Remote Ready Biology Learning Activities has 50 remote-ready activities, which work for either your classroom or remote teaching.
by Drs. Ingrid Waldron and Jennifer Doherty, University of Pennsylvania
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
The expression "hands-on, minds-on" summarizes the philosophy we have incorporated in these activities - namely, that students will learn best if they are actively engaged and if their activities are closely linked to understanding important biological concepts.
Most of our activities support the Next Generation Science Standards, as indicated by (NGSS) in the descriptions below and the links to the right. Additional information is provided in Summary Tables and in the Teacher Preparation Notes for these activities.
To accommodate limited budgets, most of our activities can be carried out with minimum equipment and expense for supplies.
Additional resources for teaching biology are available at Minds-on Activities for Teaching Biology. These teaching resources include remote ready analysis and discussion activities, games, and overviews of important biological topics, including major concepts, common misconceptions, and suggested learning activities.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. To preserve the value of these learning activities for other teachers, please do not post keys for any questions from any of these activities! We encourage you to subscribe to our listserv to receive notices when we post new activities or significantly improved versions of current activities.
Students evaluate whether the little brown grains of yeast obtained from the grocery store are alive by testing for metabolism and growth.
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, interpret the results, and 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 (which can result 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. (NGSS)
In the first part of this activity, students answer analysis and discussion questions as they learn about the structure, functions, and synthesis of starch and proteins. They use this information to explain why certain parts of plants or animals contain a substantial amount of starch or protein. Then, students carry out key components of a scientific investigation, including generating hypotheses, designing and carrying out experiments to test their hypotheses, and, if needed, using experimental results to revise their hypotheses. (NGSS)
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.
More Minds-on Activities for teaching about biological molecules are available at Minds-on Biological Molecules. These include an analysis and discussion activity and a game for learning and review.
In this hands-on, minds-on activity, students investigate the effects of hypotonic and hypertonic solutions on eggs that have had their shells removed. As students interpret their results, they develop a basic understanding of the process of osmosis. As they answer additional analysis and discussion questions, students learn about the effects of osmosis on animal and plant cells and apply their understanding of osmosis to the interpretation of several "real-world" phenomena. (NGSS)
This activity includes two hands-on experiments and numerous analysis and discussion questions to help students understand how the characteristics and organization of the molecules in the cell membrane result in the selective permeability of the cell membrane. In the hands-on experiments, students first evaluate the selective permeability of a synthetic membrane and then observe how a layer of oil can be a barrier to diffusion of an aqueous solution. Students answer analysis and discussion questions to learn how the phospholipid bilayer and membrane proteins play key roles in the cell membrane function of regulating what gets into and out of the cell. Topics covered include ions, polar and nonpolar molecules; simple diffusion through the phospholipid bilayer; facilitated diffusion through membrane proteins; and active transport by membrane proteins. An optional additional page introduces exocytosis and endocytosis. (NGSS)
More Minds-on Activities for teaching cell biology are available at Cell Structure and Function. These include an overview, analysis and discussion activities, and a game for review.
This multi-part minds-on, hands-on activity helps students to understand both alcoholic fermentation and the engineering design process. Students begin by learning about alcoholic fermentation and yeast. To test whether grains of yeast can carry out alcoholic fermentation, students compare CO2 production by grains of yeast in sugar water vs. two controls. Then, students are introduced to the bioengineering design challenge to find the optimum temperature and sucrose concentration to maximize rapid CO2 production. Students are guided through the basic engineering steps of applying the relevant scientific background to the design challenge, planning for systematic testing of possible design solutions, drawing tentative conclusions from the results of this testing, clarifying the criteria for an optimum design solution, and planning for further testing. In addition to the complete Student Handout, we offer a shorter Student Handout that omits the design challenge. (NGSS)
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)
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)
More Minds-on Activities for teaching about cellular respiration, anaerobic fermentation and photosynthesis are available at Cellular Respiration and Photosynthesis. These include an overview and analysis and discussion activities.
In this hands-on, minds-on activity, students learn how the cell cycle produces genetically identical daughter cells. They use model chromosomes and answer analysis and discussion questions to learn 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. The model chromosomes are labeled with the alleles of several human genes, and students learn how the alleles influence phenotypic characteristics. 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. (NGSS)
In this hands-on, minds-on activity, students use model chromosomes and 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. Students first 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. As they model meiosis and fertilization, students follow the alleles of a human gene from the parents' body cells through gametes to zygotes. Thus, students learn how a person inherits one copy of each gene from each of his/her parents. A final brief section contrasts sexual reproduction with asexual reproduction. This activity can be used to introduce meiosis and fertilization or to review these processes. (NGSS)
This hands-on, minds-on activity helps 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. Students use model chromosomes to demonstrate how meiosis and fertilization are summarized in Punnett squares. In the coin flip activity, students learn about the probabilistic nature of inheritance and Punnett square predictions. (NGSS)
In this minds-on, hands-on activity, students use simple 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. Students learn about the genetics of ABO blood types, multiple alleles of a single gene, and codominance. 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)
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.
