Secular Science Resources for Homeschoolers

High School Biology 27 – Arthropods

We started class discussing different types of arthropods (which means jointed foot), such as arachnids, insects, crustaceans and trilobites to name a few.  I had detailed instructions for the high school students for dissecting grasshoppers and a crayfish, while I had kind of let the middle school students wing it and explore on their own. I posted some videos on the middle school post that are good to watch before dissecting your own specimen.  If I hadn’t watched the video for the crayfish, I never would have known to challenge my students to find the gastril mill – teeth like ridges inside the stomach of the crayfish!  We found them and put them under the microscope – very cool!

grasshopper mandible
crayfish gastril mill (‘teeth’ like ridges in the stomach!)
grasshopper wing

This week I had students read Ch 24, Arthropods in Holt Biology or finish Ch 23 in Biology: Life on Earth.  For videos, I sent them a list of True Facts About… by zefrank1, including the ones on Sea pigs, mantis shrimp, leaf katydid, dung beetle, bolas spider and carnivorous dragonflies.  There is some adult language in these videos but they are very entertaining and educational.

I purchased the dissection specimens from HomeScienceTools.  The tools we used were similar to this dissection kit and tray.  I also find the book, How to Dissect by William Berman fairly useful.



Middle School Biology 26 – Arthropods

Today we dissected a grasshopper and a crayfish.  We first inspected the external anatomy, observing the exoskeletons, compound eyes (simple eyes were hard to see on black grasshopper), different types of legs and the many mouth parts on both arthropods.  Students removed the exoskeletons and found the stomach and intestines in both creatures.  Here are two videos on how to dissect which are very useful as either a substitute for actual dissection or prepartion before doing a dissection.

We put various parts of the grasshopper and crayfish under the microscope and took some photos.

Crayfish mouth piece
grasshopper compound eye
Grasshopper compound eye
crayfish gills
Crayfish gills
Grasshopper ‘ear’ – tympanic membrane found near rear legs.


Students also completed an interactive notebook activity (found in Classification of Living Things by Getting Nerdy with Mel and Gerdy) on grasshopper body parts –  it had the body divided into three sections, the head, thorax and abdomen and after doing the dissection students listed the important body parts found in each section.

I had saved the sea stars from the high school class last week and showed the students the different parts of the sea star and had them tape a diagram into their notebooks.


High School Biology 26 – Invertebrates

Students read Chapter 23 on Invertebrates in either Holt Biology or Biology Life on Earth and watched the following videos before class (and the videos I posted on the middle school post on invertebrates):

Students started class making the 3D earthworm from Getting Nerdy with Mel and Gerdy, which I already described in the  middle school post. The papercraft has students color and describe the different organs/systems in the earthworm. I also had some live worms out for them to look at.

We then dissected a sea star (starfish). Here’s a great video to watch if you don’t want to do the actual dissection, or to learn how to do it.

Here are some photos from my class:
sea star dissection

We also put some pieces under the microscope.

I found a nice handout online for the Lab: Starfish Dissection (…/…) The previous link will download the document.  Holt Biology also had a sea star lab with a nice diagram.

Middle School Biology 25 – Invertebrates

In this class we discussed the differences between invertebrates (animals with no backbone) and vertebrates (animals with backbones),  bilateral and radial symmetry and took a good look at earthworms which involved making a 3D paper dissection model.  We will do some actual dissection in this class over the next month but not this week.

IMG_3595I purchased the Earthworm Paper Dissection by Getting Nerdy with Mel and Gerdy on   I have their frog one as well that I used a few years ago and these are a nice alternative to real dissection.  I also picked a few worms out of my compost bin so students could look them over.

IMG_3598The other activity was looking at different types of invertebrates and we used a lift the flap classification chart found on Ellen McHenry’s Basement Workshop website (she has a lot of great stuff on there).  We didn’t put them all in the notebooks, just the major ones (the one shown above is my book, I forgot to take photos in class, and arthropods is on the different page).

There are some great videos of invertebrates on youtube:

Next week, we’l be looking at arthropods, which are also invertebrates.

High School Biology 25 – Tropisms, fast plants and protists

We finished up plants today by talking about hormones and tropisms – how plants will bend and grow upright when knocked over (geotropism) and will grow towards the sun (phototropism).  Students read section 22.5 on Plant Responses in the Holt Biology text, or Chapter 45 Plant Response in Biology: Life on Earth.  I also had them watch the following video:

In class I went over a lot of the same information in the video in an old slideshow I had from a botany class.  Students also taped some photos of local wildflowers that we saw on our wildflower hike into their lab books and labeled them.  Lastly, they cut out a sheet of flower parts, assembled the flower and glued it into their lab books.  These are the same activities that the middleschool class did before break.

With the time we had left, students did another interactive notebook page, this one on different kinds of protists and then looked at prepared slides of protists under the microscope and sketched them in their lab books.

We also watched a few of the same videos I showed in the middle school class last week.

I asked the students to bring in their fast plants, but apparently many of them had died  over spring break while students were gone (bad timing on my part).  But the ones I had kept going blossomed this past weekend and we took a small paintbrush and brushed the different flowers, hoping to spread pollen from one flower/plant to another.  If we succeeded then seed pods should develope in a few days.

We also got some caterpillars and praying mantis egg cases set up to watch over the next few weeks.  The caterpillars always appear to have died in transit, they don’t move much for a while after you open the box, but if you leave them be, you’l see they starting growing pretty fast after they settle in.  The praying mantis egg case will be very boring until it hatches then we’l have hundred of baby mantis running around.  We’l have to release them in the yard shortly after they hatch or they will eat each other!

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