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by Drs. Ingrid Waldron and Jennifer Doherty, University of Pennsylvania
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. To accommodate limited budgets, most of our activities can be carried out with minimum equipment and expense for supplies.
Additional resources for teaching biology are available at http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/bioactivities. These teaching resources include discussion activities, games, web-based activities and overviews of important biological topics, including major concepts, common misconceptions, and suggested learning activities.
Students evaluate whether the little brown grains of yeast obtained from the grocery store are alive by testing for metabolism and growth.
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.
Students design experiments to determine how substrate and environmental conditions influence growth of common molds. Students carry out their experiments, analyze and interpret their evidence, and prepare a report.
Experiments with the enzyme lactase and discussion questions help students to learn about enzyme function, enzyme specificity, and the molecular basis of 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 gives specific instructions for all three of the experiments.)
In this activity students design and carry out two experiments in a sequence that illustrates important aspects of the process of science; students analyze the data from the first experiment to generate hypotheses which are tested in the second experiment. The first experiment evaluates two indicator solutions to see whether they can be used to test for starch and/or for protein. Then, students use the results from the first experiment to formulate hypotheses concerning what types of food contain starch or protein – some or all foods derived from animals or plants or both. Finally, students design and carry out a second experiment to test their hypotheses and use the data to evaluate and, if necessary, modify their hypotheses.
In this activity, 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.
Students investigate the effects of molecule size on diffusion across a synthetic selectively permeable membrane (dialysis tubing) and discuss applications to understanding the selectively permeable cell membrane.This activity includes a demonstration of osmosis (diffusion of water across a selectively permeable membrane).
Students make predictions about the effects of osmosis and design an experiment to test these predictions. The experimental approach is similar to the diffusion activity, but focused specifically on osmosis.
More Minds-on Activities for teaching biology are available at http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/bioactivities. These include overviews, discussion/worksheet activities, games, and web-based activities for learning and review.
In this activity, students use model chromosomes to simulate the processes of mitosis, meiosis and fertilization and they answer questions designed to promote student understanding of these processes. The principle that genes are inherited through the processes of meiosis and fertilization is demonstrated by analysis of a simulation of meiosis and fertilization using model chromosomes with different alleles of a gene. Students also learn how a mistake in meiosis can result in Down Syndrome.
Download Teacher Preparation Notes: PDF format
This Genetics activity helps students to understand the basic principles of genetics, including concepts of recessive and dominant alleles, relationships of phenotype to genotype, Punnett squares, and pedigree analysis. The introductory section on inheritance of albinism demonstrates how understanding meiosis and fertilization provides the basis for understanding inheritance and Punnett squares. The next two sections, Coin Toss Genetics and analysis of class data on the sex makeup of sibships, help students understand the probabilistic nature of Punnett square predictions. The final activities analyze the genetics of sickle cell anemia and pedigrees for families with albinism and achondroplasia.
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.
In this simulation activity 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.
Students learn the genetics and immunobiology of the ABO blood type system, using simple chemicals and logical reasoning to solve a murder mystery and to determine whether two babies were switched in the hospital.
More Minds-on Activities for teaching biology are available at http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/bioactivities#mmfgenetics. These include overviews, discussion/worksheet activities, games, and web-based activities for learning and review.
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 DNA structure and replication during the intervals required for the extraction procedure. Alternatively, students can extract DNA from split peas while learning about DNA structure and replication.
Students learn how a gene provides the instructions for making a protein, and how the gene for sickle cell hemoglobin can result in sickle cell anemia. Simple paper models are used to simulate the molecular processes of transcription and translation. This activity can be used to introduce students to these topics or to reinforce student understanding of these molecular processes.
Download Teacher Preparation Notes: PDF format
More Minds-on Activities for teaching biology are available at http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/bioactivities#molecbio. These include overviews, discussion/worksheet activities, games, and web-based activities for learning and review.
Principles of natural selection are demonstrated by a simulation involving different color pompoms on different color and texture habitats and student feeders equipped with different types of feeding implement. Students learn how different adaptations contribute to differences in survival and reproductive success, which results in changing frequencies of genotypes in the populations.
A simple simulation demonstrates how spread of an infectious disease can result in exponential increase in the number of infected individuals. Discussion questions and a graphing activity develop student understanding of exponential and logistic population growth.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Students investigate how a person identifies different flavors of jellybeans, including the contribution of smell to taste sensations. Students also explore the surprising ways the brain interprets the patterns of light and dark that reach our eyes; visual illusions illustrate general principles of sensory processing.
More Minds-on Activities for teaching biology are available at http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/bioactivities#physiol. These include overviews, discussion/worksheet activities, games, and web-based activities for learning and review.
If you prefer, you can send a private message with comments or requests for additional information to Ingrid Waldron at email@example.com.
© 2003-2010 by Drs. Ingrid Waldron, Jennifer Doherty, Scott Poethig, and Lori Spindler, University of Pennsylvania Biology Department, Amy Dewees, Jenkintown High School and Bob Farber, Central High School, Philadelphia
Teachers are encouraged to copy and modify these labs for use in their teaching.