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I'm Off to the U.P.!!

This is my paradise!!

This morning at 4 am I got in my car with the husband and two daughters and started driving north.  At 5 pm we stopped in Lansing, Michigan to spend the night.  I am writing to you from a hotel room, in anticipation of tomorrow, when I will arrive at my favorite place on earth ..... a small log cabin on the shores of Lake Huron in the upper peninsula of Michigan.  Some of you may recognize this bridge.  It is the Mackinac Bridge that leads to the U.P.  Before lunch tomorrow, I'll be crossing this bridge!

In 1903, my great-grandfather built a log cabin on the shores of Lake Huron.  It is to this same log cabin that I make my yearly summer visit.  Fortunately, it has remained in our family since 1903, and thankfully, it has been "modernized" to some small degree.  Let's give a big shout out for indoor plumbing!!  YAY!!

The only drawback???  We live just about 1000 miles from the cabin.  Whew! It was a long day in the car today!

It is a biology teacher's slice of heaven on earth.  Since I have been blogging only a few short months, I am excited about posting on my blog while at the cabin.  Well, actually I can't post from the cabin.  We have no phone, TV, or internet!  But each day I can go in to town (about 20 miles from the cabin) and visit the small library there.  That's where I'll upload my posts.

For those of you who have read my blog before, you know that I absolutely love nature.  I plan on posting a series of articles about all the biologically amazing things that I encounter this summer.  So stay tuned for .......
Liverwort day!    Pitcher plant day!   Wildflower day! Gymnosperm day!  Leech day!   Bird day!  Frog and tadpole day!  Rock day!  Butterfly day!    Okay, I confess that I will probably not get this many articles written.  I'll start taking pictures as soon as we unpack, and I will write about "whatever pictures" come out the best!

Stay tuned!

Here's a Freebie!!

I hope you can use this free material!

I am using my time this summer to completely update all of my older product listings on  I am also in the process of adding some more free items to my catalog.  Here is a freebie that I just added today.  It is a crossword puzzle on flatworms and roundworms.  It has 41 vocabulary words that are commonly used during a unit on the Phylum Platyhelminthes and the Phylum Nematoda.  I love having my students use crossword puzzles for review.  Not only does it help them to remember definitions, but the spelling practice they provide is priceless!

Look in the top left hand corner of my blog.  There are my freebies.  Please help yourself!

Wish List Linky Party

What I am 
Wishing For!!

Really Roper is having a linky party.  I always enjoy participating in these.  I think it is really fun to see what other teachers have to say.  This linky party is all about what a teacher has on their classroom wish list.  Just in case my millionaire secret admirer happens to read my blog, I want to make sure that they know what I wish for in my classroom.

I sooo want a Promethean Smart Board!!

Our 12 Mile Nature Bike-Hike

Near our home is a VERY nice nature trail.  It winds around in a low lying area and eventually leads to a small river.  This trail is about 5 miles from our home.  Well, today I had this great idea!  I convinced my daughter that we should ride our bikes to the trail.  We had a nice thunderstorm this morning which lowered the temperature to around 90 degrees.  In Tennessee, 90 degrees in the summer is as good as it gets.

We rode the bikes about 5 miles to reach the beginning of the trail.

It is amazing what can be seen in nature if you just take a few minutes to look and notice.  I am no photographer.  I just have a small "point and click" camera, but all of these photos were taken with my little camera.

Once you enter the nature trail, you immediately come to the swamp.  The cypress trees here are so beautiful!

This picture was taken at the edge of the cypress swamp.  This is where I collect pond water for my biology classes during the school year.  Drops of this water under a microscope yield incredible results.  We almost always find Euglena, Stentor, and my personal favorite, Vorticella.

 Teaching the concept of "invasive species" is super easy in our area.  When talking to my students about invasive species, I only have to say one word ..........   Kudzu!

Just pretty pictures........

........... and really big turtles.

My daughter spotted this beautiful lizard sunning on a fallen log.  This was a "2 for 1" sighting.  Not only was the lizard adorable, but the fallen log was covered in gorgeous bracket fungi.

The lichens we saw in the woods were so pretty.  As my daughter always says, "I'm likin' the lichens!"

And so now I sit exhausted in my chair, trying to stay awake as I make this post.  The bike ride to the nature trail was 5 miles.  The trail itself is a mile down to the river, and a mile back to where we left our bikes.  Then a 5 mile ride back to our house.  The grand total is a 12 mile excursion today.  I think that's pretty good for an old person like myself!

Make Mother Nature Part of Your Summer Learning Plan

This is a marmot!

Discover what is outside your back door!  You'll be amazed!

