1 Nataxe

Cell Biology Critical Thinking Questions For Kids

The resources listed below include:

  • minds-on, hands-on activities and minds-on analysis and discussion activities for teaching biology to high school and middle school students and students in non-major college biology courses
  • overviews of important biological topics
  • games for learning and review.

Many of these activities are explicitly aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards, as indicated by (NGSS) in the descriptions below and as described in Summary Tables and in the Teacher Notes for individual activities. These activities foster student understanding of Disciplinary Core Ideas, engage students in Scientific Practices, provide the opportunity to discuss Crosscutting Concepts, and prepare students to meet the Performance Expectations of the Next Generation Science Standards. 

The Student Handouts for these minds-on analysis and discussion activities challenge students to actively develop their understanding of biological concepts and apply these concepts to the interpretation of scientific evidence and real-world situations. We provide Word files so you can easily modify the Student Handouts to best meet the needs of your students. The Teacher Notes provide learning goals, instructional suggestions, relevant scientific background, and suggestions for preparatory and follow-up activities.

We encourage you to subscribe to our listserv to receive notices when we post new activities or significantly improved versions of current activities. 

Intro and Biological Molecules

Is Yeast Alive?

Students evaluate whether the little brown grains of yeast obtained from the grocery store are alive by testing for metabolism and growth.

Download Student Handout and Teacher Preparation Notes and View Comments

Understanding the Functions of Proteins and DNA (revised 8/2017)

This overview provides a sequence of learning activities to help students understand that proteins and DNA are not just abstract concepts in biology textbooks, but rather crucial components of our bodies that affect functions and characteristics that students are familiar with. Students learn about the functions of proteins and how different versions of a protein can result in a characteristic such as albinism or sickle cell anemia. Then students learn that genetic information in DNA results in the different versions of these proteins, which is how genes influence our characteristics. These concepts are conveyed in discussion, web-based, and hands-on learning activities that can be used in an introductory unit on biological molecules or as an introduction to a unit on molecular biology. (NGSS)

Download Teacher Notes and View Comments

Enzymes Help Us Digest Food (revised 2/2017)

Students learn about enzyme function, enzyme specificity, and the molecular basis of lactose intolerance through experiments with the enzyme lactase and analysis and discussion questions. Students engage in the scientific practices of designing and carrying out experiments and interpreting data. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout and Teacher Preparation Notes and View comments

A Scientific Investigation – What types of food contain starch and protein? (revised 9/2016)

In this activity, students first learn about the structure and functions of starch and protein and the basics of how starch, amino acids and proteins are synthesized. Then, students learn about scientific investigation by carrying out key components of the scientific method, including developing experimental methods, generating hypotheses, designing and carrying out experiments to test these hypotheses and, if appropriate, using experimental results to revise the hypotheses. Students carry out two experiments which test whether starch and protein are found in some or all foods derived from animals or plants or both. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout and Teacher Preparation Notes and View Comments

Who Took Jerell’s iPod? -- An Organic Compound Mystery (revised 11/2012)

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.

Download Student Handout and Teacher Preparation Notes and View Comments

Macromolecules Jeopardy

This game reviews introductory chemistry, including organic compounds and chemical reactions.

Download Game and View Comments 

Cell Structure and Function

Cell Structure and Function – Major Concepts and Learning Activities (revised 9/2015)

This overview presents key concepts that students often do not learn from standard textbook presentations and suggests a sequence of learning activities to help students understand how the parts of a cell work together to accomplish the multiple functions of a dynamic living cell.  Suggested activities also reinforce student understanding of the relationships between molecules, organelles and cells, the diversity of cell structure and function, and the importance and limitations of diffusion. This overview provides links to web resources, hands-on activities, and discussion activities.

 Download Overview with Key Concepts and Learning Activities and View Comments

Structure and Function of Molecules and Cells (revised 9/2014)

In this analysis and discussion activity, students learn how the function of molecules and cells is related to their structure (including shape, constituent components, and relationships between components). Students analyze multiple examples of the relationship between structure and function in diverse proteins and eukaryotic cells. In addition, students learn that cells are dynamic structures with constant activity, students learn about emergent properties, and students engage in argument from evidence to evaluate three alternative claims concerning the relationship between structure and function. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout, Teacher Notes and View Comments

Structure and Function of Cells, Organs and Organ Systems (revised 7/2016)

In this analysis and discussion activity, students learn how the structure of cells, organs and organ systems is related to their functions. (Structure includes shape, constituent components, and relationships between components.) Students analyze multiple examples of the relationship between structure and function in diverse eukaryotic cells and in the digestive system. Students also learn that cells are dynamic structures with constant activity, and they learn how body systems interact to accomplish important functions.  (NGSS)

Download Student Handout, Teacher Notes and View Comments

Cells as Molecular Factories (revised 10/2011)

 This analysis and discussion activity reviews how eukaryotic cells are molecular factories in two senses: cells produce molecules and cells are made up of molecules.  The questions guide students to think about how the different parts of a eukaryotic cell cooperate to function as a protein-producing factory and as a recycling plant.  Additional questions require students to identify the locations and functions of different types of molecules in eukaryotic cells.

