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PA Standards Aligned with SIM Biology Labs


Investigating Enzymes (AP Lab)

Extract the enzyme catalase (peroxidase) from potato cells, and investigate the variables that affect enzyme function (substrate and enzyme concentration, temperature, pH, salinity) using laptop computers and Vernier gas pressure sensors. This lab can be completed in a single period with groups investigating different variables or in a double period with time for additional variables. (40 minutes with data sharing; 80 minutes with additional variables)

Energy in Foods

Students calculate the Calories present in various foods by burning them and measuring the associated change in temperature of water using laptop computers and Vernier temperature probes. This lab can be completed in a single period or in a double period with time for additional tests. (40 minutes; 80 minutes with additional tests)

The Effect of Acids and Bases on Biological Materials

Using laptop computers and Vernier pH probes, students investigate the buffering capacity of a variety of biological and non-biological materials demonstrating the stability of pH in the event of environmental changes. pH is also explored as an element of the Investigating Enzymes and the What Chemicals can Affect Biological Membranes? labs as well as in the Acid Rain ecology lab. (40 minutes)

Protein Electrophoresis

Using gel electrophoresis, students separate proteins by size and charge. Using precast polyacrylamide gels, students investigate the proteins extracted from fish muscle in the protein fingerprinting lab Something Fishy about Evolution or in the forensic lab Species Substitution. These labs are 2 day labs with the first day spent in extraction of protein and loading of gels (a fast paced 40 minutes) and the second day in analysis of stained and destained gels (40 minutes). Gels must destain overnight. Protein electrophoresis can also be performed as a final step in the purification of the Green Fluorescent Protein in the Genetic Engineering section.

Amino Acid Starter Kit

The Amino Acid Sidechain Kit is designed to allow students to explore how the unique chemical properties of each of the 20 amino acids determine the final shape of a protein. Students explore the shape and chemical properties of the 20 amino acid sidechains with engaging foam models. The sidechains feature dual coloring schemes - color on one side indicates chemical properties and on the other side students color-code atoms. Since understanding protein structure begins with this unique combination of shape and chemical properties of the amino acid sidechains, students will gain a basic knowledge of the laws that determine protein folding. This is a loaner item that comes with a CD guide of activities.

Cell Biology

Why Are Cells Small?

Use agarose cubes to demonstrate the effect of the surface area to volume ratio on diffusion of nutrients in cells. The release of sodium and chloride ions from the cubes into distilled water is measured with a Vernier Conductivity Probe and data recorded with a laptop computer. (40 minutes)

Investigating Diffusion (AP Lab)

Using Vernier Conductivity probes and laptop computers, students investigate the process of diffusion using dialysis tubing. (40 minutes)

What Chemicals Can Affect Biological Membranes?

Using beet cubes and Vernier Colorimeters, students can study the effects of alcohol, pH, detergent and salt on the cell membrane. (40 minutes with some data sharing between groups) See also Effect of Alcohol on Biological Membranes in Health and Human Biology.

Are Seeds Alive? (AP Lab - Cellular Respiration)

Using Vernier oxygen and carbon dioxide gas sensors, students can compare germinating and non-germinating pea seeds to observe that germinating seeds (as well as plants) do use oxygen and give off carbon dioxide as they perform cellular respiration. (40 minutes for basic lab; 80 minutes with addition of temperature variable)

Exploring Cellular Respiration with Yeast Cells

Which Sugars do Yeast Cells Prefer?

Using a Vernier carbon dioxide gas sensor, students evaluate the effectiveness of four different sugars as a food source for yeast cells. This lab can also be performed using popular drinks that contain different sugars (sports drinks, fruit juices, etc) (40 minutes with sharing of data between groups; 80 minutes for all variables)

Does Temperature Affect Cellular Respiration?

Students investigate the effect of temperature on the rate of respiration in yeast cells undergoing fermentation or aerobic respiration. (40 minutes) (Crickets can also be used as the experimental organism for this investigation. See How Does Temperature Affect Poikilotherms?)

