Home School Life Journal From Preschool to High School

Home School Life Journal ........... Ceramics by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

Hands-On Middle School and High School Biology

Here is the newest biology curriculum that I have put together. We will be doing some of the activities throughout the summer and on into the fall. This program is designed for students from Middle School level to High School grades. You will, therefore need to establish for yourself the level which meets the standard for your student(s) grade level(s). Everything should reflect the students' mastery of the material covered. Students will need a blank notebook to record information. I ask my students to keep wide margins on the left side of their notebook pages and double space their writing so that they can go back and add questions, comments and reflections in the margins.

Part 1: Introduction to Biology

from the experiment Osmosis and Diffusion...what is the difference?

The Chemistry of Life

Students review molecular biology concepts. They also observe and learn about the processes of diffusion and osmosis. Students learn the basics of organic chemistry and see how easily enzyme function can be destroyed.

The Cell

Students further their knowledge of internal structures of various cells by viewing cork and onion epidermis cells. Slides of cells are viewed microscopically and students are challenged to determine whether they are viewing plant or animal cells. Students observe cytoplasmic streaming and the response of plant cells by the presence of salt. Banana cells are also viewed to see what the largest part of the cells contain.

Cellular Reproduction

To observe the physical characteristics of DNA, students extract DNA from strawberries or onions. Students observe under the microscope how a cell divides during mitosis and observe the difference between plant and animal cell division. Students also construct a model of a virus and learn about its characteristics. 


Students learn about the history of genetic research and how to make Punnet Squares. Students learn about a Di-hybrid cross to understand how multiple traits are passed from one generation to another. Students will also understand how sex - linked traits are passed from parents to offspring. 


Students will learn about Charles Darwin and his theory. 

Part 2: Aquatic Habitats

Pond Life

Study ecosystem of a pond and collect and culture specimens from a pond. We will collect four jars of pond water and culture them with hay, rice, egg yolk and soil, separately. 

Microscopic Pond Life, part 1

Identify and sketch organisms from the collected and cultured specimens using a microscope. 

Microscopic Pond Life, part 2

Look at the same cultures a week later. Do the organisms differ from the week prior?

Constructing a Pond Model

Using gravel, sand, water plants such as Elodea and 1 1/2 gallon aquarium, students create a pond model. They record what they have done in science journals and predict changes the habitat may go through in the future. Students also look at the  Elodea under the microscope.

Kingdom Plantae

Students learn about basic plant anatomy, macroscopic and microscopic structures of a leaf, Students begin leaf identification and a leaf collection. Students learn how anthocyanin and pH help determine leaf color. Students learn about plant stems and roots and look at examples of them (both monocot and dicot) under a microscope. Students learn the basics of plant classification. 

Adding Tubifex Worms and Snails to the Pond Model

Students add Tubifex worms or Daphnia and Snails to the pond model, one at a time and record observations. Students also observe Tubifex worms under the microscope to learn about their body structure.

Adding Fish to the Pond Model

After observing and recording the structures of fish, the Gambusia, Guppies or Goldfish are added to the model pond and then their behavior is observed and recorded. Predictions are also recorded. Fish scales are viewed under the microscope. 


As the pond model habitats begin to resemble an actual pond, interactions are observed and recorded. Decomposition may be covered. Mosquito larvae are observed and then added to the habitat. 

Designing and Conducting Experiments

Students will be asked to come up with their own question to investigate by designing and conducting their own experiment using the scientific method, which will be accurately recorded.

Subkingdom Algae

Students will observe microscopically and microscopically at least two of the five phyla of the Subkingdom Algae. 

The Pond Models will be kept and observations recorded while we go on to further studies.

Part 3: Forest Habitats

Exploring Soil

Soil will be collected from different places and compared. The samples will be viewed under the microscope. Soil profiles will be done on each of them. 

Building the Forest Model

Using a plastic container, sand, birdseed or grass seed, dry leaves, twigs and a strawberry,  alyssum, Violet or other small garden plant, students will create their own Forest models. They will record what they have done in their science journals.

Inside a Flower

Plant Physiology and Reproduction

Students learn how plants use water, including viewing xylem under the microscope. Students learn about plant growth and reproduction, including dissecting and labeling plant parts. Students observe various types of fruits and classify them based on their differences. 

The Environmental Factor and  it's Effect on Radish Leaf Color

Students will observe the effect that the environment has on a genotype to make its phenotype change.


Carbon Dioxide and the Greenhouse Effect 

Using a thermometer and a plastic 2-liter bottle, students will observe the ability of carbon dioxide to absorb energy from sunlight. These findings will be recorded in their science journals. The water cycle, the oxygen cycle and the carbon cycle are covered.