Download Student Handout, Teacher Notes and View Comments

Diffusion across a Selectively Permeable Membrane (revised 9/2015)

Students investigate the effects of molecule size on diffusion across a synthetic selectively permeable membrane. This investigation includes a brief introduction to osmosis. Additional questions introduce students to the roles of proteins in transporting polar substances across the cell membrane and guide students in analyzing the relative advantages of two different types of model of the cell membrane. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout, Teacher Preparation Notes and View Comments

Introduction to Osmosis (revised 10/2016)

This activity provides a sequence of learning activities designed to optimize student learning and understanding of osmosis by beginning with a student investigation of osmosis at the macroscopic level and then moving to analyzing osmosis at the molecular and cellular levels. In Part I, "What is happening to these eggs?" students observe and analyze the effects of osmosis on eggs. In Part II, "Osmosis – Effects on Animal and Plant Cells", analysis and discussion questions introduce students to a molecular and cellular understanding of osmosis and challenge students to apply this understanding to interpreting their results in Part I and several “real-world” phenomena. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout, Teacher Preparation Notes and View Comments

Diffusion and Cell Size and Shape (new 7/2011)

This analysis and discussion activity helps students understand that cell size is limited by the very slow rate of diffusion over any substantial distance and the insufficient surface-area-to-volume ratio for larger cells.  In addition, students calculate why these problems do not apply to long slender cells or parts of cells (e.g. the axons of neurons that extend from your spinal cord to your foot).

Download Student Handout, Teacher Notes and View Comments

Cell Vocabulary Review Game (new 7/2011)

This game helps students to enjoy reviewing vocabulary related to cells, organelles, and the plasma membrane.  Each card in the deck has a target vocabulary word and two related taboo words that the student may not use as he/she gives clues so the other students in his/her small group can guess the target word.  Many students have trouble learning the substantial new vocabulary required for biology, and this game lets students have fun while reinforcing their understanding of key terms. 

Download Game and Teacher Notes and View Comments

Cellular Respiration and Photosynthesis

Cellular Respiration and Photosynthesis – Important Concepts, Common Misconceptions, and Learning Activities (revised 11/2017)

These Teacher Notes summarize basic concepts and information related to energy, ATP, cellular respiration, and photosynthesis. These Teacher Notes also review common misconceptions and suggest a sequence of learning activities designed to develop student understanding of important concepts and overcome any misconceptions.

Download Teacher Notes and View Comments

How do biological organisms use energy? (revised 11/2016)

This analysis and discussion activity introduces students to the basic principles of how biological organisms use energy. The focus is on understanding the roles of ATP and cellular respiration. In addition, students apply the principles of conservation of energy and conservation of matter to avoid common errors and correct common misconceptions. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout, Teacher Notes and View comments  

Using Models to Understand Photosynthesis (revised 11/2017)                                                                                        

In this analysis and discussion activity, students develop their understanding of photosynthesis by answering questions about three different models of photosynthesis. These models are a chemical equation, a flowchart that shows changes in energy and matter, and a diagram that shows the basic processes in a chloroplast. Students learn about the role of scientific models by evaluating the advantages of each of these models for understanding the process of photosynthesis. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout, Teacher Notes and View Comments

Photosynthesis and Cellular Respiration – Understanding the Basics of Bioenergetics and Biosynthesis (revised 5/2017)

In this minds-on activity, students analyze the relationships between photosynthesis, cellular respiration, and the production and use of ATP. Students learn that sugar molecules produced by photosynthesis are used for cellular respiration and for the synthesis of other organic molecules. Thus, photosynthesis contributes to plant metabolism and growth. The optional final section challenges students to explain observed changes in biomass for plants growing in the light vs. dark. (NGSS) 

Download Student Handout and View Comments

Photosynthesis Investigation (revised 8/2016) 

In the first part of this activity, students learn how to use the floating leaf disk method to measure the rate of net photosynthesis (i.e. the rate of photosynthesis minus the rate of cellular respiration). They use this method to show that net photosynthesis occurs in leaf disks in a solution of sodium bicarbonate, but not in water. Questions guide students in reviewing the relevant biology and analyzing and interpreting their results. In the second part of this activity, student groups develop hypotheses about factors that influence the rate of net photosynthesis, and then each student group designs and carries out an investigation to test the effects of one of these factors. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout, Teacher Preparation Notes and View Comments

Where Does a Plant’s Mass Come From? (revised 9/2017)

Students analyze evidence to evaluate four hypotheses about where a plant’s mass comes from. For example, students analyze Helmont’s classic experiment, and evaluate whether his interpretation was supported by his evidence. Thus, students engage in scientific practices as they learn that plants consist mainly of water and organic molecules and most of the mass of organic molecules consists of carbon and oxygen atoms originally contained in carbon dioxide molecules from the air.  (NGSS)

Download Student Handout, Teacher Notes, and View Comments

Food, Energy and Body Weight (revised 8/2016) 

This analysis and discussion activity helps students to understand the relationships between food, cellular respiration, energy, physical activity, and changes in body weight. At the end of the activity, each student asks and researches an additional question using recommended reliable internet sources. (NGSS) 

Download Student Handout, Teacher Notes, and View comments

Alcoholic Fermentation in Yeast – A Bioengineering Design Challenge (revised 8/2016)

