I did a homeschool biology class the year before I started this blog, but I do have a list of the labs we covered so I thought I would share it for those of you looking to do biology at home. The textbook we used was Biology: Life on Earth with Physiology (9th edition) (LoE) by Gerald & Teresa Audesirk and Bruce E. Byers. I used an older edition because it was soooo much cheaper and it was only a couple of years old. I really enjoyed this book and learned a lot of biology – my degree is in physics and I hadn’t taken biology since high school!
I did get access to the instructors guide for Biology: Life on Earth and it was pretty good. You’l see below that I used a lot of the discussion activities and labs from it, they’re all marked with LoE . I also used some activities from Biology Inquiries: Standards-based labs, Assessements and Discussion Lessons by Martin Shields (BI) and the book, How to Disssect: Exploring with Probe and Scalpel – Special Projects for Advanced Study by William Berman – I believe that book came with the dissection specimens, but I’m not sure. I have a youtube playlist with all the videos I showed for this class and probably some I didn’t share with my class. They are probably in reverse order, if they’re in any order at all, so you’l need to start at the end of the playlist. Some of the photos below are from the middle school biology class that I was teaching at the same time, but that class pretty much followed Real Science Odyssey Biology level 2.
Chapter 1, Life: Viruses, Alive or Not – lecture activity from LoE instructor guide, basically students are asked whether viruses are alive or not. This is a topic that is still up to debate. Students can use their books or the internet try to answer the question. Discuss. Is Yeast Alive? (lab I found online).
Chapter 2, Chemistry: Exercise in Chemical Bonding, another lecture activity from LoE instructor guide. Students look up an element that has the atomic number equal to their birth month – born in August, then atomic number 8, Oxygen then fill in a diagram showing the number of protons, neutrons and electrons (in shells) for their atom. We discussed how atoms want a full outer shell and they see if they can ‘bond’ with anyone else’s atom to make them both ‘happy’.
Chapter 3, Carbon: History of Carbon discussion from Biology Inquiries (BI) and we built molecules with Zometools ( I bought a huge set of these – basically includes all the small sets, from Homeschool Buyers Co-op a few years ago). I would recommend buying Snatoms now that they have come out.
Chapter 4, Cell Structure: We looked at cheek and onion cells in the microscope and watched the first episode of The Cell by BBC. Its a great documentary if you can find it. Here it is on Youtube but its kind of dark.
Chapter 5, Cell Membrane: We did two labs, we looked at red onion cells under the microscope (BI) while putting salt water on the slide – you can watch it shrink! And we did osmosis with eggs which is Lab 5.6 in the LoE instructors guide. I’ve actually posted about these two experiments before because they were really cool.
Chapter 6, Energy Flow: Endergonic & Exergonic Reactions, Lab 6.2 from LoE and Lactaid Action Lab 6.3. The lactaid lab was interesting, we used glucose test strips to test for the presence of glucose in water, milk, sucrose solution, glucose solution, lactose free milk and almond milk. Then we added lactaid enyzme to each solution and tested it again. We were surprised to see glucose in lactose free milk before putting in the enzyme and found out that lactose free milk already has the enzyme added to it.
Chapter 7, Photosynthesis: Rate of Photosynthesis leaf disk lab from AP Biology, you can search the web and find lots of variations of this lab. I believe there were some videos on youtube as well.
Chapter 8, Cell Respiration: modeling respiration with zometools, made glucose and oxygen molecules then took them apart to see how many water and carbon dioxide molecules they could make. Each group researched a mitochondrial disorder and shared what they found with the class.
Chapter 9, Cell Reproduction: Looked at prepared slides of mitosis and used Pop beads to make stop motion movies of mitosis. I’ve posted about the pop beads before – they were great for this activity. We spent a second class on this so students could make stop motion movies for meiosis as well.
Chapter 10, Genetics: Did a punnett square activity (BI) where each student chose their ‘pet’ and then bred it with another ‘pet’ in the class and determined the characteristics of the 4 offspring.
Chapter 11& 12 , DNA: Watched NOVA on DNA: Secret of Photo 51, set up fast plant 72 hour genetics experiment, discussed here and we did a DNA replication activity that I found on the web called Modern Genetics for All Students. It looks like it might have changed since I downloaded it. Students put together a string of bases (printed out on cardstock) then found the matching pairs, split them up and replicated it so they had two complete strands of DNA.
Chapter 13, Biotech: DNA extraction – some kids did their own spit, some did strawberries. We also tallied up the fast plant data and looked at the results.
Chapter 14 & 15, Evolution: Gene drift and gene flow exercises with pop beads representing allele. I can’t find the exact source for the lab we did but if you search for gene drift or gene flow and beans you’l find labs using beads or beans. I just used the pop beads since I had them. Here’s one handout that might be what we used.
Chapter 16, The Origin of Species: The Lost World activity from BI. Students were given a skull and asked to design an animal. They had to look at the eyes, teeth, etc to figure out what they could about the animal. They sketched it, took measurements and then drew the rest of the animal as they imagined it. I happened to have some actual skulls for this activity but you could use photos.
Chapter 17, The History of Life: students made a timeline of life on earth – there’s an activity for this in LoE instructor guide where you print a bunch of cards and students put the events in order then place them on a timeline. We watched BBC Origins of Us.
Chapter 18, Systematics: Classifying Oak Leaves (BI), students visually compared three oak leaves and decided if they were separate species. They made various measurements to support their conclusions. They were then given three sets of DNA data to compare and used that to decide on the relationships between the oak leaves.
Chapter 19, Prokaryotes, Bacteria & Archae: Looking at bacteria in yogurt under the microscope and made a virus papercraft.
Chapter 20, Protists: pond water identification with microscope.
Chapter 21, Plants: Walked around the neighborhood finding different types of plants, vascular vs nonvasculat, moss, cycads, angiosperms and gymnosperms.
Chapter 22, Fungi: Found mold, mushrooms and lichens around the yard and looked at them under the microscope. Lichens are very cool under a microscope, with some you can see the algae inside them.
Chapter 23, Invertabrates: dissected earthworm, sea star and clam – different lab groups did different specimens. 2nd class dissected crayfish and grasshopper and we looked at triops with a microscope. We also looked at the compound eye of the grasshopper (photo to the right) and wing of a dragonfly with the miscroscope.
Chapter 24, Vertebrates: dissected perch, dog fish shark (which was amazing) and a turtle.
Chapter 43, Plant Anatomy: plant dissection and field trip with local ranger
Chapter 44, Plant Reproduction: pollen tube formation under the microscope, flower and bud dissection. Students planted African Violet leaves to grow new plants. They also took home cups with corn and bean seeds pressed against the side of plastic cups with a damp paper towel so they could watch them sprout. I highly recommend looking at as many types of pollen as you can find with a microscope.
Chapter 45, Plant Responses: demonstation of gravitropism – put bean plants on their side in dark boxes and on a window sill, both stems bent as the plant tried to grow upward. We also had seeds in different positions and showed that the roots always grown down.
Chapter 25, Animal Behavior: Students performed behavior experiments with isopods – see if they preferred dark or light environments, wet or dry, etc.
Chapter 26, Population Growth & Regulation: Effects of age at 1st reproduction on population growth (discussion activity from LoE), and we did the Fox and Rabbit game. You can find many variations of the fox and rabbit game on the web. I printed out some clipart rabbits and foxes to use.
Chapter 27, Community: we watched a bunch of videos on keystone and indicator species, each student researched an invasive species and share what they found with the class.
Chapter 28, Ecosystem: Watched videos on food chains, trophic cascade and the effects of wolves on Yellowstone. We did an activity on the nitrogen cycle and food webs.
Chapter 30, Biodiversity: Watched video on using insects as a food source, Crash Course Ecology #12. Students had the choice of researching new science inventions and plans for fixing the climate, solving energy or population issues or doing a food chain art project (one of the middle school student’s project is below).
Chapter 32 Circulation: Dissected fetal pigs.
Chapter 36 Defense against Disease: Played You Make Me Sick board game and watched videos on the immune system. (I couldn’t find the files for the actual game pieces, looks like the website has changed, but the link above has some of the information about the game).
We spent a class or two studying for the Biology SAT, taking practice tests and going over the answers. For the dissections I watched youtube videos of biology teachers doing it and I have a friend who’s a nurse who helped out. She really knew what she was doing and was able to do thing like inflate the lungs of the animals with a ‘snot sucker’ and that was really amazing to watch the lungs inflate.