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Mole Day Festivities!

Let's give a round of applause for Amedeo Avogadro!! Without him, we wouldn't have a reason to celebrate in our chemistry classes on October 23!!  (Oh, and we can also be thankful that he gave us a pretty nifty tool to use in our chemistry calculations.)

What are my plans for Mole Day?

I have a lab that I love, and I always do this lab on Mole Day.  It is very simple to set up, and doesn't require anything too fancy.  Students often have trouble visualizing a mole.  This lab will provide a hands-on activity that will allow our students to "see" how big a mole really is.  In one part of the lab, students are asked to write their name on the chalkboard.  They then have to determine how many moles of chalk they used in the writing of their name.  Kids love this!

So happy Mole Day to you.  I hope you have a wonderful time with your students on Mole Day.

Graphing, Scientific Method, and Data Analysis Practice

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Great review for a vital skill.
And it's free.

Critical thinking, problem solving, and data analysis.  These are terms we hear all the time as teachers of science.  Let's get right to the point: We cannot stress these skills enough in our classes.  We must teach our science students to be great thinkers and problem solvers!  Activities that provide practice in the skills of science should be used often in our classes, and not just at the beginning of the school year.  Set aside some time in your class throughout the year to review, reinforce and practice important science skills.

Add this free activity on graphing and data analysis to your teaching arsenal. The activity covers many important skills:  Informational text reading, data tables, graphing data, the scientific method, and data analysis.  The students will graph the data that is given in the reading, and complete a page of thought provoking questions about the data.

This activity is timeless.  I love that I can use this activity at the beginning of the school year to teach scientific graphing, but I can also use it at the end of the year for preparation for end of course testing.

Human Body: Oh No! The Endocrine System!

Is there anything more FUN than teaching the endocrine system to high school students?

High school students and hormones?  Watch out! The endocrine system is definitely a challenge to teach, but it is a fascinating topic, and one that my students are intrigued by.  Well, perhaps I should say that they are intrigued by "parts" of it.  The class discussion on how hormones work, target cells, receptor sites, amino acid hormones and steroid hormones leaves them a little glassy-eyed! But start talking about endocrine disorders, and the class comes to life.  I do not mean to come across as insensitive, but the endocrine disorders are very interesting.  I think it is safe to say that students in a first year high school biology class are learning details about the endocrine system for the first time.  They are going to be highly interested in the pituitary disorders, acromegaly and goiters.  Then, there is diabetes. Almost every student these days has a family member or friend who suffers from diabetes.

How much detail and depth should we teach to our high school students? Every year and every class is different, but most of my students are novices when it comes to the endocrine system.  I think it is essential to teach what hormones are, how hormones work, and how the endocrine system maintains homeostasis in the body.  Students should be able to list the endocrine glands and have a basic understanding of what each gland does for the human body.  As for all of the hormones and their functions?  For me, it depends on the abilities of my current class.  I give them what they can handle.

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I continue to use a system of warm ups and bellringers.  This is a topic that will definitely take some review and reinforcement each and every day.  I have my students use the first 5-10 minutes of class time to review the concepts we have previously covered.  The warm up pages that I have developed are also used as homework assignments, daily quizzes, and most importantly, test prep for the final unit exam.

This newest product in my TpT store includes 29 student pages that cover a range of concepts that are likely to be found in a typical high school biology textbook.  I have included a detailed 5-page teacher guide, and of course, a teacher answer key for each student page.

Here are the highlights:

Good luck with your teaching, and have a great school year!

Lab Safety Tip of the Week #5

What You Need to Know About Your Eyewash Fountain and Safety Shower

Required Reading for the Week:

When was the last time you tested your eye wash fountain and your lab safety shower?  Did you know that they are supposed to be flushed once a week according to ANSI standards?    I think it is safe to say that the plumbed emergency equipment in our science labs is often neglected.  We walk past the eyewash and the shower day after day after day, but rarely stop to inspect it.  Since I have never had to pull the handle (thankfully!) on either piece of equipment in an emergency, I rarely stop to think about the routine maintenance that is required.

But I am not the expert.  And while I hope this blog post puts a nagging reminder in your brain, use the links in this post to read what the experts have to say.  My go-to source of lab safety information is Flinn Scientific.  Read this article about the eyewash and safety shower.

Here are the basics about the lab eyewash fountain:

  • The eyewash must provide a flow of water to both eyes simultaneously.
  • The affected area must be irrigated for a minimum of 15 minutes.
  • Keep both eyes open and rotate eyeballs in all directions.
  • Regulation of volume and pressure is required to maintain a soft flow of water to the eyes.
  • Location of the eyewash is important.  Travel time from a work station to the eyewash should be within 10 seconds.
  • Water temperature should be "tepid" which means lukewarm.  Acceptable temperature range is 78 - 92 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Weekly testing should occur to verify flow.  This also clears the water line to remove dirt from the pipes.

Here are the basics about the lab safety shower:
  • The shower should provide a deluge large enough to encompass the whole body.
  • Remove contaminated clothing.  Every second counts. Don't be modest.  It will only slow you down.  Remove contaminated clothing!
  • The shower should deliver a pattern of water that is 20 inches across.
  • Water flow should be 20 gallons per minutes at a velocity low enough to not injure the user.
  • The plumbed safety equipment should be clearly marked with signs and by painting the walls and floor surrounding the equipment a bright color.
For us middle or high school teachers,  words cannot begin to describe how busy we are during the school day.  If your safety equipment does not meet the standards, it is time to have a talk with your school administrator.  The safety of your students depends on it!

And please don't forget to take the time to inspect the equipment.  No eye wash fountain should ever look like this!

Classification and Taxonomy: Reviewing Important Concepts

This Kingdoms of Life Mix and Match Game is an excellent way to review the concepts of classification and taxonomy.

When teaching a unit on classification and taxonomy, the presentation of the six kingdom classification system seems pretty easy and straight forward, right? When I ask my students what kingdom frogs belong to, I know without a doubt that they are going to say "Animalia."  For our middle and high school life science students, learning which organisms belong to which kingdom is a simple task that is quickly and easily mastered.

But when I ask my students questions like these, they will hesitate.  And often give the wrong answer.
  • Name the kingdom that contains heterotrophic plants.
  • Name the kingdom in which all members are autotrophs.
  • Name the kingdom that contains prokaryotes with peptidoglycans in their cell walls.
  • Name two kingdoms in which all members are heterotrophs.
  • Name the kingdom that contains organisms with specialized cells, tissues, organs, and organ systems.
  • Name the kingdom in which all members have cell walls composed of cellulose.
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product in my TpT store.
I have fallen in love with using mix and match card sort games as a way of reviewing and reinforcing concepts in my science classes.  My latest creation is this Kingdoms of Life Mix/Match Game.  

Students are given 6 larger cards.  Each large card has the name of one of the six kingdoms in the 6-kingdom classification system.  The set also has 80 "answer cards."  Students are tasked with matching the answer card to the correct kingdom.

The game comes with student answer sheets and a 7-page teacher guide.  The student answer sheets are optional, but I always have my students record the answer card statements on the answer sheet.  Writing is a way of studying, and the answer sheets make a great study guide for the unit test.  The teacher guide has lots of suggestions for how to use the game, directions for set up and implementation, and of course, a complete answer key.

The game is perfect for all life science students of different ability levels because you can easily differentiate the game for any group of learners.  By selecting which answer cards to use, you can make the game perfect for any ability level.

If you like this idea, you might want to check out my other mix/match games:
Cell Organelles Mix Match
Organic Compounds Mix Match