This multi-part minds-on, hands-on activity helps students to understand both alcoholic fermentation and the engineering design process. In the first two parts of this activity, students learn about alcoholic fermentation and test for alcoholic fermentation by assessing CO2 production by live yeast cells in sugar water vs. two controls. The third part of this activity presents the bioengineering design challenge where students work to find the optimum sucrose concentration and temperature to maximize rapid CO2 production. Structured questions guide the students through the basic engineering steps of applying the relevant scientific background to the design problem, developing and systematically testing proposed design solutions, and then using initial results to develop and test improved design solutions. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout, Teacher Preparation Notes and View Comments

How do muscles get the energy they need for athletic activity? (revised 8/2016)

In this analysis and discussion activity, students learn about aerobic cellular respiration, anaerobic fermentation, and hydrolysis of creatine phosphate (phosphocreatine). Students analyze how these processes contribute to ATP production in muscle cells during different types of athletic activity. In addition, they gain understanding of general principles such as the conservation of energy and the importance of interactions between body systems to accomplish functions such as supplying the energy that muscles need for physical activity. Students apply this knowledge to an analysis of how the training effects of regular aerobic exercise contribute to an increase in muscle cells’ capacity for aerobic respiration. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout, Teacher Notes and View Comments

Cell Division and Genetics

Mitosis, Meiosis and Fertilization – Major Concepts, Common Misconceptions and Learning Activities (revised 11/2017)

These teacher notes summarize important concepts concerning mitosis and meiosis and propose a sequence of learning activities that will help students learn and understand these concepts and progress beyond common misconceptions. Students also learn how understanding meiosis and fertilization provides the basis for understanding how inheritance occurs.  Links to suggested activities are provided, including hands-on simulations of mitosis, meiosis and fertilization and a card sort activity. (NGSS)

Download Teacher Notes and View Comments

Mitosis - How a Single Cell Develops into the Trillions of Cells in a Human Body (revised 11/2017)

In this hands-on, minds-on activity students use model chromosomes and answer analysis and discussion questions to learn how mitosis ensures that each new cell gets a complete set of genes. Students also learn how genes on chromosomes influence phenotypic characteristics and how a single cell develops into the trillions of cells in a human body. This activity can be used to introduce mitosis or to reinforce student understanding of mitosis. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout (both versions) and Teacher Preparation Notes and View Comments

Meiosis and Fertilization – Understanding How Genes Are Inherited (revised 11/2017)

Students use model chromosomes and answer analysis and discussion questions to learn how each person inherits one copy of each gene from each of his/her parents. As they model meiosis and fertilization, students follow the alleles of three human genes from the parents' body cells through gametes to zygotes. In this way, students learn how genes are transmitted from parents to offspring through the processes of meiosis and fertilization. Students analyze the results of crossing over, independent assortment and fertilization to learn how meiosis and fertilization contribute to genetic and phenotypic variation. Students also compare and contrast mitosis and meiosis, and they learn how a mistake in meiosis can result in Down syndrome or death of an embryo. This activity can be used to introduce meiosis and fertilization or to review these processes. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout (both versions) and Teacher Preparation Notes and View Comments

How Mistakes in Cell Division Can Result in Down Syndrome and Miscarriages (new 8/2012)

This analysis and discussion activity reinforces student understanding of the process of meiosis and the importance of having exactly the right number of copies of each chromosome in our body's cells. This activity also helps students to understand that miscarriages are often the result of genetic abnormalities and that genetic conditions sometimes are not inherited (e.g. Down syndrome due to meiotic nondisjunction). Optional additional questions can be used to promote student understanding of sex chromosome abnormalities and X chromosome inactivation. 

Download Student Handout and Teacher Notes and View Comments

Mitosis and Meiosis Card Sort Activity

This activity is designed to help students review the processes of mitosis and meiosis and to ensure that students understand how chromosomes move during mitosis vs. meiosis.  Students arrange the cards from a shuffled deck of the stages of mitosis and meiosis in the sequence of steps that occur during cell division by mitosis and another sequence of steps that occur during cell division by meiosis.

Download Card Sort Activity and Teacher Notes and View Comments

Mitosis, Meiosis and Fertilization Vocabulary Review Game

This game helps students to enjoy reviewing vocabulary related to mitosis, meiosis and fertilization.  Each card in the deck has a target vocabulary word and two related taboo words that the student may not use as he/she gives clues so the other students in his/her small group can guess the target word.  Many students have trouble learning the substantial new vocabulary required for biology, and this game lets students have fun while reinforcing their understanding of key terms. 

Download Game and Teacher Notes and View Comments

   

Genetics – Major Concepts and Learning Activities (revised 2/2018)

This overview summarizes important genetic concepts and proposes an integrated sequence of learning activities to develop student understanding of these key concepts. Part I provides an outline of key concepts needed to understand how genes influence phenotypic characteristics and how genes are transmitted from parents to offspring. Part II recommends an integrated sequence of learning activities to develop student understanding of these key concepts. These learning activities are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards. Part III suggests supplementary and alternative learning activities. (NGSS)

Download Teacher Notes and View Comments

Genetics (revised 2/2018)

