Tag Archives: Apologia Biology

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.


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.


A Hunting We Will Go…

One of the big projects I have the Biology students do for months is insect collecting.   All students are required to obtain, classify, and pin to a board 30 insects.

This project is announced early in the year, so the kids can start looking.  Here in Florida it is usually easy to find insects, so I do not accept the excuse that they couldn’t find any.  Really? In Florida!

To help with the hunt, I took the students on an optional Field Trip to a local park.  This park is known for its bugs, except for this day. :/

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Here is the group heading down the path.   As you can see, this looks like it would be a great place for a hunt.

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We looked high and low and found only iddy biddy bugs.  These bugs were so small we had to put them in bags to pin them to the board.

Here I am trying to coax a few critters to give up their life for the insect board.  It didn’t work.  Yeah, they knew we were coming…

On a brighter note, I am sporting my new day pack, Osprey Sirrus 24 in Summit Blue.  It is bright for my outdoor adventures, but it was the only pack that would fit me.  Ignore the ugly pink shirt.

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We get to a bridge and I want a group picture.  While posing a bug flies into our vicinity.  One student takes advantage of the situation.

Camp Tomahawk 025The bug tries to escape by flying from a student’s face to my face.  The student in the hat, does not give up and doesn’t care he is about to smack his teacher in the face to get the insect.  Since I love students who don’t give up, I can handle the smack. 😀

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Finally!  Bug in jar and photo taken.  Hooray!

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Even though this was a moderately unsuccessful bug hunt, the trip as really nice. The weather was great, the kids had fun, the flowers are pretty, and I got to wear my new pack. Thumbs up all around. 😀

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Get outside!

Perch Dissection!

Module 13 in Exploring Creation Biology – Phylum Chordata.  This is where vertebrates are found.  Yes, this is where humans are classified, right along with this lovely Perch. 😀

Look at these lovies!  Nice big specimens.

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We pray for great weather when it is time for the Perch dissection.  Yes, it does smell and having that smell in the co-op building just before lunch, is not a good thing.  Trust me.

We use meat trays instead of dissection trays and plastic table covers for easy clean up.  I REALLY hate cleaning dissection trays.

Here is my class getting ready for the fun.

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After examining the outside and taking notes, we looked at the gills.

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Then the students were to pull out one of the gills and have a look at it.  Most were ok with doing that.  It wasn’t an easy thing to do.  Scissors and tweezers were needed to pull the gills out.

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Then it was time to look in the inside.  Eww…. Most of the students said they could not cut the through the scales.  Most likely an excuse not to have to cut through it. 😀  They stopped complaining when I took an extra fish and made a perfect cut.

And as always once in side, the students play around. Fish guts, anyone?

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Stomachs were cut open, but all were empty.  I guess they did not get a last meal.

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The brain has always been difficult for us to find.  Somewhere in the mess below, is the brain.

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After all work has been completed, we just roll everything up in the plastic table covers, through it in a bag and it is done.   All that is left is a pile of tools to wash.

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For this experiment and most other, students are required to type up their lab before coming to class.  This assures me they will actually read what they are going to attempt.

To add to their lab write-up I printed these worksheets for them to label.  I did have to white-out the words, so the student can fill it in.  They had an exterior and interior diagram to labels.

The following websites are also a big help.


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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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.


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


Physical Change/Chemical Change/Edible DNA all in one post!

Exploring Creation with Biology

Module 5 – The Chemistry of Life

Sometimes it is hard to explain the difference between Physical Change and Chemical Change.  I don’t know why that is,but it is hard.

Physical Change –  A change that does not produce a new substance and is usually reversable.

Chemical Change – A change that makes a new substance and usually cannot be reversed.

Best way to get this idea across is with Play-Dough!  If I had time in the classroom I would have made homemade play-dough.  This would be a perfect example of Chemical Change.  Take salt, water, cream of tartar, food coloring etc… mix it, add heat and Wah-lah you have changed the ingredients into Play-Dough.  It cannot be undone.  Want a recipe for this?  You can find an Easy Homemade Play-dough recipe here.

It is sad that I did not have time to do that.  I handed each student one color of play dough.  I explained how the play-dough is made and that is a Chemical Change.  While they are playing around and sculpting, I explain Physical Change.

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I thought for sure they would just make balls or snakes, or a block.  You know, something not extraordinary.  Nope, the girls above made a petri dish and a pink butterfly.

Another student made a DNA strand, while another student (not even in my class, but likes to visit) made a snowman. LOL  My daughter below, got busy sculpting.

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She made a very cute elephant.  Is the elephant still play-dough?  Can it be squished back into the container or into another shape?  Why, yes it can!  That’s Physical Change, folks.

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There was only one class time for this module and it really needs to  be at least two.  Because of this I did not get into the Proteins, Enzymes, Carbohydrates, Acids and Bases, as much as I wanted.   With only 20 minutes left of the class, I gave the kids the fun project of making their own Edible DNA.  You can find the instructions at Teach Genetics.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have colored marshmallows.  We used gummy bears instead.  Marshmallows work a WHOLE LOT better.

