Although one can certainly ask a question, Ask A Biologist offers more than just a life science Q&A. Staffed by volunteers, the website serves pre-K through 12th-grade students and teachers. More than 11,000 people visit every day, browsing its >32,000 answered questions. Examples of questions that have been asked include the following: “How did ancient fish make the jump from gills to lungs?” “Is a macadamia nut really a nut or a seed?” “If birds evolved from dinosaurs, does that make them reptiles, too?” Visitors can also ask new questions by filling out a simple electronic form.
In addition to questions and answers, visitors will find lesson plans, games, interactive activities, quizzes, and useful links to other websites. Most of the content targets middle school and early high school students. Nevertheless, a few sections might be of interest to upper-level high school classrooms. For example, the lesson called “Venom” begins with a story and a game about a man who gets stung by a deathstalker scorpion while hiking. The lesson’s content is focused on protein chemistry. Students learn that toxins bind to protein channels and prevent muscles from receiving messages to contract. The virtual game gives students a chance to use the antivenom treatment to bind to the toxin molecules before they can block the channels in the membrane. If the teacher wants students to learn about proteins in more depth, she can direct students to links that delve into more complex topics, such as protein structure, protein folding, and what membrane channels are.
Although relatively easy to navigate, the site requires some digging to get a full picture of all that is available. A link to the Teacher’s Toolbox allows visitors to set search parameters by grade level, category (e.g., video, quiz, coloring page), and activity type (i.e., online or offline). If exploring the site seems daunting, the colorful home page includes featured stories that offer a taste of what you may find. Within the Teacher Toolbox, there is also a link to the Professional Learning Library created by the Mary Lou Fulton Teacher’s College. This site is also searchable by topic, age group, content area, standard, and provider.
I found some ideas for activities that I might use, especially for my freshman-level biology classes. Although you may have to dig a little more, there are some good activities for upper high school and honors students, as well.