Author Archives: Lisa Provencher


spinning turtleHorce thinks he is Gamera*!

*Gamera (ガメラ?) is a Kaiju (Japanese giant monster) created by the Daiei Motion Picture Company in the 1960s.

This tremendously large turtle like creature that is capable of walking on two legs and flying although he has been known to walk like a normal quadruped, like Horace.

GameraHe has the ability to manipulate objects with his forefeet, just like Horace and his mouth is filled with teeth, unlike Horace, but much like the prehistoric turtles Odontochelys prehistoric turtle2

– plus he has a pair of large tusks protruding upward from the lower jaws. Horace has to make do with those ginormous front claws. They are great for ripping apart one of his favorite prey: grapes.

Thanks to Jenny for the photograph.

Nervous System

At this point in the school year we are studying the Nervous System. Its pretty interesting and the students are having fun with it. Hurray.

neuronThe students drew pictures of neurons, memorized the lobes of the brain and learned what they are for, pretty much everything we think, say, do. They learned about the brain stem and the cerebellum, the little brain.

What they liked most was learning about the eye and how it works. Its pretty amazing. The week before the holiday break they did a lab on special senses. This was their favorite lab because they got to eat. They did taste tests, smell tests, taste minus smell tests. They learned how the ear has three parts, outer, middle and inner. And that the eyes and ears work together to help us balance.

eye test

Giant biting mealworm larva

bio christmas 048Someone gave our class some giant mealworm larva Zophobas atratus. They were given to us because they were kind of scary. Scary? Grubs? We had twelve in the container and moved them over to a jar with bark chips. To do this we dumped them on a sheet of newspaper and picked them up one by one. Not an easy task. For one thing they move really fast, the second reason is they whip their heads around and bite. Yes, bite! Yow.

bio christmas 044That was in October. There are now nine larva left. This week while we were cleaning the jar and giving them fresh bark, we found a pupa. Cool. It was scary too. It wiggled around violently. We know these insects are cannibals so the pupa, that are in a vulnerable stage of their life cycle, have to have some form a defense. Next up photos of the adults. We hope.
Thanks to Maria for taking the photos.


Cockroach Maze

cockroach mazingA team of students decided to focus their science fair project on how Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches navigate a maze.

They designed and constructed a cardboard maze and set the roaches off. A piece of food was the reward. Go roaches!

Things they will be looking for are how the roach navigates, does it use its antenna? its eyes? its smell organs? How well can the roach turn corners? Will they stay in the maze or go over the walls?

roach maze


mantis eggsThe Chinese Mantis laid her eggs! She made two egg sacs called “Oothecas”. The students were keeping track of her overall fitness by measuring her abdomen size, agility, appetite and wing fray to observe pre-programmed cell death in the mantis.

We predicted she would die the end of November: The actual date of death was November 29, 2013.

Before she died she did manage to lay a second ootheca. This one she inadvertently glued her foot to the foam. I had to do mantis surgery and free her. No mantis were harmed in this surgery, but it was tough going because she glued it to the side of the glass of the small tank.

Our plan is to put one outside to freeze, the other we are bringing to the Berkshire museum to see if we can rear out the offspring over the winter. The museum has a colony of drosophila for the poison dart frogs, these will be a good food source for the baby manits’ when they emerge.

Cellular Respiration Lab

prepping for experimentSimply put cellular respiration is how organisms take in food (and oxygen) and make energy out of it. Cellular respiration is the process that takes place your cells; it begins in the cytoplasm and ends in the mitochondria.

Your cells go through cellular respiration because they need the energy that is stored in glucose. This glucose comes from sugars in carbohydrates groups of foods you eat.

The energy of one glucose molecule is converted into 38 ATPs.

cellular respirationThe harder your cells work the more ATP they need.

So, they will break down more glucose, use more oxygen and in turn produce more carbon dioxide.

color change 2To test this we did a lab activity.

We took 10 ml of water and added it to a test tube. Then we added 5 drops of bromethymol blue. Bromethymol blue is an indicator chemical that changes from blue to green or yellow in the presence of carbon dioxide. Each group had a student gently blow through a straw into the beaker while another student timed the color change in seconds. This number was recorded. The second part of the experiment one of the students jogged in place for 1 min. then repeated the procedure. The results were recorded.

The students then analyzed the time difference to conclude how much carbon dioxide was given off and in turn how much oxygen was used with and without exercise.

color change

Diffusion Lab

Introduction: In this lab you will observe the diffusion of a substance across a semi-permeable membrane. Iodine is a known indicator for starch. An indicator is a substance that chances color in the presence of the substance it indicates. Iodine turns purplish black in the presents of starch.

diffusion labProcedure:
1.    Fill a plastic baggie with a teaspoon of corn starch and a 60 ml water, spin the baggy shut and tie it tight.
2.    Fill a beaker up to 150ml with water and add ten drops of iodine solution.
3.    Place the baggie in the beaker of water so that the baggy of cornstarch is submerged.
4.    Wait twenty minutes and record your observations in the data table
5.    While you are waiting record your starting data and predict what you think you will see.

Starting Color

Color after 20 minutes

Solution in Beaker

Solution in Bag

1. Define diffusion
2. Define osmosis
3. What is the main difference between osmosis and diffusion?

1. Based on your observations, which substance moved, the iodine or the starch?
2. The plastic baggie was permeable to which substance?
3. Is the plastic baggie selectively permeable?


Phagocytosis edithEndocytosis is a process in which a substance (good stuff like: food, water and something yummy, or bad stuff like foreign bacteria or debris)  enters into a cell without passing through the cell membrane. Instead it is surrounded by the cell membrane and brought in via a vesicle or vacuole. This process takes ENERGY and is considered active transport. This process is subdivided into three different types:

  • pinocytosis–cell drinking
  • phagocytosis–cell eating
  • receptor mediated endocytosis–where the substance attaches to a receptor and is taken into the cell.

Here the students poked some fun at endocytosis and made some cartoons! Enjoy and learn.

cell eating sabrina cell eating adrianna cell drinking brian phagocytosis thomas
endocytosis sam