Archive for biology

Build A Cell game!

Hey, check this out!

Build-A-Cell from Spongelab.

Posted by on February 24th, 2018

RSO Biology: Model of a Cell

3D model of an animal cell

3D model of an animal cell

Objective: Make a 3D model of a cell
Constraints: 10 kids, 30 minutes of class time

Got it.

The original project required Sculpey, which you have to bake. I found a great alternative: Plastalina, an oil-based modeling clay. No baking required, and it doesn’t dry out.  A multi-color pack is super cheap, I got mine from Michaels.

Materials:
Ping Pong ball
small fishbowl
1 multi-color pack of plastalina
clear polymer “gems” from the floral section

  1. Hydrate the polymer gems. I dumped mine in a gallon ziploc bag with a couple of cups of water and let it go overnight. My package was probably only 2 teaspoons of crystals before hydrating. It takes a couple of hours before they reach full size, so I suggest doing this in advance. When they’re ready, put the polymers in the fishbowl but don’t put additional water in yet. This is your cytoplasm.
  2. Take your ping pong ball and cut out a wedge-shaped piece. Basically, turn him into Pac-man (mouth WIIIIDE open). This is your nuclear membrane, so you need a cutaway opening big enough to show the DNA inside.
  3. A note about plastalina: it’s pretty stiff when you open the package, but if you knead it for a while it becomes pliable. It also will roll really, really, thin, so don’t be afraid to spread it out. If you keep it too thick, your pieces will be too heavy. THAT BEING SAID: knead some blue plastalina and then cover the exterior of your ping pong ball with a thin layer.
  4. Using your RSO guide, start making the various organelles. An excellent illustration guide can be found here: Blausen Medical Guide. Repeat this chant: “The mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell.” (It comes up again later. A lot.)
  5. When all your cell bodies are made, start suspending them in your fishbowl. A chopstick or the handle of a paintbrush is very handy here, to help position everything where you want it. Those free ribosomes can be sneaky!
  6. Once you have everything positioned the way you want, start adding water to the fishbowl. When you’re done, it should look like your cell bodies are all suspended in cytoplasm. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and enjoy!

Advance prep for a coop group: gather your materials and hydrate the gems overnight.

Posted by on February 24th, 2018

RSO Biology, Week 1

Our homeschool coop is teen-oriented. I rashly volunteered to offer a biology class for the high school students, since I was going to have to teach bio to my own 9th grader anyhow – I figured it would be more fun in a group. Our coop kids are a good bunch, for the most part.

I’d heard that the Real Science Odyssey biology curriculum level 2 could be used for high school, and that the author had posted extensively about how to use it in a coop setting.  I have read both posts, figured I could make the curriculum work, and away we go.

All my students were responsible for purchasing their own copies of the curriculum.  Our coop tech guru magically got us access to Google Classroom, so I made weekly postings about reading assignments and what papers they would need for each class.

Lecture: Characteristics of Living Things

Materials: a decent microscope (more on that later)

Because this was our first week back, half the class was given over to general housekeeping before we could get started on the book.  The idea of what constitutes “living things” does vary somewhat – some things everyone agrees on, but others are subject to interpretation. Ask a room of scientists whether or not viruses are living things, and sit back to watch the feathers fly.

She has a plot study scheduled for this week, but we pushed it off in favor of getting to know the microscope. 

About that microscope: What you get is, of course, going to be dependent on your needs and your budget. Particularly the budget.  If you’re working with middle- or high-school level, though strongly advise against purchasing the cheap “kid” microscope kits, particularly if you have a student with a reasonable interest in science.  Look on eBay or surf Camel Camel Camel for a decent quality student microscope – they can be had for under $50, and are well worth the purchase.  I’ve had good luck with AmScope, but other brands like Omax or Celestron make good products as well.

Posted by on September 12th, 2017