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Monday, August 29, 2011

Cells and pH

How do cells deal with changes in pH in their environment?

Many of the biochemical reactions that occur within cells produce end products that affect the pH of the cell.  Every cell has an optimum pH at which the cell will best function.  If the pH of the cell environment varies from the optimal pH too much, the cell could die.  It is vital that cells be able to manipulate their environment to maintain a pH of optimal functioning.  To accomplish this, cells produce buffers.  Buffers are substances that are either weak acids or weak bases that are produced in response to the cell becoming too acidic or too basic.

This concept is very easy to demonstrate to students.  To test this concept, I have the students first take a quantity of water and add drops of HCl acid, drop by drop, recording the pH after every drop.  They repeat using a new sample of water to which drops of NaOH are added.  This serves as a control, showing what happens to the pH when no buffers are being produced.

Next, the students test animal cells and plant cells to see if they can control the pH of their cell environment.  To a given quantity of liver homogenate (liver ground in the blender), students add the drops of acid and base and record the pH.  It is immediately obvious to the students that the cells are producing buffers to control their pH.  Repeating the process with raw potato proves that plant cells also produce buffers.

This is one of my favorite labs that I do with my Biology students.  It clearly shows the concept of buffers, it requires the students to use good lab techniques, the students must table large amounts of data, and the data must be graphed.  Much is accomplished by this lab!

If you are interested, here is a link to the lab I use:



Friday, August 26, 2011

Summer's End: Amazing and Beautiful Sights



Nature's Beauty 
at Summer's End

Summer technically ended for me three weeks ago when students returned to classrooms in our area at the beginning of August.  But for most folks, summer ends with the approach of Labor Day.  And today, as summer is coming to a close, I saw a few amazing sights that I thought I would share with my readers and followers.   All school teachers know the feeling on Friday afternoon when the final bell sounds to dismiss the students:  Total exhaustion from the week, footsore from standing all day, giddy with the thought of sleeping late on Saturday morning.

As I arrived home this Friday afternoon, the first thing that greeted me was the biggest praying mantis I have ever seen.  It was hanging upside down on a large window that overlooks our deck and yard, and further down, a small pond that I dearly love.  I quickly grabbed my camera and took his picture.

I took this as a sign that I needed to be outdoors, and I headed down to the pond with my camera still in hand.  I found the small blue flowers in the photo above growing at the edge of the pond.  They have evidently just bloomed.  The last few weeks of heat have been brutal, but recent rains stirred up a frenzy of last minute blooming.


As I walked around the pond, this cute little turtle was the next creature to greet me.  And finally, I spotted this beautiful moth resting in the trees.  I can tell it's going to be a great week end!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Official Launch of The Lesson Cloud!




Even though The Lesson Cloud has been up and running for a bit, tomorrow (Wednesday, August 24) is our official launch date.  What a day we have in store for you!


All of The Lesson Cloud teacher/authors will be posting fabulous tips, teaching strategies, and most importantly, loads of FREE teaching materials for your classroom.  Check back often during the day, as the freebies will continue to be posted all day long.


Don't worry, we understand that you cannot be at your computer every minute of the day.  We have a new sidebar item just for that reason.  Check out the new "Archive of Free Downloads" on the right side of the page.  We will add the freebies to the archives as fast as we can.


Please help advertise our fantastic day of freebies by posting to your facebook page or twitter or teacher's lounge....every little bit helps!  


See ya tomorrow at The Lesson Cloud!!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Science Skills: The Compound Microscope



Is teaching a student how to properly use a microscope considered a "science skill"?
  
I think it is!

The regular followers of my blog know that I have been writing a series of articles on "Science Skills".  I think it is imperative that we teach our students skills that involved problem solving and critical thinking.  Don't get me wrong, the "facts" we teach in science are important too, but I have always found that if I do a great job in the "skills" area, the facts always fall nicely into place.


