High School SMILE Meeting
1999-00 -- 05-06 Academic Years
General Biology, Ecology, and Evolution
28 September 1999: Karlene Joseph (Lane Tech)
showed us a part of a video tape of a Star Trek show. The
characters were involved in a discussion of what constitutes life, with
an android (synthetic "human") wondering about him-it-her self.
then got us involved in a very interesting discussion of what
life and how ethics, science, and religious beliefs are all involved in
such life issues as cloning, artificial reproduction of human cells,
She certainly showed us how her students can be motivated; we certainly
26 October 1999: Eartha Sherrill (Williams School)
handed out black construction paper (about 14x17 sq in), small cards
(about 2x3 sq in) of different colors, piece of chalk,
page listing objects under City Ecosystems (mice, grasses,
cats, etc) and Pond Ecosystems (minnows, algae, frogs,
etc). Looking at City Ecosystems, we entered on the small
green cards the name of each "producer" (grass, weeds,
vegetables, etc) The cards were placed in a line across
the bottom of the black paper. Then on yellow cards we
entered the first level names (consumers - mice,
grasshoppers, etc.) The idea of food chain was
introduced, and the web of interconnections between
various living things in the ecosystem. A beautiful way to
analyze and see those interconnections, and to gain
insight into what an ecosystem is!
15 February 2000: Karlene Joseph (Lane Tech HS)
(handout) had us make "birds" of paper, soda straws and tape.
We discovered that some of the next generation (mutant) birds
flew farther, some a shorter average distance. If flying to an
oasis is needed for survival, a mutant selection will
occur. A wonderful way to understand evolutionary process
and relation to survival! The detail in the handout was
very well done, and made it most useful. Excellent!
29 February 2000: Ed Scanlon (Morgan Park HS)
showed us how to construct an Analytical Key for Identification.
Directions: Group the 30 organisms according to some
characteristic and then subdivide each group according to
different states of that characteristic. Students are
given a sheet of 30 Whatsits (drawings of obviously
related organisms). By the end of the activity, students
must have assigned a 2 word name to each Whatsits and
written out a classification scheme that will give each
Whatsits a unique name. Ed took us through this in some
depth, and we really learned something! Thanks, Ed
02 May 2000: Kim Baker (Fairfield Academy)
did "something different." We each received a page titled
"Don't Use it All Up," and on it we were asked to list as many as 15
uses for water. Then she passed out plastic shoe boxes
containing 7 sponges (different sizes). Each group put 2.5
cups of water into the box. Then we added the sponges one
at a time, each sponge representing a different use of
water. The original water level, representing the height
of the water table, decreased with each sponge added. We
then discussed how water resources can be conserved, as we
squeezed out the sponges to bring the "water table" nearly
back to its original level. A pretty analogy and a good
way to get your students to conserve.
10 October 2000: Pam Moy (Morgan Park HS)
had an "eye opener" for us - she placed on the table an "alien fetus"
a jar. Question: Could this be possible? The point was to get
us to practice scientific
inquiry by examination of the "specimen" and the give-and-take of the
discussion it provoked.
It worked, Pam. Thanks!
05 December 2000: Chris Etapa (Gunsaulus Academy)
(handout: 1997 Keep America Beautiful, Inc. - pp 47-50. "Understanding
Waste Management.") Garbage Pizza - She told us that this
is a recycling activity. It lists Objectives, Method, Materials,
Vocabulary, Procedure. For example, Method states that "Students will
construct a garbage pizza, a three-dimensional pie chart, which
represents the MSW
(Municipal Solid Waste) discarded in the United States;
each slice of the pizza will represent a different solid
waste category." Students bring in items from home such as these:
- Paper (newsprint, boxes, wrappers)
- Yard waste (grass, sticks, leaves, potpourri)
- Plastics (disposable food service products - cups, plates,
cutlery, bread bag clips, jug lids, miniature toys)
- Metals (paper clips, staples, aluminum can pull tabs,
nuts and bolts)
- Wood (tooth picks, building blocks, cedar chips, golf tees)
- Food (egg shells, pasta, pretzels, dry cereal),
- Glass (marbles, sea glass)
- Other (rubber bands, candle, washers).
