Category Archives: Life Science

Scientific Method Practice Using Monarch Metamorphosis

This year, my 6th grade students are using a monarch to practice the scientific method.  Two of my own children volunteered to search through some milkweeds near our house so I would have a caterpillar for my classroom.  (Note #1:  The monarch will be released outdoors following our experiment.)

I started by showing the students a live monarch caterpillar that was placed in a jar with ventilation holes in the lid.  (Note #2:  The holes are punched from the inside of the lid with the sharp edges on the top of the jar lid.  This allows for a smooth surface on the inside of the lid for the caterpillar, but the jar must be handled carefully to prevent injury.  I placed red tape with the word SHARP on the top of the lid.)  A stick and some milkweed were placed in the jar.  A couple of the students could identify the caterpillar by its characteristic stripes.  Others commented that it would become a butterfly.  Some mentioned that it would make a chrysalis.  Since my students understood that the caterpillar would go through steps to change into a butterfly, I was ready to continue.

Students got out their science notebooks and I introduced the problem we were attempting to solve:  How many days will it take for the caterpillar to emerge from its chrysalis as a butterfly?  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I always remind students that they are not allowed to share their hypotheses yet.  I then asked the students to record their hypotheses in their notebooks by completing the following sentence:  I think that the monarch will emerge from its chrysalis as a butterfly on Day # _____ because . . . 

After I checked their notebooks, each student shared his/her hypothesis with the class and explained why they made that prediction.  I love hearing my students’ ideas!!  There was a wide range of guesses (12-64 days) since students were not sure how long the caterpillar had been in the larval stage, how big it would actually get before beginning to make the chrysalis, or how many days it needed to be in the chrysalis.  Students then made Day 1 observations and recorded their findings in their notebooks.  Observations are recorded daily until the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis.

This lab experiment can be differentiated for all ages and abilities.  Watching a caterpillar become a butterfly is fascinating for students at any age and is an engaging way for students to practice using the scientific method to solve a problem.

Cardiovascular System SPLAT – Fly Swatter Review Activity

Warning:  Students will be using fly swatters in this activity!

I created the Cardiovascular System SPLAT – Fly Swatter Review Activity to practice vocabulary and concepts during a recent unit on circulation.  The activity consists of questions relating to the heart, blood vessels, and blood.  It was created as a presentation in which students view a slide with a question, the following slide contains two possible answer choices, and the next slide reveals the answer.  This format is used for all 25 questions.  The presentation is projected in the classroom.

Students are divided into two teams.  A desk is placed in the front of the room with two index cards taped on it.  One card represents choice “A” and a second card represents choice “B”.  One student from each team stands on opposite sides of the desk holding a fly swatter down at his/her side. (Be sure that each team has a clear view of the slides being projected.)

This is where the fun and reviewing begin.  The teacher projects the slide containing the first question.  The question can be read aloud by the teacher or students can be required to read the question silently.  When the next slide appears, students read the two options as quickly as possible and attempt to be the first to smack the fly swatter onto the index card which matches the letter of  the correct answer.  The students hold their fly swatters until the next slide reveals the correct answer.  If keeping score, award a point to the team with the fastest, correct SPLAT and call a new member from each team up to the desk.  Points can be tallied to determine a winning team.

Other thoughts:

  • Use fly swatters with plastic handles to ensure the safety of the students.
  • Classrooms with struggling readers may need to adapt this activity.  The teacher could read the two possible answers aloud and then count to three before students are allowed to swat.
  • Instead of teams, students could be randomly chosen to participate.

Feel free to check out my Cardiovascular System SPLAT – Fly Swatter Review Activity and let me know if you try it in your classroom!

Vocabulary Relays

One of the ways students practice vocabulary in my classes is by competing in Vocabulary Relays.  For each team, I make a card for every vocabulary word and a card for each definition.  (Multiple sets can be printed using a computer, and then laminated for future use.)  I mix up the word cards and definition cards, and place them at the end of the gym opposite each relay team.  One member from each team runs to their cards, finds a word card and matching definition card, and brings them back to the team.  This continues until all vocabulary words are matched with a definition.

Other ideas:

  • Give each team a different color of cards (ex. – one team has blue cards, one team has green cards, etc.).  This makes it easier to identify all the words and definitions for each team.
  • During the relays, students can discuss definitions with teammates so they can easily find a match when it is their turn to participate.
  • Incorrect matches can be returned to make a correct match.
  • Announce a different activity for each relay (ex. – running, walking backwards, etc.).
  • Teams could write sentences using each vocabulary word.

Students love getting the opportunity to move around and interact with others during class.   Let me know if you try this activity in your classroom!

Beach Ball Bones

This is an activity I have used in class to practice the bones of the skeletal system.  I bought a beach ball and used a permanent marker to write the scientific names of the bones scattered around on the ball.  Students stand in a circle and toss the ball to one another. The student that catches the ball reads aloud the name of the bone that his/her right thumb is touching.  All the students then practice locating the bone on their bodies.

My students have always enjoyed this activity and it is a quick and fun way to review the bones.  I think this could easily be adapted for using in most subjects and grade levels.  Let me know if you have any suggestions for other ways to use this activity in the classroom!