Cell-fie: The Interactive Model and Contest Details

After so many biology classes, I had begun to realize that it seemed as though I spent a lot of time and energy teaching my kids all about cells, only to have them forget at least half of what they learned by the time we approached cell division, photosynthesis, cellular respiration, etc.

It was one year during the last class of the day, my beloved “G” period. There were 10 students in that class (long, crazy story there– maybe I’ll write about it and get a link in there so you can read it!), and it was a glorious class. It ended up being my favorite class because it was so easy to differentiate. It was so easy for kids to help others out. It was so easy to teach. (Is that an oxymoron?) Relatively speaking, that is, it was easier to teach than classes of 30. And it was more rewarding, because the kids really understood and tended to do better on their tests than the other classes. And there we were, talking about cellular respiration when one student, a bright student, chimed in and asked
“Ms. J., what is a mitochondrion?”

No big deal, I thought. And I answered him. It’s a singular form of mitochondria. He nodded, his pencil at his lips, looking down at his graphic organizer we were doing at the time.

Me: “A-and it’s where cellular respiration occurs.”

Student: “OK, so it’s in the cell.”

Me: “Yes? Yes.”

Other student: “What’s a mitochondria?”

Everyone laughs. But this year, I wasn’t laughing. This was something that I could see happening in many of my classes, even if students didn’t speak up. These big words were coming back to them and they had already been learned- and lost. So, I popped my lap top into the in-focus and brought up my Cell PowerPoint. Remember this? They did… vaguely.
That’s when I had an idea… if only I could have a cell in the classroom always. And not just a poster, but an interactive cell that could grow and change.

Start with the basics:

Basic Cellfie

Add as you go:

Cell Phone


Cellular Respiration

Finished Animal Cell

Ion Channel

Plant Cell 1

Plant Cell 2

Protein SynthesisReceptor Protein
Cell Division Example





















You can download the template here:Interactive Cell Model by Biology Roots OR, you can make your own. Whichever you choose to do, there is a contest that is running for the next year. Share your Cell-fie for a chance to win.



The contest is easy. You have until October 15th, 2016 (yes, that’s 2016) to post your cell-fie to your social media wall and share it with me. Post the photo along with #biologyroots #cellfie for your chance to win a $50 Target Gift Card. The first five teachers to post their cell-fie automatically receive a $10 shopping spree in my store. Everyone who shares by October 14th 11:59 EST is entered into the drawing for the gift card from Target. Good luck.


Stay Science Classy,

(who for some odd reason is showing up as her husband, Jeff.)

Finally Filing!

In the spirit of back to school (and perhaps a healthy dose of OCD), I’m putting my filing cabinets to good use! I’ve seen so many snazzy filing cabinets on Pinterest (dressed up with decorative duct tape or pretty paper), and if you’ve a tremendous tower or two in your classroom, you might want to use them in a way that benefits your Classroom Organization.

filing cabinetHere is a basic Filing System for a 4 tier Filing Cabinet:
Top Drawer Files (Health and Safety)
IEPs and 504s
State Health Reports and Emergency Guidelines
Lists of Students with allergies/specialized diet

Middle Drawer 1 Files (Future Reference)
Textbook Numbers/Book Fines
Disciplinary Action (Parent logs, Detention/Cut Slips, etc.)
-1 folder per each class (not student)
Department and Faculty Meeting Paperwork
-File all handouts from meetings no matter how meaningless or unimportant they may seen. You will probably need to refer to that information at a later date.
-Tangible pieces of paper. For everything else, use Pinterest.

Middle Drawer 2 Files (All About You)
Teacher Evaluations
Mentor/Mentee paperwork (if applicable)
School District Contract

Lower Drawer Files
-Tests and quizzes that you want to be kept secret
Examples of Student Work
-Examples from previous years that you might want to use in the future
Last Year’s Lesson Plans/Unit Planner to Compare
If you have less than 4 drawers, feel free to combine!


Here’s what not to put in a filing cabinet:
Those should be cleanly displayed in the room. Extra syllabi should be located where students can easily access them. A clear exit strategy should be displayed for fire alarms. Laminated class rosters on lanyards would also be appropriate for evacuations as seen at left.