I love teaching all topics in biology, but one of my favorite topics to teach is my unit on classification and taxonomy.  This topic is one of my favorites because the diversity of life on Earth is simply amazing. The organisms that are alive on Earth today are the ones that “made it”.  They changed and adapted to meet the pressures that our ever-changing environment placed on them.   The organisms alive today succeeded, and the evidence of their adaptation to our current environment astounds me.  

Take some time this summer to get to know and love nature.  If you are a person who already “knows” nature, then you will be shaking your head affirmatively as your read this article.  If you never take the time to notice nature, then you are really missing out on a fantastic journey.

A picnic along the shores
of Lake Huron
My childhood was spent growing up in hot and humid Mississippi, but spending several weeks each summer in the crisp and cool northern peninsula of Michigan on Lake Huron.  My mother was a biology teacher, and she introduced me to the beauty of the natural world at a very early age.  Whether it was catching fireflies and putting them in a jar or wading through a bog looking for bladderworts and pitcher plants, we were outside, observing and learning about nature, without even realizing that “schooling” was taking place.   When my own two daughters came along and started to grow, I passed along the same nature lessons that my mother had taught me.  However, as an adult, I now realize that the lessons go much deeper than just learning about science and nature.  The time I spent and spend outside with my daughters has forged a bond between us that cannot be broken.  As we tromped through woods, dug in the mud, and snorkeled at the beach, we made incredible memories that will forever make us smile.  They are teenagers now and still love to spend time outside with their “mommy”. 

Summer is just beginning.  Make the most of it.  Get outside and experience the beauty that surrounds you.  I have put together a list of possibilities that might help you make Mother Nature part of your summer learning plan.  Try some of these with your children, or by yourself.  I guarantee that the lessons learned with be carried with you all your life!

Really big tree!!
1.    Plant seeds and watch them grow.  I always make the planting and growing of seeds part of my biology curriculum because it is amazing how many of my students have never done this.   Have a child make a small flower garden or vegetable garden, but start from seeds.  It teaches curiosity and more importantly, patience.  

2.    Go outside at night and catch fireflies. 

3.    Watch a caterpillar grow into a butterfly.  Find a caterpillar and place it in a large jar containing the same leaves as where you found the caterpillar.  (Be sure to punch holes in the lid of the jar!)  Keep the inside of the jar moist by sprinkling a few drops of water in as needed.  Keep fresh leaves in the jar.  It is wonderful to watch the spinning of the cocoon and the emerging of the butterfly or moth.
Going fishing.

4.    Take a daily nature walk.  When my children were small, I gave them a brown paper lunch sack.  It was their “nature bag”.  Anything they found along the way that was interesting to them went into their nature bag.  We live in an urban area and still found plenty of leaves, insects, seeds, and flowers.

My mother read me the story
of the Indian Paintbrush when I
was a child.  This will always be
my favorite!
  5.  Get a field guide and learn to identify the organisms in it.  There are many possibilities here:  learn to identify wildflowers, birds, butterflies, or frogs.  My daughters and I love wildflowers.  We take our wildflower field guide with us wherever we go.  As we found a flower, we wrote the date and location in our field guide.  Many years later, we still see our notations and laugh about the adventures we recorded in this book.  On one particular page, my daughter recorded, “Mom fell in the pond!”

Hiking in Yellowstone
National Park... the most amazing
trip we ever made!

6.   Visit a national park.  There is a reason why these particular tracts of land were set aside.  They are amazing!
7.   Give your child a magnifying glass.  Have them make a list of the living organisms they see, and have them describe how they are adapted to the environment.  
8.   Set up several bird feeders.  Fill them with different types of food and see what comes to the feeder.  We have feeders filled with hummingbird nectar, thistle seeds, sunflower seeds, and plain bird seed.  All can be purchased from Wal Mart.  Have your child keep a log of which birds come to the feeder and what they eat.  Also, have them record the time of year the bird is seen.  It is fun to discover which are migratory when you see them at the feeder in early spring and again in late fall.
9.   Watch the bees around a flower garden.  Teach your children that bees are our friends and explain to them that the bee is doing more than just feeding on the nectar.
10.  Watch a spider spin a web.  It is incredible!
11.  Ant farms, ladybug houses, sea monkeys!!  As my children grew up, some type of creature was usually present at our kitchen table during meal time.  An ant farm is very interesting to watch during meal time!
12.  Sit on the side of a lake or pond, and count how many turtles stick their heads above water for air.  We just did this last night, and my daughters are 18 and 15!  My oldest is off to college next year and the time I spent watching turtles with her is simply priceless.
13.  Save a turtle.  Our car stops for turtles.  Help them across the road, please.
14.  Children love insects.  Have your child look for insects and then identify the adaptations they possess that make them well suited for their particular environment.
15.  Go on a picnic.  Drop a piece of food on the ground and see how long it takes the ants to find it.  Watch how the ants communicate with one another to send the message back to the ant hill that food is nearby.
Hiking to a waterfall
in Hawaii.
As you can see, nature plays a huge role in our lives, both in my career as a biology teacher and in my role as a mother.  Nature is packed full of examples that we can share with our children and students.  I certainly hope that my students and daughters develop the same "awe" as I have when considering how natural selection has brought us to this point in Earth's history.  Every organism in our sight is adapted to this particular environment.  All we have to do is to look carefully at our surroundings and we will see a multitude of examples of adaptation.

