Getting Started

Studying life science is more than just growing plants from carrot seeds in the backyard. They help us discover the world around us by noticing things we may have not wondered about before.

Why do families share similar features like eye and hair color? Why aren’t they exact replicas of each other? And why do plants still reach for the sun, defying even gravity if they’re planted on the side of a hill?

These questions and many more will be answered in this section as we look at the different areas of life science by studying life cycles for different animals and plants, genetic traits, environmental habitats, and much more.

Here are the scientific concepts:

  • Many characteristics of an organism are inherited from the parents. Some characteristics are caused by, or influenced by, the environment.
  • The germination, growth, and development of plants can be affected by light, gravity, touch, or environmental stress.
  • Plants and animals have structures that serve different functions in growth, survival, and reproduction.
  • Producers and consumers (herbivores, carnivores, omnivores, and decomposers) are related in food chains and food webs, and may compete with each other for resources in an ecosystem.
  • Plants depend on water and light to grow.
  • Plants depend on animals for pollination or to move their seeds around.
  • There are many different kinds of living things in any area, and they exist in different places on land and in water.
  • Designs can be conveyed through sketches, drawings, or physical models. These representations are useful in communicating ideas for a problem’s solutions to other people

By the end of the labs in this unit, students will be able to:

  • Design and build several observational experiments to study plants and animals in their natural habitat.
  • Differentiate observation from inference (interpretation) and know scientists’ explanations come partly from what they observe and partly from how they interpret their observations.
  • Measure and estimate the weight, length and volume of objects.
  • Follow a set of written instructions for a scientific investigation.

Select a Lesson

Raising Orange Spotted Roaches
When you hear “roach” you might not immediately think of something that would make a good pet, but not all roaches are like the cockroaches you might have seen in your house! Species such as the Orange Spotted Roach (Blaptica dubia) make excellent insect pets: they don’t cost much, they have an interesting life cycle …Continue reading”Raising Orange Spotted Roaches”
Biological Nets
A biological net is one of the essential tools of a field biology researcher — you! A bio-net allows you to safely and gently gather samples. Whether you’re studying butterflies or tadpoles a bio-net is the tool to have! Important safety note: Do both of these with parental supervision. Many of the steps are tricky …Continue reading”Biological Nets”
Predator-Prey: Who Eats Whom?
The way animals and plants behave is so complicated because it not only depends on climate, water availability, competition for resources, nutrients available, and disease presence but also having the patience and ability to study them close-up. We’re going to build an eco-system where you’ll farm prey stock for the predators so you’ll be able …Continue reading”Predator-Prey: Who Eats Whom?”
Make an Insect Aspirator
Some insects are just too small! Even if we try to carefully pick them up with forceps, they either escape or are crushed. What to do? Answer: Make an insect aspirator! An insect aspirator is a simple tool scientists use to collect bugs and insects that are too small to be picked up manually. Basically …Continue reading”Make an Insect Aspirator”
Butterfly Life Cycle
Insects are not only the most diverse subgroup of arthropods, but with over a million discovered species it is the most diverse group of animals on earth. Although they can’t all be as beautiful as a butterfly, they all play important roles in their ecosystems—just think of where we would be without bees!
Family Pedigree
A pedigree analysis chart, usually used for families, allow us to visualize the inheritance of genotypes and phenotypes (traits). In this chart, the P, F1, and F2 generation are represented by the numerals I, II, and III respectively. Notice that those carrying the trait are colored red, and those not carrying the trait (the normal-looking …Continue reading”Family Pedigree”
Tracking Traits
Why do families share similar features like eye and hair color? Why aren’t they exact clones of each other? These questions and many more will be answered as well look into the fascinating world of genetics! Genetics asks which features are passed on from generation to generation in living things. It also tries to explain …Continue reading”Tracking Traits”
Classifying Objects
Grab a handful of buttons. Make sure there are all different kinds and colors.
Einstein’s Garden
Mass and energy are conserved. This means you can’t create or destroy them, but you can change their location or form. Most people don’t understand that the E energy term means all the energy transformations, not just the nuclear energy. The energy could be burning gasoline, fusion reactions (like in the sun), metabolizing your lunch, …Continue reading”Einstein’s Garden”
The Science of Broccoli
Broccoli, like all plants, has chlorophyll, making it green. You can really “see” the chlorophyll when you boil broccoli. This is such a simple experiment that you can do this as you prepare dinner tonight with your kids. Make sure you have an extra head of broccoli for this experiment, unless you really like to …Continue reading”The Science of Broccoli”
What Color Light Do Plants Like Best?
If you’re thinking sunlight, you’re right. Natural light is best for plants for any part of the plant’s life cycle. But what can you offer indoor plants? In Unit 9 we learned how light contains different colors (wavelengths), and it’s important to understand which wavelengths your indoor plant prefers. Plants make their food through photosynthesis: …Continue reading”What Color Light Do Plants Like Best?”
Giant Veggies!
Six-foot zucchini? Ten-foot carrots? Are giant veggies just a photography trick, or are they real? The happy news is that yes, they’re real! Expert horticulturists have accumulated a great wealth of knowledge about different climates and dirt conditions. They must know about the different chemical, physical and biological properties of gardens and do multiples of …Continue reading”Giant Veggies!”
Three Ways to Create a Plant
If you’ve ever eaten fruits or vegetables (and let’s hope you have), you have benefited from plants as food.  Of course, the plants we eat have been highly modified by growers to produce larger and sweeter fruit, or heartier vegetables. There are three basic ways to create plants with new, more desirable traits: