DNA – Paper Protein Chains Activity

Making protein chains – In this example, the color code is different than posted in the lesson, it was a prototype


  • Students will convert their name into a DNA sequence and create a protein chain.


  • Student Handout (DNAPaperProteinChainsActivity)
  • Amino Acid Handout (link)
  • pre-cut 2 inch wide strips of construction paper  (12×18) in the following colors – red*, pink, yellow, orange*, green, lt. blue, dk.blue, and black*
    • (*) be sure to have more of these colors since they are vowels
    • I used a paper cutter and was able to make a lot of strips very quickly ahead of time
  • markers
  • staplers
  • clothes pins and string to hang up in classroom


  1. This activity should be used after DNA and protein synthesis has been introduced. This activity will help reinforce the concept of how the sequence of DNA codons create specific amino acids, and in turn, the amino acids are joined together to create specific proteins. (link)
  2. Each student will write the letters from their first and last name onto the student handout.
  3. Using the chart, they will find the amino acid associated with the first letter of their first name.
  4. For example, if the first letter is “L”, it will code for Leucine. They will select one of the codons for Leucine and write it on their chart.
  5. Write the color of the paper link they will need for “L”, in this case, it is Red.
  6. Repeat for every letter in their name.
  7. Once their handout is completed, they will select the colored links, one for each letter of their name.
  8. The colored links will be placed in the same order as the letters in their name.
  9. On each link, write one of the codons for that letter. For example, “L” would be “CTT” on a Red link.
  10. Loop and staple the first letter of their name.
  11. Weave through the second letter and staple the loop closed.
  12. Continue until all the letters have been linked together.
  13. Hang up the protein chain, be sure to have the first letter of their name at the top.
  14. Look for patterns – what color was used the most? Which group of amino acids was it? Which group of amino acids was used the least? Who had the longest name? Etc.

Protein Synthesis (link)

Candle Observation Lab


Materials – per 2 students

  • votive candle
  • small beaker
  • large beaker
  • ruler
  • student handout (CandleObservations)
  • matches & beaker with water for spent matches
    • I light the candles for the students in this age group (6th)



  1. Discuss how candles work and the fire triangle (link)
  2. Discuss combustion and the chemical reactions that takes place when a candle burns
  3. Explain the lab procedures and remind students of safety protocols
  4. Students will record qualitative and quantitative observations of an unlit candle (5 minutes), burning candle (10 minutes), and a covered burning candle until it goes out and the wax hardens (5 minutes)
    • all students will place the larger beaker over the candle at the same time and watch as the candle goes out
  5. Share observations and discuss
Image via The Naked Scientist

I like to use this lab as part of my physical and chemical changes unit, it is such a classic and the kids make some great observations and ask lots of good questions.


Amoeba Sisters – Science Videos

I started using this series of videos for my 7th graders to review some of the concepts of Meiosis & DNA. The feedback from my students was that it was helpful so I wanted to share them on here as well. Please visit their Youtube Channel for more videos.

Sugar Density Column

Materials for the Experiment
Materials for the Experiment


  • Student Handout (pdf)
  • Food Coloring – Red, Blue, Yellow, & Green
  • Erlenmeyer flask filled with warm tap water
  • Graduated cylinder
  • 4 Stirrers/Sticks
  • 4 Pipettes
  • 1 Spoon
  • Granulated Sugar
  • 3 Test Tubes
  • Test Tube Rack
  • 4 Clear Cups


This sugar density activity is one I have never tried before, I actually ‘borrowed’ the idea from my son’s HS Chemistry Teacher. He came home and told me they made different colored layers using only sugar, food coloring, and water. I immediately jumped on the computer and thought about how to use this in my 6th grade classes, we are in the middle of our density unit and it would be a perfect opportunity to try it out.

One of my goals for this year is re-examine my lessons and see which activities I can make more open-ended when appropriate. For this activity, most of the resources I found told the students exactly how much sugar to put in each layer and what order to place the colors into the test tube or some other type of container. I didn’t want my students to follow step by step procedures, but wanted it to be more of an exploration type of activity. I had no idea how this would turn out but gave it shot anyway.

I gave them the problem, the parameters, the tools to complete the activity, and sent them on their way. It was great to see them figure out how to solve the problem, talk out strategies, and to see them go through the trial and error process. Each group came up with a different way to solve the problem and some groups struggled more than others. I met with each group to facilitate, ask questions, and had them explain to me what they were doing and why. Overall, it was a successful lesson, they enjoyed the activity, and it really solidified their understanding of density.

I am also incorporating more open ended writing in science and I enjoyed reading their reflections about the activity.


