2 liter bottles are one of the most versatile lab supplies you can get your hands on. There are SO MANY ways to use them! While I'm a soda drinker, I prefer cans, so I ask students to bring them in if they have any at home. Here is a (growing) list of experiments that all use 2L bottles. If you have more ideas to share, please leave me a comment!
1. Lava Lamp: Build your own lava lamp! Fill a bottle 1/3 of the way full with water and a couple drops of food coloring. Fill another third of the bottle with vegetable oil. Drop in an alka seltzer tablet and enjoy the show!
2. Density Column: Teaching density? See how many different layers you can create inside the 2L bottle. Some great liquid options are water, karo syrup, vegetable oil, rubbing alcohol, and soap.
3. Cloud in a bottle: Check out this video clip on how you can create a cloud in a bottle.
4. Tornado Machine: There are two ways to do this- first you can purchase a tornado tube connector (I got the pictured connector from Steve Spangler Science), connect two bottles together, and give it a swirl. Another option is to use one bottle. Fill it with water, a small amount of vinegar, and a drop or two of soap. Give it a small shake, swirl it around, and watch a soapy vortex form inside.
5. Climate Demo: Why are the high and low temperatuers in coastal cities close together while inland cities see much greater temperature fluctuations throughout the day? Answer: It's a lot harder to change the temperature of water than it is to change the temperature of air. Get two 2L bottles and fill one with water while leaving the second bottle empty. Place a thermometer into the opening and secure it with a rubber stopper (or play-doh if you don't have a stopper). Shine a heat lamp on both bottles and compare the temperature changes.
6. Rocket: Build a water bottle rocket! Here are directions from NASA.
7. Balloon in a bottle: Does air have volume (does it take up space?) Have students try and blow up a balloon in a bottle. Bet they can't! (You can poke a hole in the bottom or add a straw to show how if air can exit, the balloon will expand).
8. Instant Ice: Can you turn a bottle of liquid water into frozen ice within seconds? Wach how here! (Note: I've never tried this with a 2L size but know it works well with smaller bottles).
9. Soil Erosion: Show students the impact of plants and sediment type on erosion. Bottle 1 contains soil and plants, bottle 2 contains woodchips, and bottle 3 contains soil. Add water and compare the amount that filters through and clarity. (Photo credit @Inspirelifelonglearning).
10. Atmosphere Model: What is the most abundant gas in the atmosphere? How much oxygen is actually up there? Grab a 2L bottle and some foam beads from the dollar store and build a model.
11. Mentos + Coke: This is always a student favorite. Put some mentos into a 2L bottle of coke and watch for the geyser! I found this screw-on contraption in Target dollar spot. Tip: Using diet soda has easier cleanup- no sticky sugar residue!
12. Composting: Build a micro-composter in a bottle! Pepsi has a free lesson plan here.
13. Lung Model: Build a model of a lung and show students how the diaphragm helps lungs expand and contract. You can find directions here.
14. Kinetic Theory: How can we show students hot air molecules move faster than cold air molecules? Get a bottle (smaller actually works better here) and place a balloon over the opening. Next, get 2 bowls of water. Fill one bowl with ice water and the second bowl with hot water. Place the bottom of the bottle in the bowl of cold water and watch the balloon.... do nothing. Now place it in the bowl of hot water and watch the balloon expand. As the air inside the balloon gets warmed it moves faster, expands, and pushes on the balloon.
15. Cartesian Diver: Get a 2L bottle and fill it with water. Place an eyedropper inside the bottle that is 1/4 of the way full and screw on the lid. (Don't have an eyedropper? Use a ketchup packet instead. You want the ketchup packet to float, but just barely). Squeeze the bottle and watch the eyedropper sink. As you increase the pressure on the bottle you'll see water go up into the eyedropper, making it sink.
16. Eco Column: Build a three chamber eco-column with multiple bottles. This website has multiple blog posts on how to assemble them and troubleshooting tips. (Photo credit @lonniesplanet)
17. Funnel: Even after you've finished using a bottle for one of the experiments listed above, cut off the top and save it for a lab that requires a funnel!