For the "pizza crust" you can use homemade play dough (see
spread it on a 9 inch aluminum pie plate. Use the pie chart showing the
percent of the various MSW component as the basis for cutting
into the appropriate number and size of slices, and bake until hard.
Then paint "pizza sauce" (red tempera paint) onto the slices. Glue
the waste items onto their corresponding pizza pie-chart
slices. You could use plastic beads for waste "glass," and macaroni for
"food waste," etc.
This brings home very graphically that the biggest slice by
far is the paper category of waste (37.9 %),
with yard waste next (14.6 %).
Among other things, students learn that Garbage refers only to
or food waste thrown away. Trash represents broken or worthless things
So be careful how you sort your waste stuff! It's the first step to
helping with waste disposal. Chris, thanks for the good ideas!
13 February 2001: Erma Lee (Williams
Erma had three containers, each containing a different kind of
beans [or peas]; the sizes were "small", "regular", and
- We took a spoonful of each kind, and put them into separate
compartments of a Styrofoam™ food tray, and we put an orange into the
- We peeled the orange, saving the peelings, and separated one
section from the orange.
- We then quickly estimated the number of each kind of bean
that was on our plates., as well as the number of sections left on the
orange, from which we had just removed a segment, and the number of
pieces of orange peel.
- The estimates were then collected.
- Next we put the section back into the orange, and re-covered the
top half of the orange with pieces of peeling. Then, we estimated
how many pieces of orange peel were required for this.
- Then, we removed this segment again, and estimated the number of
seeds inside the segment.
- Next, we bit the orange, and estimated how much was left.
- Then, we counted and recovered the number of beans, the number of
orange sections, and the number of pieces of orange peeling.
- We compared and recorded our estimates of the number of each type
of bean, and the total numbers.
- We traced our hand on a sheet of paper, and on a second sheet we
traced our foot.
- For one of the three types of beans, we estimated how many
(placed end-to-end) would be needed to go around the tracing.
Then, we covered the perimeter with beans, and compared our estimates
with the actual numbers.
At some point in the experiment we ran out of beans. [Be sure to get
plentiful supply when you do this experiment.]
24 September 2002:
Carl Martikean [Wallace HS, Gary] Teaching of Science from a
Carl raised the following questions:
Comment by Porter Johnson: similar issues are discussed in
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
by Jared Diamond [W W Norton 1999] ISBN 0-393-33755-2, as
well as another book by the same author,Third Chimpanzee: The
Evolution and Future of the Human Animal.[Harper 1992] ISBN
- Should animals with human gene sequences spliced into their own
DNA be considered human?
Why or why not?
- Why are chimpanzees immune to the HIV virus? Is it
possible that there was an
HIV virus among chimps, say, two million years ago, devastating the
population at that time,
so that only the few virus-resistant chimps survived? Why or why not?
- The crusades brought rats and the bubonic plague back to Europe
from the Mediterranean basin, resulting in untold human agony and
depopulation in Europe. Did this resultant depopulation serve to
enhance the value of human life, leading inevitably to specialization
of labor, banking and commerce, inherited wealth, leisure time, and
[among those fortunate few] time and resources for scientific
inquiry? Does science drive society, or does science drive
Interesting ideas, Carl! See you next time!
08 October 2002:
Ed Scanlon [Morgan Park HS, Biology]
Capture-Recapture Sampling Method
This method is used for estimating the size of animal
populations. This exercise presents a popular method
useful for estimating the population size of a single
species of highly mobile animals, such as most
vertebrates. Some literature refers to this method
as the Lincoln-Peterson method.
