Secondary Smorgasboard: Free and Fabulous

Secondary SmorgasboardI am so excited to be part of an amazing community of secondary teachers! Darlene Anne from The ELA Buffet and Pamela Kranz from Desktop Learning Adventures have teamed up to provide some great resources to the blogging world.

This week’s theme is “Free and Fabulous”: secondary sellers are uniting to share their free resources and tips!

Easy Cheeky Strawberry Squeezy: DNA Extraction Lab

As the holiday season approaches, it can be a very fun, yet stressful time of year for teachers. We are looking forward to the time off, and spending time with our families, but we are also looking at our planners hoping we can finish up this unit or that unit before we break. I always tried to test on either the second or third to last class day before vacation officially begun. I would spend the Friday before just catching up, and it also gave the students that were absent the day of test at least one or two days to makeup the test.Which leaves you with the question: What do you do after the test? I would actually have the kids work on something fun yet practical while I called them up in ABC order for a one minute conference. What this meant was that I would simply tell them their grade and discuss any concerns. And we’re not perfect, sometimes there were errors and it would enable me to double check my handwritten grades against my electronic submissions.

One thing that I have used in the past as a fun, meaningful activity is the classic DNA extraction lab. I would let students choose to extract strawberry DNA (the bait being that strawberries are octoploidy so the procedure would yield more DNA), or they could actually extract their own DNA using their cheek cells. Just a note of advice: The cheek cell extraction can be difficult if you do not put the rubbing alcohol in the freezer for at least a few hours before you begin. It’s best to stick in the freezer the day before to ensure the best results. Check out this FREEBIE!

Slide1All you need are some household ingredients and about 10 minutes of prep. It’s “easy cheeky strawberry squeezy!”

Your grocery list includes:
wooden coffee stirrers
detergent (Dawn works well)
rubbing alcohol

Here is a picture of the lab using cheek cells, this isn’t the best example I’ve seen, I forgot my camera that day  :lol:
DNA Extraction Lab

Emergency Sub Plans for Science

Who can use a sick day to its fullest potential? Honestly? How can you spend all day trying to feel better when you are up at the crack of dawn hemming and hawing whether or not you should suck it up and go in and not feel guilty, or stay home and come up with some crappy exercise you whipped up that morning? And really who wants to spend more time being sick and whipping up crap? Uhhh…

teaching meme


After my second child was born I told myself “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.” There will be no more guilty sick days! I wrote a few reading exercises and added some “busy work” that was actually meaningful. I made sure that there would be no emails, phone calls, hassles during the day and I could take care of myself or my sick children by creating sub plans that were easy to use, no questions asked.

Since these “Emergency Sub Plans for Secondary Science” made their debut in 2012, I’ve had some pretty good feedback and went ahead and made a “Sub Plans for Secondary Science: Volume II“. These are a bit more reading-specific but still based on the same principles as my original set of sub plans: meaningful and easy to use! Slide1Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 11.04.10 PM


The 2014 Meet and Teach e-Books are here!

A NEW e-Book is available for secondary classrooms! This is a “Meet and Teach” e-book that is unique because each seller contributes two pages: one MEET page, and a TEACH page: a one-page freebie that can be printed and used in your classroom instantly. Mine can be found here:

Biology RootsMeet and Teach
Primary Succession Timeline Cut and Paste

The timeliEcology INBne is a sample from my Ecology Activities for Interactive Notebooks, which you can check out over there ->


Meet and Teach STEM


A big thanks to Brain Waves InstructionLiterary Sherri, and Getting Nerdy with Mel and Gerdy, the compilers of the 3 FREE Meet and Teach e-books profiling SECONDARY teacher-authors and sharing print-and-teach resources from 25 TpT stores in each e-book.  The e-books center around ELA, Math & Science, and Humanities (Social Studies, Art, Foreign Language, and more ELA).

  In them you’ll find a ‘meet’ page completed by each seller that includes responses to 5 prompts.  You’ll get to learn a bit about each seller like their favorite book or things that make them happy.  Then, each seller provided you with a 1-page resource that you can use in your classroom today! These e-books are filled with awesome teachers, little insights into each sellers’ life, and resources that are easy to implement in your classroom.  They’re pretty amazing. Meet and Teach Humanities

Meet and Teach ELA Download each free e-book and you’ll get a chance to meet and teach resources from these teacher-authors: Check out all the teacher-authors that have contributed and be sure to download the e-Books for up to 25 free resources!

Interactive Notebooks

I have recently discovered the interactive notebook, and no wonder they are so popular among today’s classrooms.  I have (unknowingly) been using a version of interactive notebooks in my classroom all along. What I mean by this is that in my class, I would require my students to keep a binder of organized worksheets and loose leaf paper. We’d keep a table of contents, etc. I would purposefully create worksheets that were engaging and “interactive” at times, such as the Cellular Respiration Cut-n-Paste Graphic Organizer or the Cells of the Leaf and Photosynthesis.

