Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Algae Bead Lab - Day 2

Above is a photo of the experimental results from Day 2 of our algae bead lab.  In this lab we investigated the processes of photosynthesis and cellular respiration - both of which are very important to life on Earth.  Photosynthesis (performed by algae and plants) gives us glucose for food and oxygen for cellular respiration and to make the ozone layer.  Cellular respiration releases energy for our cells when we break down our food.  The tube on the left (yellow color) was put in the dark for 48 hours and was only performing cellular respiration so lots of carbon dioxide was produced making the solution more acidic (low pH).  The tube on the right (purple) was under bright light and the rate of photosynthesis was fast consuming carbon dioxide faster than cellular respiration could produce it.  That resulted in a high pH.  The tube in the middle had roughly even rates of photosynthesis and cellular respiration.  This was a cool experiment to learn more about these processes. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Studying Photosynthesis and Cellular Respiration Using Algae Beads

Did you know that most of the oxygen gas that we breathe comes from algae?  For the next week our biology classes will be working in the laboratory using algae beads as we investigate the processes of photosynthesis and cellular respiration.  Check out the video below for more information.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

College Prep Chemistry Studies Nuclear Chemistry

We are closing out Quarter 1 in College Prep Chemistry with a unit on nuclear chemistry.  We have discussed types of radioactive decay, the concept of half-life of an isotope, and the differences between fission and fusion.  Each student is also writing a two page argumentative essay on nuclear power by taking a position on the question "Should the United States expand the use of nuclear power?".  We would like to thank our librarian Gayle Peirce for showing us how to access library online databases and explaining how to write our papers using APA formatting and citations. We have also been discussing the historical aspects of nuclear chemistry by reading a graphic novel about the Manhattan Project called "Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb" by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

New Honors Biology Blog - We Are The Genome Generation!

In Honors Biology we have started work on our genetics unit.  We are performing some advanced DNA labs using equipment borrowed from The Jackson Laboratory (thank you!) and we are also discussing topics in personal genomics.  To document what we are doing we have started a class blog.  Please visit it at and check out the posts and photos. Feel free to leave a comment or a question!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Slightly Interrupted Start to Second Semester

Second semester came in like a lion with a blizzard knocking out two days of school on Tuesday and Wednesday and more storms forecast for this Friday and next Monday.  Here is a quick update on what my classes will be doing over the next few weeks.


We are leaving behind our Arduino experiments and looking at computer hardware.  Our school IT staff donated three used desktop computers to our class and we will be identifying the parts, taking them apart, and putting them back together again.  If they still work, we will research open-source operating systems and install them to learn how they work.


We will be wrapping up our cell unit with lessons on photosynthesis, cellular respiration, and cell growth and division.  We will do a number of labs like separating photosynthetic pigments, looking at algae and leaves under the microscope, and investigating fermentation by yeast.


We are about 60% of the way through the AP Chemistry curriculum and next up are our final remaining topics on chemical equilibrium: buffers, titrations, and solubility.  The AP exam is about three months away!


We have one week left in our Jefferson unit where we will be discussing Jefferson's views on religion. After that will be a three topic look at human rights: women's rights, gay rights, and civil rights.

Photo courtesy of Mark Jenkins

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Honors Biology Ecology Unit

As we enter Thanksgiving break we are finishing up our Ecology unit in Honors Biology.  We explored how energy flows through food webs, cycles of matter in ecosystems, the interactions between the living and non-living parts of an ecosystem, population dynamics, and our role as humans in shaping local and global ecology.  We finished up with a couple of concluding activities.  First we read a chapter from The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Colbert and listened to an interview with her on NPR Fresh Air. Right now each student is finishing up a project on one of the following topics: Global Climate Change; Invasive Species; Sustainable Agriculture and Feeding the World; and Extinction/De-Extinction.  The students had a choice of what topic they studied and the format of their project.  I can't wait to see the results!