The Genetics Student Handout begins with sections that help students to understand basic principles of genetics, including (1) how genotype influences phenotype via the effects of genes on protein structure and function and (2) how genes are transmitted from parents to offspring through the processes of meiosis and fertilization. Then, a coin flip activity models the probabilistic nature of inheritance and Punnett square predictions; this helps students understand why the characteristics of children in many real families deviate from Punnett square predictions. Additional concepts covered include polygenic inheritance, incomplete dominance, and how a new mutation can result in a genetic condition that was not inherited. The Genetics Supplement includes (1) an alternative version of the introduction to genetic principles that does not require prior completion of our meiosis and fertilization activity; (2) an analysis of the genetics of sex determination that helps students understand the probabilistic nature of inheritance; and (3) analyses of the molecular basis of sickle cell anemia and sickle cell trait, including the multiple phenotypic effects of a single gene and a pedigree analysis. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout, Genetics Supplement and Teacher Preparation Notes and View Comments

Soap Opera Genetics - Genetics to Resolve Family Arguments (revised 2/2018)

This analysis and discussion activity contains three "soap opera" episodes that contribute to student understanding of the principles of inheritance and the relevance of genetics to everyday life. In the first episode, students explain the relevant biology to answer the probing questions of a skeptical father who wants to know how his baby could be albino when neither he nor his wife are albino. The second episode, "Were the babies switched?" covers the concepts of co-dominance, incomplete dominance, polygenic inheritance, and the combined effects of genes and the environment on phenotypic characteristics. In the third episode, students analyze sex-linked inheritance. Each episode can be used separately or with other episodes, depending on your teaching goals. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout and Teacher Notes and View Comments

Were the babies switched? – The Genetics of Blood Types (revised 2/2018)

In this minds-on, hands-on activity, students learn the genetics of the ABO blood type system. Students use simple chemicals to simulate blood type tests and then carry out genetic analyses to determine whether hospital staff accidentally switched two babies born on the same day. This activity reinforces student understanding of the fundamental concepts that genes code for proteins which influence an organism’s characteristics and Punnett squares summarize how meiosis and fertilization result in inheritance. Students also learn about codominance and multiple alleles of a single gene. The first version of the Student Handout includes an introduction to the immunobiology of the ABO blood type system. The second version includes an analysis of the genetics of skin color in which students learn how fraternal twins could have very different skin colors, the concept of incomplete dominance, and how a single phenotypic characteristic can be influenced by multiple genes and the environment. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout and Teacher Preparation Notes and View Comments

This Genetic Condition Was Not Inherited (new 10/2011)

This analysis and discussion activity guides students in thinking about how genetic conditions that are not inherited can result from a new mutation or meiotic nondisjunction.  This activity also addresses the reasons for the rarity of inherited lethal dominant alleles. (NGSS)  

Download Student Handout and Teacher Notes and View Comments

Dragon Genetics – Independent Assortment and Gene Linkage (revised 1/2010)

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.

Download Student Handout and Teacher Preparation Notes and View Comments

Dragon Genetics – Understanding Inheritance (revised 8/2012)

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.

Download Student Handout and Teacher Preparation Notes and View Comments

Should states repeal their laws banning first cousin marriage? – Effects of first cousin marriage on health risks for their children (revised 8/2012)

This minds-on analysis and discussion activity challenges students to analyze which types of genetic conditions will be more common among children of first cousin marriage and to use evidence concerning the magnitude of observed health effects to evaluate whether laws banning first cousin marriage in 25 states should be repealed.  

Download Student Handout and Teacher Notes and View Comments

Learning about Genetic Disorders (revised 8/2017)

This activity provides brief instructions and recommended reliable sources for students to investigate and report on a genetic disorder of their choice. 

Download Student Handout and Teacher Notes and View Comments

Genetics Vocabulary Review Game

This game helps students to enjoy reviewing vocabulary related to genetics.  Each card in the deck has a target vocabulary word and two related taboo words that the student may not use as he/she gives clues so the other students in his/her small group can guess the target word.  Many students have trouble learning the substantial new vocabulary required for biology, and this game lets students have fun while reinforcing their understanding of key terms. 

Download Game and Teacher Notes and View Comments

Genetics Review Jeopardy Game

This game reviews genetics, with 25 questions of varying levels of difficulty.

Download Game and View Comments

Molecular Biology

Molecular Biology: Major Concepts and Learning Activities  (revised 7/2017)

This overview reviews key concepts and learning activities to help students understand how genes influence our traits by molecular processes.  Topics covered include basic understanding of the important roles of proteins and DNA; DNA structure, function and replication; the molecular biology of how genes influence traits, including transcription and translation; the molecular biology of mutations; and genetic engineering.  To help students understand the relevance of these molecular processes, the suggested learning activities link alleles of specific genes to human characteristics such as albinism, sickle cell anemia and muscular dystrophy. Suggested activities include hands-on laboratory and simulation activities, web-based simulations, discussion activities and a vocabulary review game. (NGSS)

Download Teacher Notes and View Comments

DNA (revised 12/2016)

In this activity, students extract DNA from Archaea or from their cheek cells. Students learn key concepts about DNA function during the intervals required for the extraction procedure. Student understanding of DNA structure, function and replication is further developed by additional analysis and discussion questions and hands-on modeling of DNA replication. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout and Teacher Preparation Notes and View Comments

DNA Structure, Function and Replication (revised 12/2016)

This analysis and discussion activity can be used to introduce your students to key concepts about the structure, function and replication of DNA or to review these topics. This activity includes hands-on modeling of DNA replication. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout and Teacher Notes and View Comments