I’ve taken some of these traditional worksheets and projects and fine-tuned them for the world of interactive notebooks:

Ecology INB Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 10.29.20 PM

I’d been designing work sheets that are as interactive as can be, but the concept of what we know to be the interactive notebook did not occur to me until I stumbled across the thousands of online resources. One thing about interactive notebooks is that they are a learning curve, and take some practice, patience, and getting used to. Plus, it is a lot of cutting and pasting which can make for messy learning!

What are your thoughts on interactive notebooks? Do you use them in your classroom? Do you see a big difference in student learning? Do you not use them because you think they are a hassle and not worth the paper scraps and glue sticks?

I’d be interested in knowing your thoughts!


The Lorax Themed Genetics Problems!

I’m pleased to announce a Dr. Suess Lorax-themed genetics product!
Practice: Codominance, Incomplete Dominance, and Multiple Alleles.

Students map out Truffula tree genetics, as well as Swomee swans and Barbaloots. And who doesn’t love The Lorax? Feel free to use the “Pin” button as you scroll over the image to save this for future use.




Lessons From the Middle Blog Giveaway

Lessons From the Middle’s Krystal Mills  is offering a HUGE giveaway for grades K-9, in celebration of her blog’s first birthday! The giveaway is divided into nice-sized packages. Winners receive the entire package- all you have to do is enter and “like” or follow some of the contributors as a way to say thank you!

My “Biodiversity Bingo” can be found in the second 7-9 package listed on the page. But I say, enter to win ‘em all ;-) You can check it out by clicking on the picture below. Good luck!

blog birthday picture


Liebster Blog Award

Liebster Blog Award LiebsterAward I was nominated by Science in the City for the Liebster Blog Award. This is an award to new bloggers to acknowledge them, encourage them and gain new readers. I appreciate your nomination, Tara! Thank you =) The rules are as follow: link back to the blog that nominated you (done up above); post 11 random things about yourself; answer the 11 questions posted by the nominator; create 11 questions for the people you nominate; choose 11 other blogs with less than 200 followers and link to them on this post.

Part I: 11 Random things about myself
I have 2 kids
I currently live in Western MA
I have my class B CDL and worked for public transit operating buses in college
I met my husband at UMass Amherst
I grew up on a horse farm
I don’t like to talk on the phone
I believe in ghosts
I am a hair under 5’8″, but everyone thinks I’m way taller.
I use sunscreen like it’s my job
I am sending my daughter to preschool within the upcoming weeks and I am so scared!
I like my penmanship.

Part II: 11 questions from Tara L at Science in the City:
1) What grades and subject(s) do you teach?- I teach freshman physical science and sophomore biology.
2) What made you decide to be a teacher? To be honest, I think I was inspired by teachers growing up that were fun, organized, and great at their job!
3) How long have you been teaching? 6 years
4)What type of district do you teach in (large/small, urban, suburban, rural)? I’d have to say a mixture of rural and suburban with an urban edge- but large (about 1900 students)
5) What do you think is your strength (or your favorite part) of teaching? I think my strength is the fact that I am always striving to do better, and I enjoy making lessons and get a lot of satisfaction from them when the kids have fun and learn.
6) What part(s) are your weakness or do you dislike? Grading and paperwork. There is too much of it.
7) What blogs do you really like? As far as teaching blogs go I like ones that offer less promotional items from TpT and more “raw” entries from their experiences- giving advice and providing tools.
8) What are you most proud of? Giving birth naturally without any drugs… twice =)
9) What hobby do you enjoy? Hobbies? Who has time for those? I used to run a lot and shop. Now I don’t have time for either.
10) What is the strangest food you have ever eaten? Hmmm. Good question. I would say something from a Thai restaurant called moshi (sp?). It was a dessert and it was delicious, but sort of had the texture of clay.
11) Why did you start blogging? At first I started blogging for my students, to keep track of all my lessons so that they had easy access. I have a couple websites since then, including biology roots.

Part III) My Questions for Nominees
1. What type of school do you teach in?
2. If you could improve one thing about your school, what would it be?
3. What do you currently teach at school?
4. What have you taught in the past (other than what you are currently teaching) and what is your favorite thing to teach?
5. How long have you been blogging?
6. What do you typically like to blog about?
7. What are your strengths as a teacher?
8. What are your weaknesses as a teacher?
9. What is a favorite student memory of yours?
10. Why did you choose the age group that you teach?
11. What is your favorite lesson to do with your kids?

Part IV) My nominess:
Primary Paradise
A Perfectly Poetic Page
Math, Science, Social Studies, Oh My!
A Lesson Plan for Teachers
Science Teacher Resources

Pin it to Win it!

Are you ready to win some teaching items? Here’s your chance! This giveaway combines  2 sites: Teachers Pay Teachers & Pinterest!   This giveaway is put together by Melissa at

Click on the link to go to the Pinterest board with the entries. Just pin items in the giveaway to your teaching boards.  Then click to go to Melissa’s site, and cut and paste a link to your pin onto the entry form.  That’s it!  Each pin gets you an entry.  Pin every day for even more entries.  Happy pinning and winning =)

Screen Shot 2013-01-10 at 8.48.03 AM



I just stumbled across another amazing resource for teachers..Fakebook.