Our children and our students will be responsible for making decisions about our planet in just a short number of years. We have to get them excited about nature.  We have to make sure they understand how their actions impact our planet. Our students are the future caretakers of this beautiful planet and there is not an "app" for that.  I hope that when they are adults we have taught them enough about science and nature that they can make informed decisions about how to take care of it.

Biochemistry Complete Unit Plan

Biochemistry Bundled Unit Plan
Newly Listed

This product contains everything you need to teach a thorough and complete unit to a typical biology class.  It covers the topic of “Biochemistry:  The Chemistry of Life”.  It covers the chemistry and biochemistry concepts typically found at the beginning of any Biology I text.  This unit will take from 2 to 3 weeks to cover the material, depending on how many lab activities you want to use.

There are 14 separate products bundled into one digital download.  When appropriate, I have included each product as an editable Word document, but I have also included each product in pdf form.  Each of these products is sold separately in my TpT store, but buying the entire unit in one download will save you money.

All products have answer keys included.

For a closer look, and specific product descriptions please click on the following link:

Museum of Natural History - New York City

The Museum of Natural History

My favorite place in New York City!

If you have been following this blog, then you know I have spent the last week in New York City with my incredible and wonderful family.  If you are new to these posts, then you might want to scroll down and read the earlier posts first.  

We actually returned home two days ago, but due to laundry, bill paying and extreme tiredness, I am just now getting around to my final post.  Just so you know, we are from a small town in the deep south.  We absolutely loved New York City, but it was so very different from our normal pace of life. I am so glad we visited, but even more glad to be home to my big backyard, bird feeders, flower gardens and the pond.
Hall of Biodiversity

The last day of our trip was spent at the Museum of Natural History.  I am so glad we saved this to last, because for a biology teacher, it was simply incredible.  
The invertebrates were amazing!

The first room we entered was the "Hall of Biodiversity".  All I can say is...
O . M . G . !!!  
"The Oceans" room may have
been my favorite!

We were there on a school day so there were a lot of classes visiting the museum as a field trip.  I was so impressed with the behavior of all the children!
This crab was about 6 feet across!

All of the school children were working on these wonderful handouts and worksheets.  As they moved about the museum they had to answer questions about the different displays.  The children were fascinated and I didn't hear any moaning or grumbling about the worksheets.  From what I could see, the worksheets were bright and colorful and interesting.
I do love insects!  And the insect
displays were astounding!

There were school groups of all ages.  Most of the groups were elementary children, but I did see quite a few high school groups.

Who doesn't love the dinosaurs!!!

And so this ends the posts about our New York City trip.  My daughter has just graduated from high school, and this trip was for her.  I have no idea where the last 18 years went to, or why they had to pass so fast, but each and every day was precious and I am going to miss her so much when she leaves for college!  Both of my daughters bring me such joy each day!

Day 5 of New York City

It just gets better and better!

We are really learning a lot about how to get around the city and are getting very confident as we move about the city.  We bought subway passes and have actually done very well using the subway.  This city is just amazing, but I am beginning to miss home.  "Home" has far fewer people, very clean air, no traffic, and the pace is slow and easy.  But, this has been one of the best trips we have taken, and we travel quite a bit.  Last night, I was too tired to post about the day.  The events below actually took place on Sunday.

We started the day at the "Museum of Modern Art".  This is a place that I wasn't too thrilled about visiting, but told the family we have to give it a try.  I was very pleasantly surprised!  I knew I wanted to see the Van Gogh's, Warhol's, Dali's, etc., but I found that I really enjoyed the rest, too.  I thought it would be just a bunch of crazy stuff, but I really, really enjoyed it!  (Sorry if I just offended you art lovers.)  "Starry Nights" was incredible!!!