From Gene to Protein - Transcription and Translation (revised 7/2017)

In this hands-on, minds-on activity students learn (1) how genes provide the instructions for making a protein via transcription and translation and (2) how genes influence characteristics such as albinism and sickle cell anemia. Students use simple paper models to simulate the molecular processes of transcription and translation. This activity also includes multiple figures, brief explanations, and questions, together with four recommended videos. You can use this activity to introduce students to transcription and translation or to reinforce and enhance student understanding. An alternative version omits the paper models (“From Gene to Protein via Transcription and Translation”; http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/bioactivities/trans). (NGSS)

Download Student Handout and Teacher Preparation Notes and View Comments

From Gene to Protein via Transcription and Translation (revised 7/2017)

In this analysis and discussion activity, students learn (1) how genes influence characteristics such as albinism and sickle cell anemia and (2) how genes provide the instructions for making a protein via transcription and translation. To help students understand the processes of transcription and translation, this activity includes multiple figures, brief explanations, and questions, together with four recommended videos. If you prefer a hands-on activity that uses simple paper models to simulate the molecular processes of transcription and translation, see “From Gene to Protein – Transcription and Translation” (http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/sci_edu/waldron/#trans). (NGSS)

Download Student Handout, Teacher Notes and View Comments

UV, Mutations, and DNA Repair (revised 2/2017)

Students learn about the effects of UV light, mutations and DNA repair on the survival of prokaryotes and the risk of skin cancer. In the first experiment, students evaluate the effects of different durations of UV exposure on survival and population growth of Haloferaxvolcanii. This experiment also tests for photorepair of DNA damage. Students design the second experiment, which evaluates the effectiveness of sunscreen. In addition, students answer analysis and discussion questions that promote their understanding of molecular biology, cancer, and the interpretation of experimental results. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout, Teacher Preparation Notes and View Comments

The Molecular Biology of Mutations and Muscular Dystrophy  (revised 7/2017)

In this analysis and discussion activity, students review basic molecular biology and learn how to use a codon wheel. Then, they analyze the molecular effects of different types of point mutations and deletion mutations and the reasons why deletion mutations generally have more severe effects. Students use this background to analyze the different types of deletion mutations that cause the more severe Duchenne muscular dystrophy vs. the milder Becker muscular dystrophy. (NGSS)  

Download Student Handout and Teacher Notes and View Comments 

Cell Differentiation and Epigenetics (new 11/2017)

In this analysis and discussion activity, students answer minds-on questions as they learn about the differentiation of specialized cell types, including the role of changes in epigenetic control of gene expression during cell differentiation. Students also learn about environmental influences on epigenetic control of gene expression and the need for cell division and differentiation even in a fully grown adult. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout and Teacher Notes and View Comments

Genetic Engineering Challenge – How can scientists develop a type of rice that could prevent vitamin A deficiency? (revised 7/2017)

This analysis and discussion activity begins with an introduction to vitamin A deficiency, rice seeds, and genetic engineering. Next, several questions challenge students to design a basic plan that could produce a genetically engineered rice plant that makes rice grains that contain pro-vitamin A. Subsequent information and questions guide students in developing an understanding of the basic techniques of genetic engineering. Students use fundamental molecular biology concepts as they think about how to solve a practical problem. This activity can be used to introduce students to genetic engineering or to reinforce basic understanding of genetic engineering. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout and Teacher Notes and View Comments

Golden Rice – Evaluating the Pros and Cons (new 2/2014)

This activity engages students in evaluating the evidence and arguments related to Golden Rice and other possible strategies for preventing vitamin A deficiency. Students use this information to develop evidence-based conclusions about Golden Rice and the prevention of vitamin A deficiency. Students also develop questions that could provide important additional information for evaluating the arguments in favor of and opposed to Golden Rice and related policy proposals. In addition, students analyze how two reasonably accurate articles can present totally opposing points of view on this complex policy issue.

Download Student Handout and Teacher Notes and View Comments

Molecular Biology Vocabulary Review Game (new 10/2011)

This game helps students to enjoy reviewing vocabulary related to DNA and RNA structure and function, transcription and translation. 

Download Game and View Comments

Ecology and Evolution

Population Growth – Exponential and Logistic Models vs. Complex Reality (revised 3/2017)

This multi-part analysis and discussion activity helps students to understand the exponential and logistic models of population growth, including the biological processes that result in exponential or logistic population growth. Students learn that these models are based on simplifying assumptions and explore how discrepancies between predicted and actual trends in population size can result when these simplifying assumptions are inaccurate for a real population. One version of the Student Handout also introduces students to equations for the exponential and logistic models of population growth. A second shorter version of the Student Handout omits these equations. (NGSS)

Download Student Handouts and Teacher Notes and view comments.