Screen Shot 2013-01-07 at 10.44.16 PM Students can create fake facebook pages as a project for any historical or recent figure. I love this because it applies to all subjects- history, music, health, social studies, science, and English! This is definitely something that I would love to assign in the future. I have my students participate in Mendel and Darwin Interviews (which I love, so I don’t think I could give them up), but I’m thinking my physical science kids could do this with Isaac Newton as extra credit. :-)



Lab: Simulating the Cell Membrane Tips + Hints

This lab is a quick and easy way to for students to see diffusion in action. I offer this lab for free on my teachers pay teachers store. You can find it here:

For this experiment you will need:
Access to sinks and water
Pipette or eye dropper
Dialysis tubing or plastic baggy

Personally, I like to use dialysis tubing. In my opinion, it is the most tried and true way to get results (I’ve had not so great results with plastic baggies in the past, but they do work most of the time). If you are using dialysis tubing, be sure that students soak the tubing in lukewarm water for a minute while rubbing the tubing between their fingers so that they do not have trouble opening it.
If using dialysis tubing, the students will need to tie off both ends. They should cut about a 5 inch snip of dialysis tubing for easiest handling. If using a plastic baggy, they will need only to tie off one end.
It also helps if the students gently swirl the cornstarch and water before adding the drops of iodine to the beaker. Note that students do NOT directly add the iodine to the cornstarch. Be sure that they understand this. The cornstarch and water is in one container (the plastic) and iodine goes on the outside, in the water that is in the beaker.
Students must understand that the iodine is diffusing into the cornstarch. Cornstarch is too big to diffuse into iodine + water mixture. You can relate this to what they have learned about biochemistry- starches are polysaccharides- long chains of saccharides and are generally quite large molecules. The dialysis tubing represents the cell membrane.

Good luck!

If you are interested, I have included a link amazon below for dialysis tubing. I usually order 2 or 3 of these at one time. :-)

NGSS Science Standards

The NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) will be released on Wednesday, January 9th. Just to be clear, this is not the same as the Common Core Literacy in Science Standards, nor is this a federally funded initiative. States can choose whether or not they are going to adapt the NGSS- though I know that my state of MA is planning on incorporating it by 2016, and I do think that most states will also choose to adopt them.

I had the opportunity to work with some teachers at my school and to review the rough draft of the NGSS and make suggestions and submit our suggestions online. There was a LOT of submitting to do.

The online survey that was used was very helpful- but long and tedious. Every proposed standard had many different elements to it, which makes sense, because the purpose is to get as specific feedback and constructive criticism. The survey was based on a scale of 1-5 for some questions, and for others we would simply type the answer. Questions such as  do you think that the proposed standard is relevant. Secondly, do you think that the standard is easy to read? Which sadly, most of them were NOT easy to read. As a team we made a point that the standards should be easy to read for educators, students, and parents. Why use such fancy language? Who are you trying to impress? I wish I had saved an example, but I never thought I’d be writing a blog post about it! They were sometimes even choppy- as if they copied and pasted about 4 different peoples ideas of how the standards should be stated into one. Also, I am all for high vocabulary, but don’t word it so that it takes a science teacher more than one time to really grasp what it is saying. There is a lot of work to do.

I think that most of the standards were relevant, but only about 80% of them. There were some about the parts of the brain and the nervous system… in detail. I think that we cram too much into our 180 days of biology (in MA at least), so maybe that is shaping my view, but I do not think that a common biology class should be covering the nervous system in detail. That was only one example- and the only one that really stuck out in my mind. The MA standards currently require 11 body systems to be taught… on top of biochemistry, cells, cell division, cell processes (photosynthesis, cell respiration), genetics, evolution, ecology, population genetics and classification.  It might not sound like much, but it is. The perfect situation in my humble opinion? Everything I mentioned above minus the body systems. I LOVE teaching anatomy but it’s too much for my bio kids! At the end of the year what do they remember? There is barely any time to soak it all in- we are moving so fast to get through so much.

I actually stumbled across this PDF from the NGSS website pertaining to the May feedback: Responses to the May Public Draft

I teach in MA, and yes, we do have high standards but our kids do better than other states, so we must be doing something right. I just wish it wasn’t so much! If we do have to teach more subjects, I wish that our schools could somehow split Biology into a Bio I and II.

I was told that a high school science textbook in Japan is a third the size of an average U.S. science textbook. I have not been able to test whether or not this is true, but it would make sense. I know that my students only use about one-third of what is offered in their textbook. We don’t cover nutrition, the embryonic cycle, plant life, nor do we go into great detail about protists, bacteria or the phyla of the animal kingdom. We offer classes to upper classmen that do, but there simply is not enough time or energy to cover it in sophomore biology.

So, my questions for you are:
Do you feel like you are covering too much material or not enough?
Does your school split the biology class?
What types of standards would you like to see in the Common Core Science Standards?