Tuesday, December 15, 2009


In order for an organisms to survive it needs to have all of the resources available that it's body needs. The habitat that it lives in must provide appropriate levels of water, light, temperature, and a supply of food. This appropriate combination of factors is called a "niche." Some organisms have developed adaptations that require them to be dependent on other organisms. Mutualism, an example of this, is when two species benefit from a relationship with each other. Ocellaris clownfish live in the tentacles of Ritteri sea anemones. The fish cleans the tentacles for the anemone and the anemone protects the fish from predators.

Watch the video about mutualism. Comment about the example of mutualism discussed in the film or go above and beyond and research another example of mutualism and comment on it.

Monday, December 7, 2009


Today we begin a new unit titled "Ecology." Ecology is the study of the interactions that take place between organisms and their environment. All living things on the planet have developed adaptations that allow them to survive in their environments and organisms have found ways to live in almost every part of the biosphere. Ecologists are people who study these organisms and spend a lot of time asking questions about what influences their ability to survive. For example, an ecologist might study the warty newt and discover that it's warty complexion is due to a "milky, acrid-smelling substance" that is used to discourage predators from feasting on them. That ecologist might go on to ask the question, "what part of the warty newts diet influences the milky, acrid-smelling substance?" Since the warty newt is endangered, understanding its diet may help to keep it from going extinct.


Go to the following website: National Geographic

On the right side is a menu for all of the animals that National Geographic has in their data base. Pick one or two animals and read about them.

After reading about the animal, write four questions about the animal as if you are an ecologist studying it.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Cell Finale

This video should be helpful to you as you prepare for Thursday's test.

Go to the website at exploritorium.com.

Click on any of the categories and write an overview describing one of the images captured by the Microscope Imaging Station.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cell Division

One of the most important aspects to life is the ability to reproduce. Species reproduction hinges on cellular reproduction. The ability for a cell to make copies of itself is an amazing process. It is happening on a constant basis all through your body and all through the living world.

In the human body, the 46 chromosomes form 23 pairs of chromosomes. The pairs form because the chromosomes are alike. When there are two of every chromosome the cell is called diploid. Sex cells, on the other hand, contain only one chromosome from each matched pair and are called haploid. Therefore, a human sex cell has 23 chromosomes, not 23 pairs of chromosomes.

Meiosis happens when an organism reproduces. Sex cells form with one half the chromosomes of the original cell. This way, when that cell pairs up with a sex cell from another organism, the result is a combination of chromosomes from both parents.

Mitosis is happening all the time throughout your body. In this process, the nucleus of a cell divides to form two identical nuclei. Each of the two nuclei contain the same number and type of chromosomes as the original.


Go to the website CellsAlive.com. On the left side of the website, there is a section called "interactive." Starting with the "Cell Model" link, go through each of the interactive activities (you don't need to do the puzzles or the quizzes). Make a comment (write a paragraph) about cell division based on what you learned through these demonstrations.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Have a wonderful weekend!

Hi everybody. I'm sorry I wasn't at school today. I hope you enjoyed the Planet Earth DVD . I think it's some of the most amazing footage of our world.

Adaptations are characteristics that an organism has that allow it to survive in it's environment. For example, the leopard can climb trees so that they can pounce on prey from above and sleep safely in it's branches.


Please comment on something interesting from the docementary today (linked). I would especially be interested in hearing about adaptations that you noticed in the living organisms discussed in the film.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Edible Cell Day!!

We are approaching edible cell day, where you all will be bringing in models of eukaryotic cells made out of food we can eat. Do your best to find foods that will look similar to the actual organelles found in the cell. For example, ribosomes are small bead-like parts found on the rough endoplasmic reticulum. I think they look like Nerd candies.

Prizes will be awarded to best tasting, most accurate, and worst tasting.

Bring in your edible cell on November 20th.


Go to the following website and read each page about the Eukaryotic Animal Cell (by clicking the next button). Identifying Eukaryotic Animal Cell Organelles

Pick one organelle and write a description of its purpose and function.

Monday, November 2, 2009


A long time ago in a monastery far, far away....

Robert Hooke was one of the first to observe that all living organisms are made of structures which he called "cells." He named them after the living quarters for monks in a monastery (cells!). The word "cell," as defined by dictionary.com, is "any of various small compartments or bounded areas forming part of a whole." This definition works well for our understanding of what a cell is in life science. They are the simplest structures that make up life.


