Category Archives: Biology

Week 36 – Show Me the Veggies!

The pictures below are of 25 different garden vegetables that were only seeds three weeks ago.  Some plants clearly grow faster than others.  In fact, quite a few seeds have yet to germinate, so this project isn’t quite as big as it could have been!  What project?  I’m glad you asked!  This week, you have a choice.  For either project, you will observe the plants carefully, writing down your observations for each plant in a Google Doc.  Using your observations as evidence, you will either construct a phylogenetic tree or a dichotomous key.  Both are worth 40 project points each.  You must do one, you may do both.  Doing both projects will earn you 40 bonus project points.  Select the project you would like to complete and click on the link below for details.

Broccoli
Radish
Brussel Sprout
Watermelon
Arugula
Romaine Lettuce
Cucumber
Jalapeño Pepper
Sunflower
Pumpkin
Roma Tomato
Black Beauty Squash
Purple Top Turnips
Corn
Beets
Carrots
Peas
Blue Kale
Bush Beans
Swiss Chard
Buttercrunch Lettuce
Iceberg Lettuce
Red Cabbage
Spinach
Sugar Snap Pea

Return to Week 36 – Inferring with Evidence and continue working.

Week 36 – Phylogenetic Tree Project

One month ago, we planted our vegetable garden.  It was the reward for several weeks of arduous labor (about which my kids are still complaining).  This week, we will observe together the miracle of biology: after a little more than a month, what began as a tiny little seed is now a plant with interesting and complex structures, well on its way to maturing into something that will produce food for us in a few months.  From the perspective of the plant, feeding us isn’t the goal.  The plant has domesticated humans by convincing us to cultivate it, thus ensuring the plant and its offspring survive for future generations.  Same with cats and dogs – we like to pretend we’re in charge, but really the creatures we love as “pets” have actually been stunningly successful at domesticating humans and getting us to feed, shelter, love, and protect them.  Who is really in charge?

But I digress!  Back to plants and our work for the week.  Your job is to look through the pictures of individual plants from the garden.  The pictures show the plants after 3 weeks of growth (they were taken last weekend).  The plants are labeled so you will know what you are looking at.  Take notes about the characteristics of the plants – you will need those notes to construct a phylogenetic tree.  (Click here for a refresher about phylogenetic trees).  Your goal for the week is use evidence to infer the evolutionary relationships amongst common garden vegetables.

Instructions:

  1. Observe the pictures of garden vegetable plants after 3 weeks of growth (from seeds).  The same pictures in the link are also provided here as a slide show.  Use whichever is easiest for you.

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  2. Record (write down!) detailed observations in a Google Doc titled “Vegetable Garden Phylogenetic Tree – Your Name”.  This means, make a list of the 25 plants.  Write down detailed observations of each plant.  Your observations will serve as your evidence for how you construct your phylogenetic tree.
  3. In your Google Doc, organize the plants into groups based on similarities.
  4. In your Google Doc, create a phylogenetic tree which predicts the evolutionary relationships amongst the 25 different garden vegetable plants.  You might expect plants that appear similar to be more closely related than plants that appear different.  Use your evidence to infer the evolutionary relationships as depicted in your phylogenetic tree drawing.
  5. Need help?  Click here for a Phylogenetic Tree Project example.
  6. When finished, Share the Doc with Mr. Swart at david.swart@g.highlineschools.org

Return to Week 36 – Inferring with Evidence and continue working.

Week 36 – Dichotomous Key Project

One month ago, we planted our vegetable garden.  It was the reward for several weeks of arduous labor (about which my kids are still complaining).  This week, we will observe together the miracle of biology: after a little more than 4 weeks, what began as a tiny little seed is now a plant with interesting and complex structures, well on its way to maturing into something that will produce food for us in a few months.  From the perspective of the plant, feeding us isn’t the goal.  The plant has domesticated humans by convincing us to cultivate it, thus ensuring the plant and its offspring survive for future generations.  Same with cats and dogs – we like to pretend we’re in charge, but really the creatures we love as “pets” have actually been stunningly successful at domesticating humans and getting us to feed, shelter, love, and protect them.  Who is really in charge?

But I digress!  Back to plants and our work for the week.  Your job is to look through the pictures of individual plants from the garden.  The pictures show the plants after 3 weeks of growth (they were taken last weekend).  The plants are labeled so you will know what you are looking at.  Take notes about the characteristics of the plants – you will need those notes to construct a dichotomous key.  (Click here for a refresher about dichotomous keys).  Your goal for the week is create a tool that can be used by a vegetable gardener to know which plants will produce which vegetable and to help the gardener know which plants are weeds and should be removed from the garden.

Instructions:

  1. Observe the pictures of garden vegetable plants after 3 weeks of growth (from seeds).  The same pictures in the link are also provided here as a slide show.  Use whichever is easiest for you.

