Posts Tagged ‘biology’

You Can Order Live Amoebas!

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013


You can order live amoebas! You ask, “Why on earth would I want to order live amoebas?” Well, if you are studying biology and you are not impressed by the dead amoeba specimen in the slide set, you will want to order a live amoeba so that you can actually see it move! You know, with its pseudopods squishing along.

Of course, I was reluctant when my son began begging me for live amoebas. After all, I grew up in a third-world country where I suffered from amoebas all the time. Let me tell you, they are everywhere: in the water, in the strawberries, in the ice cubes… Don’t drink the water from third-world countries. Just don’t.

But the sweet begging of my son and the fact that he had aced his biology exams at age 11 caused me to re-examine my reluctance. After talking it over with my husband, we decided to order them. My son screamed, “Yes!!” as if he had scored a goal.

We ordered our live amoebas from this company. I was disappointed by 2 things:

  1. It looks like they only cost $7, but they force you to do at least 2-day shipping (or the amoebas will die), so it’s more like $30. I would rather they had said, “This will cost you a total of $30, plus any medicine you will need to get rid of the sickness in your house.” (I’m just kidding about the sickness. None of us got sick.) But the amoebas cost $30. I still think they were worth ordering.
  2. When the flask arrived in the mail, my son jumped up and down like it was Christmas. At first we could not find ANY amoebas. They say there are enough amoebas for a classroom full of 30 kids, so I was expecting the amoebas to be easy to find. My son’s right eyeball was going blurry as he asked me to please look until my right eye went blurry. Then I called my husband to come home from work and look, and of course, my husband found one. Because he is my knight in shining armor, and he always saves the day in our homeschool.

live-amoebasMy son squealed with delight when we actually captured the moving amoeba with his microscopic camcorder he got for Christmas last year. He was excited to see the live amoebas moving around with their pseudopods, sloshing along. We filmed the amoebas with a micro-camera, and we will be uploading the video to the huge biology section of the Unit Study Treasure Vault. (You should join the Vault if you are studying biology, because there are lots of fun videos and printables of every topic covered in a typical high school biology textbook.)

Thankfully none of us got sick, and we disposed of the amoebas in a sealed container in the trash. Since amoebas need oxygen to survive, they pretty much die within a few days.

I must say that the live amoebas looked “gorgeous,” according to my son. They looked like they were full of Christmas lights, since they had lots of vacuoles for getting rid of excess water. The nucleus kept moving around, and the amoeba squished itself forward, right in front of our eyes. Amazing!

Amoeba Cake

Monday, November 25th, 2013


Amoeba cake?! You’ve got to be kidding me! That doesn’t sound very appetizing… But my son wants to be a microbiologist, so guess what kind of cake I made him for his birthday this year? You guessed it: Amoeba cake.

Before I explain how to decorate the cake, look at the cool invitation we made for his amoeba birthday party:


How to Decorate an Amoeba Cake:

  1. Bake a rectangle cake. Make it whatever flavor you want.
  2. Cut a piece of cardboard larger than the cake and cover it with foil, taping down the edges underneath.
  3. Sprinkle flour on a cutting board. Grab the rectangle cake while it is still hot and up-end it onto the cutting board. With a knife, cut the rectangle into an amoeba shape.
  4. Pick up the cake and place it on the foiled cardboard. Put it in the refrigerator for an hour or two.
  5. Stir some blue food coloring into the white vanilla icing. Ice the cake.
  6. Grab some candy to represent the organelles, and decorate the Amoeba cake. We used a peppermint patty for the nucleus, round mints for the contractile vacuoles which pump water out of the cell, and M&M’s for the food vacuoles.
  7. We outlined the cake with chocolate frosting. You can do this cheaply by putting the frosting into a Ziplock bag, and snipping off the corner. Then squeeze the frosting out like toothpaste.

amoeba-boxYour Amoeba cake is now complete and ready to eat! Enjoy!

As a side note, my daughter made an amoeba box out of construction paper and tape, with an amoeba colored on the outside of the box. She created some bookmarks for her brother’s birthday and put them inside the box. Isn’t the box cute?

For hundreds of fun biology activities and videos, join the Unit Study Treasure Vault.


Growing a Bean Seed

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013


Kids of all ages can learn a lot by growing a bean seed, from toddlers to high school biology students. It’s fun to watch life sprout from a seed.

If you want to grow a bean seed, you will obviously need dry bean seeds, which you can buy at a grocery store. You will also need a wet paper towel and a Ziplock bag.

Place a few bean seeds into a wet paper towel, and place them in a Ziplock bag. It’s that easy. Wait a week, then open it up and have your kids observe what happened. The beans will have sprouted, and if you leave the beans in the bag for another week, they will desperately search for sunshine by peeking around the paper towel.

In this video, I will show you the different parts of a bean seed, as described in botany and biology textbooks. The bean seed is a dicot, meaning that it has two cotyledons or embyonic leaves. The cotyledons are used for food for the developing embyo:

Have fun growing a bean seed! Then grow other seeds and compare them!

Growing a Sweet Potato in Water

Monday, May 27th, 2013


Growing a sweet potato in water is a great way to see plant roots growing. You will need a sweet potato, a jar, water, and four toothpicks.

You will want to dip the sweet potato into the water about a third of the way down. Stab the toothpicks into the potato to keep it in place. Fill the jar with water. Now watch the roots grow right in front of your very eyes.

First you will see stubble, like a man who hasn’t shaved in a couple of days. This happens within the first few days. Then a few of the roots grow longer, branching out with root hairs. Since the jar is clear, you can see all this happening.

Other people buy expensive kits that have glass walls on either side so that you can see the roots of carrots and radishes growing, but the dirt is still in the way. With growing a sweet potato in water, you can see the root developing without any dirt in the way, and it doesn’t cost a lot.

growing-a-sweet-potato-in-water-2In biology this year, we studied the sections of a root, looking at the root under a microscope. The children were fascinated when they looked at prepared slides of monocot and dicot roots, which apparently have a different structure. Monocot roots have a circle shape in the middle, whereas dicots have an X shape.

The main way to know if a plant is monocot or dicot is to look at its leaves. If the leaves are straight up and down like leaves of grass, it’s a monocot. If the leaf has veins branching out, it’s a dicot.

You can see all the other activities we did in biology this year in the Unit Study Treasure Vault.

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