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What is DNA, and How does It Work? A Free Animation!!

I am delighted to have discovered this FREE animation called "What is DNA and How Does It Work?"

I first ran across this animation on in the store of Jon Perry.  I watched the video and immediately became so excited about it!  Teaching about DNA, RNA, and protein synthesis is a very difficult process for many of our students.  This video presents the information in a very clear, concise and meaningful way.  The animations are cute, but appropriate for all grade levels.  The information is accurate, and explained in terms that can be understood by learners of all ages.  The animation is not overly technical nor overly simplified, but provides just the right mix of information to students who are beginning their study of DNA, RNA, and protein synthesis.

The best news is that Jon freely gives away his animation.  It is listed for free in his TpT store, and it also can be viewed on YouTube.

I was so impressed with the video, that I discovered that Jon has a web site called "Stated Clearly"  This information comes from his site:  "Stated Clearly was started by graphic artist Jon Perry in 2011. Since then, videographer Jeremiah Deasey, hip hop artist Anthony Danzl, and biological researcher Varinia Acosta have joined the team to add their skill and expertise."  I was delighted to read on Stated Clearly that the team has big plans for more videos covering all sorts of topics from genetics to evolution.

I encourage you to watch the video and make immediate plans for incorporating it into your instruction on DNA.  To Jon and his team, "GREAT JOB!!"

Jon's web site:  Stated Clearly
Find Jon on Facebook:  Stated Clearly on Facebook
Jon's store on TpT:  Jon Perry - Stated Clearly

The Haunted Library .... Science Style!

The Science of Halloween

Each year, our science students transform the library into a very scary place!  But it is for a very worthy cause!

The students at our high school participant in so many worthy causes, but our biggest efforts go to raising money for the Make A Wish Foundation.  Each year the teachers in the science department have their students carve pumpkins with a science theme.  Some teachers award extra credit while other teachers require it and give a grade for it.

The library is first decorated with black lights, screaming skeletons, ghosts and ghouls, hands that crawl along the floor, and so much more.  Long tables are set up, science fair style, where each student displays his/her pumpkin.  There are biology pumpkins, chemistry pumpkins, anatomy pumpkins, and well, to be perfectly honest, some pumpkins that we cannot tell where they belong!  :)

Students at the school get to tour the haunted library for $1 and all proceeds go to Make A Wish.  This year, we raised over $700.  Here are some photos from our scary day.

First, a look at our haunted library...

Now, for the pumpkins!

DNA Pumpkin

DNA was very popular!

The brain

Guess who?

The house from the movie "UP"

The chemical symbols ScArDy made a "scaredy cat"

In the womb.... 

In the womb again but with the pregnant woman!



Loved this one!  It was magnesium as it is used in fireworks.


Anaphase of mitosis

Watson and Crick

All in all it was a fun day and served a worthy cause!

Informational Text in the High School Biology Class

Changes in Education? ..... Always!

In my 29 years of teaching, I have learned many, many things.  What lessons do I learn over and over, year after year?

  • There is always something new in education!  
  • The old tried and true ways are no longer acceptable.  
  • Out with the old trends, and in with the new trends.
  • Every 2-3 years brings in a new curriculum.
Don't misunderstand.  I am not one who opposes change.  Change is good. Our world is in a constant state of change:  There are changes in societal issues, there are changes in technologies , and there are changes in the students we teach.  The good news is that classroom teachers are the most adaptable people I know!  Each year brings us a new set of students with different ability levels, with different personalities, and with different needs. We adapt every year and we adapt to the teaching of these new students accordingly.

So what is new?  Everyone involved in education knows about the new Common Core Reading Standards and the push to teach critical reading through the use of informational text. Our world today is packed with information, and I agree that we must insure that our students are being taught to read, understand and comprehend informational passages. We must teach our science students to read critically, to answer questions of a problem solving nature, to read charts, data tables, and graphs, and to form accurate conclusions.

My question is:  Haven't we science teachers been doing this all along?

What is a science book, if not a huge selection of informational text readings?  

Our high school is being very proactive in addressing the new Common Core standards.  We have been directed by our administration to incorporate informational text and critical reading into all subject areas.   We have even worked a special time into our weekly schedule for this.  One day each week, 45 minutes is set aside to address the Common Core standards.  (Clarification: Each teacher is addressing Common Core standards in every class, every day. The 45-minute, weekly time is devoted to "extra" informational text reading practice.)  Each and every teacher in our school meets with a group of students and teaches a lesson that involves information text, writing, and critical reading.  Teachers have been charged with writing materials related to their subject area that can be used during this time. Each week I meet with a different group of students and provide them with a lesson on reading informational text in science.  Students meet with a different teacher each week in order to be exposed to texts of varying subject areas.

At this point, I have developed two exercises that I have used with these groups of students.

The first involves the predator/prey relationship.  It does contain an informational text passage, but I just could not help myself. I included a graphing activity along with it!

The second is a rather lengthy reading about lichens.  It includes facts about the mutualistic nature of lichens, structure of lichens, and the important role that lichens play in the environment.  Pictures are included to enhance the text.   I thought it would be nice to have the students read about an organism that they might not know a lot about.

The days of Common Core are upon us.  Let us embrace it as we have with all of the trends of the past.  There is good news..... If we don't like this, all we have to do is wait for a year or two, and we will be challenged with something new!  ;)

Have fun teaching!  

Keep It Current!

A current event a day, keeps the  boredom away!

A current event each day is standard operating procedure in my biology classroom.  Each day after school, I spend a few minutes surfing the web looking for interesting bits of science news that I can share with my students the following day.  I try to make it biology-related if possible, but lately I have been sharing all the amazing stories about the Mars rover, Curiosity.  If possible, I use my projector to show images from the news story.  I give a very brief synopsis of the article and allow a few minutes for students to comment or ask questions.  If I can find a current event that involves decision making on the part of the student, all the better!

Our students are going to be voters soon and they need to informed if we expect them to make informed decisions.  I love articles that deal with the environment, global warming, stem cell research, endangered species, etc., since these are topics our students will have to deal with in their adult lives.  When I first decided to do this in my classes, it was very sporadic.  Soon, I realized that my students really looked forward to this time in my class, so I began to have a current event more frequently.  High school students rarely give compliments to their teachers.  They may love your class, but may not tell you so until you see them in the grocery store years later!  So last week, when one of my students commented that they really looked forward to current event time, I was delighted to know that my efforts were appreciated.

One problem that might occur if you decide to try this in your classes:  Students will want to talk about the issue for a longer period of time than you can allow!!  It takes a bit of training at first, but my students now know that when I say "Let's move on to our lesson for today." that definitely means "Let's move on!"

I am always on the lookout for new sites to use as sources of current event information, but these are the ones I use most often, and have remained my favorites:

Google News:  The left side bar has the news divided up into topics.  Scroll down and click on "science."

National Geographic:  There is so much to love here!  My favorite areas of this site are Photo of the Day, Featured Video and Daily News.  This is just an amazing plethora of interesting information.  Click on the tab at the top of the page called "Science and Nature."

Science News:  Not as visually attractive as the above sites, but what a great source of information!  And the sister site is called "Science News for Kids."

Science Daily:  I like this site, but it can get very technical.

Scientific American:  You can't beat this site.  Check out the "Citizen Science" area.  I have had my students get involved with these activities and they are a lot of fun!

NASA Science:  Lately, I have been using this site quite a bit.  My students are very interested in hearing about the Mars rover.

EurekAlert!  Great source of current information!

USA News Science:  Content is provided by the National Science Foundation

LiveScience:  Love, love, love!

Science Illustrated:  Amazing photographs!

Discover:  "Nuff said!

I have so many others that I love as well!!  I will update the list as I have time!

Have fun teaching!!

The Lesson Cloud - New Web Address

New address;  Same great collaborative blog!

I hope that you are a devoted follower of The Lesson Cloud!  It is a collaborative blog of 100 teacher/authors.  There are tons of different posts each day covering a very wide range of topics.  The teacher/authors are a very diverse group of school teachers of all subject areas and all age groups.  There is something for everyone on The Lesson Cloud!

If you have followed The Lesson Cloud in the past, you may have noticed that our web address has changed.  Please click on these links to go to The Lesson Cloud.  Once there, we hope that you will bookmark our new address.