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Teachers' Center Activities & Labs
Welcome to the Activities & Labs section of the Teachers' Center at Explore Biology. Here you will find activities & labs to help you teach biology at the high school level. Also look through the material posted for students directly in the Regents & AP Biology sections.

 Building Macromolecules
A paper-scissor-tape activity used to help students envision the process of synthesis -- building macromlecules out of smaller subunits
  • Instructions
  • Photos -- my classes in action (both Regents and AP Biology).
  • Glucose -- print on many different colors of paper to symbolize different sugars. Have students name each sugar with any name them want as long as it ends in -ose. Kimose is one of my favorites!
  • Water Drops (large) -- I print on blue paper to symbolize water.
  • Water Drops (small) -- easier to use for building fats. I print on blue paper to symbolize water.
  • Glycerol (legal)
  • Glycerol (letter) -- in case you don't have legal size paper.
  • Saturated Fatty Acid (legal)
  • Saturated Fatty Acid (letter) -- in case you don't have legal size paper.
  • Unsaturated Fatty Acid (legal) -- print on different color paper than saturated fatty acid to accent difference.
  • Unsaturated Fatty Acid (letter) -- in case you don't have legal size paper. Print on different color paper than saturated fatty acid to accent difference.
  • DNA template -- have each group tape cut this template page down the middle and tape the two template strands end to end to make a longer chain for the template. I tend to copy these onto card stock so they are sturdier to hang in the classroom.
  • DNA monophosphate bases -- Print each base's page in a different color and have students cut apart to build the complement to the DNA template from above. I tend to copy these onto card stock so they are sturdier to hang in the classroom. These are monophosphate nucleotides for the introduction to building the DNA molecule.
  • DNA triphosphate bases -- These are triphosphate nucleotides for a higher level of understanding of how a DNA molecule is built (for AP students). All triphosphate bases are on one page. Have students cut apart to build the complement to the DNA template from above, but have them model the cleaving off of the diphosphate by DNA polymerase so they understand the energetics of the process. I tend to copy these onto card stock so they are sturdier to hang in the classroom. View some photos showing the end result of our DNA replication modeling activity.
  • Amino Acids -- I have been wanting to improve these a bit but I haven't had the time. They are fine the way they are. Please use them. I have used them for years -- I just wanted to (obsessively) polish them. I print each one on a different color as much as possible. I give each student lab group an amino acid sequence to build (included in this ZIP archive). I ask them to use their text to identify & label each amino acid in their sequence and determine if each is polar (hydrophilic) or nonpolar (hydrophobic). They then bond the sequence using the water droplets for dehydration synthesis and then they have to predict how this chain will behave in the aqueous solution of the cell -- which parts will fold inward and which outward. I give them a lot of leeway on the last part. BTW, the amino acids may look slightly differently in the book depending if they are illustrated as ionized or not -- that makes for a good discussion about the effects of biochemistry in the watery environment of the cell.
 Protein Synthesis
A paper-scissor-tape activity used to help students envision the process of protein synthesis -- transcription, translation, and the effect of mutations.
  • Protein Synthesis Lab -- the instructions and questions.
  • DNA Transcription Template Strand -- Each student group gets one of these. I copy it onto cardstock so that it's sturdy. Please note that each strand is numbered -- 1, 2, 3, 4 (on the first DNA base) -- students need to tape them in order sequentially from left to right to make one long DNA strand.
  • mRNA bases -- Print each base's page in a different color and have students cut apart to build the complement to the DNA template (from above) during transcription. I tend to copy these onto cardstock so they are sturdier. Students only need to cut them around the rectangles, not around the nucleotides themselves.
    • Adenine -- I tend to copy this onto a very bright color (like hot pink) so it stands out in the 3' poly-A tail
    • Cytosine
    • Guanine
    • Uracil
    • GTP -- for the 5' tail
  • tRNA Molecules -- I print these on a light color cardstock -- like yellow -- since students have to write on them. They must write the anticodon and the full amino acid name (use the chart listed below). They cut the amino acids off of the tRNA as they go and then tape the amino acids together to simulate the action of the ribosome building a polypeptide. Make them design their own ribosome with an A, P, and E site!
  • Codon Chart -- To be used as reference.
  • Photos -- my classes in action (both Regents and AP Biology).



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