So the question of the day is:  Is having the student peer into a microscope considered a skill that teaches critical thinking and problem solving?  I say "YES",  but it will be up to the teacher to make the activity inquiry-driven and skills-based.  I think microscope work is important for the following reasons:

  • Students realize there is a "whole new world" out there.  Awareness of all environments will make our students better caretakers of the environment in the future.
  • It reinforces measurement skills.  Have students estimate the size of the microorganisms.  How does the size of one compare to another?
  • What impact does this microorganism have on other species?  Is the microorganism photosynthetic? If so, how will its disappearance from the aquatic ecosystem affect life on Earth?
  • Most students have not matured to the "abstract learner" stage.   Microscope work helps a student who is a concrete thinker by allowing them to "see, feel, and touch" things that are not normally visible to them.  You can show them plasmolysis occurring in a plant cell.  You can show them the chromosomes inside a cell.  You can show them sperm cells racing off to fertilize an egg cell.
  • You can teach cause and effect.  What happens when a cell is placed in this solution as opposed to that solution?
  • If nothing else... it is a great exercise for reinforcing hand-eye coordination!
Do you have some ideas about this topic?  How do you use the microscope to teach problem solving and critical thinking?  Let me hear from you by leaving a comment.

If you need some help getting started with teaching good microscope skills to your students, here are the materials that I use.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Quotes from Albert Einstein

Look at this face.....
What's not to love?

I am totally in love with Albert Einstein!  My classroom walls are full of posters with his pictures and quotes.


I find some of his quotes to be simply amazing, and they inspire me everyday as I try to help my students make sense out of the scientific world.   I thought I would share a few of my favorites:

"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe." 
 Albert Einstein

"Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results." 
 Albert Einstein

"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." 
 Albert Einstein

"The difference between genius and stupidity is; genius has its limits." 
 Albert Einstein

"When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That's relativity." 
 Albert Einstein

"I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university." 
 Albert Einstein

"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving." 
 Albert Einstein

"Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy." 
 Albert Einstein

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." 
 Albert Einstein

"What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right." 
 Albert Einstein

Monday, August 15, 2011

Science Skills: Significant Digits


Significant Digits:
Teach 'Em or 
Skip 'Em?


Every year, the same great debate arises in our science departmental meetings..... should we or should we not teach the rules of determining significant digits.  The members of the department have their reasons for being "pro" or "con" and it seems to me that the same people have the same reasons year after year.  For a change, I'd like to hear some new reasons!  I'd love for you to read my ideas, and then leave me a comment letting me know how you feel about this.


I tend to fall in the "pro" camp.  I think teaching significant digits is an important science skill to teach because:

  • It teaches the student the importance of making accurate and precise measurements.
  • It teaches the student how to look at the measurements in a scientific article and determine how accurate others have been in their measurements.
  • It teaches students how to learn a set of rules and then apply these rules to many examples.
  • It teaches critical thinking and problem solving skills.
  • It reinforces basic math skills when completing problems that involve calculations and rounding to a given number of significant digits.
  • It allows the opportunity to do a quick review on metric units.  (MANY kids need this!)

The people who think we should leave this out have pretty lame reasons (excuses) for their point of view:
  • It's boring.
  • Nobody needs to know this stuff any more.
  • It's archaic.
  • After you teach it in the first chapter, you never use it again.
So...What do you think?  Have an opinion?  Then leave me a comment.  I'd love to hear from you.

Meanwhile, here are a few of the materials that I have developed and use as I teach significant digits.....I think it is still important!


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Science Skills: Lab Equipment and Scientific Measurement



Nail down these skills early in the school year!


At the beginning of each new school year, it is essential that a science teacher instruct his/her students in the basic science skills.  This includes laboratory safety,  instruction in how the lab equipment operates, making proper scientific measurements, how to apply the scientific method, the importance of graphing and data analysis, and a review of basic math skills such as scientific notation.  I have already posted about several of these.  (See the posts below this one.)  Today, I want to emphasize the proper use of lab equipment and how to make scientific measurements.

