Category Archives: Systems Biology

Week 3

Week 3: September 16-20

Monday, September 16 (LS1-2): After making and recording corn seed observations, students plant seeds in soil in preparation for the next phase of our experiment.


Next, students will discuss the analysis questions from last Friday’s assignment.  In The Breath of Life reading, students learned how the respiratory system of humans enables gas exchange, with the lungs inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide.  The gas exchange occurs within the alveoli, thin-walled sacs inside the lungs.  The reading introduced the concept of feedback systems, focusing on the special nerve cells in the cardiovascular and nervous systems that can sense changes in pH.  As carbon dioxide builds up, the blood becomes more acidic, and the lungs are forced to exhale to rid the body of carbon dioxide which then brings the pH back to normal levels.



For the last few minutes of class, we made a list of some of the ingredients found in tacos, and then categorized those food items as carbohydrates, proteins, or fats.  We will dig into this work much more deeply tomorrow.


Tuesday, September 17 (LS1-2):  After making and recording corn plant observations, students actively took notes and shared their understanding of biomolecules.  Glucose is a simple sugar and the key ingredient in cellular respiration, the process organisms use to generate vast amounts of ATP energy.  Sugars are one type of biomolecule.  Our work today was to learn about three major classes of biomolecules: proteins, fats (lipids), and sugars (carbohydrates).  We reviewed the monomers and polymers of each, and then students read pages 328-332 in our textbook and completed the associated worksheet.  The assigned reading is titled Food: Our Body’s Source of Energy and Structural Materials.  Now that students understand the link between photosynthesis (chemical potential energy stored in glucose), cellular respiration (glucose metabolized to transfer the energy in glucose to ATP), and the larger connection with the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, it is time to learn more about how the digestive system makes use of the variety of foods available to us.  It is time to think beyond glucose.

Notes from class:




Wednesday, September 18 (LS1-2): After making and recording corn plant observations, we reviewed the reading from yesterday and focused in on an important group of enzymes responsible for digestion in the human digestive system.  For the remainder of class, students worked with a partner on the Digestive System Gizmo activity packet.

Thursday, September 19 (LS1-2): After making and recording corn plant observations for the final time, students will work with a partner to complete the Digestive System Gizmo activity packet.

Friday, September 20: Students had the entire short Friday class period to work on the Digestive System Gizmo activity packet.  Students were instructed to complete, at a minimum, through Activity B as homework before class on Monday.

Keep Learning!

Watch The Digestive System video by Mr. Anderson at Bozeman Science to learn more about this important area of study!


Unit 1 Review

Our work in Unit 1 came to a close today with students working as a class to explain why Lena Bedolla died after taking Ecstasy.  We filled out the Blood-Brain Barrier worksheet to help explain what happened to Lena as a result of her consuming Ecstasy and drinking a lot of water.  A copy of our work is shown below:

Students had the remainder of the class period to complete their Egg Lab reports (due by midnight Friday) and to prepare one page of notes that can be used on the Unit 1 Exam tomorrow and Friday.

Egg Lab Day 2 / Body Systems

After carefully pouring out the vinegar from yesterday and replacing it with fresh vinegar, students returned their eggs to safe storage while the last of the egg shell dissolved overnight.

For the remainder of the class period, students investigated the body systems known to be impacted by the drug Ecstasy as introduced in the case study yesterday.  Students were directed to the website to learn about both body systems and specific organs.  Working in teams of four, students filled out the associated worksheet, describing the location and function of the systems and organs, and also providing specific pieces of evidence from the case study that those systems or organs were not functioning properly.

For homework, students must watch and take detailed notes about the Crash Course video below (the excretory system):

Egg Lab Day 1 / Initial Model

Using the procedure written last Thursday, students initiated the Egg Lab by beginning the process of dissolving egg shells with vinegar.  Each student received an egg, a cup, and enough vinegar to cover their egg.  We will replace the vinegar tomorrow and begin our experiment on Wednesday.

