.  My friends love them.  In fact, we have teachers standing in line to use The Best Pencil Sharpener Ever instead of the electric kind, during our group testing.

9. Why do you like The Best Pencil Sharpener Ever so much that you wanted to sell them?

I went through a bunch of truly awful sharpeners when we started homeschooling. They were loud and they didn’t DO anything, they just chewed up the pencils. It was annoying. I don’t like being annoyed. When I discovered The Best Pencil Sharpener Ever, I was so happy! And then I started telling other homeschool-y friends about them, and they had no idea about these great sharpeners. They were still trapped in the Buy-One-Every-Year cycle. And I realized that homeschoolers were a great, untapped market for the sharpeners. If anyone needs a good sharpener, it’s homeschoolers. I told the guy I bought mine from that homeschoolers would fall on these sharpeners like ravenous hyenas, but he wasn’t interested. So I asked him if he’d let us try, and Here We Are.

Oh so we are ravenous hyenas?  I resemble that statement often.

10.  Does it sharpen crayons? No.  Lipstick?  No. That’s a shame.

11. Does it come in red? Check. Fantastic!  In case you didn’t know, red is my favorite color. Green? Check. Purple? No. And no one is sadder about that than my daughter.

The best color ever!

My daughter is also sad that purple is not available.  Black? Coming soon.  Ooo, a manly color.  I can see all the husbands wanting one for the garage now.

12. Explain the Carl Bungu Ryodo sharpener?  Why is it different?

I would say if you were purchasing a sharpener for an artist, the Carl Bungu Ryodo is the better sharpener. You can control the sharpness of the pencil, which is a useful feature. The Ryodo also has padded grips that draw the pencils into the mechanism. If you buy very expensive or specialty pencils, such as Blackwings, it will not mar the surface at all. Best Pencil Sharpener Ever is the only place in the U.S. selling Carl Bungu Ryodo – we import them especially from Japan. They are the Rolls Royce of sharpeners. Plus they do offer a very sleek and cool look.

The very classy Carl Bungu Ryodo Sharpener

15. Tell us about the Retro Sharpeners?

If you are purchasing a sharpener that needs to withstand the abuse kids can dish out, then I would recommend a Retro Sharpener. The Retro has metal grips that draw the pencil into the mechanism, and they will leave little dents in your pencil. This does not bother me, since my kids are just using regular Ticonderoga pencils to do their math (or Black Warriors if I am feeling generous). They’ve carried their car sharpener and their Retro sharpener around for 4 years, banging them and dropping them and in general being not-very-careful, and they are still working like champs. I just sharpened a dozen pencils yesterday and got the same perfect point I got the first day I used it.

16. Between the Carl Bungu Ryodo and the Retro sharpener, which one would you suggest a homeschooler purchase?

I’d say it depends on what pencils you plan to sharpen, who will be using it, and how much you care about keeping your pencil barrels blemish-free.

17. This might be off topic but, do you like it when I post about insects?

I like it when you post about insects. I’m less enthusiastic when you post about guts. But overall, I like you plenty.

19. Great!  Now where can people buy this Best Pencil Sharpener Ever?

http://www.bestpencilsharpenerever.com/

Cool.  Very cool.

Friends go get thyself the Best Pencil Sharpener Ever.  Tell them Applie sent you. 😀  After that go tell all your friends about this awesome product.

Cutest Pencil Sharpener EVER!

Calibrating a Thermometer

Apologia Chemistry  – What’s happening at my co-op.

Did you know that most thermometers are not accurate?  I had no idea.

In Module 2 we learned the boiling point of water measured in Fahrenheit is 212 degrees.  In Celsius it is 100 degrees.  The freezing point of water measured in Fahrenheit is 32 degrees, while in Celsius it is zero degrees.

This may not be a surprise to any of you and it certainly isn’t a surprise to me.  However; I have always had to ask someone what is the boiling point of water in Fahrenheit or Celsius, because I forget…until now.  It clicked.  I remember it.  I’m like Dorie in Finding Nemo.

Fahrenheit 212 boiling.  Fahrenheit 32 freezing.
Celsius 100 boiling.  Celsius 0 freezing.
Hey, I remembered.  Want me to say it again?  Ok…..

Please tell me that is something to be proud of.

Back to class!

Each student is given a thermometer (Celsius) they will be working with throughout the year.  To accurately calibrate the thermometers we have to find where the measurement stops at freezing.

We used crushed ice and cold water.  After a set amount of time, they take the temp.  If it is below zero, they are to add whatever to get to zero.  If it was above zero they are to subtract whatever to get to zero.  Any time the students use their thermometer they have to make adjustments on every measurement.

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You know, I don’t think the kids can get more excited.

Once the thermometer is calibrated, we set the beaker on a hot burner to start warming up the water.  They were to take the temp. every minute and hopefully get to boiling.

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Four students heated their waters, while one recorded their mesurement.  Since I could do this experiment at home, my daughter was the one to do the recording.

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Keep on stirring.  We never made it to boiling.  Hot plates and alcohol burners are not chemistry experiment friendly.  ug…..

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The students made a graph of the temperature to time.  What it should show, and it does here, is that the freezing point remains the same for a short time and then rises.  What it should also show, but doesn’t because we couldn’t get it to boil, is once it hits boiling at 100 C, the temp remains the same as long as it is a rolling boil.

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Once home, the daughter and I performed the same experiment.  We put the beaker right on the burner.  Oh, you noticed I have a beaker in my home.  Are you asking if I have Chemistry equipment in my home?  Why yes.  Yes, I do. I’ll post about all the Chemistry goodies I have later.

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When it is at a rolling boil, can’t be stirred down, the temp should read 100 degrees C.   My daughter’s thermometer calibrated at -1.  That means she has to add 1 to all of her measurements with this thermometer.

As you can see here, the temp stopped at 99 degrees.  Adding 1 makes it 100, where it should be.

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That, people, is calibrating a thermometer. 🙂

Last post on Biology – WHOOO-RAH!!

Over the past year I had problems with the computer and with my laziness, both make a bad combination for posting to a blog.

So, here I am trying to recap some things we did in Biology and share a few more printables.  And maybe, just maybe, I’ll organize what I have on here a little better.   Just checked; my last post on Biology was in January. That is sad.

Ok, here we go.

Once again we did the GMO Spuds aka Spudoodles.  These are awesome. Usually the students love them.

However; 2012/2013 school year brought on a whole new type of students.  I think all but one was less than thrilled to be in my class. It was a challenge this year and I think I learned from it. 🙂

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You really can’t see the Spudoodles here.  All of my photos and work from last year is on an external hard drive.  These are all I have for now.  My daughter is on the right.  Doesn’t she look excited?

The biggest problem I had this year, was the kids DID NOT like how their spudoodles looked. Even after I told them they HAD NO CHOICE in what it looked like.  For example this girl hated the two curly tails.

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It was a great opportunity to ask one important question:

What genetic trait did God give you, that your parents would like to get rid of?

The Spudoodles are done just after learning the Punnett Square, which is used to predict the odds of receiving a particular trait.  To make the class time more efficient, I made the following printables.  I didn’t want to waste time in the classroom while the students drew the punnett squares.   They are here for you to print as you see fit.

Also did the insect board.

Due to sick kids, I had to cancel the field trip to Guana River.

I have to say.  I am glad Biology is over and I am moving on to another Apologia Science; Chemistry.

Anyone who is following this blog and enjoying the Biology posts, please let me know if you have any question.

Have a happy school 2013/2014 school year!