Lactase Action

Students will test the action of lactase by testing for the presence of glucose in a test system and determine if yeast can metabolize glucose, lactose, or galactose by monitoring production of carbon dioxide with a Vernier carbon dioxide gas sensor. (40 minutes with group data sharing)

DNA, Genetics and Genetic Engineering

Preparing a Human Karyotype

Students prepare a human karyotype to view chromosomes, using cells from a human tumor cell line, (HeLa) and a splat preparation technique, and then study the chromosomes using light microscopes. Slides are prepared and stained in the first class period. Slides can be observed under oil immersion the next day. ( 2-40 minutes classes; slides must dry 24-48 hrs. before use under oil immersion)

DNA Fingerprinting

Using a restriction enzyme digest of DNA, students use agarose gel electrophoresis to prepare and analyze a DNA fingerprint. Gels are stained and analyzed to determine size of DNA fragments and introduce the concept of a molecular weight standard curve. Day 1 of the lab is the electrophoresis of the DNA and Day 2 is the preparation of a standard curve and analysis of DNA size. DNA fingerprinting is an element of the Crime Scene lab in the Forensics section. (Two 40 minutes classes; gels stain overnight)

Electrophoresis of Restriction Digests of Lambda DNA (AP Lab)

Students use agarose gel electrophoresis to analyze lambda DNA fragments and determine molecular weight. Gels are stained and analyzed to determine size of DNA fragments and introduce the concept of a molecular weight standard curve. Day 1 of the lab is the electrophoresis of the DNA and Day 2 is the preparation of a standard curve and analysis of DNA size. (Two 40 minutes classes; gels stain overnight)

Genetic Engineering in the Classroom (pGLO Bacterial Transformation - AP Lab)

Students use bacterial transformation techniques to create E. coli bacteria that glow in the dark by introducing a plasmid with genes from a glowing jellyfish species. This a 2 day lab with the transformation accomplished in the first day and analysis of resultant colonies using UV light the second day. The experiment can be extended by growing up a culture of the glowing bacteria and purifying the green fluorescent protein using column chromatography. (Two 40 minutes classes; bacteria must grow overnight)

Crime Scene PCR

This lab is an introduction to the PCR technique and to the use of STRs (short tandem repeats) in the forensic analysis of DNA. Students perform PCR reactions on provided DNA templates representing a crime scene DNA sample and DNA from 4 suspects. The resulting PCR products are separated on high percentage agarose gels. Following agarose gel electrophoresis, students stain the gels to visualize the products, compare them to a DNA ladder of possible alleles, and assign a genotype for the DNA samples. Students will then look to see if any of the suspects' genotype matches the crime scene, and see whether they can identify the perpetrator. This lab can act as a standalone lab or can be used as the DNA portion of the Biology Crime Scene. (Three 40 minute periods)

Genetically Modified Organism PCR

Students engage in a complete investigation in which they choose sample food items obtained from the grocery store, extract DNA from the samples, amplify the DNA using PCR, and use gel electrophoresis to identify the presence or absence of amplified GMO sequences. This lab is a multi-day lab: foods are extracted for DNA on day 1, PCR reactions are set up on day 2 and run overnight, electrophoresis of DNA is done on day 3 with gels stained overnight, and results are analyzed on day 4.


How Does Temperature Affect Poikilotherms?

(Another approach to Cellular Respiration) Students study the effect of temperature on the metabolism of “cold-blooded” organisms, by monitoring the carbon dioxide production of crickets at various temperatures. (40 minutes with data sharing)


Biology Crime Scene

When presented with a crime scene and evidence, students compare the effectiveness of DNA evidence with traditional fingerprinting, blood typing, and hair analysis techniques. Students will use gel electrophoresis to prepare and analyze a DNA fingerprint in the process of completing this investigation. (Three to four 40 minute periods depending on elements chosen)

Species Substitution

The marinated fish at the exclusive restaurant is advertised as red snapper. But is it really? Using fresh fish samples, students will extract proteins and analyze them using SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis to determine which fish species is actually the special of the day. ( Two 40 minute classes; gels must destain overnight)

Health and Human Biology

EKG/Heart Rate/Respiration (AP Lab)

Using laptop computers and Vernier Sensors, students

  • Use the EKG Sensor to collect an EKG waveform; determine the time interval between EKG events; calculate heart rate based on the EKG recording. 
  • Use hand grip heart rate monitors to determine the effect of body position on heart rates; the effect of exercise on heart rates; evaluate overall fitness level.
  • Use the respiration sensor to monitor the respiratory rate of an individual; evaluate the effect of holding of breath on the respiratory cycle; evaluate the effect of rebreathing of air on the respiratory cycle.

(40 minutes for each of the component of this description. The labs can be scheduled individually) Teaching stethoscopes and semi-automatic blood pressure monitors are available as equipment loans.