Some Similarities between the Spread of Infectious Disease and Population Growth (revised 3/2018)

First, students analyze a hypothetical example of exponential growth in the number of infected individuals. Then, a class simulation of the spread of an infectious disease shows a trend that approximates logistic growth. Next, students analyze examples of exponential and logistic population growth and learn about the biological processes that result in exponential or logistic population growth. Finally, students analyze how changes in the biotic or abiotic environment can affect population size; these examples illustrate the limitations of the exponential and logistic population growth models. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout and Teacher Preparation Notes and view comments

Food Webs, Energy Flow, Carbon Cycle and Trophic Pyramids (revised, 8/2016)

In this activity, students analyze the production and utilization of organic molecules in ecosystems. Students construct a food web for Yellowstone National Park, including producers, primary consumers, secondary consumers, decomposers, and trophic omnivores. Then, students analyze a trophic cascade that resulted when wolves were re-introduced to Yellowstone.

Students learn how organic molecules move and are transformed in ecosystems as a result of the trophic relationships in food webs, photosynthesis, cellular respiration, and biosynthesis. This provides the basis for understanding carbon cycles and energy flow through ecosystems. In the final section, students use these concepts and quantitative reasoning to understand trophic pyramids. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout and Teacher Preparation Notes and view comments.

Food, the Carbon Cycle and Global Warming - How can we feed the growing world population without increasing global warming? (new 3/2018)

In the first section of this analysis and discussion activity, students analyze information about global warming and greenhouse gases. Students learn that correlation does not necessarily imply causation and analyze the types of evidence that establish causal relationships. In the next two sections, students analyze carbon cycles, the effects of food production on greenhouse gas emissions, and the reasons why the production of different types of food result in very different amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. The last section engages students in proposing and researching ways to feed the world’s growing population without increasing global warming. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout and Teacher Notes and view comments.

Resources for Teaching about Climate Change (revised 3/2018)

This annotated list includes resources that can help your students develop a scientifically accurate understanding of the causes and consequences of global warming and climate change. Additional topics include modeling climate change and proposals to mitigate and adapt to climate change.  Given the nature of the topic, the approach is interdisciplinary. These resources are appropriate for middle school, high school and/or college students.

Download Student Handout and Teacher Notes and view comments.

Changing Biological Communities – Disturbance and Succession (new 4/2015)

This analysis and discussion activity helps students to understand how biological communities change during succession after a disturbance. Students analyze research evidence and explore how the interactions between different types of plants and animals influence succession. Students use their understanding of the processes involved in succession to construct and evaluate models of succession in abandoned farm fields. Students also analyze the effects on succession of climate and non-native invasive plants. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout and Teacher Notes and view comments.

The Ecology of Lyme Disease (new 4/2015)

This analysis and discussion activity engages students in understanding the lifecycle and adaptations of black-legged ticks and the relationships between these ticks, their vertebrate hosts, and the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Students use this background to analyze when and where human risk of Lyme disease is greatest, why rates of Lyme disease have increased in recent decades in the US, and ecological approaches to preventing Lyme disease. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout and Teacher Notes and view comments.

Resources for Teaching and Learning about Evolution (revised 2/2018)

This annotated compilation recommends some of the best resources for teaching and learning about evolution, including natural selection, understanding and analyzing the evidence for evolution, and recommended general resources.

Download these Teacher Notes and view comments.

Evolution by Natural Selection (revised 2/2018)

In this minds-on, hands-on activity, students develop their understanding of natural selection by analyzing specific examples and carrying out a simulation. The questions in the first section introduce students to the basic process of natural selection, including key concepts and vocabulary. The second section includes a simulation activity, data analysis, and questions to deepen students' understanding of natural selection, including the conditions that are required for natural selection to occur. (Alternative versions of this simulation are available at http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/waldron/naturalselection.) In the third section, students interpret evidence concerning natural selection in the peppered moth and answer questions to consolidate a scientifically accurate understanding of the process of natural selection, including the role of changes in allele frequency.

 (NGSS)

Download Student Handout and Teacher Preparation Notes and view comments

Evolution of Fur Color in Mice - Mutation, Environment and Natural Selection (revised 2/2018)

Students view a brief video that presents research findings concerning the roles of mutation and natural selection in the evolution of fur color in rock pocket mice. Multiple-choice questions in the video and analysis and discussion questions in the Student Handout guide students to a better understanding of mutation, environment, and natural selection. Students learn how the same trait can evolve independently in different populations and how analysis at multiple levels from the molecular to the ecological contributes to a better understanding of evolution by natural selection. (NGSS)

Download Teacher Notes and View Comments

How Eyes Evolved – Analyzing the Evidence  (revised 7/2016)

In this activity, students analyze evidence from comparative anatomy, mathematical modeling, and molecular biology. This evidence suggests a likely sequence of steps in the evolution of the human eye and the octopus eye.  General concepts used to interpret this evidence include natural selection, fitness, and the difference between homology (similarity due to common descent) and analogy (similarity due to convergent evolution). Optional additional questions presented in the Teacher Notes can be used to discuss topics such as the contributions to evolution of gene duplication and mutations in the regulatory DNA sequences that control gene expression. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout and Teacher Notes and view comments.

Evolution and Adaptations (new 8/2013)

In common experience, the term "adapting" usually refers to changes during an organism's lifetime. In contrast, evolutionary biologists use the term "adaptation" to refer to a heritable trait that increases fitness. To help students reconcile these different concepts, this activity introduces the concept of phenotypic plasticity (the ability of an organism to adapt to different environments within its lifetime). Questions guide students in analyzing how the balance between the advantages and disadvantages of a characteristic (e.g. an animal’s color) can vary in different circumstances, how phenotypic plasticity can be a heritable trait that can optimize fitness in a variable environment, and how natural selection can influence the amount of phenotypic plasticity in a population. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout and Teacher Notes and view comments.