- You must catch as many individuals from a
population as you can within a specified amount
of time. These individuals will be marked and then
released back into their habitat. This is the first
- You must give these creatures time to move back
into the main population. After this time, you will
go back and capture more of the creatures from the
same population. This is the second sampling.
- There is a relationship between the numbers of
recaptured individuals (they are the marked ones)
to the total population, and so the total population
can be estimated.
N: This is the total number of individuals in
We may now estimate the size of the population (N) using the
N = M n / R
M: This is the number of individuals in the first sample--
you must mark this, then return them back into the environment.
n: This is the number of individuals in the
R: This is the number of marked individuals in the
Standard Error: There will always be some error when you do
any type of sampling. The formula to find the standard error for this
SE = ( M2(n+1)(n-R) / (R + 1)2(R + 2)
- You must take random samples.
- All individuals have the same possibility of being captured.
- There must be no change in the size of the population
between the first and second samplings.
- The marked individuals will distribute themselves
equally into the entire population.
- Marking an individual must not make it easier to
Marking: After catching, mark and release the individuals as
soon as possible. Use a method
to mark the individuals that will not come off or adversely hurt them.
Ed got us all actively involved, indoors and out, in the Capture-Recapture
Sampling Method [for additional details of the method see A
Practical Study of the Capture/Recapture Method of Estimating
used by naturalists/conservation professionals to estimate
populations of animal species in the wild, using toothpicks to
species of interest. We all went outside to a lawn near the Life
building where Ed had previously strewn an undisclosed
toothpicks and we conducted a five minute "search" that netted 196
toothpicks, Each toothpick was marked unobtrusively with a small black
a felt tipped pen and (as we turned our backs), Ed
redistributed these in
the same area. In actual animal studies a harmless marker is used, e.g.
a small distinctive nick in the fin of a fish (not likely to occur
then conducted another search collecting 214 toothpicks (our
skills seemed to have improved!) of which 140 were marked. Ed
presented the formula n = (a ´ b)
where a = 196 the total
collected the first time, b = 214 the total collected the
and c = 141 the number of marked toothpicks recovered in the
search. When Pat used her calculator and announced that n =
Ed's face fell and he said "are you sure?" Pat
with the same result and Ed said "I can't believe it!" Most
thought the answer must not have agreed with reality until Ed
a paper from his pocket and dramatically held it up: 300, we read!
burst into applause because Ed had previously warned us that
"errors" of 20 % are common in this kind of population
handed out another version that can be done indoors, e.g. on a rainy
- First Sampling
People need to form a line across the sampling area. All need to walk
forward at the
same rate and collect the species being studied (toothpicks). After 5
minutes, all the
people will gather together, count the toothpicks, and then mark them.
Give all the
toothpicks to the teacher. The teacher will distribute them back into
- Second Sampling
The students will again walk the area and collect the species. After 5
minutes, all will gather and count the second sampling noting how many
are marked and how many are not marked. They can now use the formulas
to estimate the size of the population.
Great Job, Ed! and all for the price a a box of flat
05 November 2002:
Estellvenia Sanders [Chicago Vocational
Estellvenia put a list of science terms on the whiteboard
base, etc, --- then faced us, and began shouting and flailing her arms
around! (I was
worried and started to go for help until I realized she was repeating
on the list accompanied by signing the same words.) She then used
the words in
two mini-lectures, first in English then in Spanish and told us about
educational challenges at her school as the population becomes more
(and linguistically) diverse. But we aren't worried, it was clear she
able to cope! Thanks for sharing with us, Estellvenia.