Adding Earthworms to the Forest Model

Earthworms are observed and recorded about before being added to the habitat. Their role as decomposes are discussed. 

More About Earthworms

Invertebrates as a class are studied. Earthworm anatomy, including internal structures, are recorded. Experiments are designed and conducted using g earthworms as the basis of the study.

Adding Isopods to the Habitat

Students will be encouraged to identify and understand Isopod structures and behavior while adding them to the Forest Model. 

Adding More to the Forest Model

Students can add one additional thing they collect to their Forest Model, such as Garden snails or slug, beetles, crickets and the like. They could instead add an inanimate object such as rocks, shells, and the like. Observations of any interactions are recorded. Just as the Pond Models were kept and ongoing observations were recorded, the Forest Models are also kept, observed and recorded. This will overlap with the activities in part 3, so that the activities in part three are conducted with both a cricket and the mammal.
from Kingdom Fungi

Kingdom Fungi

Students observe fungi and learn how members of the class Basidiomycetes grow and reproduce. Can they grown in the Forest Model? Students also learn about the fungi of the Class Ascomycetes, in comparison and contrast to Class Basidiomycetes. Students observe how yeast reproduce through budding. This is compared to how Class Zygimycetes grow and bud. Various molds and mildew, as well as Impertfect Fungi, will be observed microscopically and microscopically.  

Part 4: Mammal and Insect Observations

The Animal Corral

Students learn the basics of scientifically observing animal behavior as they read about scientists such as Jane Goodall and begin observing animals is a animal corral. They learn about how assumptions and anthropomorphism affect our ability to accurately observe animal behavior.

Stimulus and Response

Students introduce stimulus objects, such as foods, into the animal's environment and observe how the animal reacts. Students generate hypotheses about how certain behaviors help animals in the wild survive. Students discuss the shortcomings of observing animal behaviors. 

The Sampling System

As a continuance of the last section's discussion, students discuss the value of mapping animal movements. They then learn to use a time sampling system of mapping animal movements. 

Holding and Observing Animals

Humane treatment of animals is covered and students practice how to humanely handle both a cricket and a rat. They also observe and record the physiology of the  cricket. Using drawings, the internal structures of the cricket are also explored and compared to the internal structures of the mammal. Insect identification is also learned. 

Designing Experiments

Students design their own animal behavior experiment by choosing a single stimuli and a topic to investigate. The topic is then narrowed to one hypothesis that can be tested within a half-hour period. The choices available to the animal are identified as well as the actions that will be observed and recorded. The concept of a fair test will be covered.

Mapping Animal Movements

Students use a sampling system to map the movements of a rat and a cricket. First they are observed and mapped as they explore an empty container and then after food and a shelter are added.

Identifying Movement Patterns

Students construct bar graphs as a first step in analyzing the mapping data they have collected. They then compare the trials conducted with and without stimulus, and the differences in behavior revealed by the data for the rat and the cricket. How does the behavior of the cricket and the rat differ from each other? The concept of key location is also covered. Students can also take this technique into the field by conducting a similar experiment in the backyard or a park.


Students get the materials they need and set up their experiments. After the experiment has concluded, students record their results and write their conclusions.  

Scientific Convention

With an audience, students describe their experiments and summarize their results. At the end of each report, there is a period of comments and questions from the audience. Students may wish to revise and improve their experiments.

Part 5: Other Areas of the Animal Kingdom

from Phylum Cnidaria

Other Invertebrates

Students observe a specimen from the phylum Porifera and note the simplicity, yet complexity of this animal's support structure. Students also observe the hydra and a planarian.

Class Aves (Birds)

Students observe bird embryology, look at feathers under a microscope,  learn types of feathers and skeletal structures. Student begin bird identification in the backyard and through field trips to nature centers, parks and bird sanctuaries.

Katie sketches the albino Corn Snake at the Reptile House.

Class Reptilia

Students learn the characteristics of this class, and the differences in the various orders that make up this class. Students visit a reptile house and learn about how they live.


  • Exploring Creation with Biology,  Jay Wile, grades 8-10
  • Aquatic Habitats,  LHS GEMS, grades 2-8
  • Terrarium Habitats, LHS GEMS, grades 2-8
  • Mapping Animal Movements, Katharine Barrett, LHS GEMS, grades 5-9
  • Mapping Fish Habitats, LHS GEMS,grades 6-10
  • Animals in Action LHS GEMS, grades 5-9
  • Exploring Creation with Zoology,  Swimming Creatures, Land Animals, grades 1-8 
Hands-On Middle School and High School Biology


  1. Awesome! I just love the way your family learns.
    Blessings, Dawn

  2. You guys go into so much detail for your science studies. It really inspires me.


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