Super Easy to Make Cartesian Divers

Cartesian Divers - test out your divers in a beaker of water and then add to the 2L Bottle. Keep all your materials on the tray to manage spills.
Cartesian Divers – test out your divers in a beaker of water and then add to the 2L Bottle. Keep all your materials on the tray to manage spills.

This was the easiest, and most inexpensive way to make cartesian divers I have ever tried, and each student got to take theirs home after class. Did I mention how much fun it was?!

Rescue Hook: Attach 2 straws together and add a paper clip hook for rescue missions
Rescue Hook: Attach 2 straws together and add a paper clip hook for rescue missions


  • semi-transparent to transparent bendy straws – 1 per student
  • colored paper clips – 4-6 per student
  • scissors – 1 per 2-4 students
  • 2L bottle with cap – 1 per 2 students
  • beaker of water – 1 per 2-4 students
  • tray to contain spills -1 per 2 students
  • paper towels
  • optional: eye dropper with blue colored water

Part 1 – Demonstration:

As part of our density unit, we talk about the concept of buoyancy – why do objects float or sink? Using a 2L bottle of water, a glass medicine dropper, and some blue food coloring, we made guesses and observations about the cartesian diver.

The medicine dropper is filled with blue water, checked for buoyancy, and then added to a 2L bottle. Students gather to make observations. What do you think will happen when I squeeze the bottle? What will the blue water do? Why did it sink? Why did it float? What is happening to the air in the diver? What is the water doing? Did the mass of the diver change? The density? Students share their ideas and we come to a conclusion as to why the diver floats and sinks.

Part 2 – Build and Explore:

After the demonstrations, students get to build their own divers and explore on their own. Some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Be careful bending the straw, any cracks will make the the straw useless.
  2. After bending the straw, cut off the excess length of straw so that both side are equal in length. (You can save the rest of the straw for future activities)
  3. Attach one paper clip as shown in the diagram below. Additional paper clips can be easily added or removed by sliding them on or off the main paper clip. (Like keys on a keychain)
  4. Use a rescue hook for any divers that do not float back to the top.
  5. Remind students to place the cap back on the bottle TIGHTLY – or water will shoot out of the bottle when they squeeze it.
  6. Lunch or serving trays work nicely to contain spills.
Source: Wikipedia
Cartesian Divers: Students can race their divers, who will sink faster? Slower? Float up to the top faster? Slower? Try different modifications and see what happens!

Density – Identification Challenge



  • Flinn Scientfic Block set (link) & Resources/Handout (pdf)
  • Ruler
  • Calculator
  • Triple Beam Balance
  • Worksheet to collect data (pdf)

For this activity, I used the set of density blocks from Flinn Scientific. Each group of students had 6 blocks made of the same material. Their challenge was to identify the material using their measurement skills to calculate the mass, volume, and density of each block. This activity also reinforced the concept that the density of an object is constant.

Triple Beam Balance – Bottles of Stuff!



  • Single Serving Size (1L or less) bottles filled with various items
    • students brought in materials of their choice over the course of a week
  • Triple Beam Balance (TBB)
  • Mass Set
  • Student Handout (Triple Beam Balance Bottles pdf)


Procedures – Part 1

  1. Provide each lab group with an assortment of bottles
  2. Students will arrange the bottles from lightest to heaviest by making observations
  3. They will record the order of the bottles and their contents with #1 as the lightest and #10 the heaviest on their handout
    • my groups used 9 bottles, but there is room on the handout for 10
  4. Using the set of masses, they will estimate the mass of each bottle by holding a bottle in one hand and a mass in the other hand, recording their estimations on the handout


Procedures – Part 2

  1. Students will transfer their estimation to the back page
  2. Using the TBB they will record the actual masses of the bottles
  3. Then they will rank the bottles from lightest (#1) to heaviest (#10) and compare their estimation to the actual masses. How close were the estimations to the actual masses? Did they place the bottles in the correct order?


Bottle # Mass (g) Bottle # Mass (g) Bottle # Mass (g)
1 126.9 14 281 27 192.3
2 72.9 15 336.5 28 330.9
3 29.6 16 223 29 465
4 438 17 70 30 195
5 202.1 18 36.43 31 59.1
6 166 19 185 32 168.8
7 63.1 20 88 33 33
8 301.5 21 140.1 34 100
9 224 22 49.1 35 402.5
10 610+ 23 73.3 36 187.1
11 67.1 24 54.9 37 318.4
12 251.8 25 27.5 38
13 410.1 26 406 39

You can also use these bottles as part of your density unit, see my blog entry for more information.

CK-12 Online Textbook

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 5.38.37 PM

Our 7th grade science teachers, including me, are testing out the CK-12 online textbook and resources this year. We have a 1-1, 24/7, laptop program where 7th and 8th graders have school issued laptops and can bring them home at night and on the weekends.