19 November 2002: Brenda Daniel [Fuller
The Future World of Biodiversity
Brenda gave her very first SMILE miniteach presentation [welcome
Brenda!!] by having us fill in a "pyramid" concerning biodiversity
issues, putting the most important issue at the top, less important
the second row, still less important issues on the third row, and least
important issues on the fourth and bottom row. The issues were
the following list:
The individual issues were pre-chosen in the interest of focusing the
of the class. Very interesting approach to class discussion of
Thank you, Brenda!
for all people
|fewer invasive species
04 May 2004:
Ron Tuinstra [Illiana Christian HS,
Environmental Science Activities
Ron distributed these four activities
that he had personally developed and used in class as Soil
exercises, which can be performed with soil samples brought to class by
Ron also passed around the Earth Day Footprint Quiz
a survey to estimate the amount of land required to maintain your
lifestyle. The average ecological footprint in the United States is 10
hectares (25 acres) per person, whereas there are only 1.8
hectares (4.5 acres)
biologically productive land per person on earth. How did you
do on this
survey? Editorial Comment by PJ: 1 hectare
= 100 meters ´ 100
meters = 10,000 square meters, is the standard international
area. If you advocate using the English System of units,
be able to define the acre? [
- Activity A: Infiltration
Obtain ring stand, filter paper, and beaker. Place filter paper
- Fill funnel about 1/2 full with dirt. Level the dirt in
paper. Be sure to keep the dirt below the top of the
by 3 cm.
- Place empty beaker under lower end of funnel.
- Measure 20 ml of water with a graduated cylinder.
Slowly and carefully
pour all the water into the dirt in the funnel, taking care not to let
rise above the top of the filter paper.
- Start timing for 5 minutes. Measure and record the
amount of water in the
beaker under the funnel at the end of 5 minutes.
- Compare your results with other groups in the class.
- Activity B: Water holding capacity
Obtain clean dry beaker; 150 ml or 250 ml capacity. Weigh and
of your empty beaker.
- Measure out two teaspoons of your dirt into the beaker. Weigh
and record the
mass of the dirt and beaker. Subtract the mass of the empty beaker to
the mass of dirt in the beaker.
- Place the beaker and dirt on a hot plate for 10
minutes. Remove the beaker
from the hot plate, let it cool to touch, and record mass of beaker and
dirt. Subtract the mass of the empty beaker to determine the mass
- The difference of the original mass of the dirt minus the dry
mass is the mass
of water driven out of the dirt.
- Divide the mass of the water by the original weight of the
that number by 100 to calculate the percent water in your dirt.
- Record all numbers on your lab sheet.
- Activity C: Soil structures
Obtain a dissecting microscope, a glass petri dish, and a dissecting
- Place a spoon full of your dirt onto the petri dish. Place it
on the dissecting
scope and observe the dirt. Using the dissecting needle, try to
insects, humus, sand, silt, and clay in your dirt.
- Record all your observations on your worksheet. Be sure
to list any
organisms you observe in your dirt?
- What particles could you identify? What insects or organisms,
if any, did you
observe? What color is your soil?
- Activity D: Soil particles
Obtain a clean dry beaker, 500 ml or 1000 ml capacity. Place 2
of dirt into the beaker.
- Add water until your beaker is about 1/2 full. Mix well
with a plastic
spoon. Let settle for a minute or two.
- How much material is floating on top the water? What do
you think it is?
- Observe the color and cloudiness of the water in the
beaker. On a scale of
1-4, with 1 being clear and 4 opaque, rate the cloudiness of your
Record this observation on your worksheet.
- Note the presence of sediment at the bottom of the
beaker. Carefully pour
out the water from the beaker, using care not to lose the sediment.
- What does the sediment look like? What material was
removed when you
poured the water and left the sediment? How is this like soil
- Additional Questions
- Based upon the soil types you learned in class (loam, sandy,
silty, clay type),
how would you classify your soil sample?
- What would you estimate the percentages are in your sample
for sand, silt, and clay? Compare this with loam: (40 %
sand; 40% silt; 20% clay).
- How many different organisms, if any, did you find in your
- What would you add to your soil, if anything, to make it a
Great stuff! Thanks, Ron.
