Biology/Life Science

Plant seed dispersal

Author(s): SEP staff

Plant seed dispersal

The lesson starts with the puzzling question how a lone palm tree came to grow on a small island that has no other palm trees on it and introduces students to the idea of seeds being dispersed by water. Students then observe a number of different seeds, focusing on different seeds structures that could aid dispersal through wind, animals and water and then test their predictions.

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Yeast Mutagenesis

Author(s): Kamena Kostova, Darienne Myers, Larry Cohbra

Yeast Mutagenesis

In this laboratory investigation, students learn the concept of mutagenesis and explore how different substances can act as mutagens. The experiment utilizes a strain of yeast that lacks several DNA repair mechanisms, allowing it to accumulate mutations after exposure to mutagens. Students expose this strain of yeast to everyday substances (soda, soap, Aspirin, glue, etc.) and record the effects. Using this data, students will infer the affect of these substances on living organisms. 

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Amylase Experiment 2.0

Author(s): Sam Pollock, Daniel Hensley, Deb Apple

Amylase Experiment 2.0

Students will use the amylase starch digestion experiment to see enzymes in action. After they've done a run-through of the basic protocol, they'll add a variable of their choosing in a student-designed experiment and share their results.

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The Microbial World Around (and In!) Us

Author(s): Kaitlyn Lucey, Leslie Tong, JoAnn Knecht

The Microbial World Around (and In!) Us

In the first lesson in this two-part series, students are introduced to the concept of microbes by collecting samples to grow on agar Petri dishes. They will isolate colonies and perform two biochemical tests that microbiologists regularly use to identify bacteria. 

Overall Lesson Plan Layout:

1. Students will complete the pre-lab worksheet to assess prior knowledge and to address misconceptions. 

2. The attached presentation will be used to accompany the lesson (See attachment). 

3. Microbial diversity is introduced by:

- Showing a video

- Doing an activity (as a class)

4. The students are divided into groups of three for the hands-on work. Within these groups students pass around the petri dish so that each student can analyze it closely, and then they alternate between transferring colonies onto fresh agar media. Those students who are not transferring colonies can either watch the student who is doing so or draw the streak technique in their notebooks as practice until their turn. (Details for this activity are described below)

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Neuronal Signaling and Pain

Author(s): Chuchu Zhang, Amanda Paulson, Tom Dallman

Neuronal Signaling and Pain

The lesson has two parts: part one introduces the nerve circuitry for somatosensation and demonstrates the nature of neuronal signaling - electricity; Part two explores the concept of an action potential.

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Problems in Meiosis Lead to Disease

Author(s): Tiffani Quan, Elizabeth Pierson, Sabine Jeske

Problems in Meiosis Lead to Disease

This lesson is a variation on the traditional pipe-cleaner simulation of mitosis/meiosis. Initially, students review the normal process of meiosis.  The students are then presented with monosomy and trisomy gametes and asked to work backwards through the stages of meiosis in order to determine where the error may have occurred.  Students are then introduced to the concept of nondisjunction.

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Rainforest Bird Beak Buffet

Author(s): Claudia Scharff

Rainforest Bird Beak Buffet

Students will look at pictures of 5 different rainforest birds and share their similarities and differences.  Each student will be given one of 5 tools and one of 3 cups to represent respectively a beak and stomach.  Students will go around the room and forage for "food," respresented by fake and real food.  They will discover that their "beak" and "stomach" allow them to eat only certain kinds of of food and consider the implications of this.

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The Lungs and Respiratory System

Author(s): Kimberly Besst, Deborah Rauchwerger, Karen Hauser, Robbie Ruelas,

The Lungs and Respiratory System

Students review what they already know about breathing and the respiratory system. After a brief introduction to the respiratory system, students break into two groups and rotate through two stations. At one station the students observe and touch human lung specimens and discuss the effects of smoking. At the other station, students simulate the effect of astma on breathing.

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Food production, Population growth and GMOs

Author(s): George Cachianes, Raquel Gomes, and Kristin Patrick

Food production, Population growth and GMOs

This interactive lesson is part of a lesson series (3 total) that focuses on topic of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The first lesson focuses on agriculture, food production, natural resources and population growth. The second lesson focuses on GMOs and their possible uses in agriculture as a way to fight world hunger and diminishing resources (this could be a very controversial issue and a great way to get students engaged in their learning). For the final lesson students are asked to (a) research the pros and cons of the use of GMOs in agriculture (b) propose other possible sustainable solutions to the current food crisis (c) propose individual behavioral changes in our daily lives or community solutions to protect our natural resources and avoid a more catastrophic food crisis.

The goal of the first lesson is to get students engaged in current global issues while learning and brainstorming about possible solutions. In this lesson the students are asked to look at data sets from multiple sources and summarize the main points by presenting them to the rest of the class. Student presentations promote discussion between students and help to integrate previously learned concepts such as the food chain, energy pyramid, water cycle, water footprint, flowering plants and agriculture. Additionally, students are introduced to new concepts such as population growth and limited natural resources.