Watch the video about cells and answer the questions:

1. How many cells are in a human body?
2. Which parts of the body are made of cells?
3. What does the nucleus do inside the cell?
4. What does the membrane do?
5. Do cells communicate?
6. What other interesting thing did you learn from this video?

Monday, October 19, 2009


Hey Class!!

As we finish talking about the smallest particles that make up matter, we begin talking about the substances that are made from different combinations of atoms. A molecule is a combination of at least two atoms that form a strong chemical bond. A molecule might consist of a single element (O2) or of different elements (H2O).


Go to the following website: All About Molecules

Read the whole introduction to what a molecule is.

Then, pick one molecule and, in your own words, describe the molecule in a post.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Hello class! This week we started to learn about atoms and how they are structured. We know that atoms have three parts: protons, neutrons, and electrons. Atoms make up everything in the universe (except nothing). Are all atoms the same, though? The answer to that is "no." Have you ever heard of the periodic table of the elements? Well, that complicated chart is a list of all of the different types of atoms in the world. Scientists have identified approximately 90 types of atoms that exist in the natural world and have created synthetic ones in laboratories. This list of different types of atoms are called elements.


You and everything around you is made of elements. Write a list of 5-10 elements that you can find in your house. This link might help you figure out what elements are around you. WebElements

For example: In my classroom the radiator is made of iron.

For fun, you can watch this video for a song by a sciencey band called They Might Be Giants.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sinkhole, dude!

In the book Tangerine, the main character's portable classroom gets sucked into a sinkhole. For many of you it was the first time you've heard of such a phenomenon. However, as we read recently, sinkholes can be extremely common in certain parts of the world, including parts of Pennsylvania (not the part that we're in, luckily). Often, sinkholes are created by people. What are they doing to create these scary events?


Watch the video and write three questions that come up for you about the video.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Welcome and Welcome Back!!

Hi Everyone! It's great to be back. After an excellent summer I feel completely rejuvenated and ready for an amazing year of science discovery. I did a bunch of great, sciencey things this summer, most of which I will tell you about I'm sure. I read some terrific science books, took a chemistry class, wrote curriculum for a coming summer program at a local school, and spent a good portion of time near the ocean. One of my favorite trips this summer was a mushroom gathering trip I took with a friend of mine who is an amateur mycophile (someone who gathers mushrooms). We found a lot of amazing mushrooms, some edible and some not. This is a picture of me with the "Chicken of the Woods" that we found. Later that evening, I cooked it up and ate it!


Respond to this post by letting me know something sciencey that you did this summer.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Solar Energy

The sun, as sung by They Might Be Giants, is a mass of incandescent gas, a giant nuclear furnace.  Are they accurate in their description?  We have been talking about alternative energy systems and one, very well known system, is the photovoltaic cell (aka solar panels) which captures sunlight and transfers that energy into electricity.  There are many innovations emerging to improve upon this technology.

Go to the site and either watch the video (the link is called  "Video: Solar Power") or read the article (be sure and expand the document to read the whole thing).

Write down five facts from either the video or the article, then respond to the question, "Do you think that the sun will solve our energy problems?"

Friday, March 20, 2009

Robotic Fish to Hunt for Pollution

This $30,000 robotic fish is designed to swim through the ocean and detect pollution.  It can swim around (very realistically) for 8 hours, after which it needs to return to a charging station. 

Monday, March 16, 2009

Innovation Nation

Wind farm, Mersey Estuary, UK
As we are researching alternative energy resources, it is important to note that the technologies are changing all the time.  Every day you can find new information about improvements to the alternative energy industry.  It's very exciting to watch the innovations emerge as people feel the pressure of living a more sustainable life.


Pick one of the articles below.  Read the article and write a one paragraph summary of it.  Provide detail in your paragraphs and include one quote.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Thursday's BlogWork

Hi everybody.  I'm sorry that I haven't been in school for the past couple of days.  I'm currently in the Rocky Mountains and I'm seeing some amazing rock formations.  The ecosystem is very different out here.  It is very dry and desert-like.  In addition, the Rockies are at a much higher elevation than what I am used to in Philadelphia.  As a result, I find myself breathing heavily after walking up a set of stairs.  Do you know why that is?


Go to the following link, read the source, and answer these questions:

1.  How long have biofuels been around?
2.  Why are gasoline and diesel ancient biofuels?
3.  Where do biofuels come from and how are they made?
4.  Are biofuels renewable or nonrenewable?  Why?