Okay, well, this is a very humble opinion at best. I’m not sure that I would defend this statement wholeheartedly. I personally like to have the handouts separate from my filing cabinets. I feel like there’s _teaching_ (handouts and activities) and then there’s…. the stuff that no one tells you about teaching (like the aforementioned suggestions for the filing cabinet drawers). I like to keep in separate. I keep my handouts, etc. in lovely hanging folder bins or binders.

Memos, flyers, messages, brochures, invitations, etc.
File them? Heck no! You’ll never see them again. I have a bulletin board method that I share in my Classroom Organization for Secondary Teachers Guide and Corresponding Materials.

Feel Goods (student artwork and cards that they’ve made just for you).
Do. Not. File.
Feel the love _every_ day!

Stay Science Classy,

Super Secondary Science Back to School Giveaway

givewaway blog post-01Biology Roots has joined up with some other amazing science sellers on TpT to produce the Super Secondary Science Giveaway just in time for back to school. Science teachers, please spread the word and share this amazing opportunity to win these great assets for your science classroom.

I am giving away three super secondary science prizes:

The first random winner chosen will receive my best selling Secondary Science Sub Plans: Volume I. This includes FIVE emergency sub plans that are interesting for kids and keep them sharp!

The second random choice will receive the Beginning of the Year Bundle for Life Science, which includes lab safety, the scientific method, graphing, and a PowerPoint and activities on the things that define biology.

The third and final random choice will receive Biology Unit Binder Covers, which are designed for binders to keep you organized!

First Prize Winner: Secondary Science Sub Plans Volume I


Second Prize Winner: Beginning of the Year Science Bundle for Life Science


Third Prize Winner: Biology Binder Covers


Please use the rafflecopter link below to enter all three prizes.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Classroom Bloopers

February FunniesI’m excited to be linking up with Pam from Desktop Learning Adventures and Darlene from Meatballs in the Middle to participate in the “February Funnies Blog Hop”.

For some reason, most of my classroom funnies occurred with my second pregnancy during the 2011 school year. You would think it would have happened the first time around, but no, the first time around I had no other children to cater to, I was still relatively well-groomed and taken care of, and my baby bump did not become a monstrosity until I was two weeks away from giving birth.

My second pregnancy, I believe I looked 4 months pregnant within minutes of conception and then 10 months pregnant shortly after. It only got worse from there…even my husband, who is rarely grossed out or even notices when I cut off half of my hair suggested that I use a “band-aid or something” to cover up my freakishly protruding belly button that we lovingly (Ok, disgustingly) referred to as “my third thumb”.

My pregnancy bloopers also coincide with a student named Anthony. It all started in September of 2010 when our class was temporarily relocated for construction purposes and I was moved to a classroom without any windows. Going from windows to no windows is a hard transition. Not to mention, I was moved abruptly the second week of school. The kids did not take a liking to their new environment. Anthony busted in and said “Yo, Ms., I’m Italian, I’ll bust down this wall here and make a window for you.” When another classmate pointed out that would just make a busted door to the hallway, he replied: “Like I said, I’m Italian!”

Later that month, our class was doing an ecology assignment where I had the students make food chains using manipulatives and each student had to add their food chain to the whiteboard, which we combined to make a class food web. We had owls, hawks, frogs, snakes, deer, holly bushes, grass, mountain laurel, honeysuckle, mice, foxes, squirrels, coyotes, so on and so forth. It was coming along beautifully. When it was Anthony’s turn he added fantastically illustrated fellow classmates to the food web. Just four randomly selected classmates. Some were eaten by mice, others were eating deer, but he also made the most quiet kid in the class the top of the food chain, devouring wolves and coyotes. The best part was, I had 2-3 students go up at a time, so I hadn’t noticed right away. When I went up to discuss, I was almost in stitches. I mean, just think about it! As soon as the day was over I called my BFF (who was also working in a classroom at the time)- we still talk about this to this day!

Let’s fast forward to March of 2011. We’re now back in our window-filled sunny classroom. The bell has just rung. Anthony is busy telling some classmates that their epidermis is showing, when I start taking attendance. Without so much as a moment’s ponder, Anthony exclaimed “Ms. are you pregnant?”
I hadn’t even told my coworkers yet.