Any other uses you know of? Drop me a comment!
It doesn't matter if you're a headstrong toddler, adult, or somewhere in between.... we all like to do things our own way. Our own opinions matter! Sometimes we forget the importance of providing students opportunities to have choice in how they learn or how they want to be assessed.
Some students love technology, some would rather build a model. Some students love to write, others would prefer to do an oral presentation. Some students love working in groups, others would prefer to work alone.
I'm not saying you need to completely loosen the reins in your classroom- I'm very type-A and need structure. However, there are plenty of ways to provide students choices without giving up control or having 10 different types of assignments to grade. Below are some ways to include some student choice. I encourage you to try a few that fit your comfort level!
1. Let students choose their lab groups or seating arrangement
Do you always use a seating chart? And base lab groups off that arrangement? It's a great classroom management strategy. But once you have your class up and running, do you ever let students choose their own seats? Sometimes when you let them sit by their friends they will surprise you! I always tell students I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt, and if they choose to socialize instead of learn then I get to choose the seats again.
Not willing to completely let the seating chart go? Try it just for a day during a group activity or lab. You can also try "clock partners" where they get to choose different students they'd like to work with (just Google "clock partner template" and you'll find a ton). Once they have their clock chart filled out you say "today we are going to work with our 3:00 partners" and they go find that person. It's a great way to change things up.
2. Digital choice boards
Choice boards are an excellent way to let students choose how they want to demonstrate their learning. Essentially they look like a tic-tac-toe board and include 9 different assignment options. They can range from watching a video and writing a reflection, completing a virtual lab, filling out a crossword puzzle, or even taking pictures of a scientific phenomena. The possibilities are endless. As the teacher you can choose the options and how many you want students to complete. I have biology and earth science digital choice boards already completed, check them out!
3. Mode of presentation
Assigning some sort of presentation? You will have some students that LOVE to present to their peers and others that would rather get a tooth pulled. I've found the English-language learners especially get nervous and struggle with oral presentations. Try offering different ways they can present that will make them more comfortable. Options could include:
4. Form of note taking
At the first school I taught at, students were required to take Cornell notes. I came to love them and I enjoyed that they provided students with structure, but not every student likes to take notes that way.
Offering students different note taking pages gives students the opportunity to learn how they retain information best. Do they like to doodle? Try doodle notes. Do they like structured Q and A style notes? Try Cornell notes. Do they struggle with vocabulary or keeping up as you lecture? Try fill-in-the-blank cloze notes.
5. Project based learning
Have you ever tried out project based learning? This method of instruction allows for a lot of student voice and choice. I have a series of blog posts on PBL, so start here if you are interested.
6. Early Finishers
If students finish their work early, allow them to fill those last few minutes of class with an activity of their choice. Check out this blog post for a list of options students could choose from.
What other ways do you allow for student voice and choice in your classroom? Leave me a comment!
Looking to up the engagement during distance learning? Or, is your classroom 1:1 with technology? I've been creating interactive diagrams where students can click and learn about biology and earth science topics. Students work through the diagram and end with a Google-form self grading quiz. No prep for you- wahoo!
Check out this video to take a peek on what they look like and how they work!
These diagrams can be used for:
Want to see the topics available? BROWSE HERE!
You can probably tell based on my blog name.... I like rocks. I don't claim to be an expert geologist, but I have a deep love for pretty rocks, am fascinated by them and how they form, and have quite a collection.
Students often think rocks are boring until you put some pretty samples in front of them and get the juices flowing on how they formed. Why do some rocks have small crystals, others have large crystals, and others have no crystals at all? How come some rocks have large holes and others have layers? If you get some cool samples in their hands I promise they get excited.
(Tip: bigger is better. Students get a lot more excited looking at a large geode than they do a tiny one. Save up for a few larger pieces and have students rotate around the room, opposed to buying multiple small samples).
