Category Archives: Organization

Week 3

Week 3: September 16-20

Monday, September 16 (LS1-2): After making and recording corn seed observations, students plant seeds in soil in preparation for the next phase of our experiment.


Next, students will discuss the analysis questions from last Friday’s assignment.  In The Breath of Life reading, students learned how the respiratory system of humans enables gas exchange, with the lungs inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide.  The gas exchange occurs within the alveoli, thin-walled sacs inside the lungs.  The reading introduced the concept of feedback systems, focusing on the special nerve cells in the cardiovascular and nervous systems that can sense changes in pH.  As carbon dioxide builds up, the blood becomes more acidic, and the lungs are forced to exhale to rid the body of carbon dioxide which then brings the pH back to normal levels.



For the last few minutes of class, we made a list of some of the ingredients found in tacos, and then categorized those food items as carbohydrates, proteins, or fats.  We will dig into this work much more deeply tomorrow.


Tuesday, September 17 (LS1-2):  After making and recording corn plant observations, students actively took notes and shared their understanding of biomolecules.  Glucose is a simple sugar and the key ingredient in cellular respiration, the process organisms use to generate vast amounts of ATP energy.  Sugars are one type of biomolecule.  Our work today was to learn about three major classes of biomolecules: proteins, fats (lipids), and sugars (carbohydrates).  We reviewed the monomers and polymers of each, and then students read pages 328-332 in our textbook and completed the associated worksheet.  The assigned reading is titled Food: Our Body’s Source of Energy and Structural Materials.  Now that students understand the link between photosynthesis (chemical potential energy stored in glucose), cellular respiration (glucose metabolized to transfer the energy in glucose to ATP), and the larger connection with the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, it is time to learn more about how the digestive system makes use of the variety of foods available to us.  It is time to think beyond glucose.

Notes from class:




Wednesday, September 18 (LS1-2): After making and recording corn plant observations, we reviewed the reading from yesterday and focused in on an important group of enzymes responsible for digestion in the human digestive system.  For the remainder of class, students worked with a partner on the Digestive System Gizmo activity packet.

Thursday, September 19 (LS1-2): After making and recording corn plant observations for the final time, students will work with a partner to complete the Digestive System Gizmo activity packet.

Friday, September 20: Students had the entire short Friday class period to work on the Digestive System Gizmo activity packet.  Students were instructed to complete, at a minimum, through Activity B as homework before class on Monday.

Keep Learning!

Watch The Digestive System video by Mr. Anderson at Bozeman Science to learn more about this important area of study!

Week 2

Week 2: September 9-13

Monday, September 9: Signed copies of the safety contract and syllabus are due today.

For class today, we will revisit our work last week on homeostasis.  We will discuss the concepts of positive and negative feedback as they relate to humans, and extend our thinking to plants. (Reminder – please enter heart rate and respiration data on the Google Form so we can analyze the class data tomorrow.)  We began our work with students sharing what they know about the connection between exercise, pulse rate, and respiration rate.  We extended the discussion to include photosynthesis and cellular respiration, connecting all of the ideas together through feedback loops and the hormone epinephrine (also known as adrenaline).  Class notes are shown below.



Our work this week is to further our understanding of how organisms interact with their environment.  For our first experiment of the school year, students will explore variables involved with seed germination and plant growth.  We will determine which variables promote plant growth (positive feedback) and which inhibit plan growth (negative feedback).  Our work today is to begin the process of seed germination by first hydrating Orbeez.  The procedure we followed is shown below:


Tuesday, September 10 (HS-LS1-3):

Class began with an entry task in which students were tasked with constructing a network diagram using 7 vocabulary terms learned so far this year.  After making initial attempts, students worked with their lab table group to optimize their network.  The first team finished drew their network diagram on the white board (pictured below) and the class analyzed it.  Students learned to look for the node with only arrows leaving to determine where to start, and they learned that the arrows point from one term toward the next term in the sequence.


While students were busy drawing network diagrams, Nurse Jessica visited and offered to use a pulsometer for students to obtain accurate pulse readings.  We used the anonymous student data to construct a graph and then calculated the average pulse rate (beats per minute) of all of the students in the class.


Finally, we returned to our Orbeez hydration activity from yesterday.  Students recorded observations of their Orbeez after one day (24 hours) hydrating in water.  Students then rinsed their Orbeez and placed 10 Orbeez in a labeled test tube along with some corn seeds.  Students selected up to 10 seeds to add to their test tube.  Students drew and labeled their initial (Day 0) observations in their notebooks.  Over the next few weeks, students will make daily observations of their corn seeds.


Wednesday, September 11: At the beginning of class, students recorded observations of their corn seeds “planted” in Orbeez.

Next, we constructed a student-generated list of what students know, think they know, or want to know about cells:


Next, we will watch the Harvard BioVisions video Inner Life of a Cell, which presents a realistic animation of how cells move:

After the video, Mr. Peterson guided students through new vocabulary words that they will encounter in an article to be read after working with Mr. P.