Fast forward to September 2011. I have a whole new class and it’s Parents Nights! I’m due September 25th, approximately a week and half from good ol’ Parents Night. I decided to wear my fancy maternity shirt. It’s black lace with a dark gray built-in silky under-layer with some embroidered flowers. I’m lookin’ good! It looks sort of like this one:

maternity shirtOne quick trip to the bathroom before I make my rendezvous. Boy, I’m nervous. There’s something about these parents. They keep looking me over. I know, I know, they can tell I’m about to pop. I bet some women are eyeing me wondering if if “the baby has dropped.” Well, I’ll just assure them that I’ll be back after Christmas break and that we’re going to do all these fun things! And then, I saw it.. I caught a glimpse of it in one of the new elongated windows. Why was my shirt a different color where my belly was? Wasn’t my shirt black? Was that chalk dust? I don’t even use chalk! Palms sweaty, I tried to wipe away whatever it was on my ginormous belly that was reflecting back at me. Then I felt it, a bunched up shirt underneath my belt. I immediately transformed into a position in which my arms could most effectively hide my baby bump. What was worse was that all this insecurity and nervousness was hindering my concentration as I tried to set up the inFocus machine so that I could show the parents my nifty presentation. My fingers nervously fumbled until finally one student’s father stood up and approached me, I think I cowered in his shadow thinking “Is he going to whisper to me what the issue is? Could I have accidentally shoved toilet paper up my shirts somehow?” But, he simply gave me a curt nod and said “We have these at work”, as he switched the plug into the “Computer 1″ port (a rookie mistake). I quickly gave my presentation, at this point I’m pretty sure my back was to the parents so that I was no more that a small, pregnant muffle.
Help Me Pumpkin
Finally, it was over! I rushed into our science prep room, all five-foot-eight of me plunged into my five-foot-nothing counterpart. My belly was at her eye level and her face said it all. “Is that your belly?” My fabulous, bulging, lace-covered baby bump sat there like a some sort of lace-covered hoochie-mama white pumpkin (with the stem still attached).

Needless to say, I never wore that shirt again.

Give Peas a Chance: Teaching Genetics

Mendel Give Peas a chanceOk biology teachers, c’mon, let’s not fool ourselves… genetics is the most FUN subject to teach! I think students love learning/talking about themselves. And who doesn’t love a good ol’ fashioned Punnett square?
My genetics unit is FINALLY complete, it took me a while to take my files and put some polish on them as we have been battling the winter flu season! But I’m so happy to be able to share them with you.

But first, some tips:
If you studied genetics in college, you probably know that the classic human traits, such as eye color, dimples, earlobes, etc. are in fact NOT Mendelian genetics. That’s right, they are really quite complicated and some may argue should not be construed as being so simple. I actually NEVER use human eye color as an example because I think eye color genetics is fascinating. Human genetics tend to be complicated. If you want a good example of some soul-crushing genetic truths, check out this site:

HOWEVER…students anticipate THEIR genetics in your classroom. As soon as you mention genetics, they start talking about their own phenotypes, which tends to excite them and make them excited to learn. What do you do?!

You have three options:
1. Tell them they will not be learning about themselves because human genetics are complicated and we will not have time to learn about the genetics behind human traits.
2. Pretend that the complexity of human genetics do not exist.
3. A little of both.

DISCLAIMER: There is no wrong option. But I prefer #3.

I offer two labs that explore human traits. I simply tell the kids beforehand that in reality, those traits are NOT Mendelian, but we’re going to pretend they are for a day so that we can have a little fun!

The Exploring Human Traits Lab explores dominant and recessive traits complete with analysis questions and graphing exercise.
The Making Babies Lab is an all time favorite and it wouldn’t exist without a little “fun inaccuracy” as I like to call it.

Slide1 Slide1









So have a little fun! Don’t lie, but don’t be a party pooper! Tell them like it is; they will respect your honesty (and your ever-wondrous pool of knowledge), but don’t exclude their traits from the class. It’s a win-win.

For my genetics unit I offer TWO fabulous freebies to help spruce things up if you so choose:








All I’m saying is… give peas a chance!

Science Fair Journal Guide

Science fair journals, four words: THE STRUGGLE IS REAL!

