Blog Archives

Extreme Biology: Student Blogging

Visit ExtremeBiology!

I’ve posted about this before, and have ExtremeBiology featured as an RSS Feed at the bottom of this page. For those who have yet to visit though, check out Stacy Baker’s Extreme Biology website. Clearly an inspirational Biology teacher, her students have been blogging and podcasting about Biology. Some are now featured bloggers on Nature’s Scitable learning resource. Way to go!

It looks like Stacy is taking a break from teaching (it is an exhausting career!) – but hopefully not the blog. Thank-you for your work and congratulations and good luck to your graduating students.

Updated IA Self-Assessment Sheets

Tip: to print your completed rubric, first save as a pdf file- it doesn’t confuse the printers. For the same document as 4 portrait A4 pages, which can be easily copy-pasted onto your write-up, click here.

BIS Students: make sure that you use this in all stages of your experimental work, from design to the final write-up. Use it to:

  • Check your work as you plan and carry out the investigation
  • Self-assess your write-up as you go through the process
  • Reflect on the feedback given via Moodle/Turnitin

For more IA help, click here.

The codes on the checklist correspond to those that appear on your marked work via Moodle/Turnitin. Other teachers – you can download these comments here, to be used or adapted as long as your school uses the full Turnitin WriteCycle package.

Click4Biology Videos

John Burrell from Click4Biology has just started uploading some tutorial videos for Biology on his YouTube Channel. You might find them useful, so check them out!


Tom McFadden on the news – BooYah!

MrT’s Lyrical Science hero makes a splash in New Zealand:

Get inspired – get writing: head on over to the Lyrical Science page. I can’t wait to hear the girls’ Classification version of Dynamite.

Understanding Roots Gives Shoots of Knowledge

Something we go over and over in class is the relationship between the words we use in Biology and their Latin and Greek roots. There is a massive vocabulary to use in Biology*, and if you learn to break down words into their components, you might get a better understanding of the meaning behind them.

It’s a code – and if you can crack it, you can even make a good guess at the meaning of many unknown words in exam papers, textbooks and articles. Language should not be a barrier to Biology students – even those who are ESL learners.

Revision tip for the semester exams: Build a vocab list for each subtopic and rather than just define the terms, break them into their components. Can you use the roots in another word or sentence?

Here is a nice SlideShare presentation on how Greek and Latin roots aid understanding:

More resources:

Basic Greek and Latin for understanding science and medicine, Tim Moors

Glossary of Greek and Latin Roots in Science, Exploring Science Site

Greek and Latin Roots in English, Wikipedia

A multitude of lesson plans for vocabulary, from

Interestingly, in modern science and media, some words are formed from compounds of Greek and Latin. Here is a classic quote from C.P. Snow: “Television. The word is half-Greek and half-Latin; no good can come of it.

*I heard a quote once that there was more vocab in HL Biology than in a Language B subject. It would be cool to find out how true that is. Can anyone estimate the number of vocabulary terms learned by a Biology student?

DrosophiLab – Genetics Simulator

Drosophila buscki
Drosophila buscki

DrosophiLab is a brilliant, free and downloadable piece of software that allows students and teachers to edit fruit flies and carry out crosses. The teacher can use the chromosome editor to set up parent flies of any genotype and there are 20 genes and traits represented, on four chromosomes. This allows for simple monohybrid crosses, sex-linkage, gene linkage and many other combinations – so the problems you set can be differentiated by level. There is also a password-protected teacher setting, to restrict students’ access to results tables and chromosome maps (so they have to work it out for themselves!).

Here are our class resources:

Protocol sheets: DrosophiLab HL, DrosophiLab SL (pdf)

Fly files in this folder:

Chi-Calc (Chi-squared calculator, .xlsx)

How to catch and observe Drosophila:

Catch Your Own Drosophila, from Access Excellence (lots of resources there)

And this is how you tell the sexes apart:

When trying to observe the flies for real, think about the following questions:

– How are you ensuring ethical treatment of the animals?

– How long would it take to determine the phenotypes of the number of flies you have set for your investigations?

– What difficulties do you encounter when observing the flies?

– What are the limitations or sources of error that might affect the reliability of your results?

Why are fruit flies so important in science?

Science loves fruit flies, and there was even a fruit fly Nobel awarded in 1995 for studies in embryonic development. This links neatly to the assessment statements regarding the differentiation of cells through expression of different genes.


Fruit fly cells are relatively easily observed, and Drosophila makes for an ideal model organism for Mendelian genetics as it has a short life cycle, reproduces quickly and is easily phenotyped.

There is a biography of fruit flies called Fly: An Experimental Life, by Martin Brookes, and you can find out more about the Drosophila genome at

Image sources:

Drosophila buscki from Journal of Endocrinology

Fruit fly graphic and DrosophiLab banner from DrosophiLab

Good Luck Grade 12!

Good luck Grade 12!

We’ve had our final lesson

Of Awesome Millionaire

I hope the work that you’ve put in

Is going to to get you where

You need to be for the exam

So you can feel prepared.

When you sit down to the paper

Remember this advice

Don’t rush into the answers

Read the question twice.

What is the command term?

Stick to it, don’t digress.

How many points is the question worth?

Be clear, don’t make a mess.

Sleep well and smile,

Think for a while

Before you use that pen

And if you’re feeling really stuck,

Read the question again.

Practice, practice, practice,

Use correct terminology

And you will surely experience success

In the one true subject:


Good luck!

Here are some review quizzes to play with:

Awesome Random Review: Standard Level

Awesome Random Review: Higher Level

And for when you’re gone, here are 97 Ways to Save Money in College.

Lyrical Science: Good Riddance (to excess end products)

A sing-along-a-Biology song, for end-product inhibition of metabolic pathways, based on Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)“. Put the audio track on and sing along, karaoke-style.

For more Lyrical Science madness & how-to, click here.

Really funny plasma membrane & Evolution raps

This is really well done, from a group of Stanford students:

And this one on evolution is very funny:

There are more cell biology clips on their YouTube channel.

Secrets of the Sequence – The Discovery of DNA

This 9-minute clip is an ideal ‘watcher’ to go along with the reader in the Course Companion – it tells the story of the discovery of the DNA double helix structure by Watson and Crick and how their discovery was dependant on the prior work of Rosalind Franklin and the compeitive/cooperative nature of research:

This clip  is taken from the vdeo lesson resource provided by Virginia Commonwealth University’s ‘Secrets of the Sequence’ website. They have 50 different videos, each with accompanying lesson plans and activities.

They also have a YouTube channel: VCULifeSciences.

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