Category Archives: biology

Carbon Cycle and a Dead Cat

carbon cycle 1 carbon cycle 2 It was time to learn the carbon cycle in bio class. Two smarty-pants in the back of the class, copied the notes and decided they could now play games. Why not, they got the material. They have good grades. Fortunately I saw this opportunity as a break from my teaching. I handed them the chalk and my notes and said, “Teach.”

They willingly did! They taught about carbon moving from the air, to the trees and plants through photosynthesis, then to the animals that ate the plants, and was eventually breathed out the carbon in the form of carbon dioxide.

“Keep going.” I prodded,
“Do we have to draw the dead rabbit?”
“What do you think?”
“Well we have a picture of a dead dog on our phone we found on our way home from school. Can we use that?”
“Heck yeah.”
dead catThey showed the picture around and explained that the carbon stored in living things is released after death during the process of decomposition.




cat giordon
But there is more to the story. The next day Giordon walks in all geared up carrying a plastic bag. Guess what was in the bag. If you think it was a dead dog, you would be wrong. We examined the carcass through the double plastic bags. It had passed through putrification and was pretty well dessicated. So it smelled sweet as opposed to rancid. We determined by the teeth and claws it was a cat.


cat bonesNot to be out done by my students, I brought the carcass home and soaked it in a bucket of water. The fur was stuck hard to the skull so it took all summer for it to finally separate. I fished the bones out with a pair of needle-nosed pliers. Not a bad collection of bones. Some of the spine and ribs are still stuck in the guts, but the skull, leg bones and half the spine can be seen here. Remember some of the body tissue has been released as carbon gas back into the carbon cycle. That is what it is all about.

Pig Dissection

pig drawingThe last week of school the students had the option of doing a fetal pig dissection. They didn’t all participate, but they did the pre-lab, observed and answered questions. For those who did participate, they were fascinated and/or revolted, but they seemed to appreciate the opportunity.

Chelsea and Jovana chronicled Edith’s progress.
dissecting pigFirst: We observed the external anatomy.
Second: Figure out the characteristics that make it a mammal. It has nipples and is warm blooded.
Third: We looked at the ventral side (bottom) and the umbilical chord.
Fourth: We cut the umbilical chord and looked at the different openings.
Fifth: We tied down the pig to the dissecting tray.
Sixth: Edith cut the pig open using the diagram provided in the lab notes.
Seventh: She took out the liver (filters toxins out of the body) and observed the stomach that digests food.
Eighth: We observed, the small intestine that absorbs nutrients, the large intestine that removes waste and compacts the waste. The bladder was long and thin compared to a human. There was a peritoneum around the heart.
Lastly, Edith decided to remove and cut the large and small intestine. And the heart and kidneys.

SciTV Session 2

Tish cameraWe are starting the second session of SciTV this week. We will be meeting on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:15 to 4:45.

The focus of the show is “REPTILES”. We are discussing what a reptile is–you might be surprised to find out the definition of a reptile. Reptiles in film, turtles, intelligence in reptiles and of course dinosaurs.

You will learn how to work professional quality cameras, do some acting, writing, and collaborating with some interesting folks!

Come join us! Contact Ms. Provencher and/or Mr. Ireland for the details.
PS this program covers missed absences!

Shey-Dancing Bio-student

shey 3Shey is always singing. She raps about everything. She is good at it, really good at it. Last month she participated in a play about culture and color. The play was written by professional play-writes, but based on the stories of the young girls in the play. She being one of them. She was not shy. She got up there and did three shows for the whole school.
shey 1 shey 2

Their troupe is now going on a county-wide tour to share their stories and inspiration.


Science and Innovation Fair at the Berkshire Museum

scifair 3February 11th, 8 of our top biology students participated in the Fourth Annual Science and Innovation Fair, held at the Berkshire Museum in collaboration with SABIC. Over 100 students from Pittsfield High School and Taconic High school presented their scientific research or engineering projects.

Sam moldGreg Renfrew won first place with his project “Increasing the Efficiency of Photovoltaic Output Through the Addition of a Thermoelectric Generator” and Samatha Reu with her project, “Matter over Mind, Slime Mold”, won third place. Both will be moving on to the Region I Science and Engineering Fair to be held at MCLA on March 7, 2014.

Good work!

scifair BM 1scifair 4scifair6scifair5termitesscifair BM 21

Blood Typing Forensic Lab–Who done it?

blood testing lab 1A crime has happened and One-Eyed Earl was found murdered in a trash can with a wound on his chest. Next to the trash can was found a small pool of blood and the weapon. There are 3 suspects  for the murder but the CSI has to find out the blood type of the puddle in order to determine the killer. After a scenarios of tests we were able to determine the killer of One-Eyed Earl. In order to figure out who the killer was the CSI had to test the blood with Anti A Anti B and Anti Rh to determine the blood type of the puddle to see who’s blood matches up with the blood found at the sense of the crime.

Written and photographed by Willie & Kyle

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Plague INC. review

plague incAbout this game:

This highly addictive game was created for touchscreen by developer Ndemic Creations. The strategy is You vs. the world, can you use what you learned from biology class to survive?

In this game you unlock and upgrade diseases to wipe out the world. When you start a game you click on one country to infect. There are 2 ways of spreading the diseases. One, by air, so using airplanes. Two, by water, so by boat. The infection can also spread through the countries. While you are infecting the world, countries start on a cure. You have to wipe out the earth before the cure for your infection is found.

Description by written by Brandon

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.