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  2. Record (write down!) detailed observations in a Google Doc titled “Vegetable Garden Dichotomous Key – Your Name”.  This means, make a list of the 25 plants.  Write down detailed observations of each plant.  Your observations will serve as your evidence for how you construct your dichotomous key.
  3. In your Google Doc, organize the plants into groups based on similarities.
  4. In your Google Doc, create a dichotomous key to determine the identity of each plant through a series of questions.  Look for differences between the groupings of plants you created and then write the differences into questions.  For example, if you have a group of pink plants (which you do not!) while the rest are green, Question 1 might be: Is the plant pink?  If yes, go to question 2.  If no, go to Question 3.  Note: you can construct a flowchart instead if you find that easier. 
  5. Need help? Click here for a Dichotomous Key Project example.
  6. When finished, Share the Doc with Mr. Swart at david.swart@g.highlineschools.org

Return to Week 36 – Inferring with Evidence and continue working.

Week 36 – Mint Plant Cuttings

Looking to grow some new plants for free?  If you know someone with an herb garden, ask for a couple of mint cuttings.  Wrap the ends of the cut mint plants in a moist paper towel and place them in a plastic bag.  As quickly as possible, transfer the cut off the lower leaves and place the stem in water.  Add water as needed to ensure the stem stays submerged.  After about a week, your mint will sprout roots!  Let the roots grow for a few more days, then transplant the mint cutting to soil.  You have a new mint plant!

Here’s a photo of our small herb garden:

Using clean scissors, I cut the top 6 inches off of some mint plants, removed the lower leaves, and placed them in containers of water.

A week later, the mint cuttings had roots!  I’ll give them another few days to grow roots and then transplant them outside in our expanded herb garden barrel.

Weeks 34-35 – The Evolution of Lactose Tolerance

Now that we better understand enzymes and how they work, it is time to focus on the enzyme lactase.  The substrate for lactase is lactose, a sugar commonly found in milk.  While you were briefly introduced to lactase in the previous work for this week, the video below will provide you with many important insights.

After watching the video, complete the Got Lactase? Google Form assignment.

Return to the Weeks 34-35 – Lactase Persistence post and continue our work for the week.

Weeks 34-35 – What is an Enzyme?

For starters, what is an enzyme?  From Simple English Wikipedia: Enzymes are protein molecules in cells which work as biological catalysts. Enzymes speed up chemical reactions in the body, but do not get used up in the process, therefore can be used over and over again. Almost all biochemical reactions in living things need enzymes.

To learn more about Enzymes, watch the video below and then complete the Enzymes Google Form assignment.  Note: after you submit the form, view your score.  You can re-submit the form if needed to improve your score.  Just make sure you improve your learning as well!

Take a breather from all that hard work and play a game of Google PAC-MAN.

Return to the Weeks 34-35 – Lactase Persistence post and continue our work for the week.

Weeks 34-35 – What’s Wrong with Claire?

To conclude our learning about enzymes, complete the Enzymes STEM Case Gizmo.  This is a new type of Gizmo – everything is self-contained within the simulation.  No packet to complete!  Work through the STEM Case to find out what’s wrong with Claire.  Hint: it has something to do with her enzymes!  To receive credit for the assignment:

  1. Create a Google Doc titled “What’s Wrong with Claire? – Your Name” (example: What’s Wrong with Claire? – Pierre Swart)
  2. Copy and your first Hypothesis statement from the Gizmo and paste it into your Google Doc
  3. Repeat step 2 each time you revise your hypothesis
  4. Briefly explain what was wrong with Claire
  5. Take a screenshot of the Case Completed screen
  6. Share the Google doc with Mr. Swart at david.swart@g.highlineschools.org

Return to the Weeks 34-35 – Lactase Persistence post and continue our work for the week.

Weeks 34-35 – Lactase Persistence

Welcome to Weeks 34 and 35!  We continue our study of evolution, and specifically co-evolution, by focusing on the enzyme lactase.  You have two weeks to complete this work.  The recommended weekly work schedule is provided below.  You must complete the weekly attendance check-in, but you are welcome to adjust the learning schedule to meet your own needs.

Week 34 (recommended)

  1. Week 34 Attendance Check-In (required by 10am 5/15)
  2. What is an Enzyme? (Google Form assignment)
  3. Enzyme Lab-At-Home (Learning required, Lab Report optional)

Week 35 (recommended)

  1. Week 35 Attendance Check-In (required by 10am 5/22)
  2. Got Lactase? (Google Form assignment)
  3. What’s Wrong with Claire? (Gizmo notes in Google Doc)

You did it!  Just to make sure, here’s a checklist of items you must complete this week by Sunday, May 24 at 11:59pm:

  • Week 34 Attendance Check-In (school district requirement)
  • Week 35 Attendance Check-In (school district requirement)
  • Enzyme Google Form (worth 15 assignment points)
  • Optional Enzyme Lab Report (worth 40 lab report bonus points)
  • Got Lactase? Google Form (worth 15 assignment points)
  • Enzymes STEM Case Gizmo Google Doc Notes (worth 10 assignment points)

Remember, you can email me any time.  Office hours for Science are Tuesdays from 11am-12pm and Thursdays from 1pm-2pm.  Check your student Gmail for Zoom instructions.

Don’t forget to complete the Week 34 and Week 35 Bonus Credit Opportunities!  Check out the amazing artwork students are submitting as part of the Week 35 Bonus Credit Opportunity.