Secular Science Resources for Homeschoolers


December 2018

High School Biology 14 – Evolution

I started class with a video on Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace:

For the lab activity, I picked 10.3 Adaptation of Beaks from the Holt Biology curriculum (found in the online resources).  Students had to use different shaped tools as beaks to pick up seeds (or beans) to see which shape is a better adaptation for that food source. They counted how many ‘seeds’ they could pick up in 30 seconds with each tool.  I had aluminum pans full of dried beans to act as big seeds and sunflower chips for small seeds.  Students used tweezers, pliers, chopsticks and clothes pins for ‘beaks’.

Once they determined the best beak they had to sketch a bird with their beak of choice.  I particularly enjoyed this one with the plier beak which opens horizontally since they used the pliers that way to grab a bunch of seeds in one ‘mouthful’.  IMG_0574.jpeg

Lastly, I handed out templates for the Ugly Sweater Contest (free on teacherspayteachers) and told them it had to be biology themed.  Below are some of the Ugly Biology Sweaters.



Middle School Biology 14 – Darwin & Wallace

We started class by watching this video on Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace by HHMI BioInteractive.  Its about 30 minutes long but does a nice job showing how both Darwin and Wallace came to the same conclusion about natural selection and evolution.

After the video the students made a page for their notebooks on Charles Darwin that I got from Evolution, Natural Selection & Adaptation – Interactive Notebook Activity Pack by Getting Nerdy with Mel and Gerdy on  When I printed it the drawing of the islands under When & Where didn’t print right, so I replaced it with a map and replaced the cartoon drawing of Darwin with a photo.  Under the flaps there a few paragraphs talking about Darwin and the students have to fill in the blanks.  IMG_0553

For the lab we did a microscope lab (One the Wings of a Bug) from Real Science Odyssey Biology Level 2, where students looked at different insect wings under a microscope.  My boys and I had tried to start a bug collection many years ago and apparently didn’t do it right since the bugs distengrated into a fine dust over the years.  I was able to salvage some wings and made slides of them to add to the professionally made slides that I have.  One of my students also brought in a bug collection and use a carpenter bee from his collection to look at compound eyes and ocelli  – which are simple eyes or eyespots used to detect movement.

dragonflyblack (carpenter) bee ocelli - simple eyes and antenacompound eye bee antenna

I taught this class twice this week and on the morning of the second class, I happened to come across a wasp and a stinkbug hiding in my patio umbrella, so we put them under the microscope as well.

compound eye of a stink bug, 40x
Stinkbug compound eye
wasp compound eye

The photo below is a wasp wing and its surprisingly hairy! Some of the insect wings had little spikes or ridges and many were hairy like the wasp wing.  Students sketched what they saw and noted their observations – differences and similarities between the wings.  All winged insected have evolved from a common ancestor, kind of like the lego creatures we made last week – everybody ended up with something different after many generations but they all started with the same simple two block creature.

wasp wing

Photos were taken with an iPhone XS and a NexYZ 3-Axis Universal Smartphone Adapter.

We had a few minutes left at the end of class so we watched What is the Evidence for Evolution by Stated Clearly.


Middle School Biology 13 – Lego mutations

IMG_0388I did the same LEGO mutation/evolution activity with the middle school class that I did with the high school class last week.  We also watched

and talked about biotechnology.  We had a bit of time left at the end of class so we had an Ugly Sweater Contest.  You can download it for FREE on teacherspayteachers.  I had seen a number of these on a facebook group for science teachers and thought it looked like fun.  Students had to decorate the sweater using something we had studied this semester in biology: DNA, cells, molecules, genetics, mitosis, etc. Below are a few examples.

High School Biology 13 – Biotechnology & Lego Mutations

Students read Chapter 9 in Holt Biology or Ch 13 in Biology, Life on Earth – both of which are on biotechnology, and were told to watch the following videos before class.

This class happened right after the news came out that mitochondrial DNA can actually be inherited from both parents, so I showed the following SciShow video on the news. Previously it was thought that mitochondrial DNA could only be inherited from your mother.

I did a slideshow on DNA fingerprinting, CRISPR, cloning and genetic engineering.  But for the activity we moved on to evolution.  I showed How Does New Genetic Information Evolve? Point Mutations by Stated Clearly and then we did the Lego Tree Life activity which can be found at this link.

In this activity, students build a creature with only 2 lego blocks.  They draw a card which will say repetition, mutation or split.  Repetition means their creature has offspring which looks like the parents, mutations means they can add one block to their creature (legs, antenna, tail…) and split means a section of the population splits off and is separated from the original population by a mountain or river.  If a split occurs then the student builds another lego creature to represent the population that split off and will then draw 2 more cards to find out what happens to each of those populations (repetition, mutation or split).IMG_0228

This activity is always a lot of fun.  Some kids got a bit carried away with mutation, I think their creatures lived in an area with high radioactivity, but they all drew out a tree showing the common ancestor at the top, straight lines down for repetition and two lines showing a split population.  Here are some of the creatures that evolved by the end of class.

I had out a large stash of regular blocks and then a variety of special blocks  (minifig legs, antenna, slanted blocks, fangs, etc.) for mutations.


Middle School Biology 12 – Cytosis

Half the class was out sick this week so we played the board game Cytosis in class this week.  I used this with the high school class earlier in the year, you can read about it in that post.


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