Students tend to have a hard time organizing their science journal. I certainly, under no circumstances, am speaking for all the past, present and future students, but I do feel the following applies to the majority: 

Students engaged in a science fair do not know where to begin. Literally. They do not know! From choosing their topic, to what they can and can not do for their project (which varies per state), from how to execute the scientific method in real life (though they can recite and explain each step on paper).

I am not saying I blame them. I think if I were to put myself in their shoes, I might look something like this when trying to enter the world of the science fair: 

We’re heading to the science fair!

I gotta tell ya, I think that my first year teaching could have been a sitcom when it came to the science fair. SCIIIENNNCE FAIRRRR. Ooooh. I had visions. Let me tell you, I had dreams. We were gonna get down and nerdy! And then the fear of lawsuits that were translated into Science Fair Rules put my Science Fair Fantasies to a screeching hault. I had to shamefully tell students that the experiments we had both been so excited about were to be rejected if submitted because of those rules. Those constraining rules that made me, a science teacher, think “What the heck is the point of this science fair?!”, in a fit of frustration as I saw all the fun and anticipation slowly drain out of my student’s bodies. Sorry, Jake, you can not run barefoot to test whether or not running shoes actually slowed you down, I know that you are a star cross country runner and you were really looking forward to this, but I’m a new teacher and apparently very naive!

Needless to say, the second year I had those rules down. The adult in me was saying “Yes, of course we need these guidelines”. The sarcastic teenager inside of me might be adding the word “(limiting)” or “(lame)” between the words “these” and “guidelines”. And the scientist in me just died a little.

BUT… the science fair IS a great way for students to execute the scientific method
in a controlled fashion. And, we did have some really fun experiments! Sure, there’s always going to the junior in high school who wants to test how long flowers last in a vase, but we can’t all be masterminds! I say as long as they are doing the experiment and getting a feel for how important those control groups can be, then it’s all worth it.

Though, the paperwork can be agonizing.

Ahem. Back to the Science Fair Journals. The kids really do have trouble when it comes to recording their data. It’s almost as if they are out of their comfort zones because they are literally staring at a blank notebook not knowing where to begin. They have a hard time getting their topic. They have a hard time setting up their journal. However, once they get rolling, they get into the swing of things and they tend to gain confidence. The trick is getting them there. As time goes on, I have noticed a definitely increase in higher quality notebooks as I am better able to get them started on the right foot.

Here are some pointers if you are doing the science fair:
1. Don’t be that guy. Know the Rules. I’m from Massachusetts so this was particular helpful and this is where I get all the paperwork: http://www.massscifair.com/.

2. Give your students time to come up with their topic. One week is ideal, one day is not.

3. If you can help it, rule out students working with students who are not in your classroom UNLESS you have a common rubric and have time to compare grades with other teachers. The best idea is to keep them all in your class- no outside partners.

4. Use the documents I have attached to this post to help students choose topics and to help students understand what their Science Fair Journal is all about.

5. Have your students hand in their journals every 2-3 weeks just so that you can check to be sure they are making progress. You can cut a small corner to see where they last left off and highlight the date. I staggered the due dates since I had 3 classes doing the science fair. Try not to collect notebooks on a Friday. Students usually spend Sunday nights working on the science fair. But please, whatever you do, collect them. Ensure your students are constructing, designing, and DOING the experiment!

6. Ask the students who produced the best notebooks if you can hang on to them as a model to use for the next year’s class. More often than not, they won’t mind. But hang on to them, because you should always have them ready to give back in case they  need them.

Good luck in this upcoming science fair. Show that scientific method who’s boss! And check out the guides!

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December 14th: Biology Roots Gives to the Boston Children's Hospital

Erica from Nitty Gritty Science had a great idea: a day that teachers could collaborate and somehow give back to the community in spirit of the holiday season.
Hence, the Day of Giving Back.

Biology Roots Giving BackOn December 14th I am going to donate 50% of my sales to The Boston Children’s Hospital.

I know a beautiful, loving, amazing family. I was blessed to go to high school with one of the most kind-hearted women I’ve ever known. She just radiates love and kindness. She found her true love and they started a family soon after. They had a little boy, a little girl, and were expecting their third child. In September of 2010, they welcomed a boy named Mason.

They knew from the mid-pregnancy ultrasound that little Mason’s heart, though tiny and perfect in its own way, suffered from a congenital heart defect known as heterotaxy.

