activities for teaching biology

Enzymes Help Us Digest Food

In the hands-on activity, Enzymes Help Us Digest Food, experiments with the enzyme lactase and discussion questions help students to learn about enzyme function, enzyme specificity, and the molecular basis for lactose intolerance. Students also learn about the scientific method by interpreting evidence to test hypotheses and designing the second and third experiments to answer specific scientific questions about lactase. An alternative version of the Student Handout which gives specific instructions for all three of the experiments is provided as an attachment below.

Download Student Handout: PDF format or Word format

Download Teacher Preparation Notes: PDF format or Word format

Cellular Respiration and Photosynthesis – Important Concepts, Common Misconceptions, and Learning Activities

This overview of energy, cellular respiration, and photosynthesis summarizes important concepts and common misconceptions and also suggests a sequence of learning activities designed to develop student understanding of these important concepts, overcome any misconceptions, and relate basic concepts to familiar topics such as food, body weight, and plant growth.

The attached file has the key concepts and suggested learning activities.


Where Does a Plant's Mass Come From?

This analysis and discussion activity helps students to understand that a large part of a plant’s mass consists of water, most of the biomass comes from carbon dioxide, and minerals from the soil contribute only a tiny amount of the plant’s mass. This activity is aligned with NGSS standards. For example,students engage in analyzing and interpreting data and arguing from evidence. 

The first attached file has the recommended Student Handout, the second attached file has a more challenging version of the Student Handout, and the third attached file has the Teacher Notes.

Plant Growth Puzzle

This analysis and discussion activity presents a structured sequence of questions to challenge students to explain why a plant that sprouts and grows in the light weighs more than the seed it came from, whereas a plant that sprouts and grows in the dark weighs less than the seed it came from.  

The first attached file has the Student Handout and the second attached file has the Teacher Notes. The Teacher Notes provide background information and instructional suggestions and explain how this activity is aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards.

Photosynthesis & Cellular Respiration

Students use puzzle pieces representing the components of the equations for photosynthesis and aerobic cellular respiration and answer questions about these processes. The attached file has the Student Handout.

Barley and Oat's Brewing Backfire

In this worksheet/discussion activity, students compare aerobic cellular respiration and alcoholic fermentation and then interpret evidence to figure out why a micro-brewer’s beer has no alcohol.  The first attached file has the Student Handout and the second attached file has the Teacher Notes.

Food, Energy and Body Weight

This analysis and discussion activity reinforces student understanding of cellular respiration and helps students to understand the relationships between food, energy, physical activity, and changes in body weight. 

The first attached file has the Student Handout and the second attached file has the Teacher Notes. The Teacher Notes provide background information and instructional suggestions and explain how this activity is aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards.


Cellular Respiration and Breathing

The questions in this worksheet/discussion activity help students understand the relationship between cellular respiration, O2, CO2, and breathing. The first attached file has the Student Handout and the second attached file has the Teacher Notes.

Understanding the Functions of Proteins and DNA

This overview provides a sequence of learning activities to help students understand that proteins and DNA are not just abstract concepts in biology textbooks, but rather crucial components of our bodies that affect functions and characteristics that students are familiar with. Students learn about how proteins contribute to the digestion of food and to characteristics such as albinism, sickle cell anemia and hemophilia. Then, students learn about the relationship between the genetic information in DNA and the different versions of these proteins. The discussion, web-based, and hands-on learning activities presented are appropriate for an introductory unit on biological molecules or as an introduction to a unit on molecular biology. This activity is aligned with NGSS standards.

The attached file has the key concepts and suggested learning activities.

Macromolecules Jeopardy

This game reviews introductory chemistry, including organic compounds and chemical reactions.

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