During a lab, a variety of tools may be used to allow the student to use an inquiry process to gather information, both qualitatively and quantitatively.  If the student is to reach the desire conclusion, it is imperative that they be previously instructed on the proper use of the equipment they will be using.  Scientists use a variety of tools to explore the world around them, and these tools are important to the advancement of science.  The tools may be simple or very complex.  One of the first labs I complete with my students is called:  Use of Lab Equipment and Data Analysis.  (You can download this one for free!)  It provides instruction on the basic pieces of lab equipment such as the meter stick, Celsius thermometer, graduated cylinder, and the quadruple-beam balance.  Obviously, these pieces of equipment are used for measurements in length, volume, and mass, and they will be used by the students all year long.


When teaching the proper use of lab equipment, you must also give adequate instruction in how to make precise and accurate scientific measurements.  I find that many students will need a short re-fresher on the metric system.  As for accuracy and precision in making measurements, it is the nature of the teenagers I teach to rush, rush, rush to get through with the experiments, giving little thought to whether or not their data seems reasonable or logical.  If and when time allows, I often require my students to run multiple trials during an experiment to verify their results.  Unfortunately, due to the nature of a school setting, students have learned that science occurs in a 45 minute period of time, and that the first set of data is perfect and acceptable.  We, as teachers, do what we can do with the schedule forced upon us by our schools, but you must try to give opportunities that require students to repeat and verify lab data.

Here are some of the materials that I have developed to help with the instruction and reinforcement of these science skills:




Happy Teaching!!


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

New Free Item!


Great for a short quiz, homework assignment, classwork, or test review.  Answers included.

Enjoy this freebie!

Science Skills: The Metric System



Metrics:  Teach It and 
Re-teach It!

Why do we continue to have to re-teach the metric system to our students every year?  I wish I knew the answer to this question!!  Students are exposed to and taught the metric system beginning in elementary grades.  But for some reason that I have yet to determine, they still need a refresher on it when they reach my high school chemistry class.

Sure, the students know the basics of the metric system.  They know that length is measured in meters, mass is measured in grams and volume is measured in liters, but many of my students are still unsure as to how to convert one unit to another.  It is not unusual at all for one of my students to ask, "Which way do I move the decimal to convert ____ to _____?  Even more confusing is what to do with the units when determining area or volume.  How often have I heard, "Are these units squared or cubed?"

The manipulation of metric units must be reinforced at regular intervals, if for no other reason, than to just reinforce basic math skills.  Here's an example.  Multiple the following:  (5 g/ml) (10 mL).  The answer?  50 g.  Many students will struggle when units are being added, subtracted, multiplied or divided.

To sum this up, your science class will go much smoother and the students will learn much more, if you will take a class period near the beginning of the year to do a refresher on these basic metric skills.

Here are a few products that I have developed that might be of some help to you:

Metric System Jeopardy Review Game

Metric System Bundle of 12 products

Metric System PowerPoint




Sunday, August 7, 2011

Science Skills: Scientific Notation


Scientific notation remains a mystery for many students.

These science skills have been discussed so far:
1.  Graphing
2.  Applying the Scientific Method
3.  Scientific Writing
4.  Experimental design

The next skill that I find so important is the proper use of scientific notation.  I have found that many of my students in an 11th grade chemistry class are still struggling with how to write numbers in scientific notation.  I spend a class period each year re-teaching this important skill.  Since chemistry involves the use of the very large and the very small numbers, scientific notation is a must.  Students must be able to:

  • Write numbers in scientific notation.
  • Change numbers from scientific notion to standard form.
  • Add and subtract numbers that are in scientific notation.
  • Multiply and divide numbers that are written in scientific notion.
This is a much needed skill in a high school science class.  It is well worth the time to spend a class period reviewing and reinforcing this concept.




Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Sale is Almost Over!!


The sale comes to an end on Saturday night at midnight.




