Hands-on Biology Activities

Photosynthesis Investigation

In the first section of the lab, Photosynthesis Investigation, students learn how to use the floating leaf disk method to measure the rate of net photosynthesis (i.e. the rate of photosynthesis minus the rate of cellular respiration). They compare the rate of net photosynthesis in water vs. a solution of sodium bicarbonate. The questions in this section guide students in reviewing the relevant biology and interpreting their results. In the second section of this activity, student groups develop hypotheses about factors that influence the rate of net photosynthesis, and then each student group designs and carries out an investigation to test the effects of one of these factors. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout: PDF format or Word format

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

Hands-on Activities for Teaching Biology to High School and Middle School Students

 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. 

Some of our activities are explicitly aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards, as indicated by (NGSS) in the descriptions and described in the Teacher Preparation Notes for these activities.

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. To accommodate limited budgets, most of our activities can be carried out with minimum equipment and expense for supplies.

Introduction to Osmosis

This activity begins with a student investigation of the phenomenon of osmosis and then moves to analysis of the mechanism and implications of osmosis. In Part I, "What is happening to these eggs?" students observe and analyze the effects of osmosis on eggs. In Part II, "Understanding Osmosis", analysis and discussion questions introduce students to the molecular basis for osmosis and challenge students to apply their understanding of osmosis to several real-world phenomena.

Download Student Handout: PDF format or Word format

Who Took Jerell’s iPod? -- An Organic Compound Mystery

In the lab, Who Took Jerell’s iPod? -- An Organic Compound Mystery, students learn how to test for triglycerides, glucose, starch, and protein and then use these tests to solve a mystery. The activity reinforces students understanding of the biological functions and food sources of these different types of organic compounds.

Download Student Handout: PDF format or Word format

What Parts of a Plant Do We Eat?

In the lab, What Parts of a Plant Do We Eat?, Students review the structure of angiosperm plants and learn about the diversity of plant form by using evidence from examination of fruits and vegetables to identify which part of the plant each fruit or vegetable is.

Download Student Handout: PDF format or Word format

Download Teacher Preparation Notes: PDF format or Word format

Hands-on Activities for Teaching Biology to High School and Middle School Students

We invite general comments on Hands-on Activities for Teaching Biology to High School and Middle School Students in this comments section.  If you have comments on specific activities, please use the links on the right to get to the comments section for each activity.  We welcome suggestions for other teachers, including useful preparatory or follow-up activities, additional resources, any questions you have, or a brief description of any problem you might have encountered.

If you would prefer to send your comments or questions in a private message, please write Ingrid Waldron at iwaldron@sas.upenn.edu.

 

 

Alcoholic Fermentation in Yeast

In the lab, Alcoholic Fermentation in Yeast, students learn about the basics of aerobic cellular respiration and alcoholic fermentation and design and carry out experiments to test how variables such as sugar concentration influence the rate of alcoholic fermentation in yeast. In an optional extension activity students can use their yeast mixture to make a small roll of bread.

Download Student Handout: PDF format or Word format

Download Teacher Preparation Notes: PDF format or Word format

Get the Lead Out! Game

This board game reinforces learning about the sources and biological hazards of lead exposure. The first file has the game and the second file has teacher notes, including background information on lead.

We invite comments on this  activity, including suggestions for other teachers who are planning to use the activity, useful preparatory or follow-up activities, additional resources or any questions you have related to the activity, or a brief description of any problem you might have encountered. If you prefer to send your comments or questions in a private message, please write Ingrid Waldron at iwaldron@sas.upenn.edu.

 

Sexual Health and Reproduction

This activity provides questions and Web sites to guide student investigation of birth control methods, fetal development, risks of alcohol and smoking during pregnancy, changes during puberty, and HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.  The first file has the student handout and the second file has teacher notes.

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