Blood Pressure

A number of blood pressure labs are available using the Vernier Blood Pressure sensor. These include Blood Pressure as a Vital Sign which includes baseline blood pressure measurements and blood pressure response to cold, and Blood Pressure and Exercise measuring baseline blood pressure and blood pressure following exercise. Other labs from the Vernier physiology book combine blood pressure and heart rate measurement

Pressures Underfoot

Students explore the biomechanics of their own body by determining foot area, foot pressure, and force due to gravity using the computer and the Vernier force sensor and the Novel pressure platform. (40 minutes)

Effect of Alcohol on Biological Membranes

Students study the stress that alcohols (methanol, ethanol and propanol) have on biological membranes, using beet cells and a Vernier Colorimeter linked to the computer to measure cellular damage. (40 minutes)

Disease Transmission

Using the technique of ELISA (Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbant Assay) students track the spread of a disease outbreak and assay for the presence of the disease antigen. (40 minutes)

Transfusion Confusion (Blood Typing)

Wiley has had an unfortunate accident. He may need a blood transfusion. Which one of his siblings, David, Jane, or John can donate blood to their desperate brother? Using simulated blood, samples are typed into blood and Rh groups using A, B, and Rh antisera. Antigens and antibodies are discussed as the students solve the medical dilemma. (40 minutes)

Lung Volumes and Capacities

Measurement of lung volumes using the Vernier spirometer provides a tool for understanding normal function of the lungs as well as disease states. In this experiment, students will measure lung volumes during normal breathing and with maximum effort and will correlate lung volumes with a variety of clinical scenarios. From the LabPro data collection, students will determine tidal volume, inspiratory reserve, and expiratory reserve and from these numbers will calculate vital capacity and total lung capacity. (40 minutes)

Grip Strength Comparison and Grip Strength and Muscle Fatigue

These labs use the Vernier Hand Dynamometer to measure grip strength, pinch strength, and to perform muscle fatigue studies. In Grip Strength Comparison, students measure and compare grip strength in the right and left hand collecting maximum force and mean force data for each hand. Students also compare pinch strengths of the individual fingers of the dominant hand. Class data can be compiled and correlated with gender and height. Grip Strength and Muscle Fatigue examines the effect of fatigue on muscle action as students perform sustained and repetitive isometric contractions of the hand and arm muscles using the hand dynamometer. Students will generate a graphical representation of the force exerted by the hand while gripping. They also observe the change in hand strength over time using first a continuous grip and then a repetitive grip. These experiments give students a great visual representation of the forces generated as a muscle is fatigued. These activities appeal to the fitness-oriented crowd and may generate a sense of competitiveness among those sports participants. (each lab requires a 40 minute period)

Neuromuscular Reflexes

The EKG sensor can be used to measure the electrical activity resulting from contraction of muscles other than the heart. Students will use the Vernier EKG sensor to obtain a graphical representation of the electrical activity of a muscle activated by the patellar reflex arc. They will observe the effect of the central nervous system influence on reflex amplitude by measuring the relative strength of the patellar reflex with and without reinforcement. (40 minute period)

Digital Microscopy

Boreal digital microscopes and a dedicated set of 6 laptop computers that utilize Motic software can be a great learning tool for your classroom. Slides are viewed on the computer screen making it a great set-up for lab group participation and communication. Still images can be captured with the software and saved as jpg files that can then be used by students or teachers in written or PowerPoint presentations. The software has a measurement feature that will allow students to analyze many size parameters of the images. Video images can also be captured and reviewed again and again by students. The digital scopes have been used in the hair analysis for crime scene, to view slides prepared in the human chromosome splat lab, as an introduction to microscopy, and to survey and classify pond water samples or bacterial cultures. Many teachers reserve the digital microscopes as a loan to give students time to learn the software and to become comfortable with this type of microscopy.