  • My entire store, Science Stuff, is on sale at 20% off.
  • Use discount code B1T1S for an additional 10% off all your purchases!
  • If you buy any item from my store, I will give you a FREE item of your choice.  Please see rules below.
Here's the "how" and the "rules":
  • Make any purchase from my store, Science Stuff.
  • Choose any item in my store of equal or less value that you would like to receive for FREE.
  • Send me an email (Amy1007@aol.com) and let me know your choice.  Please send the exact title of the product you want.  Please include your TpT user name in the email.
  • I will return the email with the product of your choice attached!  Simple!
  • Please...you may not choose a shipped item as your free item.  It must be a digital download.
  • Please...Only one free product per person.
Happy shopping and have a great school year!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Science Skills: Applying the Scientific Method





Teach the skills!
Teach the skills!
Teach the skills!



I know I have been absent from blog writing lately, but I started back to school this week.  Since many of you are still planning for the new year, and haven't actually started back to school yet, I wanted to continue with my series of articles about teaching the "science skills".

Teaching the “science skills” is of the utmost importance.   If the skills are taught properly at the beginning of the school year, your students will be equipped with the tools they need to be successful for the rest of the year.  Science is more than the memorization of a long list of facts.  Science is problem solving, analyzing, predicting and experimenting.  We are seeing changes in how students are being tested in science on such national tests as the ACT and AP exams, and in stated mandated end of course tests.   Make the teaching of basic science skills a priority in your class.

In a previous article, I talked about the importance of graphing skills.  Today, I want to talk about the importance of being able to apply the scientific method.  The key word here is...... apply.  You may be thinking, "I teach the scientific method every year during the first week of school."  Many teachers have their students write down the 5 or 6 steps to scientific method, define some keywords such as hypothesis and variable, re-state the 6 steps in a test, and ....DONE!  Time to move on to the next topic.

What is paramount at the beginning of your school year is to give assignments that do the following:
  • Reinforce graphing skills.
  • Teach students to interpret and analyze a graph.
  • Provide writing prompts to teach students how to design a controlled experiment.
  • Teach students to identify the independent and dependent variables in an experiment.
  • Teach students how to apply the scientific method to a particular scenario.
  • Give students practice in scientific writing.
Please get away from using only multiple choice, true and false, and matching questions.  I try as much as possible to have my students WRITE.  It is very time consuming to grade, but when students are asked "to design an experiment to show..." , you are teaching so many of the above skills.  And you are not just teaching the scientific method.  You are reinforcing critical thinking, problem solving, and best of all good writing skills.

I have a FREE Scientific Method Powerpoint that I would love for you to download.  This is a 26 slide PowerPoint presentation on the nature of science and the scientific method.  The slides are colorful and visually appealing.  Steps of the scientific method are covered, but more importantly, the lesson provides examples and practice problems illustrating the application of the scientific method.  Analysis questions and answers are included.  The download will also include 4 pages of notes for the teacher and a 5 page notes outline for the student.  Students will fill in their outline as the Powerpoint is being presented.

You might also be interested in these related products:








Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Specials for Today



I have already started back to school, so my time for writing is limited!  Very quickly, here are some things you might want to know during the big sale week at TeachersPayTeachers.com.

  • My entire store, Science Stuff, is on sale all week at 20% off.
  • Use discount code B1T1S for an additional 10% off all your purchases!
  • If you buy any item from my store, I will give you a FREE item of your choice.  Please see rules below.
  • You need to check out the Back to School Blog Party over at Effective Teaching Articles.  Lisa is giving away a free teaching item everyday.  Her materials are great!
  • Effective Teaching Articles is also having an amazing contest.  24 teacher-sellers from TpT have donated one product for a huge giveaway.  The winner gets to a pick one product of their choice from each of the 24 teachers who are participating.  (It just so happens that I am one of the 24 participants!)

I am going to give away a free item of your choice to everyone who makes a purchase!

Here's the "how" and the "rules":
  • Make any purchase from my store, Science Stuff.
  • Choose any item in my store of equal or less value that you would like to receive for FREE.
  • Send me an email (Amy1007@aol.com) and let me know your choice.  Please send the exact title of the product you want.  Please include your TpT user name in the email.
  • I will return the email with the product of your choice attached!  Simple!
  • Please...you may not choose a shipped item as your free item.  It must be a digital download.
  • Please...Only one free product per person.
Happy shopping and have a great school year!