Classroom activity

Brains and Neurons

How does a brain - less than 3 pounds of wrinkly pink matter - enable a person to sense their environment, think, feel, make decisions, remember things, and control every behavior?

Ovulation Calendar

I used this to show my students what happens during menstruation. I have them fill out where the flow is, when ovulation happens, when the lining begins to shed, and when are the prime times to have sex for fertilization (or the prime times to avoid sex!) 

I included readings about what happens during menstrual cycles. 

Teaching electron configuration

In response to a question on ways to teach electron configuration to students, here's a model I used with my 8th graders. We had been using beans to represent and build 2D models of atoms (green lentils = electrons, white beans = protons, black beans = neutrons). I made a handout for them to help them understand the idea of where electrons like to go when they are added (download it at the bottom of this page).

Magic School Bus: at the Waterworks

While I was reading The Magic School Bus,they went inside a cloud. Because this is not a field trip, there should be no driving into clouds :). But in Inside a Hurricane, They make a water cycle experiment.

Materials:    Oven mitten,Kettle,Ice,Strainer,Water


  1. Put water in kettle.
  2. Turn on the stove.
  3. As the steam comes up, put ice in strainer.
  4. Open top of kettle.

Watch as the water moves around.                                                                    

Great Scientists

When I was little,I heard about Sir Issac Newton's math.

Now this math is harder but simple.








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5. Seafloor Spreading

Students take what they know about earthquake, volcano and mid-ocean ridge distributions (The Big One and Plate Patterns) and put it together with what they know about convection in the Earth’s mantle (Journey Through Earth and Convection in a Pan). They revisit what they know about how earthquakes are created, by the sudden release of energy as plates collide or rub together (but not so much when they split apart). They look for patterns in their world maps, observing that mid-ocean ridges and dense earthquake/volcano zones tend to lie on the opposite side of plates. With this information, they can infer the direction that the plates are moving. Next students build a model illustrating seafloor spreading and discuss the magnetic and seafloor age data that support this model. Finally, students codify the different types of plate boundaries, describing the various features and characteristics of each.

4. Convection in a Pan

What drives the motion of the Earth’s tectonic plates? Partly, it is convection, the process by which heat energy is transferred by currents in a liquid or gas. Convection currents within the mantle carry tectonic plates along with the slowly moving mantle like giant rafts carried along by a current in a river. To help students understand this idea, soapy water in a pie pan is heated from below and convections currents can be observed forming and moving in the soapy water. Several prelude demonstrations help students recognize that hot things rise and cold things sink.

2. Plate Patterns

Kilauea Crater, Hawaii: Pu&#39;u &#39;O&#39;o crater at dusk. Image courtesy of USGS.Kilauea Crater, Hawaii: Pu'u 'O'o crater at dusk. Image courtesy of USGS.Starting with an earthquake epicenter map (generated by students in The Big One activity), students add information about where active volcanoes are located and the location of the mid-ocean ridges. With the combined information about volcanoes, mid-ocean ridges, and earthquake epicenters, student can trace the boundaries of the Earth’s major plates. On individual student maps containing earthquake epicenter data, they outline the plate boundaries, learn the names of each plate, and use colored pencils to highlight volcano zones and mid-ocean ridges. Future activities in this box have students adding plate direction and speed information to student maps as well as labeling 4 different types of plate boundaries: continent-continent convergent boundaries, subducting convergent boundaries, transform boundaries, and divergent boundaries. The direction and speed of many plates can be inferred from the opposition of mid-ocean ridges on one side of the plate and volcano zones on the other.

7. Frog Dissection


  • Frogs (order them from Carolina Biological catalog # 22-7444, 22-7445, 22-7446, 22-7464, 22-7465, 22-7466, between $3.35 - $5.95 depending on the quantity ordered and whether there is any color injection)
  • Paper plate or dissection tray
  • Scissors
  • Scalpel or razor blade
  • Forceps
  • Optional: dissection probes
  • Optional: dissection pins (especially useful if you have dissection trays on which to use them)

7. Flower Dissection


  • Flowers, possibly of several different species for cross-species comparisons. Almost any flower may be used although the anatomy is more easily distinguished in some flowers than others. Some common flowers with clearly differentiated parts include:Sarracenia flower dissection: Image courtexy of Noah ElhardtSarracenia flower dissection: Image courtexy of Noah Elhardt
    • Lily
    • Iris
    • Daffodil
    • Tulip
    • Wisconsin fast plant
    • Peas
    • Poppies
    • Gladiolus
  • Paper plates/plastic trays
  • Scissors or razor blade (to open the ovary)
  • Hand lens
  • Optional: tweezers
  • Optional: dissecting scope