I have been keeping up with Mason’s story from the moment he was born. I have spent a few nights sobbing as the family shared their joy and successes of their “Miracle Baby”, while sharing other stories of families that they knew whose babies did not come home one night. I’m tearing up just thinking about it!
But this family, when I say they are amazing, I mean it. They keep smiling, they keep loving, and they take things one day at a time. They do not take anything for granted, and they do not make their struggles transparent. They just want everyone to be aware of Mason’s journey, and every year around this time they let us know that they are thankful to once again be a family of five.

With this journey comes the Boston Children’s Hospital. Mason’s family feels as though BCH is part of their own family. The nurses and doctors that have helped Mason overcome every obstacle are like little life boats that give hope and ultimately life. I have absorbed a gratitude of the BCH from Mason’s family. We just want all those babies to be OK, because that’s what babies deserve: a chance, and to be OK. So, in light of the Holiday season, I will be donating 50% of my sales to the Boston Children’s Hospital, in honor of Mason, who today is a spunky 4 year old boy who keeps his parents on their toes.

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 9.52.14 PM

Please check out Mason’s Fight 4 Life Facebook Page.

Also please visit My TpT Store- add something to your Wish List to buy on December 14th! Help support this great cause.

Yours truly,

Christmas Traditions at the Biology Roots Family

traditions ppt This month’s Secondary Smorgasbord linky party theme is “Traditions”. A big thanks to Darlene at the ELA Buffet and Pam over at Desktop Learning Adventures for this linky!

I have a relatively “new” family. My oldest daughter will be six in March. I think one of the best things about Christmas at this point in my life is reliving my childhood with my children. When she was two-and-a-half years old, we were taking down boxes from the attic to decorate our tree. I realized we did not have many ornaments. I thought of a good friend of mine who buys an ornament at every vacation spot she visits. I thought that was such a cool idea. Just then, my little girl said to me in a small voice: “Momma! This ornament has broken!” It was a red metal boat that had lost its string to tie to the tree. We grabbed some twine and fixed it up. It was that day that the idea of the Christmas ornaments tradition began to brew.

Every year around Christmas time, myself and a close friend of mine take a trip to Yankee Candle and I always take my daughter with me. They have a large collection of adorable ornaments. Each year, I pick out an ornament for my daughter and try to make it as meaningful as possible- but I have to be sneaky and make sure she doesn’t see it! Which is never that difficult, Yankee Candle has so much to see and do that she never pays attention to what’s in the cart! Then, that magical night when we’re decorating our Christmas tree I hand her a small wrapped box. By now she knows exactly what it is and is always excited to see what ornament she gets to add to her collection! The first year in 2011, I saw a blue sparkly crab and I knew that was the one. We go Bay View beach every year in Cape Cod and it is my girl’s favorite spot by far. Even last week she asked when we were going back! She loves the wildlife and especially the crabs!

This is “Jellybean” in 2012 with her Minnie Mouse ornament that she asked for:

Jellybean and Minnie

And for this year…(shh… it’s a surprise):
This year, the squirrels would forage really close to our dining room window and she even named them: Nutty, Bushy and Squirrelly! For all I know, they were all the same squirrel! 😀

I love this tradition because in the end we have a box full of memories that we can add to our tree!

Saturday Nerd Lib Linky

This linky provided by Getting Nerdy With Mel & Nerdy. These girls are near and dear to my heart. I love a good sense of humor! They came up with a fantastic and fun blog linky: Saturday Nerd Libs! I’m so pumped!

Saturday Nerd Lib 12-6

I feel compelled to explain a bit. First and foremost I am a mom to three little wonders ages 5, 3 and 1. That does not give me a lot of “spare” time during the day. So you bet your bottom dollar the first thing I do is make coffee! I wasn’t a huge coffee drinker until a couple of years ago… not sure why!
Peppa Pig, you ask? Well if you ask my son HE is Peppa Pig and his little sister is George. If you aren’t familiar with Peppa Pig, she is an adorable British Pig on Nick Jr.
And maybe you are wondering what the Peel P50 is. Or maybe you didn’t care until I brought it up just now. Either way, I hope you watch the following video that encapsulates the hilarity that is “Peel P50″:

Happy Saturday!!

Yours Truly,

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  😆
DNA Extraction Lab