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The kids started building, while also consuming copious amounts of Twizzlers and gummy bears.

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Yummy!  Edible DNA.  If you use marshmallows, the twist is easier and looks better too.  However; gummy bears taste better than colored marshmallows!

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After the photo below was taken, all Twizzlers and gummy bears were gone.  The girl second from the left ate seven Twizzlers and countless number of gummies.  The boy with the awesome spider shirt was so overloaded with sugar, he was bouncing off the walls in his English class.  That was his mom’s class.  She was thrilled.  That’s what I keep telling myself.

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Besides making the DNA, the students had to fill out a worksheet.  You can find my DNA worksheet here.  I will see if I can find a completed worksheet to post here, so you can see how they do it.

Have fun with play-dough and candy.

Mold, mold, and More Mold.

We continue to study Module 4- Kingdom Fungi.  This experiment the students were required to grow mold.  They were to put something aside for about two weeks in hopes that it will grow something fuzzy.

This is our collection of goodies.  The left is homemade jello and the right is homemade whole wheat bread.  They had been sitting in the garage for about 4 days with little to no evidence of growing hair.  So we brought it in and hid it in the back of the pantry.


And this is what happened to the bread a few days later.  The jello was also finely covered in different colored mold.   So, the forgotten dark corners of the pantry is the best place to grow mold in our home. 🙂

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Students, as usual, looked at the specimens and made sketches.

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During this experiment, it might be wise to bring in surgical masks.

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Some giggled the whole time.

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Right after class we all enjoyed lunch with some friends.  Yes, lunch is right after Biology class.  It was planned that way, I am sure.

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Here is a video that I showed my class last year.  I forgot about it this year and ended up sending it as a link.  It was not shown to my daughters.  I am pretty sure one of them would be ill afterwards.

Cordyceps: attack of the Fungi

Enjoy the show!

Kingdom Protista

Exploring Creation through Biology – Module 3

For this module I like to find several videos to show the students, because they get more interested when they see the real thing in action.  I mean real as in a video of a Protista.

My favorite video is the Amoeba Feeding on a single cell organism.  It is in real time and the organism doesn’t know what is happening until it is too late.  Feel free to do what I do, start speak for the organism by screaming at the appropriate time.  Ahhhhhhh!!!!

Some other videos I like to share are:

Paramecium eating pigmented yeast.


Flagella & Cilia

Naegleria fowleri – brain eating amoeba  – Lisa in the comments below, mentioned the brain eating amoeba.  It is fascinating and terrifying all at the same time.  I wouldn’t show this to my students unless all of them asked for it.   We live in Florida where there is abundance of water, warm weather, and water up the nose.   LOL    Here are two more links about this amoeba.  What a great way to start off your week!

Brain-Eating Amoeba – WebMD

Pathogen & Environment – Naegleria fowleri .  This one has a pathogen life cycle chart which is pretty cool.

Thanks Lisa for the mentioning the amoeba that is out to lunch! :_

This module also goes over Symbiosis Relationships.   This is where you can really shine with the kids.  Google images of the different relationships and share with our students.  Especially the Tongue Eating Louse.  Nice!

One more thing.  The Exploring Creation Through…. are know for having horrible photos on their tests.  Once the tests are printed for the student to complete, the photos are so dark the student can’t figure out what it is.   This time around I sent the following images to the parents to show the student when answer question #14 on Module 3 test.

Click on the pictures to get to the webpage they came from. 🙂




Life in a Drop of Water

Warning:  Be careful with the laser light.  Don’t look at it.  Be careful.  Use some common sense.  😀

Project came from Hackaday and has a better video.

We can use a syringe and a green laser light to observe specimens in a drop of pond water.  As the laser shines through the drop of water, the light slows down and refract causing the image to look larger on the wall.  Check out Drop Magnifier to learn more on how this really works.

I was excited to show this to my class again this year.    This video was taken at home.  We don’t have a large screen, so we taped two sheets of white paper on the wall.  It works best on a large white board.

To help keep the laser steady and hold the dropper, I had my daughter build a Lego Tower.  She did a fine job.

building stand

The large syringe was donated to us by a co-op member, who is a nurse.   🙂  Nurses are happy to supply sterile q-tips, surgical masks, syringes, and barf bags in the name of science.   So give a nurse a hug and ask her for a syringe for this project.

This is a 60 CC syringe. It gave a pretty good size drop at the tip, which is what I wanted to make it easier to shine the laser through.

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The tower held the syringe very well, but I had to adjust the angle of the laser to get the beam just right through the drop of water.  It is kind of tricky to get the laser just right. It would be easier to tape down the switch to keep the light on, without having to hold it down with a finger.

Students enjoyed this and they got to see life in a drop of water.