Introduction to Digital Microscopy

This lab provides a refresher in skills with the microscope, and slide preparation and an introduction to some of the features of the digital microscope. (40 minutes or longer if combined with plasmolysis activities)

Observing and Measuring Plasmolysis of Elodea through Digital Microscopy

Students will use the digital microscopes to observe both normal plant cells and plasmolyzed plant cells noting changes in the internal structure of the cell. The common aquarium plant, Elodea, will be used in this lab. (40 minutes)


Acid Rain

Using the Vernier pH probes, students explore how varying sources of the acid in “acid rain” may affect ecosystems differently, and learn why some bodies of water are more vulnerable to acid rain than others. (40 minutes)

Biodiversity and Ecosystems

Students explore how biodiversity creates differing microclimates as they explore the plant and animal diversity in different locations and relate it to the environment's temperature measured with the Vernier temperature probe. (40 minutes for limited collection; 80 minutes more variables)

Population Dynamics

Phases of population growth are tracked through a population of yeast cells in a closed environment, using a Colorimeter and laptop computers to evaluate population density. This lab is available as an equipment loan. (Nine 40 minute classes)

Measuring Primary Productivity (AP Lab)

Students use Vernier Dissolved Oxygen probes to investigate the use of oxygen by photosynthetic algae in both light and dark conditions. By comparing oxygen produced with oxygen consumed, students can calculate both gross and net primary productivity as they address the misconception that plants don’t require oxygen. (Two 40 minute classes; requires an overnight incubation period)

Water Quality Testing

A variety of Vernier probes [including Temperature, Dissolved Oxygen, Conductivity, Nitrate, pH, Turbidity, Ammonium, Calcium (Water Hardness), Chloride (Salinity), Flow Rate] can be used to evaluate the quality of different water samples. The probes may be used with the LabPro and a laptop computer or with a LabPro remote collection method. (40 minute in-lab with 1-2 samples; more time if in field)

Greenhouse Effect

Using what students know about sunlight, temperature, greenhouses, and global warming, they will first make predictions and then collect data using two Vernier Temperature Probes to measure and compare the temperatures in model greenhouses under various conditions. (40 minutes)


Bacterial Inhibition

Students learn the importance of antibiotics and antiseptics in inhibiting the growth of bacteria. Non-pathenogenic species are plated on growth media along with various antibiotic and antiseptic disks. Zones of inhibition are observed and recorded by students. (Two 40 minute classes; requires an overnight incubation)

Gram Stain Technique

Students learn the traditional method to classify bacteria by preparing bacterial smears and treating slides with crystal violet, Gram’s Iodine, decolorizing solution, and safranin. Bacterial smears can be classified as Gram positive (purple) or Gram negative (pink) and physical characteristics are described as students observe results with the light microscopes. (40 minutes for slide preparation; 40 minutes for observation)

Population Dynamics

Phases of population growth are tracked through a population of yeast cells in a closed environment, using a Colorimeter and laptop computers to evaluate population density. This lab is available as an equipment loan. (Nine 40 minute classes) 


Investigating Water Movement in Plants (AP Lab)

Students use a Vernier Gas Pressure sensor to track movement of water through a plant stem as transpiration occurs, then manipulate environmental variables that may affect the transpiration rate. (40 minutes possible with instructor set-up; 80 minutes with student set-up)

Do Plants Need Oxygen? (Measuring Primary Productivity (AP Lab)

Students use Vernier Dissolved Oxygen probes to investigate the use of oxygen by photosynthetic algae in both light and dark conditions. By comparing oxygen produced with oxygen consumed, students can calculate both gross and net primary productivity as they address the misconception that plants don’t require oxygen. This a 2 day lab involving an overnight incubation period. (Two 40 minute classes; requires an overnight incubation period)

Photosynthesis and Respiration

Students use sensors to measure carbon dioxide consumed or produced by plant leaves to determine the rate of respiration and photosynthesis. (40 minutes)

Photosynthesis and Plant Pigments (AP lab)

Students follow the photosynthesis reaction in a preparation of chloroplasts using a blue dye (2,6-dichlorophenol-indophenol, or DPIP) to replace NADPH in the light reactions. When the dye is oxidized, it is blue. When reduced, it turns colorless. Since DPIP replaces NADPH in the light reactions, it will turn from blue to colorless when reduced during photosynthesis. This color change is measured with the Vernier Colorimenter and data points are plotted to obtain a rate of photosynthesis. Plant pigments may be separated using paper chromatography to complete the AP requirements for this lab. (each segment of the lab requires 40 minutes)


Bacterial Sensitivity to Silver Nanoparticles

Many products contain silver nonoparticles and claim to inhibit bacteria growth thus reducing odors or spoilage. Student will synthesize their own silver nonoparticles and test for antimicrobial effects. (Two 40 minutes classes; requires an overnight incubation)


Determination of Chlorophyll in Olive Oil

Students use the Vernier SpectroVis to differentiate between various grades (extra virgin, regular and light) of olive oil. (40 minutes)

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