What Parts of a Plant Do We Eat?

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.

Download Student Handout and Teacher Preparation Notes and view comments

Invertebrate Diversity (revised 5/2011)

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.

Download Student Handout and Teacher Preparation Notes and view comments

Moldy Jell-O

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.

Download Student Handout and Teacher Preparation Notes and view comments

Human Physiology and Health

Homeostasis and Negative Feedback – Concepts and Breathing Experiments  (revised 8/2017)

This minds-on, hands-on activity begins with analysis and discussion questions that develop student understanding of homeostasis and negative feedback, the difference between negative and positive feedback, and the cooperation between the respiratory and circulatory systems to provide O2 and remove CO2 for cells all over the body. Then, students carry out and analyze an experiment which investigates how rate and depth of breathing are affected by negative feedback regulation of blood levels of CO2 and O2. Finally, students formulate a question concerning effects of exercise on breathing, design and carry out a relevant experiment, analyze and interpret their data, and relate their results to homeostasis during exercise. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout and Teacher Preparation Notes and view comments

Regulation of Human Heart Rate (revised 7/2013)

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.

Download Student Handout and Teacher Preparation Notes and view comments

How do we sense the flavors of food? (new 7/2017)

In this minds-on, hands-on activity, students develop science practice skills by developing plans for a hands-on investigation, carrying out the investigation, analyzing the data, and interpreting the results. Then, students answer analysis and discussion questions as they develop a basic understanding of how taste and olfactory receptor cells function and how sensory messages to the brain contribute to flavor perception and flavor-related behavior. (NGSS) 

Download Student Handout and Teacher Preparation Notes and view comments

Using Molecular and Evolutionary Biology to Understand HIV/AIDS and Treatment (new 8/2012)

This analysis and discussion activity introduces students to the biology of HIV infection and treatment, including the molecular biology of the HIV virus lifecycle and the importance of understanding molecular biology and natural selection for developing effective treatments. The questions in this activity challenge students to apply their understanding of basic molecular and cellular biology and natural selection and interpret the information presented in prose and diagrams in order to understand multiple aspects of the biology of HIV/AIDS and treatment. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout and Teacher Notes and View Comments

Understanding the Biology of Cancer (revised 7/2014)

This analysis and discussion activity introduces students to the molecular and cellular biology of cancer, including the important contributions of mutations in genes that code for proteins involved in regulating the rate of cell division. The questions in this activity challenge students to interpret the information presented in prose, tables and diagrams and apply their knowledge of basic molecular and cellular biology in order to understand multiple aspects of the biology of cancer, including the contributions of a variety of environmental exposures to increased risk for different types of cancer and the long lag between exposure to carcinogens and the diagnosis of cancer. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout and Teacher Notes and View Comments

Carbohydrate Consumption, Athletic Performance and Health – Using Science Process Skills to Understand the Evidence (new 11/2012)

This analysis and discussion activity is designed to develop students' understanding of the scientific process by having them design an experiment to test a hypothesis, compare their experimental design with the design of a research study that tested the same hypothesis, evaluate research evidence concerning two hypothesized effects of carbohydrate consumption, evaluate the pros and cons of experimental vs. observational research studies, and finally use what they have learned to revise a standard diagram of the scientific method to make it more accurate, complete and realistic. 

Download Student Handout and Teacher Notes and View Comments

Vitamins and Health – Why Experts Disagree (new 11/2012)

In this analysis and discussion activity, research concerning the health effects of vitamin E is used as a case study to help students understand why different research studies may find seemingly opposite results. Students learn useful approaches for evaluating and synthesizing conflicting research results, with a major focus on understanding the strengths and weaknesses of different types of studies (laboratory experiments, observational studies, and clinical trials). Students also learn that the results of any single study should be interpreted with caution, since results of similar studies vary (due to random variation and differences in specific study characteristics).

Download Student Handout and Teacher Notes and View Comments

Should You Drink Sports Drinks?  When?  Why? (revised 9/2013)

The questions in this activity help students to understand the effects of consuming sports drinks and when and how the consumption of sports drinks can be beneficial or harmful. This activity provides the opportunity to review some basic concepts related to osmosis, cellular respiration, mammalian temperature regulation, and how our different body systems cooperate to maintain homeostasis.

 Download Student Handout and Teacher Notes and View Comments

Get the Lead Out

This board game reinforces learning about the sources and biological hazards of lead exposure.

Download Student Handout, Teacher Notes and View Comments

 

If you have any comments or would like additional information, please contact Ingrid Waldron at iwaldron@sas.upenn.edu.

Copyright, 2003- 2018 by Drs. Ingrid Waldron, Jennifer Doherty, Scott Poethig and Lori Spindler, Department of Biology, University of Pennsylvania

Teachers are encouraged to copy and modify these activities for use in their teaching.

This annotated list includes resources that can help your students develop a scientifically accurate understanding of the causes and consequences of global warming and climate change. Additional topics include modeling climate change and proposals to mitigate and adapt to climate change.  Given the nature of the topic, the approach is interdisciplinary. These resources are appropriate for middle school, high school and/or college students.

