Hands-on Biology Activities

Breathing and Holding Your Breath

In the lab, Breathing and Holding Your Breath, students begin with interactive activities to develop a basic understanding of why cells need oxygen and need to get rid of carbon dioxide, how the circulatory and respiratory systems cooperate to bring oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from cells all over the body, and how the nervous system regulates breathing. Then, students carry out an experiment to test whether changing levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide influence how long they can hold their breath. 

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Regulation of Human Heart Rate

In the lab, Regulation of Human Heart Rate, students learn how to measure heart rate accurately. Then students design and carry out an experiment to test the effects of an activity or stimulus on heart rate, analyze and interpret the data, and present their experiments in a poster session. In this activity students learn about both cardiac physiology and scientific method.

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Invertebrate Diversity

In the lab, Invertebrate Diversity, students compare the external anatomy and locomotion of earthworms, mealworms, crickets and crayfish, all of which can be purchased at low cost from local pet stores.  Discussion questions help students understand the evolutionary basis of observed similarities and differences. This activity can be used as an introduction to the Annelid and Arthropod phyla and the principle that form matches function.

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Some Similarities between the Spread of an Infectious Disease and Population Growth

In the lab, Some Similarities between the Spread of an Infectious Disease and Population Growth, a simple simulation demonstrates exponential spread of infectious disease in a population, and discussion questions develop student understanding of how human diseases spread. Additional discussion questions and a graphing activity develop an understanding of exponential and logistic population growth.

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Evolution by Natural Selection

In this simulation activity, Evolution by Natural Selection, principles of natural selection are demonstrated by a simulation involving different color pompoms and student feeders equipped with different types of feeding implement. Students analyze results to see how different traits contribute to fitness in different habitats. Additional examples and questions help students to understand the process of natural selection, including three necessary conditions for natural selection to take place.

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From Gene to Protein - Transcription and Translation

In the hands-on activity, From Gene to Protein - Transcription and Translation, students learn how a gene provides the instructions for making a protein, and how the gene for sickle cell hemoglobin results in sickle cell anemia. Simple paper models are used to help students learn the basic molecular biology of transcription and translation. This activity can be used to introduce students to these topics or to reinforce student understanding. In addition, students evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of different types of models included in this activity

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DNA

In this activity, students extract DNA from their cheek cells and relate the steps in the procedure to the characteristics of cells and biological molecules. Students learn key concepts about the function of DNA during the intervals required for the extraction procedure. A second optional section develops student understanding of the fundamentals of DNA structure, function and replication; this section includes hands-on modeling of DNA replication.

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Using Blood Tests to Identify Babies and Criminals

In this activity, Using Blood Tests to Identify Babies and Criminals, students learn the genetics and immunobiology of the ABO blood type system and use simple chemicals and logical reasoning to solve a murder mystery and to determine whether two babies were switched in the hospital. This activity introduces students to the concept of codominance; in the Teacher Preparation Notes we suggest an extension which you can use to introduce the concept of incomplete dominance and the difference between codominance vs. incomplete dominance. 

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Dragon Genetics – Understanding Inheritance

In the simulation activity, Dragon Genetics – Understanding Inheritance, students mimic the processes of meiosis and fertilization to investigate the inheritance of multiple genes and then use their understanding of concepts such as dominant/recessive alleles, incomplete dominance, sex-linked inheritance, and epistasis to interpret the results of the simulation. This activity can be used as a culminating activity after you have introduced classical genetics, and it can serve as formative assessment to identify any areas of confusion that require additional clarification.

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Dragon Genetics: Independent Assortment and Gene Linkage

In the lab, Dragon Genetics: Independent Assortment and Gene Linkage, students learn the principles of independent assortment and gene linkage in activities which analyze inheritance of multiple genes on the same or different chromosomes in hypothetical dragons. Students learn how these principles derive from the behavior of chromosomes during meiosis and fertilization.

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