Here are some fun ways to teach the rock cycle to students:
1. ROCK CYCLE GAME: Have students take a ride through the rock cycle with this interactive activity. Students will roll a cube and head to different stations in the classroom (igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic) and collect tokens along the way.
2. STARBURST ROCK CYCLE: Want to model the rock cycle? This lab is always a favorite! Grab some starburst and have students cut, mold, and melt them to represent stages of the rock cycle.
3. INTERACTIVE: Learner.org has a rock cycle click-and-learn interactive for students.
4. INTERACTIVE DIAGRAM: This diagram allows students to click and learn about each step of the rock cycle. This is a great option if you have laptops in your classroom! Students will also use Google maps to see each rock type out in nature.
5. CARD SORT: I'm a big fan of card sorts as a quick formative assessment activity. Have students sort the cards under the proper heading.
6. INDUSTRIAL USES: How are different rocks (and minerals) used industrially? In this card sort activity, students will pair a rock (or mineral) with an industrial use card. This activity makes rocks and minerals more relevant.
7. VIRTUAL ROCK BOX: If you don't have access to samples, students can explore these rock types virtually.
8. VIRTUAL ROCK IDENTIFICATION: Want students to identify rocks based on their characteristics? This site has virtual labs where students need to identify igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks.
9. STATION LAB: I love station labs because students are more engaged when they get to get up and move around the room. This station lab includes 8 stations for students to explore rocks and take a deeper dive into the rock cycle.
10. ROCK CYCLE SONGS: We all know that it's hard to remember what we ate for dinner last night, but can sing a song we learned the lyrics to in 6th grade. Adding music to text makes thinks stick! Check out this Youtube video that teaches students about the rock cycle to the tune of "We will rock you," or "Life is a highway."
I hope these help you during your geology unit! Rock on!
As a new teacher, pacing was one of the HARDEST things for me to get right. Some classes would finish right on time, others would finish early, and with others I would run out of time to get through everything. Some kids just work faster than others and will complete an assignment with 10 minutes to spare. And inevitably, an administrator will walk in and see them sitting on their phone (there's nothing worse). Instead of letting them pull out their phone, here are some options you can provide students who finish early, or some ways you can fill those last few minutes.
1. Housekeeping Tasks: This is one of the first things I ask students when they are sitting with nothing to do- Is your backpack cleaned out? Is your binder organized? Have you checked your grades? Do you have any missing assignments?
2. Read a book: Many ELA classrooms have a classroom library, but you could consider starting one for your science class. Goodwill is a great place to find affordable books. Science novels are great, but don't rule out comic books and low-lexile quick-reads.
3. Task cards: Whenever we do review activities before a quiz, I always have a few students ask if they can take home the task cards or card sorts to practice on their own. Not every student will want to review with task cards, but some will take you up on it.
4. Interactive bulletin board: I'm the crafty type and enjoy changing up my bulletin boards frequently. I have a bulletin board in the front of the room that I change up based on our unit of study. Interactive bulletin boards are boards that allow students to interact with, such as putting string between organisms to make a food web, adding thumbtacks to a map to locate national parks, or researching a fact about a famous scientist and adding it to a sticky note.
5. Genius hour: Genius hour allows students to explore learning new skills of interest and encourages creativity in the classroom. You can learn more about it here.
6. Long Term Project: It's fun to have a project going on throughout the year that students can check in on. It gives them perspective on how long scientific research can really take. Examples could include: Watching and measuring soil changes inhabited by pill bugs, keeping red-wiggler worms in a compost bin, or hand pollinating fast-plants.
7. Science Videos: This is one of my go-to options when the whole class finishes early. Find a fun science video to show students and have them explain how it works. Sick science and Outrageous Acts of Science are two of my favorite channels when I have a few minutes to fill.
8. Extreme dot-to-dot: Students go BANANAS for these worksheets. They are available to order online but I've also found them at the dollar store.
