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Whenever I have a sequence of steps that students need to learn I either type them up or photocopy the diagram from the textbook. Then I make copies and students cut them out, mix them up and then rearrange them. Then I save them for the next class. Some examples include the phases of mitosis, the flow of blood (right ventricle, right atrium, pulmonary artery, etc.), and the life cycle of a moss.
Interconnectedness of Life (Food Webs)Edit
This activity demonstrates how interconnect organisms are in an ecosystem. Show students a diagram of a food web. Assign each student to an organism in the web. I find it works better if you make a few students be the producers and decomposers. Each student is responsible for knowing what they eat and who eats them. Then have everyone stand in a circle. Take a ball of string and give the end to one of the producers (eg marsh grass). Then pass the string to a herbivore that eats it (eg sandhopper), then on up the food chain. Once the top is reached (eg marsh hawk), pass the ball of string to the decomposer and then on to a producer again. Keep going until each student has been included at least once. Sometimes in a small class I have someone’s left hand be the mussel and their right hand be the decomposer. I pause at this point to reiterate how complex a food web is. Making sure that all of the strings are taut, we simulate what happens when one member of a food chain dies. I have that student drop their strings. Then everyone who’s string went loose because of a direct connection then drops their string until eventually the whole ecosystem unravels…
This activity demonstrates the loss of energy as you move up trophic levels. It should be done on a field or lawn. I take 3 big cups and cut a hole in the bottom of them. Then I fill a bucket with water which represents energy. I spread three other buckets out in a line about 20 feet apart. The first bucket that is filled is the sun. Then the next bucket is the corn, the third the cow, and the fourth the human. I give them one minute to try to move energy (the water) up the food chain using the cups with a hole. This is a great demonstration because water comes pouring out and only a little bit makes it in to the corn bucket, even less in the cow bucket and the least all the way up to the human bucket. As an extension I sometimes compare a vegetarian human (who eats the corn directly) versus the cow-eating human.
Clay Models of a Human TorsoEdit
Instead of dissecting animals, students create small clay models of their internal organs to demonstrate their understanding of the positioning and interlocking shapes of the organs.
Modeling Digestive Enzymes With Craft ScissorsEdit
I set up my tables in a snake like the digestive tract. I then have different craft scissors in the mouth (salivary amylase), stomach (pepsin) and duodenum (lots). Students are given pieces of paper that represent food. They travel around the room cutting the appropriate food at the appropriate places (eg the starch gets cut in the mouth but the avocado doesn’t get cut until the lipase-labeled scissors in the duodenum). Small pieces of paper are left in the capillaries next to the small intestine and bigger pieces end up in the recycle bin/commode.
Bird Air Sac DemoEdit
Since birds have one-way flow of air, I arrange the tables in a loop with stations of the bird respiratory system (trachea, air sac, lung, air sac). Students line up and each have a piece of red paper as an oxygen molecule. As I call “breathe in” and “out” students travel through the system, exchanging oxygen for carbon dioxide. This activity demonstrates the one-way loop which is very different from the two way exchange of mammal lungs.
Have students all hold hands in a large circle. Designate one or two students to be a pseudopod and have the rest of the group move. You can also put a large object that the students have to engulf by surrounding and breaking off into the “amoeba.”
After 15 minute lecture of natural selection/survival of fittest : Break class into three groups of four/five students. Have each group pick a one of three coffee cups (each represents a young turtle hatchling) filled with slips of paper representing the traits of a newly hatched sea turtle. Traits include : among the first to hatch, among the last to hatch, sharp beak, good sense of direction, deformed flipper, poor eyesight, uncoordinated, large flippers, albino, etc. The turtles have just hatched, and need to make their way across a beach filled with predators. Students name their turtle, then analyze the turtles chances for a) Short term – will it get off the beach? b) Long term – will it live to be an adult? They explain how and why each trait will contribute to survival (or not). After each team has gone, students vote for the strongest and weakest turtles.
Building Circuits as a Test QuestionEdit
Have students put together a circuit where they have to light a bulb as a test question. Students also have to identify what type of circuit it is.
Teach some of the formulas with a triangle diagram. For example, d = rt would be have the d in the top of the triangle while r and t are in the bottom corners. Students would know to multiply the bottom two to get the top one. And they would know to get r you would have to divide d by t. It was useful for visually manipulating the formula.
Working in small groups, students are given a) a single sheet of copy paper and a meter of masking tape and challenged to build the tallest possible free-standing tower; b) a sheet of aluminum foil, students design and build a boat that will hold the most “cargo” (pennies) without sinking, or c) a sheet of paper to build the best paper airplane in terms of distance and/or time aloft.
Clarity and Precision PracticeEdit
One group builds a sculpture with a small number of Legos and writes instructions on how to build it. Another group receives the instructions and a similar set of Legos and tries to duplicate the structure.
Radioactive Decay with MarblesEdit
Different colored marbles are used to represent protons, neutrons & electrons. Make a nucleus and electron cloud on a piece of paper. Then construct a nucleus (perhaps one that is not actually radioactive) by placing the “protons” and “neutrons” in the center, and then remove an alpha particle (two protons and two neutrons) and ask students to figure out the identity of the daughter nucleus. NOTE: If you place the paper and marbles in an open pizza box you lose fewer marbles.
For the Olympics, it’s primarily an exercise to work on estimating, measuring, and getting more familiar with the metric system. Throw a drinking straw “javelin”, estimate how far it was thrown and the measure (and perhaps do a percentage error calculation). Estimate the volume of your fist, and measure by water displacement. Estimate the mass of the all the pennies you can hold in one hand. Estimate the volume of the water you can squeeze out of the sponge. Things like that.
Lab Safety ProjectEdit
Students are asked to familiarize themselves with lab safety in one of the following ways: They can make a poster for the classroom, write a "Lab Safety Memo", write a song, create a board game or make a powerpoint presentation to the class.
Write a letter explaining a concept (e.g. phases of matter or atomic structure) to either yourself or another person (real or fictional).
Not everyone has the same resultsEdit
Not all students conducting the same lab have the same results. By comparing the experimental procedure from a group that worked with a group that did not work, the students can see the details in the procedure that affect the outcome of the experiment.
Listen to the “music” of the body through stethoscopes
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