Our entire day was spent on Fifth Avenue.  After leaving the museum, we headed down 5th Avenue toward the Empire State Building.  We made a few stops along the way, like Cartier and the American Girl Doll Store!

We stopped again when we reached the New York Public Library.  I have no words to describe how beautiful this building is...JUST WOW!!  The exhibits were awesome:  A Guggenheim Bible, original manuscripts by Beethoven, and my favorite, original Audubon prints.

Continuing down 5th Avenue, the next stop was the Empire State Building.  This was a lot of fun.  The view is incredible.  We had an "audio tour" that was very informative.  You stood in different places and it would tell you what you were seeing.  The cars and people down below looked like ants!

I realize these last few posts have not illustrated the best in writing skills.  I am always so pressed for time to get the events posted.  Even if no one is reading all of this, I am excited to know that I have a recorded log of our trip.  It will be fun to look back at these posts after we get home.  Gotta go now....the Museum of Natural History is calling my name!

Day 4 of New York City

We had another terrific day in the Big Apple!  We had some really exciting news today.  I posted yesterday that we went very early in the morning to the taping of the Today show.  Well, today we heard from friends back home.  They called to tell us that they had seen us on TV!  We were very excited.

Since we had such a long day yesterday, we slept in really late this morning.  We left our hotel around lunchtime and went back to John's Pizza for another delicious pizza.  Out plan was to spend today in Central Park.  We decided to give the subway a try.  We managed to use the subway in both directions very easily.  We feel like pros now.

Central Park was a lot of fun!  We found the fountain where the movie "Enchanted" was filmed.  This is one of our family favorites.  

Since this blog is supposed to be about biology teaching, I thought I'd throw in a little biology!  : )   We found a place in a pond where about a million turtles live.  People were feeding them all sorts of crazy things.  This turtle is the biggest turtle I have ever seen.  It's shell was about the size of a laundry hamper!  

We rented bikes and rode the entire perimeter of Central Park...about 6.5 miles.

We ended the day by seeing "Wicked", which was truly an amazing production.  We had NewYork cheesecake for dessert after the show.  

The only other thing that is biologically related that I can report is that we saw a man walking around Times Square with a rat on his shoulder.  Not a mouse, but a HUGE rat!   

Day 3 of New York City

Boy, What a Day!!
This is Day 3 of our trip to New York City.  This post is going to be straight to the point and brief!  I am so tired I can hardly write, so you are only going to get the bare facts of the day.

We got up at 4 am and headed to Rockefeller Center.  We wanted to be on the Today show!  They also have concerts on Fridays in the summertime.  The concert today was The Back Street Boys and New Kids on the Block.  So we got in line at 4:30 am and waited, waited, waited.  The daughters were very excited to hear these two groups.

We then took a bus tour of upper Manhattan.  This was a tour that allowed you to jump on and off the bus as you wanted to.

So we jumped off and spent a little time in Central Park....

We visited St. Paul's Cathedral.....

We took a tour of the United Nations....

We explored Little Italy and had a great dinner there....

And we ended the day with a 2 hour night time bus tour.

Now I am going to bed.  It was a great day but I am totally exhausted!

Day 1 and Day 2 of New York City

If you have come to my blog to read something about science or biology teaching, for the next 6 days you have come to the wrong spot!  If you are wondering what I am talking about, then read the previous blog post.  I am in New York City with my family!  And we are having an awesome trip so far.

The billboards are amazing.

Day 1:  As soon as we checked into our hotel, which is in the heart of Times Square, we took off walking. We explored around Times Square and ended up walking all the way to Central Park.  You have to realize that we are from Tennessee.  We are just country bumpkins come to the city!!  : )  What an amazing place this is.
Sorry, girls.  You are too young for this!

After walking around for hours, we went to the TKTS ticket booth and bought tickets for "Phantom of the Opera".   My husband is a high school band director, so music is our life.  I have always loved the music from Phantom, but to be able to see the Broadway production is simply incredible.  Afterwards we walked across the street and had pizza at John's Pizza.  I had been told it was the best New York pizza, and I believe that it is.  YUM YUM YUM!

Day 2:  We took a bus tour.  I won't bore you with all the details, but I will give you the highlights.  We visited the Statue of Liberty.....

.....and Ellis Island early in the morning.  All things patriotic practically reduce me to tears.  This was no exception
Ellis island

I loved Trinity Church!

Ground Zero.....another moment of crying.

We ended today by having dinner at Sardi's and seeing"The Lion King".  I have no words to describe the production of "The Lion King".  All I can say is that it is the most amazing thing I have ever seen.

I hope you will come back tomorrow for my report on Day 3!!