9. Computer time: If students have been working on the computers and finish early, you can allow them to have some free time on approved websites. Check out this free choice board that includes 16 websites with games and activities students can choose from.
10. Jigsaw Puzzle: If you have some open table space, keep a jigsaw puzzle out for students to slowly work on.
11. Sudoku: I have some students that LOVE to do sudoku puzzles when they finish a quiz. I bought a book at the dollar store and keep copies on hand. You can also print free puzzles online.
12. Wall coloring page: Order a wall size coloring page and let students color! (Some school libraries have machines that will take a PDF and print it poster size. Check with them before spending money!)
13. Help with class pet: Have a class pet? It shouldn't be your responsibility alone to keep the living quarters clean. Students usually enjoy helping out, especially if it means they get some animal play time.
What other activities do you use when students finish work early? I'd love to hear them!
Looking for constellations is a fun activity for students of any age. But what many students may not understand is that even though the stars in a single constellation may look the same distance from earth, they can be hundreds of light years apart. Having them build a 3D model helps them understand this concept (and practicing scale solidifies some math skills). Check out this video to learn how to build them using spaghetti and marshmallows:
If you'd like to download the complete lesson with templates and directions, you can find it here.
Hi! If you've been following for a while, you might have noticed I have A LOT of blog posts and it can get difficult to find what you need. I compiled a complete list of blog posts broken down by content that I will keep updated. You can refer back to it at the top of the categories on the right hand side of the page. I hope this saves you some time and avoidance of the endless scroll!
· Protein synthesis blueprint activity
· Teaching protein synthesis just got easier
· Human evolution teaching resources
· Scientific speed dating
· How to view stomata under the microscope
· Resources for teaching cladograms
· How to set up a bacterial culture lab
· Karyotype station activities
· GMO and CRISPR teaching resources
· Supplemental materials for The Serengeti Rules
· Not sold on evolution? Let me explain what the term means…
· Blood type pedigree lab
· Teaching the characteristics of life
· Build your own candy cladogram
· Free Farm-to-fork curriculum
· Ecology Population Growth resources
· Macromolecules- making biochemistry fun again
· Carbon cycle lab- photosynthesis and respiration
· Cellular organelles working together
· Cell size lab: examining surface area to volume ratios
· Transforming your microscope unit from good to great
· Teaching resources for the biogeochemical cycles
· Keystone species and trophic cascades
· A better way to teach cell division
· 10 resources for teaching cell membranes
· Why we should STOP teaching the nucleus is the control center of the cell
· Setting up a hay infusion for your microscope unit
· How to use an onion for your osmosis lab
· Teaching natural selection and evolution
· Animal hair microscope slides
· Invasive species teaching resources
· Video clips for teaching symbiosis
· Everything you need to teach food chains
· Scientific method labs for biology teachers
· Resources for teaching ecological succession
· Microscope alternatives
- Epigenetics teaching resources
EARTH AND SPACE SCIENCE
· Water cycle resources for secondary grades
· Atmosphere model in a bottle
· Rock and fossil classification labs
· My 3 days at NASA
· Urban heat islands
· Air pollution experiment
· A case study of lake Nyos
· Teaching climate change with ice cores
- How to build an aquifer model
- Plate tectonics activities
- Hot spot island formation
- How to build a 3D constellation
- Ocean acidification lab
· Introducing diffusion with smelly balloons
· States of matter and phase changes
· Polarity and electronegativity teaching resources
· Lab ideas for teaching density
· Physics lab- build a parachute
· Pendulum lab
· Motion graphing made easy with Pasco
· Metric system teaching hack
· Teaching pH in a snap
- Conservation of mass experiments
LITERACY and ASSESSMENT
· Teaching vocabulary without the worksheet
· 4 reasons you should be using exit tickets
· Increasing science literacy with writing prompts
· The dog days of April testing…
· Hey ELL teacher, you matter!