You can create your own textbook from scratch by making selections from the thousands of resources, or use the one they have as a guide and pick and choose what you would like the students to access.

You can create your own group, invite students join, assign reading or quiz assignments, and check on their progress.

Has anyone else tried CK-12? If so, would love to hear your thoughts on it.

Here is the life science Flex-Book: http://www.ck12.org/life-science/ 

First 2 weeks of school

These first 2 weeks flew by! What we covered in class so far:

  • Day 1 & 2 – Introductions, Scavenger Hunt (blog link), & prep for our YMCA trip
  • Days 3-4 – YMCA overnight trip
  • Day 5 – Cup Stacking Challenge (blog link)
    • This was the first time I tried this activity, and I was really happy with how well it worked in the classroom. Students were engaged and worked as a team to complete each challenge. Due to time, most groups did not complete all 6 of the tasks, but that wasn’t my goal. Collaboration, Communication, and Perseverance were my objectives.
  • Day 6 – Nature of Science (Tangrams Activity) (link) & Intro to “I am a scientist” (blog link)
    • This was the first time I used this activity and it lead to a nice discussion about learning new things, being challenged, and persevering and how somethings seem really hard at first, but then once you master it, it becomes easier.
  • Day 7 – I am a scientist & Instagram (blog link)
    • I am in the process of collecting the Instagrams that the kids drew and they came out great! I will post some examples next week.
  • Day 8 – SpongeBob safety scenarios (blog link)
    • This was an updated version of an activity that I have done each year, and it was much more engaging for the students, they enjoyed the challenge of finding the broken rules. This also reinforced their reading comprehension, being able to use clues from the text, evaluating text, summarizing the safety rules into 2-3 words only, to name a few.

Some pictures from my 6th grade classroom:

Working as a team to complete a task
Working as a team to complete a task
Cup Stacking Challenge – Challenge #4
20150915_094229 (1)
Cup Stacking Challenge – trying to pick up a cup that fell over without using your hands
Tangram Challenge – How can we fit in the extra piece?
SpongeBob Safety Scenarios – finding the safety violations, identifying the rules, and summarizing them into 2-3 words – can you find all of them?

Density Bottles Demo

Density Bottles
Density Bottles: Sand, Air, Rice, Water, & Cotton Balls in 500 mL bottles

How to use density bottles:

Demo & Discussion – For this part of the lesson, students will not handle the bottles, they will answer discussion questions based on their observations only.

  1. Share observations about the bottles.
  2. What do the bottles have in common?
  3. What is different about the bottles?
  4. What do you think the original contents of the bottle were?
  5. What phases of matter are shown?
  6. Are any of these bottles empty? Explain.
  7. Do all of these bottles have air in them?
  8. Which bottle has more air in it: Cotton Balls or Water? Explain.
  9. Which bottle is filled the most? Least?
  10. Which bottle has has the most ‘stuff’ in it? Least?
  11. Which bottle is the heaviest? Lightest?
  12. How would you order these bottles from lightest to heaviest?
  13. Estimate the mass of each bottle in grams.
  14. Which bottle is the densest?
  15. How would you arrange these bottles from least to most dense?
  16. Which of these bottles can have more of the same ‘stuff’ added to the inside of the bottle? Explain.
  17. Which bottle(s) would float in a tank of water? (I do this at the very end of the lesson with everyone at the sink)

Hands On Exploration

  1. Each group will have one set of bottles or take turns using the demo bottles and sharing their findings.
  2. Using a triple beam balance, the volume of the bottles, and a tank of water, answer as many of the questions above as you can. (for our calculations, we use the volume of the bottle’s original content (500 mL of sport drink) to give us an approximate density, not the actual density – for comparison purposes only)
  3. How did your findings compare to your observations and predictions?
  4. Dunk tank – time to find out which one will float!

Further Exploration

Give each group of students a new set of bottles (ones that they have brought in from home) and have them make observations, predictions, and density calculations.

Additional Bottle Ideas:

  • Rocks/pebbles
  • laundry detergent – liquid or powder
  • paper clips
  • paper shreds
  • crayons
  • marbles
  • flour
  • bread crumbs
  • coffee beans
  • beans
  • different shapes of pasta
  • pom-poms
  • pop corn kernels or popped
  • Lego pieces
  • salt
  • dish-soap
  • beads
  • yarn/string
  • etc…

Have each student bring in a bottle from home filled with the contents of their choice so that you have enough bottle to compare. Match similar bottle shapes/sizes together for each group or match similar contents in different sized bottles for comparison.

You can also use these bottles as part of a Triple Beam Balance Activity (blog entry).