Biology Classroom Resources

This collection of lessons and web resources is aimed at classroom teachers, their students, and students' families. Most of these resources come from the National Science Digital Library (NSDL). NSDL is the National Science Foundation's online library of resources for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. See www.nsdl.org

Teachers' Domain: Life Science
Resource: Educator (grades K-12)
http://www.teachersdomain.org/collection/k12/sci.life/
The Teachers' Domain Web site provides information about life science including lesson plans, short video clips and high quality photographs.

Birdsleuth
Resource: Educator (grades K-8), Children (grades pre-K-8) and Parents
http://www.birds.cornell.edu/birdsleuth
Developed at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Birdsleuth curriculum is a series of inquiry-based units for elementary and middle school students who learn to identify birds and submit data to a national online database, all the while helping scientists to better understand birds. Educators can provide some simple information and get access to specific lessons. Children can also access the online magazine which features research done by children for children.

Turtle Trax
Resource: General Public and Student Research Information
http://www.turtles.org
This site highlights the wonder and beauty of the marine turtle, specifically, the Hawaiian green sea turtle. Content provides the user with information on the plight and decreasing population of the sea turtle as well as opportunities to help their survival.

Neuroscience for Kids
Resource: Educator (grades K-8), Students (grades K-8) and Parents
http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/neurok.html
This Web site "Neuroscience for Kids", maintained by Eric H. Chudler, Ph.D., is for students and teachers who would like to learn more about the nervous system. The focus is on the functioning of the brain. The site offers content for teachers in the classroom as well as captivating and fun activities and games for students from grade K-8.

Cool Science for Curious Kids
Resource: Educator (middle and high school) and Children (ages 5-7)
http://www.hhmi.org/coolscience/index.html
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute invites an audience of educators and students of all ages to explore science and math. The site provides teacher resources with free registration and a secion for "Curious Kids" with simple projects.

ActionBioscience.org
Resource: Educator (high school-college level), Science Professionals and the General Public
http://www.actionbioscience.org
This Web site is an educational resource of the American Institute of Biological Sciences that promotes bioscience literacy. The site provides articles by scientists, science educators and science students on many topics such as biodiversity, environment, genomics, biotechnology and more. It also includes original lessons and resources to enhance bioscience teaching.

Sci4Kids
Resource: Educator (elementary school) and Parents
http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/kids/
The Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency, finds solutions to agricultural problems that affect Americans every day, from field to table. This webpage has animated, fun stories for young children presenting factual information which affects their daily lives.

Slug Site
Resource: General Public and Student research information
http://www.slugsite.tierranet.com
The Slug Site is a Web site whoes mission is to support scientific and medical research relating to seaslugs (Mollusca, Opisthobranchia, Nudibranchia) and their allies. The site has provides professional and general information resources and photos from around the world. The photos and videos are beautiful! Although the site targets an audience of high school and above, the site would capture the imagination of the younger audience as well.

Whales Online
Resource: General Public and Student Research Information
http://www.whales-online.org
Whales Online is an information site dedicated to the conservation of whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Southern Hemisphere. The site provides valuable information for the protection of these mammals and their enviornment and safety. The beautiful videos and stories will be enjoyed by all ages.

Cells Alive
Resource: Educator (high school and above), Student Research Information and General Public
http://www.cellsalive.com
All text, images and layout is provided by Jim Sullivan and represents over 25 years of experience capturing film and computer-enhanced images of living cells and organisms for education and medical research. Cells Alive provides great annimations and videos which can be downloaded for classroom use.

Marine Biology Web, an Educational Resource
Resource: General Public and Student Research Information
http://life.bio.sunysb.edu/marinebio/mbweb.html
Maintained by marine biologist Jeff Levinton, the site is an educational resource for marine biology students at pre-college level and above, and includes reference lists organized by subject. The site provides current articles and numerous links to other sites.

BioTech
Resource: Students (high school-graduate student level) and Professional Researchers
http://biotech.icmb.utexas.edu/
Located at University of Texas at Austin, BioTech is a hybrid biology/chemistry educational resource and research tool intended to be a learning tool to enhance knowledge of biology issues. The site provides quick access to biology-related resources for high school level and above.

Strange Science
Resource: General Public
http://www.strangescience.net/index.htm
Strange Science is a Web site which describes the history of paleontology and biology by emphasizing the people who contributed to these fields and some of their erroneous theories. Although this site focuses more on the history of science than on evolution, it treats evolution as a scientific fact, not "just a theory."

T-Rex
Resource: Educator
http://school.discovery.com
The Discovery Web site provides a lesson plan section for teachers from grades K-12. This specific one is about T-Rex and is one of many lesson plans relating to animals for grades 6-8 . All lesson plans include objectives, materials, procedures, discussion questions, evaluation ideas, suggested readings and vocabulary.

Biology Research Overview
Resource: All Audiences
http://www.nsf.gov/news/overviews/biology/index.jsp
A bat, a mushroom, a long blade of prairie grass. They're easy to identify as "life." what about a cold virus? Mold growing on a slice of bread? Or seeds encased in hard protective "shells" that can lie dormant for centuries? What, in essence, is this thing we call life? This Web page on the National Science Foundations's Web site gives us answers to many biological questions. Beautiful images can ignite the interest of all ages.

Leave a Comment

(0 Comments)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *