Secular Science Resources for Homeschoolers



Middle School Biology 30 – Frogs & Pigs

I wasn’t planning on dissecting pigs and frogs with the middle school class but there weren’t as many high school students willing to dissect as I thought there would be so I had an extra fetal pig and an extra frog.  I had kept the high school specimens so we were able to compare the two fresh dissections, which were both male to the female frog and pig that were done last week.  I gave the students a diagram of the digestive organs of the pig and they had to label the different organs.



Middle School Biology 29 – Feathers

At the beginning of class we discussed different types of vertebrates: reptiles, amphibians, birds, mammals and fish.  We talked about the different characteristics of each group and for the lab we took a very close at feathers.  I had a variety of feathers, including a few peacock tail feathers, turkey and hawk feathers.  Students drew them in their lab books and then looked at them under the microscope.  Here’s what we saw:

From a wing feather.  Notice the ragged edges (hooklets) that are on one side of each barb.
Interlocking barbules on wing feather.
Peacock tail feather
A single barb from a peacock tail feather.
More peacock tail feather barbules
Hooklets on edge of barbule (most likely a wing feather)
Downy feather.

We also took a look at shed snake skin.


At the end of class we watched the following videos, the second one does a nice job of explaining the feather structures.

Middle School Biology 27 – Frogs & Butterflies



Instead of dissecting a real frog, the students worked on a 3D frog paper dissection model from Getting Nerdy with Mel and Gerdy.  There are a lot of parts to this model, the list of organs and body parts to color is 4 pages long!  Most of the students barely finished the coloring, so we’l finish them up in class next week.  While students were coloring, I read the information pages on frogs and their anatomy.

I also have a plastic simulated frog dissection kit that came with a plastic set of organs and a squishy set – though it looks like it only comes with plastic ones now.   You can see it in the middle of the table in the photo below.


Over the last month I’ve also been raising painted lady butterflies (Insect Lore)  and we released them this week.  The tiny caterpillars arrive in a small plastic cup with food in the bottom. It takes a few hours/days for them to start moving around but they grow quite fast.


In just a few days they had doubled in size.


The cup came with 6 caterpillars and after a week I opened up the cup and put in the butterfly habitat with some branches so they could stretch their legs.  It wasn’t long before they made for the top of the habitat, hung upside down and formed chrysalides (about 10 days after they arrived).


10 days later butterflies emerged from the chrysalides.  I kept them in the habitat (fed them diluted sugar water) until all my students had seen them and then we released them outside.


If you haven’t raised butterflies from caterpillars before I highly recommend it, especially for elementary students.

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.


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.

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