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Life Science

Engaging Activities

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Victoria Chanda Victoria Chanda 2280 Points

Can anyone recommend engaging activities focusing on Life Science geared towards fifth grade? I was thinking of doing an experiment where you extract DNA from wheat germs, but I'm not sure if it is appropriate for fifth grade. I didn't learn about DNA until high-school but am not sure what is being taught in fifth grade science.

Emily Frazee Emily Frazee 2085 Points

What area of life science are they working on? I would look at the curriculum and see what they are learning about, or even a quick assessment of what they know. I think making models is always engaging and it makes things more "real" to students. I remember building my own cell in 6th grade science which was fun, I did a cookie (did not eat it though) but I think making models with clay or play-dough would be doable for several aspects of life science.

Jillian Rose Jillian Rose 3585 Points

Here is a website with some neat ideas for life science and 5th grade. I think the "Find out why leaves change color" and the "Reaction time: How fast are you?" seem nice and would appeal to 5th grade students. This website does have several so you should be able to select one that fits in with your school curriculum.

Irini Salamah Irini Salamah 855 Points

Here's a great site for activities for elementary aged children. Good luck!

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 87033 Points

Hi Victoria,
What state do you expect to be teaching in? I would start with the state's science standards for that grade level. That will help you narrow down the content areas that you should be considering.
Here is an engaging lesson on Coffee Can Speakers - Coffee Can Speakers: Amazing Energy Transformers
And here is one on Simple Machines in the Community.
Then here is one on chemical changes: Indicators for Inquiry


Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68555 Points

StarGenetics is a Mendelian genetics cross simulator developed at MIT by biology faculty, researched-trained scientists and technologists at MIT's OEIT. StarGenetics allows students to simulate mating experiments between organisms that are genetically different across a range of traits to analyze the nature of the traits in question. Its goal is to teach students about genetic experimental design and genetic concepts

Kendra Young Kendra Young 17180 Points

Hi Victoria!

Like the others, I would love to hear more about your state standards. But there is a super cool experiment with DNA that I've been dying to try for years but just haven't had the opportunity in my own classroom - but it might be perfect for yours!

DNA is such an abstract concept and your students are so young that "seeing" their own DNA would be a HUGE benefit for them. In this experiment, students extract some of their own DNA that is "teased out" with chemicals and stored in a necklace that they get to keep.

The kit is kind of pricey, but is pretty convenient if you've never done this sort of thing before (I usually buy the kit for the first time I try something new, but then re-create it on my own the next time once I get the hang of it). Anyway, here's the kit and wouldn't you know it, NSTA has an article that tells you how to extract the DNA - without a kit. It's titled Extracting the Max from DNA Extraction!

Let us know what those specific state standards are and we'd love to help you brainstorm!

Happy sciencing!

Michele Bloomquist Michele Bloomquist 2395 Points

When using DNA topics of transcription and translation, I like to dazzle the students with visualizations of the molecule and how fast this all occurs. I have listed several interactive sites on a power point which I display in my website. All they need to do for hours of fun is to click on the links and go. I am in the process of trying to develop some worksheets to go with this. But one activity that seems to suffice is to give them a scenario that is problem based. They are to develop a video in which they illustrate to young children (through the sixth grade level) how to construct proteins from DNA. This includes of course transcription and translation. Their representations could easily be generated using candies of various desciprtions, icing, and other edible arrangements that can be set out and described verbally as the group makes a video descriptor of the processes (including verbalizations). The whole must be done in a limited time frame (two hours) and presented and edited for the entire class. We also pretend it is for a prize (call it the x prize). Students were able to make amazing videos and loved every minute!

Adah Stock Adah Stock 101510 Points

Have you looked into Project Wild activities? These are good activities that are gauged to elementary and middle school students. Adah

Michele Bloomquist Michele Bloomquist 2395 Points

While this may seem too simple, try teacher tube DNA or cells. I think having them visualize the DNA is essential to understanding something about the way it works in translating and transcribing proteins. When they look at how whales evolved, maybe they can imagine the transition over long periods of time in terms of mutation or gradual change. Also, they may grasp how structural proteins or enzymes vary according to species but not so much so that the tree of life can be reconstructed from the DNA evidence. I would have them create a journal in which they made various studies of how DNA constructs life as we know it using the platforms they discover and you provide. Colorful, pictorial, and memorable, the journal is an all time great. Hve them create a timeline of DNA discoveries and the scientists who made them.