The remainder of class was used to explore a real case study in which a young woman took Ecstasy at a party and ended up in the hospital.  Students took on the role of the doctor who was able to learn a bit about the woman and who also ordered blood work.  After reviewing the results of the blood work, students were tasked with sharing their thinking in the form of an initial model.  Working alone or with a partner, students drew and wrote about what they thought was happening in the woman’s body before she took the drug, when she became sick, and how her body ultimately was unable to handle the toxic side effects of the drug.  We will learn more about body systems tomorrow and apply that learning to construct a stronger explanation of why the woman died in our work later this week.

Energy, Matter, and Organization: Dissection Lab Prep

For our entry task today, students assembled into their dissection groups, quickly assigned each other a number (1, 2, or 3) and then were assigned every third question on the worksheet (page 1 only).  The entry task video is below and helps connect the work we have completed this far in Unit 1 (cells and organelles) and Unit 2 (body systems), with a preview of what is to come.

Dissections have arrived!  We will begin by review the contents of the dissection kit each team will use, and we will review the safety precautions for conducting the lab.  Next, students will assemble into three-person teams and determine who will take the lead for dissection the cow eye, pig heart, and frog.  In addition, two teams will also receive a sheep brain.  As preparation for the dissections, students will use the Chromebooks to watch their assigned how-to video (below) and carefully take notes:

Cow Eye Dissection:

Pig Heart Dissection:

Frog Dissection:

Sheep Brain Dissection:

Energy, Matter, and Organization: Nervous System Project

Today marked the beginning of the Nervous System Project.  Students with a grade of a C or higher have earned the opportunity to extra credit in exchange for researching an aspect of the nervous system of interest to them.  As a student-driven project, the purpose is to provide students with the time and space to research topics like depression, Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, or any other condition of interest to the student.  The goal is to learn more about the condition and to explore the condition at the system, organ, cell, and molecular level.  Students were encouraged to explore the role of neurotransmitters in their chosen condition.  To help support students, one possible research path might be:

  1. Select a condition that affects the nervous system
  2. Select a neurotransmitter known to be involved in the condition
  3. Research the function of the neurotransmitter and its’ receptor
  4. Research the source of the neurotransmitter (which cells release it?)
  5. Research the neurotransmitter receptor – what is it, and where is it expressed?
  6. Research how the neurotransmitter imbalance may occur
  7. Research available treatment options

Summarize findings in a Google Slides document (then share it with Mr. Swart)

+30 EC for completed project; +5 EC for presentation to class (optional)

Can We Live Forever?

Today marks the transition from Unit 3 (Cells and Homeostasis) to Unit 4 (Energy, Matter, and Organization).  We have learned a lot about how cells interact with their environment.  We have also learned about how cells combine in complicated ways to form tissues, organs, and body systems.  In Unit 4, we will explore how cells are organized (organelles and biomolecules) and how cells obtain energy (photosynthesis and cellular respiration).  To help us transition, today we watched two segments of the NOVA video “Can We Live Forever?” hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson.  The complete video is available below.  After watching each segment, students responded to a writing prompt in their lab notebook.

Segment 1: 7:03-20:40, Prompt: If some day all of your body parts can be rebuilt or replaced, will you still be you?  Explain your answer in at least 4 sentences in your lab notebook.

Segment 2: 41:40-50:13, Prompt: Why do you think cooling body temperature improves survival after a catastrophic health event (like a heart attack)?  Explain your answer in at least 4 sentences in your lab notebook.

Body Systems Project – Day 3

Students ontinued working on their body systems projects, making excellent progress on both the posters and findings tests a doctor might use to diagnose illness in their assigned body system. Students also had access to our classroom digital microscope, taking pictures from prepared slides that are relevant to their projects.  A sampling of pictures taken by students are shown below.  Additional pictures of human tissues are available on the website

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