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Welcome! Here you will find copies of many of the labs that my students perform in their Living Environment class.

  • Growing Bacteria (aka Making Yogurt)
    This lab can be used either in the context of Taxonomy (learning about Bacteria) or Biochemistry (learning about Protein Chemistry) or Metabolism (Lactic Acid Fermentation). Either way, it's fun to watch the students' faces when they taste tart, plain yogurt for the first time! I have 1/2 pint Mason jars that we do this in. I require each group to make one jar of plan yogurt and then I allow them to make one jar of flavored yogurt (flavored with honey, maple syrup, vanilla, or different jams).
  • Restriction Enzyme Digest Simulation
    Use the power of a word processing program to simulate the action of restriction enzymes on the actual lambda phage DNA sequence.
  • Cloning a Paper Plasmid
    A nice quick paper demo on the process of cloning a gene into a plasmid using a simulation of the puc18 plasmid & the Jellyfish Glo gene sequence.
 Animal Systems
  • Digestive System
    After a lecture on the digestive system, students build a paper model/poster of the system and answer quesions about its function. They also have to place illustrations of digestive enzyme processes in the correct location throughout the system.
  • Menstrual Cycle
    After a lecture on the endocrine system and human reproduction, students study the details of the menstrual cycle by graphing the hormonal changes over the month and then tracking the changes on a calendar comparing what happens when there is no fertilization vs. when there is egg fertilization. This lab offers a lot of high-end graphing practice and reinforcement for hormone-receptor relationships.
  • Fetal Development Lab
    I've expanded on a paper lab that our department has used for years. Students are given data on fetal development (length, weight, survival) to graph and to make conclusions about prenatal care. Then students are presented with reference information about the prenatal effects of alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs and asked to summarize the effects and make conclusions.
  • The Spread of Disease (HIV Simulation)
    This lab looks at the process of spreading disease amongst a group of people sharing "body fluids". It's a fun simulation using a pH indicator as the disease pathogen. If you so choose, students can play roles by following the rules of behavior of different societal stereotypes. You can tease students that the class is doing a lab where they have to have sex 5 times during class ;-).
    Click here to download the roles handout.

    NOTES TO TEACHERS: I ask students to keep their roles secret by not announcing it to anyone, but they must follow the rules of the role throughout the exercise. Also, I usually make only one student abstinent. LAB SET UP: I set up two sets of clear plastic cups before class since I do the lab activity twice (wth & without roles) -- one cup for each student for each trial. Each cup has about 50-100mL of water in it (depending on size of cup). And one cup has a strong squirt of NaOH added to it (enough to still affect pH after 5 dilutions, but not strong enough to be dangerous in the hands of students). When you hand out the cups, you must keep track of which student started with that "infected" cup, so you know Patient Zero. Students exchange body fluids by having one student pour their cup into another, so the fluids completely mix. Then the partner pours half back. They record their partner's name and move onto another partner, mingling amongst classmates. At the end, the teacher takes the role of doctor and uses a squeeze bottle of phenolphthalein to test the cups. Often I put on a white coat and stethoscope to play it up. If the liquid turns red ("dread red", we call it) then the student is infected.
  • Microscopes
    At the beginning of the cells unit, students get a detailed refresher in how to use compound microscopes and, for many of them, an introduction on the use of the dissecting microscope.
  • Cell Studies
    To accompany the cells unit, students prepare and view stained specimens of cheek cells, onion and Elodea plant cells, and bacterial cells (prepared slides). Students are asked to identify visible organelles and make comparisons between the different cell types.
  • Diffusion Through A Membrane
    An alternative to the State lab.
  • Osmosis Through A Membrane
    An expansion beyond the state lab. Students specifically study osmosis through dialysis tubing.
  • Plant Cell Plasmolysis
    An alternative to the State lab, so that students focus on the onion cell plasmolysis in a separate lab.
  • Study of Population Density on a Suburban Lawn
    Get the students out of the classroom to study ecology out on the lawn! This is a sampling exercise to measure the population of weeds living amongst the grass. You need to make quadrats to serve as sampling units. I made them out of 1/2" PVC pipe -- 4 straight pieces and 4 elbows. EASY!
  • Natural Controls of Populations
    This is a graphing lab built around population data for the Kaibab deer of the Grand Canyon and the moose of Isle Royale, Michigan. The activity explores the concept of carrying capacity and the control of population by predators.
  • Food Chains & Energy in Ecosystems
    Through building a food chain and a biomass pyramid, students explore the relationship between energy, biomass and trophic level. The 10% rule is reinforced and bioaccumulation of toxins is examined.
 Enzymes & Metabolism
  • Pineapple Enzymes & Jell-O Molds
    A kitchen chemistry lab to teach about the properties of proteins & enzymes as well as the scientific method. Students are given a series of supplies and are asked to design an experiment to test the effect of temperature on enzymes by exploring the effects of using fresh vs. cooked pineapple in Jell-o.
    After reading this lab, I promise they'll never think of Jell-O in the same way!