· Recommended summer science reads
· 10 tips for teaching ELLs in the science classroom
· Why I believe in Cornell notes
· Crazy for card sorts
· Puzzles and games in the science classroom
· Where to find free science articles
· Practice writing procedures
- Digital choice boards
· PBL 1: Project based learning- what is it?
· PBL 2: Getting started on a project
· PBL 3: The product and student led inquiry
· PBL 4: Beyond the classroom
· 10 tips for effective group work
· Tips for making and using rubrics
· Teaching students to give effective peer feedback
· Guest Speakers Part 1: Why you should utilize guest speakers and where to find them
- Guest Speakers Part 2: What to do during, before, and after the presentation
SEASONAL / BACK TO SCHOOL
· End of the school year ideas for secondary science
· March madness- science edition
· Christmas Holiday science activities
· Show your coworkers some love! Teacher appreciation day
· Must-Do end of the school year tasks to save yourself time
· Halloween science ideas
- Glow in the dark science experiments
· April Fools jokes for the science classroom
· Summer science activities
· Valentine’s day science ideas
· Earth day science resources
- Thanksgiving and fall science resources
GENERAL SCIENCE TEACHING TIPS
· Citizen science projects
· Increase student engagement with whiteboards
· Finding a teacher mentor
· How to handle lab absences and make ups
· Class finished 5 minutes early… now what?
· Why I don’t teach lab safety the first week of school… and other back to school science teacher tips
· Secondary science extra credit opportunities that are actually worthwhile
· Train your students so your classroom runs like a well oiled machine
· Increasing parent teacher communication in a secondary classroom
· Thinking like a scientist: Using CER
· 5 tips to quickly learn student names
· Why I let students use notes on tests
· Accommodating for both high and low level learners
· Please, just give the kid a pencil
· 10 tips for teaching in the inner city
· Tips for a first year science teacher
· How to get students to ask for help when they need it
· Students shutting down? 3 teacher behaviors you need to stop doing
· Building a caring classroom culture
· Classroom décor on a budget
- Brain breaks for secondary students
- Ideas for early finishers
- Low prep sub plans
· Virtual field trips
· 5 low prep ideas for distance learning
· Utilizing live stream webcams
· Video clips for CER practice
· Great movies for the science classroom
· STEM- Making animated videos
· Using infographics for assessment
· Secondary science virtual labs
· Tips for building relationships virtually
- Science podcasts for teens
- Tech tools to support ELL students
· Making class fun again… reflections after 10 years of teaching
· Twitter science bulletin board
· Free science posters
· Comparing the amount of carbonation in different brands of soda- an inquiry lab
· Consumer science experiments
- Forensics- How to grow maggots for an entomology lab
Epigenetics is a fascinating field of science. If you aren't familiar with it, the epigenome is the study of how your behaviors and environment impact gene expression. I pose the question to my students- if an identical twin gets cancer, does that mean the other twin will automatically get cancer? Students will generally say no. If that's the case, then what controls gene expression?
The cell membrane, which surrounds the cell, is covered in receptors. They act as antennae so cells can send signals and communicate with one another. Cells respond to environmental signals all the time- examples could include releasing insulin when blood sugar rises, or dividing when cells die and numbers drop. (Because of this, it could be argued that the cell membrane is the control center of the cell, not the nucleus. While the nucleus holds the genetic information that is needed to make proteins, it is the membrane that acts as the guy in charge by receiving signals on how to proceed).
So essentially you could have a gene for something, but unless the cell receives a signal to turn the gene on, (in other words- copy it and turn it into a protein), the gene will remain off. You could very easily have a cancer gene but live your life cancer free if that gene remains turned off. The decisions you make in your life, which influence cellular environmental factors, play a large role in gene expression. Here are some activities you could do with your students to teach them about epigenetics:
1. NASA Twin Study: You may have heard about Mark and Scott Kelly, who are identical twins and NASA astronauts. Both twins spent time on the International Space Station, but Scott spent a lot more time- a whole year. NASA compared Mark's DNA with Scott's DNA after he returned to Earth. This was a unique opportunity to learn the impact of space and zero gravity on our DNA and gene expression. You can learn more about the study here.
