Lab Expectations for the Scholars Online Biology Course
LABS ARE NOT OPTIONAL. Completion of twelve specific labs is required for students taking this Course. You may, if you are preparing for the AP exam, submit more labs as preparation.
All labs for credit must be completed by the close of the school year in June, unless you make special arrangements with the instructor.
Most lab assignments will be available from the web site at the start of the school year. Labs will be associated with specific topics, and you are required to complete the lab and send in the report during during the assignment period. You make make arrangements to complete some labs out of sequence if you have trouble obtaining equipment. Field labs must be done in the order and at the intervals specified, unless weather conditions prevent completion at the scheduled time.
IMPORTANT! For safety reasons, both you and your parents must read the safety procedures before starting the lab sequence. Your parents must sign and send a copy of the lab permission letter to me before I can accept any lab reports from you for credit.
Students should be able to perform most labs with only some special equipment (thermometers, test tubes or beakers, microscopes) and some purchased chemicals. Most biology labs can be done with household materials and students performing these labs will generally find it less expensive to obtain materials on a lab by lab basis.
If you chose to do a more extensive lab set for AP preparation, and wish to purchase a kit rather than individual items, Robert B. Thompson has assembled several versions of the equipment and materials required to perform most of the experiments in his Illustrated Guide to Home Biology lab manual available The Home Scientist. The basic version (BK01A) contains most of the materials required to complete labs in this course if you wish to submit them for review to a college committee for credit, except for a microscope and common household or easily obtained stationary items.
Buying your own equipment for the Core Labs
In addition to the equipment listed below, many labs will use common household items, such as paper, pens, rulers, cups or jars, food samples, plastic bags, etc. These will be listed in the equipment section of the individual labs. In addition to equipment, the field labs require that you have an outdoor area which you can study throughout the year.
This list is still incomplete. It includes all equipment and materials used in alternative labs, but not all equipment and materials required for more extensive exercise sets. Check back for chemicals and sources.
- Note Taking Supplies: Notebook and sketchbook, pens and pencils, camera (optional).
- Measuring Devices: String, rope, tape measure, ruler or other device for marking and measuring sizes
- Reference guides: Audobon, Field Guides, or web access to sites allowing you to identify plant and animal species.
- Specimen boxes: These are used to hold specimens collected in the field. Educational toy stores sell small glass or plastic boxes with low-magnification lenses built into the lids. Any small jar can hold specimens; use screen or cheesecloth to cover the top and fasten it with a rubber band so that your live specimens can breath without escaping.
- Live animal observation: If you choose to keep an animal for observation, you will need proper equipment and instructions. An especially good source of information is the book Animals Alive! by Dennis Holley, which discusses how to catch and care for many kinds of wild animals. Remember that you act as God's steward for His creation when you are caring for captured animals; treat them carefully and release them back into an appropriate environment.
- Lab Microscope. Good microscopes are expensive, and I know not everyone is in a position to buy one. If you can do so, get one which has good optics over one with high magnification. For our purposes, 100-120X is sufficient to identify cell structures. The Radio Shack Slide Microscope (illuminated, 100X), is quite reasonable (around $15).You may also be able to borrow a microscope through your local school district. If you are really adventurous, you may be able to make a microscope sufficient for our purposes!
- Hand lens: 5X to 15X hand lens for field use.
- Slide making kit. You will need 5-10 glass slides, cover slips and tuolene fixer or gum media. Small kits are available from educational toy stores and science museums (Science and Nature Discovery Series has a good one).
- Staining kit. You will need stains; these are available in some slide making kits, or you may buy the stains separately. You will need at least one of eosin (red), gentian violet, or methylene blue.
- Microtome: This is a holder used for cutting very thin slices of a tissue sample, which can then be mounted on a slide. Instructions for making one from some simple hardware is included in one of the labs. If you make your own, you will need a nut and its bolt, beeswax or parafin, and a single-edged razor.
- Field microscope You should have a magnifying glass you can take into the field for viewing specimens you cannot bring home. A good magnifier of 5X to 30X is sufficient.
General Lab Equipment and Materials
- Materials and Chemicals
- Anatomical specimens. Edmund Scientific sells a representative set of small specimens for dissection. You may also procure specimens from the grocery store, or collect them yourself.
- Distilled Water: A gallon jug should be sufficient for most work for the year.
- Catalase: Instructions for making your own catalase from a meat source will be given as part of the lab.
- Iodine: This must be brown iodine, not the clear kind; we want to use it for a stain. WARNING: Brown iodine stains permanently and is POISONOUS. Handle careful.
- Dialysis tubing: This is a semi-permiable membrane in tube form. It may be possible to substitute balloons, cellophane, or sausage casing (but not Saran Wrap). The instructor may be able to purchase this in bulk for student use.
- Aquarium or garden water plants.
- Pond water, which should be collected by the student from a park pond or public water source which is not chlorinated.
- Dissection specimen(s): Earthworm (could be collected from yard), fish, frog, beef heart, fetal pig. You may purchase specimens from science supply stores or arrange with the local butcher — if you do the latter, be sure that the specimen is left with internal organs intact and in place.
- Brine shrimp: (can be purchased at pet store).
- Litmus paper or pH papers: used to determine acidity of solutions.
- Thermometer: Can be either mercury or alcohol but should be capable of reading from 20F to 220F (-10C to +110C). Should be marked in 1 degree increments.
- Dissection kit: A good commercial kit include scalpel, forceps, tweezers, teaser, and pins; you may also purchase individual components separately if you have some already.
- Heat Source: Hot plate (you can use the stove top). Be sure to use hot mitts or pads when handling hot containers.
- Borosilicate or Pyrex test tubes: 5 to 10 heat-resistant testtubes with at least 20ml capacity. You should have one-hole and two-hole rubber or cork stoppers that fit your test tubes. If you substitute narrow jars, drive nails through the lids and use clay or plumber's putty around any tubing you push through the holes.
- Glass stirring rod: not metal!
- Flexible Tygon tubing: two 15-20" sections, of a diameter that will fit through your rubber stoppers.
- Glass Beakers: At least three beakers of 200mL capacity or better. You may substitute one pint canning jars, which are heatproof.
- Calibrated glass beaker or cylindar: should be marked in 10 mL increments or smaller, capable of holding at least 100 mL. A mL calibrated glass measuring cup will also work.
- Pipette or eyedropper: Used to add small amounts of liquid to solution.
- Petri dishes: small clear dishes with lids. Alterntive: baby food jars or other small, heatproof jars with lids.
- Innoculation loop: heat-resistant wire loop on a short wooden handle. You can make one by bending a paperclip into a loop and taping it to a pencil.
- Sphygmomanometer (blood pressure device). A personal blood pressure arm or wrist cuff will work.
- Stopwatch, wrist watch with second hand, or phone app able to be used as a timer.
- Household Items
- Corn syrup
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Table Salt
- Green onions
- Jelly Beans (at least 50-60 each of red and white, and 15 each of orange, green, blue, and yellow).
- Spices, such as cayeen, black pepper cinnamon, salt, cloves, and acids such as vinegar.
- Citric fruit juices.
- Short pretzels or toothpicks
- Unflavored gelatin or agar
- Beef broth
- Wax Pencil or sticky labes: for marking glass with contents during labs.
- 2-Liter Soda bottles.
- String or yarn, 2-3 meters.
- Small light source: could be keychain flashlight or Christmas light.
- Food coloring
- Small house plants
- Baking Soda
- Ascorbic acid powder (sold as a diet supplement or for canning fruit).
Lab equipment may be borrowed from schools or purchased. Sometimes local college bookstores or medical schools carry dissection kits; staining kits and other supplies are often available from educational toy stores and science museums. You may also want to check my growing list of mail order suppliers.
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