Throughout the presentations the teacher guides the students to draw conclusions and helps them make connections with current world issues. After going through the data, there is a brief presentation on the historical timeline of the development of agriculture. The presentation also introduces the industrial revolution and agriculture's green revolution and their effects on human population growth. Overall, this lesson plan is an introduction to the use of GMOs in agriculture as one of the possible solutions to the current food crisis.

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Mini Medical School - Hematology

Author(s): Rustom Falahati, Megan Robblee, Bonnie Daley

Mini Medical School - Hematology

This is a two-class lesson plan. During the first class students are entered into a "mini-medical school" where they will learn about the functions and components of blood and make a candy model to reflect their relative proportions.  At the end of the class, they graduate medical school as hematologists. The next day they will be presented with a mock patient with a blood disorder. In groups, they will attempt to diagnose the patient using blood smears, results of lab tests, and patient histories.

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Amylase - Exploring digestion and evolution through a molecular machine

Author(s): Becky Fulop, Juliet Girard, Thomas Noriega

Amylase - Exploring digestion and evolution through a molecular machine

The lesson is designed around two sets of experiments. The first set demonstrates that amylase is a digestive enzyme that degrades starch into sugar, can do so repeatedly and, like many enzymes, is sensitive to acid. The second set of experiments demonstrates the variability of amylase activity in different students' saliva. 

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Which Soil Do Plants Like Best? - Part 2, Collecting Data

Author(s): Will Ludington, Evelyn Hernandez, Karla Perez, Katherine Sorber

Which Soil Do Plants Like Best? - Part 2, Collecting Data

Students will explore how plants grow while using the scientific method to conduct an experiment.

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Which Soil Do Plants Like Best? - Part 1, Planting

Author(s): Will Ludington, Evelyn Hernandez, Karla Perez, Katherine Sorber

Which Soil Do Plants Like Best? - Part 1, Planting

Students will explore how plants grow while using the scientific method to conduct an experiment.

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Budding Botanist

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AIMS Education Foundations

Investigate how the structure and function of flowers, leaves, roots, and stems help plants live, grow, and reproduce. Students develop content knowledge along with process skills such as observing, measuring, organizing data, and communicating results.

AIMS: The Budding Botanist

Antigen switching in malaria

Author(s): Mary Kate Alexander

Antigen switching in malaria

In this activity, students will model how the parasitic malaria protist Plasmodium falciparum evades the host immune response through a phenomenon called antigen switching.  Specifically, slips of paper representing malaria-infected red blood cells will be used to demonstrate how random changes in the expression of Plasmodium proteins that display on the surface of human red blood cells helps the parasite avoid destruction by the host immune system.  Students start with a single infected red blood cell with a specific surface marker protein, and from there will simulate the spread of infection through multiple generations of infection (each generation consisting of a parasite infecting a red blood cell, dividing and multiplying inside the red blood cell, then bursting to release new parasites that go on to infect new red blood cells).  Student will find that the parasite occasionally changes the type of surface marker protein expressed over several generations.  When the immune system begins destroying infected cells displaying the original surface protein, cells that have switched to expressing a different protein survive and continue to divide.

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Sheep Heart Dissection

Author(s): Chris Cain and Soroya Wood

Sheep Heart Dissection

Students observe and dissect a sheep heart. In doing so, they learn about how the heart works and what it really looks like.

While this lesson is adaptable for many grade levels, it is a great fit with California's FOSS 5th grade Living Systems kit and that kit's goal of learning the structures and functions of the circulatory system.

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Hands On With Cells - Using Slide Viewers and Microscopes

Author(s): Chris Cain and Soroya Wood

Hands On With Cells - Using Slide Viewers and Microscopes

In this activity students use microscopes and slide viewers to visualize cells and record what they see. Emphasis is on *recording observations*. Students are introduced to new technologies and to the diversity of cells that make up our body and that exist in plants.

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Meet a Land Snail

Author(s): Jennifer Howard and Reba Howard

Meet a Land Snail

In this lesson students will play a guessing game, observe land snails, and create a realistic drawing of a land snail.  At the end of the lesson they will brainstorm things they wonder about Land Snails.

This lesson is alternate or introductory lesson to the FOSS lesson on observing land snails.  Students begin and end the lesson as a whole group and observe either independently or in pairs.

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Perception and the Brain

Author(s): Erin Currie, Eirene Markenscoff-Papadimitriou, SEP Staff

Perception and the Brain

In this lesson, students are introduced to how the brain interprets and uses sensory information from the visual system to guide how the body moves and performs various tasks. This lesson makes use of a specialized set of goggles with prism lenses that shift what the wearer sees. Using these prism goggles, students will see first hand how the brain adapts over time to changes in what we perceive. The lesson also makes a connection to the brain and brain function by giving students a chance to see and touch a preserved brain specimen.

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