2. Case Study: University of Buffalo has a TON of case studies I encourage you to check out. (They are all free, but if you want the answer key there is a yearly subscription fee). One study is called "Identical twins, identical fates?" that explores epigenetics.
3. Learn Genetics: University of Utah's learn genetics website is an amazing resource for all things genetics. They have a section just on epigenetics. The "epigenome at a glance" is a great introductory video.
4. Partner Activity: This lesson and activity introduces students to epigenetics. Students will read about the agouti mice study (super fascinating!) and then complete a "twin" activity with a partner.
5. Bacteria Culture Lab: If you have time to order supplies, check out this lab from Flinn Scientific. Students will see the effect of temperature on bacteria growth and phenotype (it will change color). You will need to prepare agar slides and have access to an incubator.
6. Podcast: Big Biology podcast has an episode called "genes don't do crap" that features Dr. Massimo Pigliucci, an evolutionary biologist and philosopher. The episode is 16 minutes long, and I would recommend this for honors or AP students.
7. Queen Bee: Bees are a great example of epigenetics in action. The bees in an entire hive all have the exact same DNA- the drones, worker bees, and Queen are all clones. If they are all clones, then why do they look different and have different jobs? The answer is epigenetics and "royal jelly". Check out this video you can show students that explains more detail.
8. Documentary: The NOVA documentary "Ghost in your genes" investigates how our "secondary genome" helps determine our biological fates.
9. Epigenetics Game: This game has 4 levels students can work through all dealing with epigenetics.
10. Histone Model: In this download from University of Utah, you can have students build a paper histone model.
Earth's oceans are a carbon sink, which is a place where carbon is stored long term. Oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It reacts with seawater, creating carbonic acid, which in turn lowers the pH of the ocean. This phenomena is known as ocean acidification. It will only get worse as we release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Oceans currently have a pH of around 8.1, but it is projected to lower to 7.7 by the year 2100.
What is the impact of ocean acidification on marine life?
Research is still being conducted on this, but there are a few things we know for sure. First, organisms that rely on carbonate to build their shells and exoskeletons will have less available. These organisms include coral, mollusks, sea urchins, starfish, and zooplankton to name a few. If they struggle to build shells, they are more likely to be eaten by predators and it can create a trophic cascade up the food chain. Other impacts could include lowering the blood pH of fish, changes in reproductive ability of marine life, and impeding with organisms ability to send chemical signals.
Ocean Acidification Lab
An easy way to show students the impact of ocean acidification on marine life is by soaking seashells in ocean water with various pH levels.
For this lab you will need (per group): 3 cups or beakers, 3 seashells, water, salt, vinegar, an electronic scale, and pH paper. Seashells can be purchased at craft stores, and I've even found them at the dollar store in the craft aisle.
Start by mixing up simulated ocean water (3.5% saltwater solution). Students will put ocean water in the first beaker, 75mL of ocean water and 25mL of vinegar in the second beaker, and 50mL ocean water and 50mL of vinegar in the third beaker. Next, have students take the mass of the seashells over the course of 3 days and calculate the percent change in mass. They will see the vinegar eat away at the seashell and a large reduction in mass. You can also have them measure the pH of the liquids over 3 days and see how it changes as carbonate is released (enter discussion on buffers!)
Following the activity you can discuss ways students can lower their carbon footprint so we can slow the rate of acidification in the future. If you are interested in a powerpoint lesson on ocean acidification and a lab write up for this activity, you can find it HERE.
Have you ever tried pocket microscopes that clip onto your phone or iPad? I have tried multiple brands and have never been satisfied with the quality.... nothing even came close to what a compound microscope could do. But along came the uHandy pocket microscope and I've been pleasantly surprised at its capabilities!
How it works:
If you are interested in trying out the uHandy pocket microscope, it can be purchased HERE.
(This blog post does not contain affiliate links. The uHandy microscope was gifted in exchange for a review).