Biology: Ways to Teach the "Yucky" Science
- Monday, May 23, 2005
Remember girls shrieking when the rubbery frogs were brought out in biology lab? Yes, most of us do and that is the memory that many home educators have about biology. Biology evokes visions of slimy worms, disgusting smells, and boys chasing girls with the inside parts of a fish. That's only your memory, not real biology.
Biology is, in my opinion, the easiest science to study and teach. It is the study of all living creatures and develops an appreciation for the wonders of creation. Biology is around us daily; we just need to heighten our awareness. In this modern age, people need to even be aware of topics such as genetics to respond appropriately to current political situations.
Biology Around the House
Often the environment around our homes is very sterile. With manicured lawns and neat flower beds, we remove the microcosm of life that our children can observe. Take a corner of the yard and leave it untended, allowing anything and everything to grow without human interference. Throughout the year look closely at the area. Observe the condition of the soil, the insects living in it, the plants growing, even watch for birds and small animals. Compare this section to the neater, well-tended areas. (A reminder: What you call a weed in your garden, is a wild flower in the open meadow.)
You can have a biology pond any where; whether you live in the city or the country. It needn't be large. In our backyard, we took advantage of a dripping faucet. Our little pond is about one foot in diameter and six inches deep. We put sand in the bottom and bricks around the edges to keep weeds down (another by-product of a pond). With the faucet dripping at a steady pace, the pond has a steady flow of water. This is essential to keep down mosquitoes; they like standing water. The slow dripping keeps it at a constant level without it getting out of hand.
A pond attracts all kinds of biological wonders and can be a natural part of your outdoor lab. Small frogs, moss and algae are among the first inhabitants. Sometimes you can catch a squirrel drinking at it or birds bathing. Since animals look for a water source, you will have steady stream of visitors at your pond.
A common question is "Do I have to do a dissection?" No. Court rulings in the past couple decades have stated that students cannot be forced to dissect an animal. There are numerous sources of dissection materials available without capturing and killing frogs and earthworms yourself. Computer programs can teach the various body parts; coloring books and models serve the same purpose. Internet sites have been developed dedicated solely to dissection.
Beef & sheep hearts are available at a butcher counter. Whole fish can be purchased for fish dissection. If you wish to go beyond that, several curriculum companies sell dissection kits that include the necessary equipment and several specimens.
Some Things to Do
All around our house things are growing, from children to plants. Tracking the growth is one of the simplest projects that can be done. Just making marks on the wall to show your preschooler how he's growing is science observation
Experiments can be done relating to the growth of plants. Different conditions, such as large pot, small pot; a lot of water, adequate water, little water; warm, bright sun, moderate sun, no sun, allows for many observations. Filter light with different colors or no light at all. Plants seeds in different conditions -- sand, good soil, cotton, etc. and watch the differences in the development of the plant. Heat and cold can be factors tested in the refrigerator, oven, or outside. For each of the variations, have your student predict the growth outcome.
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