The article, titled Facts About Cells, comes from Newsela.  Students will have the option to select one of four different versions of the article, each geared toward a different reading level.  Students will select the version most appropriate for them and then complete the quiz questions at the end of the article.  For students looking for an advanced level text, students may instead read through page 13 of Chapter 1 of Inside the Cell.  The “Got It” questions on page 19 are due tomorrow by the end of class instead of the “quiz” questions from the Newsela article.

Thursday, September 12 (HS-LS1-2): After making and recording corn seed observations, we discussed the articles from yesterday.  Students gathered into groups based on their chosen text levels and discussed the “quiz” questions at the end of the articles.  We used the reading as a basis to construct a model of a cell, with aspects of the model representing a network diagram.  We finished by revisiting photosynthesis and cellular respiration, connecting the mitochondria organelle from our model with ATP from cellular respiration.

Notes from class:



Friday, September 13 (HS-LS1-2):  After making and recording corn seed observations, students will review the types of cells as a class.  When finished, students will read The Breath of Life on pages 236-239 of the BSCS Biology textbook and complete the analysis questions (due Monday).  We will discuss the analysis questions on Monday.

Keep Learning!

Want to learn more about body systems and the specialized cells, tissues, and organs they contain? Review the body systems with Anatomy and Physiology videos from Crash Course!


Chromosome Project Poster Walk

The chromosome project culminated today with a poster walk.  Students placed their posters on their desks and then looked over each other’s posters while completing the poster walk handout.  After the poster walk, students turned in the handout (15 points), their completed posters (10 points), and their research notes (25 points).

Selected Chromosome Project Posters

Energy, Matter, and Organization: Dissection Lab

Today marked the first day of dissections (thanks to our DonorsChoose grant award!), with students working in teams of three to dissect a cow eye and a pig heart.  Student feedback was overwhelmingly positive.  Students who were apprehensive at first quickly engaged with the hands-on lab.  Many were surprised at how different the organs were compared with the stylized pictures they had seen in textbooks.  I was very impressed with how respectfully students treated the organs.  The dissections were performed with care and clear attention to detail.  Many students were able to trace the flow of blood through the heart.  Students who dissected the eye noted the beautiful blue coloration of the cow eye retina, and may students were surprised by the onion-like structure and marble-like consistency of the lens.  The hardness of opacity of the lens are due to the dissection materials being stored in a chemical fixative.  Exploratorium has a guide available for the dissection of fresh cow eyes for students feeling inspired to connect with their local butcher.


Update: 1/27/16

Students dissected frogs and sheep brains today:

For the final 20 minutes of class, we reviewed critical course content in preparation for the Unit 2 Exam scheduled for tomorrow.  White board notes are shown below:

Energy, Matter, and Organization: Dissection Lab Prep

For our entry task today, students assembled into their dissection groups, quickly assigned each other a number (1, 2, or 3) and then were assigned every third question on the worksheet (page 1 only).  The entry task video is below and helps connect the work we have completed this far in Unit 1 (cells and organelles) and Unit 2 (body systems), with a preview of what is to come.

Dissections have arrived!  We will begin by review the contents of the dissection kit each team will use, and we will review the safety precautions for conducting the lab.  Next, students will assemble into three-person teams and determine who will take the lead for dissection the cow eye, pig heart, and frog.  In addition, two teams will also receive a sheep brain.  As preparation for the dissections, students will use the Chromebooks to watch their assigned how-to video (below) and carefully take notes:

Cow Eye Dissection:

Pig Heart Dissection:

Frog Dissection:

Sheep Brain Dissection:

Energy, Matter, and Organization: PSSC Marine Tech Visit

Mr. Joe Weiss from the PSSC Marine Tech Lab visited with students today to share information about the Marine Science & Technology program he offers at the Marine Tech Lab down at Seahurst Park.  Mr. Weiss explained the program (his PowerPoint presentation provides an excellent overview), answered student questions, and provided materials about PSSC for interested students to review and discuss with their counselors here at HHS.  Students are also encouraged to visit the PSSC website to learn more about all of the different programs offered.

After, we reviewed the concepts likely to be included on the Unit 2 Exam scheduled for Thursday next week.  Students may prepare one page of notes (notebook paper, front and back) to use on the exam.  Specifically, students should review:

  • the 4 classes of biomolecules (including the subunits and atoms comprising the subunits)
  • negative feedback
  • potential and kinetic energy
  • the connection between matter and energy
  • conservation of energy and matter
  • inputs and outputs of cellular respiration, photosynthesis, and combustion
  • how to write a scientific explanation using a claim, evidence (data), and scientific reasoning

Energy, Matter, and Organization: Nervous System Project

Today marked the beginning of the Nervous System Project.  Students with a grade of a C or higher have earned the opportunity to extra credit in exchange for researching an aspect of the nervous system of interest to them.  As a student-driven project, the purpose is to provide students with the time and space to research topics like depression, Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, or any other condition of interest to the student.  The goal is to learn more about the condition and to explore the condition at the system, organ, cell, and molecular level.  Students were encouraged to explore the role of neurotransmitters in their chosen condition.  To help support students, one possible research path might be:

