The expression "hands-on, minds-on" summarizes the philosophy we have incorporated in these activities -- namely, that students will learn best if they are actively engaged and if their activities are closely linked to understanding important biological concepts. For example, it is helpful to use hands-on models to engage student interest and foster multiple modality learning, but it is crucial to closely link the modeling activity to student understanding of the actual biological processes. Many of our activities are somewhat similar to other versions available elsewhere on the Web or in print (as indicated in our acknowledgments), but the hands-on, minds-on versions offered here generally have a greater focus on linking the activity to student understanding and learning of important biological concepts.
Some of our activities are closely aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards , as indicated by (NGSS) in the descriptions  and described in the Teacher Preparation Notes for these activities.
Our activities cover a broad range of biological topics. They are listed in one possible effective sequence for learning biology. The introductory activities  help students to learn about the characteristics of life, metabolism, organic compounds, diffusion  and osmosis , and experimental method. The mitosis, meiosis and fertilization activity  is closely linked to the basic genetics activity , since understanding of the behavior of chromosomes during meiosis and fertilization provides the basis for understanding genetics. Three additional genetics activities  provide options for more in-depth learning concerning genetics. The two molecular biology activities  can be used in sequence to teach students about the structure and function of DNA and RNA, including how the genes in DNA provide the instructions for making proteins. The topics for the next group of activities include evolution by natural selection , exponential growth of populations , and introductions to plant  and invertebrate diversity . The last group of activities is concerned with several aspects of human physiology , and the heart rate activity  provides another opportunity to reinforce student understanding of scientific method.
We encourage you to use our Word files to modify the Student Handouts to optimize learning for your students. For example, you may want to incorporate some of the suggestions from the Teacher Preparation Notes. The Teacher Preparation Notes for each activity provide learning goals, recommended prior knowledge, suggestions for implementation including supplies needed, relevant biological information, and suggestions for follow-up or related activities.
We often revise our activities to improve student learning, based on our teaching experience and suggestions from the middle school and high school teachers we work with and other users of this website. If an activity is new or has been significantly improved within the last few years, the name of the activity is followed by the date of the current version.
We invite you to use the Comments link below for general comments or the comments links for each activity to add your suggestions, questions or comments. If you prefer, you can send a private message to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Ingrid Waldron is Professor Emerita in the Biology Department at the University of Pennsylvania, and Jennifer Doherty is a post-doctoral researcher of science education at Michigan State University. They have developed hands-on, minds-on biology activities for grades 6-12 in collaboration with colleagues at Penn and K-12 teachers.
We appreciate past support for Jennifer Doherty from a School District of Philadelphia Mathematics and Science Partnerships sub-award and from an NSF GK-12 grant to the University of Pennsylvania. We are grateful to Craig Douglas for his generous help with graphics.