Michele Bloomquist Michele Bloomquist 2395 Points

Try teacher tube. Go with a colorful reflection journal using a timeline of DNA discoveries and the scientists who made them. Create a DNA from candy (use licorce and gummy bears along with toothpicks. Make a video of them extracting strawberry dna (easier I think than wheat germ). Examine an egg and find the nucleus and so forth. Reflections on how DNA evolves organisms through mutations is a good platform for a discussion of how proteins evolve through mechanisms of natural selection and mutations(examine the changes in whale mitochondrial DNA over millions of years for a unique twist).

TraciAnn Harada TraciAnn Harada 1540 Points

I remember when I was in fifth grade we dissected squid. It was pretty cool just to see the different part of an animal. You could probably also do fish. I think that it would help get the students interest in science and it is a great hands on activity. They could also try out different ways to grow plants. Let them decide what might be important (light vs no light, water vs no water or even salt water, oxygen or open air vs in a bottle) Just a couple ideas. But like it has been stated above, you should probably look at the state standards and go for there. Good luck!

Jennifer Glass Jennifer Webber 770 Points

If DNA is the focus for your school/state/grade, we did DNA extraction from a strawberry in 7th grade and it works pretty well as well as uses materials that are easily to access (it works well with peas too).

Brandi Schonberg Brandi Schonberg 720 Points

We did banana DNA extraction in was FUN!! Others do the strawberry DNA extraction. The kids enjoyed it.

TraciAnn Harada TraciAnn Harada 1540 Points

I think the students will be excited to be exposed DNA, anything that will peak the interest of the students and science would be great. Maybe you could start off with a chart that has features like eye shape, eye color, nose, hitch hikers thumb etc. Then maybe you could have a discussion on why everyone looks different even if they have very similar DNA (Family members). Then maybe after discussing DNA you could do an extraction, even if they don't know all the details they would still enjoy seeing it.

Osamu Ono Osamu Ono 220 Points

Victoria, I actually just did a DNA extraction lab using strawberries with my high school students, but I think this can be used at middle school and elementary level as well. Buying the strawberries might be a little expensive (at least here in Hawaii), but other than that, the lab materials are pretty cheap and materials used are very safe (except for the ethanol). Are there rules saying that you can’t use ethanol in your elementary school? If not, I think this lab would be simple for your kids to do and overall relatively safe. Below is the link to the PDF you can find on-line. The materials that you are going to need are Strawberries (and bananas if you decide to do an extension), 900ml of water, 50 ml of dishwashing detergent, 2 teaspoons of salt, test tubes (or some kind of a container that can hold a funnel), cheese cloth, funnel, ziplock bag , and ethanol. The prep should only take about 10 minutes by mixing the water, salt, and soap together. The students would smash the fruit in the zip-bag, pour the soap/water/salt mix into the bag and smash the fruit again. After doing it for about 3 minutes, they will filter out the fruit using the cheesecloth so that only the liquid portion would go into the test tube (or the container of your choice). You will then pour about 10ml of cold ethanol into the container with the solution, then DNA should start to appear. If your children are well behaved, I think it’ll only take about 30-40 minutes, depending on the number of students and groups that you will have. Again, the only thing that is dangerous is the ethanol, so you will have to make sure that your students don’t play around with that. Also, if High School students will do things like try to pound the strawberry that’s in the bag to smash it (which will result in the bag breaking and strawberries flying everywhere), you should advise your kids on how to smash the fruit before you start before you end up having smashed fruits everywhere. The last thing I would recommend is to modify the words used in the lab lesson plan that you will be passing out to your students. For example, you may want to change the words like “Precipitate,” “Extract,” “components,” “filtered extract,” and other words that are probably new to your students to something that they can understand. I would also recommend having a lesson about cells before doing the lab since it talks about cell membranes, proteins, etc. I used this lab, while the students also constructed the DNA out of paper (to save time). So you might be able to use an activity like that to show how the molecular structure of DNA looks like, while using the lab to show how DNA looks like with bare eyes. The construction of DNA activity link, I will place below too. Good luck and have fun!!! Osamu

Rhode Labranche Rhode Labranche 4180 Points

I am currently doing my field experience hours in a fifth grade classroom. The students are currently learning about vertebrate and invertebrate animals. The teacher asked me to come up with an engaging activity that I can do with the students so that they can better understand animals with/without backbones. I want to do an activity thats very fun and the children can learn at the same time. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Marie Samba Marie Samba 3635 Points

I believe you should do more hands on acttives with your students and just understand their learning skills to be come better learner

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