    The teacher only needs to supply fresh (chopped) pineapple, fresh (chopped) pineapple that has been frozen overnight, crushed canned pineapple, boxes of Jell-O powder, and plastic Dixie cups.
  • Leaf Structure
    Students explore leaf structure in the context of viewing it as a set of adaptations which support photosynthesis. After a lecture on leaf structure and photosynthesis, we look at a prepared slide cross-section through a leaf. Students label a diagram, make their own labeled drawing of the slide, and then, in a cut-and-paste wrap-up, reconstruct a leaf from illustrations of the various anatomical structures. In addition, students must integrate into the drawing the sun and molecules of CO2, H2O, O2 as the cast of relevant characters. Download the molecule diagrams (each student only needs 1/4 of this sheet).
  • Root Beer Fermentation (aka Alcohol Fermentation of Sucrose)
    This laboratory exercise is a fun follow up to the metabolism unit. Students get to investigate fermentation by making root beer (or other flavored sodas). You can buy the champagne yeast and flavoring from online vendors, like Karp's Homebrew Shop. I have found that the root beer actually works the best and is appreciated by more students.
    You need .25 grams yeast and 4 mL per pair of students. You will need to collect 2 liter bottles for your mixing bottles and purchase 0.5 liter water bottles for the brewing water and for brewing the root beer in. I warm the bottles up just by putting them in buckets of hot water a period before class.
  • Natural Selection in Butterflies
    An enjoyable and educational simulation of natural selection through a game of predator and prey in camouflaged butterfly populations. This lab is based on a game invented by G. Ledyard Stebbins, a pioneer in the evolution of plants. The purpose of the game is to illustrate the basic principles and some of the general effects of evolution by natural selection. The students take turns acting as predators of butterflies camouflaged on various patterned cloth backgrounds. The butterflies are played by colored dots that the students can make with a hole punch and a few sheets of colored cardstock. The change in the number of color variants is measured from generation to generation. Fun. Simple. Instructive. See photos of the lab in action.
  • Evidence of Evolution
    A lab that explores homologous, analogous and vestigial organs.
  • Evolutionary Relationships (aka the State's Biodiversity Lab)
    An alternative adaptation of the State's Biodiversity lab. I have concentrated on the evolutionary relationships aspect of the lab and removed the biodiversity piece, to be done separately. At this time, you will still need the first two pages of instructiions from the State lab, but I have students write all answers in this version of the lab.
 Heredity: Genetics & Protein Synthesis
  • Protein Synthesis Lab
    A paper-scissor-tape activity used to help students envision the process of protein synthesis -- transcription, translation, and the effect of mutations.
  • Paper Pet Genetics
    A fun lab that alows students to practice genetics principles and also understand the random recombinaion afforded by sexual reproduction. Pairs of students work together to make a Paper Pet family by flipping coins to first choose parental traits and then, after developing Punnett squares, students again flip coins to see what offspring will be born into this new family. They make a poster of their new family as a final product.
 Scientific Method
  • Graphing
    A straight-forward lab that gives students practice in graphing data.

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