  1. Select a condition that affects the nervous system
  2. Select a neurotransmitter known to be involved in the condition
  3. Research the function of the neurotransmitter and its’ receptor
  4. Research the source of the neurotransmitter (which cells release it?)
  5. Research the neurotransmitter receptor – what is it, and where is it expressed?
  6. Research how the neurotransmitter imbalance may occur
  7. Research available treatment options

Summarize findings in a Google Slides document (then share it with Mr. Swart)

+30 EC for completed project; +5 EC for presentation to class (optional)

Energy, Matter, and Organization: Unit Review

We began class with a reminder that the semester ends next Thursday, January 28.  Students were informed that if they have a current grade of a C or better, they will be able to participate in an extra credit opportunity (the nervous system project) to be explained tomorrow.  Student projects will determine which groups are able to dissect sheep brains next week.  Students with a D or below will work in small groups with me this week to help them catch up.  Students who still have a D or below as of Tuesday next week will continue to catch up on required classwork and will not participate in the dissection lab.  There will be a Unit 2 Final Exam on Thursday (1/28).

Students then had the next 20 minutes to complete the take-home quiz from Friday (only about 1/4 of students in all of my classes used the three-day weekend to complete the quiz).  After the quiz, we reviewed two of the more challenging questions, connecting the path that explains why excess fertilizer used by farmers near the Mississippi River ends up contributing to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.  Links to pictures shown in class, as well as pictures of the white board notes are provided below.

Map of the Gulf of Mexico showing bordering states

Image of the dead zone (red = very little oxygen, blue = normal oxygen) in the Gulf of Mexico

Map of the United States highlighting the location of the Mississippi River (in red)

White Board Class Notes:

Energy, Matter, and Organization: Biogeochemical Cycle Poster Project

This week, students will work in groups of three students each to create a poster representing biogeochemical cycling.  For the project, students will receive a worksheet with 30 different components that must be included in their poster.  Students will have access to the class textbook and the class set of laptops to conduct their research.  Students will also receive the Nutrient Cycling POGIL worksheet packet that will provide them with additional information about the process of carbon (C), water (H and O), nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P) cycling.  Sulfur is often included as a component of the biogeochemical cycle, frequently appreviated as the CHNOPS cycle.  To help keep student projects moving forward, a variety of resources will be posted here for review.

Crash Course: Carbon and Water Cycles

Crash Course: Nitrogen and Phosphorus Cycles

Bozeman Science: Biogeochemical Cycles (includes the Sulfur Cycle)

The Global Carbon Cycle – a website with data about global carbon cycling with actual numbers that need to be added to the student posters.

Water Cycle – USGS website providing a robust review of hydrologic (water) cycle vocabulary, a presentation of the cycle itself, and data students will need to add the actual amount of water stored in various locations on Earth.

Texas A&M University has a website with pages devoted to explaining the Nitrogen Cycle.  Additional in-depth information about the Nitrogen Cycle is available on the Nature Education Knowledge Project website.

Phosphorus Cycle – information about the cycle and a nice graphic from the Shmoop University website.

Sulfur Cycle – a presentation provided by North Carolina State University

Ocean acidification has become a major concern as the increasing concentration of carbon being produced has resulted in our ocean water become increasingly acidic.  The movie Acid Test: The Global Challenge of Ocean Acidification is freely available online for students who would like to learn more about the consequence of our hydrocarbon-based economy on life in the oceans.

Update 1/12/16: Whiteboard notes from today’s Entry Task connecting biomolecules and biogeochemical cycling (CHNOPS):


Energy, Matter, and Organization: Photosynthesis & Cellular Respiration POGILs

For the next three days, students will learn about leaf structure, photosynthesis, and the connection between photosynthesis and cellular respiration.  Students will work in pairs to complete two worksheet packets, and those who finish early will have the opportunity to complete one or more related labs.

For day 1, the entry task called for students to answer (through writing) the following:

  1. What is photosynthesis?
  2. Why is photosynthesis important?
  3. Write the equation for photosynthesis (bonus: include pictures!).

Student work is pictured below:

After the share-out, students watched the Crash Course: Plant Cells video (below) which served as a refresher to plant cells and as an introduction to photosynthesis.  After the video, students worked in pairs on the Photosynthesis POGIL worksheet packet.

For Day 2, students reviewed the vocabulary terms of exothermic and endothermic within the context of photosynthesis, cellular respiration, and combustion.  Notes from the entry task are pictured below.

After the entry task, we watched the video about photosynthesis by Bozeman Science.  Students need to know the first 4.5 minutes of content, but the remaining content (which students wanted to watch) is beyond the scope of our class.  After the video, students had the remainder of class time to work on the Photosynthesis POGIL Worksheet Packet from yesterday.

For Day 3, we connected the processes of photosynthesis and cellular respiration first through our entry task and then through a Photosynthesis and Cellular Respiration POGIL worksheet packet.  The entry task and white board notes answering the response are pictured below:




For students looking to dig into cellular respiration at the molecular level, the Crash Course and Bozeman Science videos are provided below: