AACT Classroom Resources with Cross-Disciplinary Concepts: Connections to Biology

By Kim Duncan on September 8, 2016

AACT offers its members many classroom lesson plans, activities, labs, demos, and multimedia resources that will help teachers to make interdisciplinary connections for their students in specific content areas. In our first two posts we explored the links between geology, earth science, and the environment with chemistry. Now we’ll take a look at resources that connect chemistry with biology.

Plant Chemistry Lesson Plan – [Elementary school]
In this lesson, students will explore a simple, but key, biochemical reaction: photosynthesis. Many students (and adults) have the misconception that the disciplines of chemistry and life science are completely separate, and many students who are attracted to life sciences are less attracted to chemistry and vice versa. This divide can be bridged by showing students how the two overlap. Students will explore the concept of photosynthesis and build molecules of water (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), and oxygen (O2). They then explore plant cells and create models of plant cells and leaves. Finally, students will model the process of photosynthesis using their molecule models and leaf models.

NGSS and Cross-Disciplinary extensions are addressed in this lesson plan. Additionally, this is a 5E lesson plan that requires students to Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate a problem. You should allow 100 – 150 minutes to complete the entire lesson.

The Building Blocks of Photosynthesis Lesson Plan – [Middle school]
In this lesson, students will use colored blocks to represent the elements in photosynthesis and illustrate how they are broken down and reassembled to create glucose. By the end of the lesson they will be able to construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for the role of photosynthesis in the cycling of matter and flow of energy into and out of organisms. This 45 minute lesson requires 20 minutes of teacher preparation time.

Herbal Remedies Research Project – [High school]
In this activity, students further their understanding of empirical and molecular formulas through research and a presentation of an herbal remedy. This motivation for creating this lesson is explained in the May 2015 issue of Chemistry Solutions. This project can span four to six class periods, depending on class size and planned assessments in addition to 30 minutes of teacher preparation.

The Effect of Different Foods on Meal Worms Lesson[Middle school]
In this lesson, students will look at the chemistry of the molecules of carbohydrates, fats, and lipids and they will use this information to determine a diet for their mealworm and will collect information about the mealworm to test a hypothesis. By the end of the lesson plan students will be able to explain the molecular structure of biological macromolecules. Plan for 20 minutes of teacher preparation time for this 45 minute lesson.

Soap or Fuel? Lab[High school]
In this lab, students will transform vegetable oil into a soft soap and into biodiesel fuel. The two reactions emphasize that the products of a chemical reaction are under the control of the chemist. By noting the relationship of the reaction product to the reactants, students will gain a deeper understanding of the law of conservation of matter. This one day lab requires 30 minutes of teacher preparation time.

Strawberry DNA & CSI Lesson[Elementary school]
In this lesson, students will extract DNA from strawberries and analyze evidence to figure out who perpetrated a petty crime. For many students, one of the most fascinating applications of chemistry is crime investigation, so they will compare sets of DNA, test pH, and design and conduct interviews to crack the case. This lesson is designed to engage students in chemistry processes and applications. This lesson also addresses NGSS and Cross-Disciplinary extensions. This 100 minute lesson requires 35 minutes of teacher preparation time.

Power That Stinks Lab[High or middle school]
In this lab, students will experiment with creating and capturing biogas, and have an opportunity to see how energy is created from waste. They will explore the differences between non-renewable and renewable energy sources as well as global uses of biogas in a follow-up research investigation. This lab will teach students to understand the impact of the emission of biogas and its effect on the environment. Teachers should plan to spend 45 minutes collecting materials for this one to two day lab activity.