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Remote Ready Biology Learning Activities

Minds-On Biology

These minds-on activities, initially designed for use in the classroom, have been adapted for use in online teaching or distance learning. Advice for Using Google Docs is available at

Introductory Activities Energy – Cellular Respiration and Photosynthesis Cell Division Genetics and Molecular Biology Evolution Ecology Human Physiology and Health

A mistake in copying DNA can result in dwarfism.

In this minds-on activity, students analyze evidence about achondroplasia to learn how a mistake in DNA replication can result in a new mutation that affects a child’s characteristics.

This analysis and discussion activity reviews several basic genetics principles and helps to counteract several common misconceptions about genetics.

Introduction to Genetics – Similarities and Differences between Family Members

To begin this activity, students propose a hypothesis about how genes contribute to the similarities and differences in appearance of family members. Students repeatedly refine their hypothesis as they learn more.

Students learn that different versions of a gene give the instructions for making different versions of a protein which can result in different characteristics. Next, students review how genes are transmitted from parents to offspring through the processes of meiosis and fertilization. Then, students analyze several examples that illustrate how inheritance of genes can result in family resemblance and/or differences.

Concepts covered include Punnett squares, dominant and recessive alleles, incomplete dominance, and polygenic inheritance.

Teaching Biology Workshop: Energy Metabolism

University of Pennsylvania biologists Ingrid Waldron and Lori Spindler offer free professional development workshops for high school biology teachers and middle school life science teachers. They have recorded this workshop about Energy Metabolism.

Links to the materials:

Recorded October 24, 2020

Understanding How Genes are Inherited via Meiosis and Fertilization

Process of meiosis and fertilization In this minds-on activity, students answer analysis and discussion questions to learn how a child inherits one copy of each gene from each parent via the processes of meiosis and fertilization. They analyze how the processes of meiosis and fertilization result in the alternation between diploid and haploid cells in the human lifecycle.

To learn how meiosis produces genetically diverse gametes, students analyze the results of crossing over and independent assortment.

Then, students follow the alleles of a human gene from the parents' body cells through gametes and zygote to a child’s cells. They learn how the outcomes of meiosis and fertilization can be represented in a Punnett square.

A brief final section contrasts sexual reproduction with asexual reproduction. 

This activity can be used to introduce meiosis and fertilization or to review these processes. A hands-on version of this activity is available as “Meiosis and Fertilization – Understanding How Genes Are Inherited”.

Mitosis and the Cell Cycle – How the Trillions of Cells in a Human Body Developed from a Single Cell

In this minds-on analysis and discussion activity, students learn how the cell cycle produces genetically identical daughter cells. They analyze how DNA replication and mitosis work together to ensure that each new cell gets a complete set of chromosomes with a complete set of genes.

To understand how a single cell (the fertilized egg) can develop into the trillions of cells in a human body, students analyze an exponential growth model for the increase in number of cells. The final section provides a brief introduction to cellular differentiation.

This activity can be used as an introduction to mitosis or to reinforce understanding of mitosis. A hands-on version of this activity is available as “Mitosis and the Cell Cycle – How a Single Cell Develops into the Trillions of Cells in a Human Body”.

Comparing Mitosis and Meiosis

In this minds-on analysis and discussion activity, students review mitosis and meiosis as they compare and contrast these two types of cell division. The Teacher Notes for this activity include an optional mitosis and meiosis card sort for additional review.

The Student Handout is available in the first two attached files and as a Google doc designed for use in online instruction and distance learning. The Teacher Notes, available in the last two attached files, provide instructional suggestions and background information.

Food Webs – Understanding What Happened When Wolves Returned to Yellowstone

To begin, students view a video about the trophic cascade that resulted when wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone. Next, students learn about food chains and food webs. They construct and analyze a food web for Yellowstone National Park. Finally, students use what they have learned to better understand the trophic cascade caused by the return of wolves to Yellowstone.

This learning activity provides an introduction to the learning activities, Carbon Cycles and Energy Flow through Ecosystems and the Biosphere and Trophic Pyramids. All three of these activities are included in Food Webs, Energy Flow, Carbon Cycle and Trophic Pyramids, which is intended for classroom instruction.

Carbon Cycles and Energy Flow through Ecosystems and the Biosphere

In this analysis and discussion activity, students learn why the biosphere requires a continuous inflow of energy, but does not need an inflow of carbon atoms. Students analyze how the process of photosynthesis illustrates the general principles of conservation of matter and the second Law of Thermodynamics.

Then, students analyze how carbon cycles and energy flow through ecosystems result from photosynthesis, biosynthesis, cellular respiration, and the trophic relationships in food webs. Thus, students learn how important ecological phenomena result from processes at the molecular, cellular and organismal levels.

Trophic Pyramids

To begin this analysis and discussion activity, students review what happens to the atoms in the nearly 2000 pounds of food the average American eats each year. This provides a context for students to figure out why the rate of biomass production is higher for the producers than for the primary consumers in an ecosystem.

Then, students construct and analyze trophic pyramids. Finally, they apply what they have learned to understanding why more resources are needed to produce meat than to produce an equivalent amount of plant food.

Coronavirus Evolution and the Covid-19 Pandemic

In this analysis and discussion activity, students learn that the coronavirus responsible for the current pandemic very probably originated in bats. Students analyze how mutations and natural selection can produce a spillover infection.

Next, students learn how natural selection increased the frequency of a mutation that made the coronavirus more contagious.

Finally, students analyze how mutations contributed to the spread of the Omicron variant and its subvariants.

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