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.
More Minds-on Activities for teaching about cell division and genetics are available at Cell Division and Genetics. These include overviews, analysis and discussion activities, and games for learning and review.
In this hands-on, minds-on activity, students extract DNA from Archaea or from their cheek cells. In addition, students learn or review key concepts about the structure, function, and replication of DNA. For example, students learn that the genes in DNA give the instructions to make proteins, which influence our characteristics. They also learn how the double helix structure of DNA and the base-pairing rules provide the basis for DNA replication. This activity includes multiple analysis and discussion questions and hands-on or online modeling of DNA replication. (NGSS)
To begin this hands-on, minds-on activity, students learn that different versions of a gene give the instructions for making different versions of a clotting protein, which result in normal blood clotting or hemophilia. Then, students learn how genes provide the instructions for making a protein via the processes of transcription and translation. They develop an understanding of the roles of RNA polymerase, the base-pairing rules, mRNA, tRNA and ribosomes. Finally, students use their learning about transcription and translation to understand how a change in a single nucleotide in the hemoglobin gene can result in sickle cell anemia. Throughout, students use the information in brief explanations, figures and videos to answer analysis and discussion questions. In addition, students use simple paper models to simulate the processes of transcription and translation. An alternative version omits the paper models (How Genes Can Cause Disease - Understanding Transcription and Translation). (NGSS)
Download Teacher Preparation Notes: PDF format
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 Haloferax volcanii. 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)
More Minds-on Activities for teaching molecular biology are available at Molecular Biology.These include an overview and analysis and discussion activities.
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. 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. (Analysis and discussion versions of the first and third sections are available at https://serendipstudio.org/exchange/bioactivities/NaturalSelectionIntro and https://serendipstudio.org/exchange/bioactivities/NaturalSelectionMoth.) (NGSS)
In this hands-on, minds-on activity, students learn about the two ways that evolution produces similarities: (1) inheritance from a shared evolutionary ancestor (homologous characteristics) and (2) independent evolution of similar characteristics to accomplish the same function (analogous characteristics). Students use these concepts to analyze the similarities and differences between bat and squirrel skeletons and between bat and insect wings. In the laboratory investigation, students observe the external anatomy and locomotion of earthworms, mealworms, and crickets. Students use these observations and the concepts they have learned to figure out which two of these animals are more closely related evolutionarily. (NGSS)
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)
To begin this hands-on, minds-on activity, students view a video about ecosystem changes that resulted when wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone. Next, students learn about food chains and food webs, and they construct and analyze a food web for Yellowstone National Park. Then, students use what they have learned to understand trophic cascades caused by the return of wolves to Yellowstone. Next, students learn that the biosphere requires a continuous inflow of energy, but does not need an inflow of carbon atoms. To understand why, students analyze how the carbon cycle and energy flow through ecosystems result from photosynthesis, biosynthesis, cellular respiration, and the trophic relationships in food webs. In the final section, students use the concepts they have learned to understand trophic pyramids and phenomena such as the relative population sizes for wolves vs. elk in Yellowstone. Thus, students learn how important ecological phenomena result from processes at the molecular, cellular, and organismal levels. For virtual instruction, you can use Food Webs - Understanding What Happened When Wolves Returned to Yellowstone, Carbon Cycles and Energy Flow through Ecosystems and the Biosphere, and Trophic Pyramids. (NGSS)
To begin, students view a video about ecosystem changes 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 understand a trophic cascade caused by the return of wolves to Yellowstone. (NGSS)
More minds-on analysis and discussion activities for teaching evolution and ecology are available at Ecology and Evolution.
This minds-on, hands-on activity begins with an anchoring phenomenon, how a person's breathing changes when he/she is re-breathing the air in a plastic bag. Students develop a negative feedback model of how the changes in breathing stabilize blood levels of O2 and CO2. To understand changes in breathing when running, students analyze cellular respiration. Next, students use a negative feedback model to understand temperature regulation and homeostasis. Then, students analyze how failures of negative feedback can result in diabetes. Finally, students compare and contrast positive and negative feedback. The Appendix for the Teacher Preparation Notes suggests an optional activity in which each student group investigates a question or hypothesis concerning negative feedback, homeostasis and changes in breathing. (NGSS)
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.
In this minds-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)
More minds-on analysis and discussion activities for teaching physiology and health are available at Human Physiology and Health.
If you prefer, you can send a private message with comments or requests for additional information to Ingrid Waldron at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Teachers are encouraged to copy and modify these labs for use in their teaching.