classroom activities

"By night all cats are gray"  - Miguel Cervantes in Don Quixote  

I've always liked Siamese cats.   Students do, too.  "Why Siamese cats wear masks" is always a favorite story in genetics class.  So, when I opened my January copy of The Science Teacher, I was thrilled to see an article on Siamese cat colors and proteins AND molecular genetics (1). In the article, the authors (Todd and Kenyon) provide some background information on the enzymatic activity of tyrosinase and compare it to the catechol oxidase that ... Read more

Imagine a simple hike in a grassy part of South America.  You hear a rattle and feel a quick stab of pain as fangs sink into your leg.  Toxins in the snake venom travel through your blood vessels and penetrate your skin.  If the snake is a South American rattlesnake, Crotalus terrific duressis, one of those toxins will be a phospholipase.  Phospholipases attack cell and mitochondrial membranes destroying nerve and muscle function.  Without quick treatment, a snakebite victim may be die or suffer permanent damage (1, 2). The phospholipase from the South American rattlesnake is called ... Read more
We've been fans of the Molecule of the Month series by David Goodsell, for many years. Not only is Dr. Goodsell a talented artist but he writes very clear descriptions of the ways molecules like proteins, RNA, and DNA work together and function inside a cell. To learn about proteins and their activities, I like to go directly to the Molecule of the Month page, where I can find a list of articles organized by molecule type and name.  Many of these articles can also be downloaded in a PDF format. A really nice of his articles is that he includes PDB IDs ... Read more

To have an effect, a molecule must bind to a receptor and trigger a signal.  Studying a receptor's structure can give us insights about the way this triggering process works.

Capsaicin is a fascinating molecule that puts the "pep" into peppers.  Curiously, the amount of capsaicin in a pepper is measured with a test devised in 1912 by Wilbur Scoville.  Dried peppers are dissolved in alcohol, this liquid extract is diluted in water, and trained people determine the pepper's Scoville value by "tasting" the heat.

I really wonder how these people are recruited.   I like hot ... Read more

National DNA Day has a fun challenge for teachers and classrooms using Pinterest.  Your class can join a larger, national, effort to create a National DNA Day Pinterest board by making your own class Pinterest board on DNA, genetics, and genomics.  Some possible topics are:

  • Things to do with DNA
  • DNA and health
  • DNA and the Arts
  • DNA in the News

We're really excited about the topic on DNA and the Arts! Here's how you can make some lovely DNA Art images for your Pinterest board in ... Read more

We always see interesting creatures whenever we walk on the beach. Now, a new program from the University of Washington and the state department of Fish and Wildlife is seeking to enlist beach walkers in a community science project where they can help monitor biodiversity.

i-b83cce8b9407f7d70830ef00de552f5f-heron_gull.jpg


... Read more

No more delays! BLAST away!

Time to blast. Let's see what it means for sequences to be similar. 

First, we'll plan our experiment.  When I think about digital biology experiments, I organize the steps in the following way: 

           A.  Defining the question

B.  Making the data sets

           C.  Analyzing the data sets

D.  Interpreting the results

I'm going intersperse my results with a few instructions so ... Read more

We'll have a blast, I promise! But there's one little thing we need to discuss first...

I want to explain why I'm going to use nucleotide sequences for the blast search. (I used protein the other day). It's not just because someone told me too, there is a solid rational reason for this.

The reason is the redundancy in the genetic code.

Okay, that probably didn't make any sense to those of you who didn't already know the answer. Here it is. ... Read more

We had a great discussion in the comments yesterday after I published my NJ trees from some of the flu sequences. If I list all the wonderful pieces of advice that readers shared, I wouldn't have any time to do the searches, but there are a few that I want to mention before getting down to work and posting my BLAST results. Here were some of the great suggestions and pieces of advice; 1. Do a BLAST search. Right! I can't believe I didn't do that first thing, I think the ... Read more

Last night, the phone rang at 9:22 pm. I quickly glanced at the caller ID. Hmmm. Why is the Seattle School district calling us at this time of night?

Apparently the swine flu has come to Seattle and the school district thought we should know.

Those messages are helpful if you're a parent, but they don't tell much about the rest of the world.

Health Map is a really wonderful, user-friendly, resource for following the epidemic.


... Read more

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