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Photosynthesis, Cellular Respiration and Plant Growth

This minds-on, hands-on activity begins with the driving question of how a tiny seed grows into a giant sequoia tree.

To address this question, students first consider what types of molecules and atoms are in plants. Next, they analyze data from an experiment on changes in plant biomass in the light vs. dark. Then, they conduct an experiment to evaluate changes in CO2 concentration in the air around plants in the light vs. dark.

Students interpret these data to develop an increasingly accurate and evidence-based model of the contributions of photosynthesis and cellular respiration to changes in plant biomass.

This activity counteracts several common misconceptions about plant growth, photosynthesis, and cellular respiration. (NGSS)

A Scientific Investigation – What types of food contain starch and protein?

Starch molecule

In the first part of this activity, students use basic information about the structure, functions, and synthesis of starch and proteins to understand why certain parts of plants or animals contain starch and/or proteins.

Then, students practice the scientific method by carrying out key components of a scientific investigation, including generating hypotheses, developing experimental methods, designing and carrying out experiments to test their hypotheses, and, if needed, using experimental results to revise their hypotheses. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout: PDF format or Word format

Download Teacher Preparation Notes: PDF format or Word format

Enzymes Help Us Digest Food

In this hands-on, minds-on activity, students investigate the biological causes of Maria’s symptoms and Jayden’s symptoms. To explore the causes of these symptoms, students carry out two experiments and interpret the results, and they answer additional analysis and discussion questions.

Students learn about enzyme function and enzyme specificity as they figure out that Maria’s symptoms are due to lactase deficiency (resulting in lactose intolerance) and Jayden’s symptoms are due to sucrase deficiency.

In the final section, students are challenged to generalize their understanding of enzymes to interpret a video of an experiment with saliva, starch and iodine. This activity can be used in an introductory unit on biological molecules or later during a discussion of enzymes.

Download Student Handout: PDF format or Word format

Download Teacher Preparation Notes: PDF format or Word format

Introduction to Proteins and DNA

The Teacher Notes present a sequence of activities that will help students understand the basic structure and function of proteins and DNA.

To understand how genes influence our characteristics, students learn that different versions of a protein can result in different characteristics, and a gene in the DNA determines which version of a protein is synthesized by a person’s cells.

This information is conveyed through a PowerPoint with a sequence of discussion questions and videos, a Student Handout, and an optional hands-on learning activity. This sequence can be used in an introductory unit on biological molecules or to introduce a unit on molecular biology.

Were the babies switched? – The Genetics of Blood Types and Skin Color

3 babies with different skin color

In this minds-on, hands-on activity, students learn about the genetics of ABO blood types, including multiple alleles of a single gene and codominance. Then, students use chemicals to simulate blood type tests and carry out genetic analyses to determine whether hospital staff accidentally switched two babies born on the same day.

Next, students analyze the genetics of skin color in order to understand how fraternal twins can have different skin colors. In this analysis, students learn about incomplete dominance and how a single phenotypic characteristic can be influenced by multiple genes and the environment. (NGSS)

Download Student Handout: PDF format or Word format

Download Teacher Preparation Notes: PDF format or Word format

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