Above and Beyond:  Do you think that biofuels provide a viable energy resource for our country?  Why or why not?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Pacific barreleye fish

Marine biologists have captured a Pacific barreleye fish on video.  With its transparent head, it is possibly one of the strangest animals I have ever seen.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Today we were discussing fossil fuels and how they form.  You may recall that I referred to fossil fuels as "trapped sunlight."  Fossil fuels come from the remains of plants and animals that have died off millions of years ago.  All living organisms on this planet (with the possible exception of some bacteria that live at the bottom of the oceans) depend on sunlight energy to grow and live.


We do not only use fossil fuels as an energy source.  We also convert some of it to make plastic.  The invention of artificial plastics had a damaging effect on the environment because most plastics break down very slowly, so they remain in landfills and are dangerous to wildlife.  However, the invention of plastics also affected the environment in many positive ways.  Write a paragraph describing some of the positive qualities to plastic.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Energy Resources

photo by tomthecabinboy
Our next unit will cover energy resources and the way that we create and use energy as a society.  We often turn on light switches without thinking about where that energy comes from.  As we have discussed, one of the laws of energy states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transfered (or transformed).  So when we turn on that light switch, where does it come from?


Go to the following link:  HowStuffWorks.com

Scroll down and watch the video titled "Electricity and Magnetism: Electric Current."

Write 10 facts down that you learned from the video.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Today we talked about some of the tools that we will use to collect data about our local ecosystems.  The barometer, the Kestrel (wind meter), and the sling psychrometer are tools for studying the weather.  We will use these tools, and others, when we work to analyze our local ecosystem and work to discover the problems that exist there.  


Find the link for "Environment Videos."

On the right side, click the link for "Freshwater."

Watch one of the videos. 

Write a paragraph response to the video (what was it about, what were some of the most important points).

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fresh Water

There is a very small percentage of fresh water in the world.  Of all of the water on the planet, less than one percent is fresh water.  Fresh water habitats are the home of many, many species and obviously humans are dependent on it for survival.  Human activities have been altering and impacting these ecosystems in many ways.


Read the source.

Answer the following questions:

1.     Where is fresh water found in the world?

2.     Why are freshwater habitats so important?

In what ways have humans been changing freshwater habitats?

Sunday, February 8, 2009


Hi everybody!  Sorry that I missed you in school today.  I hope you all got started on your research projects on conservation.  This work will culminate in another project that I will talk about when I get back.  Please get as much done as possible before I return.

BlogWork for Monday

Watch the video.  Comment on the message in the video (in a well-designed paragraph).  

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Carbon Cycle

Today we discussed the carbon cycle, which is the way that carbon gets moved through our environment.  Carbon is essential to life on Earth and is a key component to proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.  The carbon cycle is a model that scientists have created to show how carbon gets transferred between the atmosphere, land, water, and organisms.  When you eat a living organisms (whether it is a buffalo or a carrot) you are adding to the carbon cycle.  

A carbon sink is a deposit of carbon that stores carbon for an indefinite period of time.  Fossil fuels and limestone deposits are examples of these reservoirs of carbon.

In your life, where do you think you are creating the most CO2?  
What would be one way that you could reduce the amount of CO2 that you create?

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Greenhouse Effect

The greenhouse effect is the phenomenon of planets or moons trapping heat in the atmosphere.  Just like an actual greenhouse, thermal energy from the sun gets absorbed by certain gases in the atmosphere and the heat gets trapped.  Carbon dioxide, water vapor, and methane are the primary gases that trap this heat.  This trapped heat is extremely useful and allows our planet to keep the mild temperatures that we enjoy.  Useful, for us, perhaps, but deadly for other places (see your BlogWork).


Research:  Describe the atmosphere on Venus and explain why it is the way it is.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Environmental Science!

As we begin the work of the 2nd semester, we direct our attention toward the environment and on our impact on our planet.  Humans have impacted ecosystems as long as humans have existed.   Even the earliest hunter-gatherers influenced our planet in irreversible ways.  For example, archeologists have discovered several large mammals that lived on this continent 1,000s of years ago that are now extinct.  What happened to these amazing beasts?  They may have died off as a result of climatic changes (the ice age), but it is also possible that they were hunted to extinction.

Research one of the following extinct large mammals from N. America.  Write a paragraph describing the animal and the evidence of its existence.  

Sunday, January 4, 2009


We have been studying rocks and the ways that they influence the land. Above is a picture of one the most famous rocks in the world.


Research and respond to one of the following:

  • What famous rock is pictured above and what kind of rock is it?
  • What other famous object is made of rock? What type of rock is it?