28 September 2004:
Chris Etapa [Gunsaulus
son bought an "ecosphere" for her for about $20 (oddly, at an
electronics store). It is a glass globe
that is sealed. It is 3-4 inches (8-10 cm) in
diameter. It contains brine shrimp (5) and algae and about 6
snails. The system is self contained and self
sustaining. It is about 3/4 filled with water. The algae make oxygen
respiration of the snails and shrimp which make CO2
for the algae.
The algae presumably make biomass to support
the growth of the shrimp and snails. Enough nutrients (presumably for
algal growth) are included in the
solution to support at least 2 years of sustainability.
We enjoyed passing the ecosphere around and
examining it close up. Very interesting, Chris!
07 December 2004:
Mary Lucy Adetunji [Gale Elementary
School] The Five Senses
Sister Mary had us do activities that she uses with her
These activities were interesting to us; we learned how observational
be taught to students at an early age.
Mary, you showed us that we could enjoy and learn from quite
simple activities! Thanks!
- We looked around at various objects with and without
sunglasses and noted the differences in what we saw with and without
- We repeated the first exercise, looking through a toy “fly's
that divides a scene into many different small versions of that scene,
as well as looking at objects using a hand lens.
08 March 2005:
Wanda Pitts [Douglas Elementary
The Straw Balance and Gravity
Wanda started out by asking the question, "What is gravity?" It
is the force that pulls two objects together. We then received a
handout from Wanda with the instructions for building the
straw balance using the materials that Wanda supplied
(ruler, drinking straw, marking pen, scissors, small index card,
and two wooden blocks of equal height and not as wide as the length of
straw). When the balance is level, both gravity and torque are at
work, the gravity producing the force on each "pan" (ie, card), and the
distance from the center of the straw to the pan multiplied by the
force producing the torque, which balances the pans. But if the
distance from center to pan is the same on each side, the balance will
directly measure the force of gravity (the weight) of whatever is
placed on the pans.
We then did this with small pieces of index card of unknown
mass/weight on one pan, measuring their mass/weight in units of "punch
holes", pieces of paper made with a paper punch, placed on the other
pan. At the balance point, the masses and weights on each side were
How does gravity relate to Biology/Chemistry?
- Pat: The balance we just made is of great use in
chemistry, in measuring out amounts of known chemicals accurately.
- Ben: What happens in zero gravity to people?
- Ed: Fluids are released from the tissues, so that the
astronauts must urinate very soon after getting to zero g.
- Ben: Long periods of time in zero g can lead to muscle
Geotropism in plants: upon germination the shoot grows away from the
center of gravity of the Earth (towards the air/light), and the root
grows in the other direction, toward the center of gravity; this
ensures that the root will be in the ground and the shoot in the light.
Good stuff, Wanda!
15 November 2005: Ed Scanlon (Morgan Park HS,
Ed started with the following handout:
Questions of Evolution
The questions on Ed's list ask what makes humans different
from other organisms. Continuing, classification of organisms into
groups is based (mostly/historically)
on similarities among organisms; but what makes one species (e.g., us)
another species (e.g., apes)? So after discussing the first handout,
Ed hands out a condensed version of a probable family tree for
humans with a list of characteristics that primates share and another
list of characteristics peculiar to humans. Regarding the latter, our
foramen magna (openings in skull for the spinal cord) point straight
down, our legs are relatively much longer than our arms, etc. Pat
Riley pointed out that our "complete package" of characteristics is
perhaps what makes us really different from other species.
This led to an extremely lively discussion of evolution, creationism,
and "intelligent design". Thanks for the info, Ed!.
- What makes us different?
- Does the size of ONE organ make a significant difference
to set us
apart from the rest of the biological world?
- Is the difference between us and all other creatures
and not physical?
- Have we evolved as far as we can go? If not, how else could we
(organically) for the better?
- What makes us more biologically important than any other
- You have come here from another galaxy to study the creatures
inhabit Earth. What do you see that makes you think Homo sapien
- Do you think we are different because we are the first organisms
intelligent enough to change our environment so that if fits our
needs and destroys
the needs of other organisms?