The Carbon Footprint

Written by Michelle Zurawski, Moraine Valley Community College

Learning Outcomes:

– Students will be able to define carbon footprint and other associated ecological terms.

– Students will understand the factors that affect their carbon footprint and determine how to change them.

– Students will understand the impact of diet on the carbon footprint.

– Students will think about the socioeconomics of the carbon footprint.

Activity Description: Students use a website that helps them to calculate their carbon footprint and answer worksheet questions. This activity can be assigned as homework or can be done during class time with computers. Some discussion questions could be made into clicker questions if you had a large classroom of students.

Time Needed: It takes about 5 minutes to do the carbon footprint and 30 minutes or more for a discussion of the material.

Materials Needed: Student computersWatch Cyberbully (2015) Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

Activity Instructions: With a smaller class, use a carousel to promote student discussion. How to set up a carousel: choose some of the discussion questions and post them on the dry erase board or on large pieces of paper taped to the walls. Group 3-4 students together and give each group 1 minute to write answers to the questions. Each group has a different color marker.  Groups rotate to each station for 1 minute and provide their answers. The groups may add to what has been written, or they may subtract by crossing off. This ensures during discussion you can ask, for example, why the green group crossed off what the purple group wrote. After all groups have finished, each group will give a summary of what was written on their original question.

If the carousel approach won’t work with a large class, create clicker questions around the assignment questions or simply hold a discussion in class.

In an online class, you may choose some of the questions to be used as discussion questions on the discussion board. I generally require students to post one original posting of 150 words or more and respond to two or more students with 50 words or more.

Worksheet: The Carbon Footprint Worksheet

Calculations to Show How Deer Growth Is Unchecked in the Suburbs

Written by Kelly A. Hogan, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Learning Outcomes:

– To practice using the equation for exponential population growth

– To relate population growth to a species students are familiar with

Activity Description: Students are given a worksheet with background reading describing how deer are thriving in the suburbs of theU.S. After students finish, the class will discuss ways deer populations can be controlled.

Time Needed: 20 minutes

Materials Needed: Worksheet for students

Activity Instructions: Have students complete the attached worksheet once they have been introduced to the topic of population growth.

Worksheet: Deer Population Growth WorksheetDeer Population Growth Worksheet KEY

Community Interactions and Fun Analogies

Written by Kelly A. Hogan, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Learning Outcomes:

– To take definitions of community interactions and apply the concepts through analogy

– To have a better understanding of interference competition, exploitative competition, resource portioning, mutualism, and commensalism

Activity Description: Students work in pairs to come up with three analogies for community interactions that they write on separate index cards. For example, the analogies might describe how siblings compete for limited resources like cookies. Students then randomly pass cards to neighbors again and again until each pair of partners has new, unknown cards. They read the cards and determine what the phrase describes. The students then share the fun, interesting analogies their classmates made, giving the class more practice with these terms.

Time Needed: 10 minutes for card writing and 10-15 minutes for discussion

Materials Needed: 3 x 5 index cards (3 per student pair)

Activity Instructions: After discussing interference competition, exploitative competition, resource portioning, mutualism, and commensalism, put these instructions on PowerPoint for the students:

  • The front of a flashcard should have an analogy for any of these phrases:

–        Interference competition

–        Commensalism

–        Resource partitioning

–        Exploitative competition

–        Mutualism

  • The back of the card in small print should tell which of these phrases your analogy describes
  • Think about roommates, teammates, parents, classmates, siblings etc.. Get creative. (If humorous, even better but keep it CLEAN!)
  • We’ll then pass these around to see if others can guess your analogy and I’ll collect and read some. Synthesizing your own analogies = excellent studying!

After the students complete their three cards, they pass them to neighbors who pass them to neighbors until the cards get shuffled well in the classroom. The partners spend time reading their new cards and seeing if they can guess what the analogy is for. (They can flip the card over to see if they guessed correctly.)

Next, ask students if they have a really creative card. If so, ask them to read it to the class. Let the class guess what the analogy describes. Read several others.  Ask if anyone has a card in which they did not agree with the authors’ description of a phrase. Have them read this to the class and discuss why it might be a good or not so good analogy.

The instructor might want to demonstrate analogies within the lecture before the activity. Here are some ideas:

Interference competition: Jake and Lexi are siblings. There is only one bag of goldfish crackers. Lexi grabs the bag and won’t let Jake have any. She pushes him when he tries to reach for some crackers.

Exploitative competition: Jake and Lexi are siblings. There is only one bag of goldfish crackers and not too many left. Lexi grabs a small handful. Jake, realizing there are not too many crackers left, grabs a larger handful than Lexi on his first serving.

Resource partitioning: Jake and Lexi are siblings. There is only one bag of goldfish crackers. Being aware that they must share or lose the crackers altogether, Lexi decides she will take just the pink crackers and Jake will have the other colors.

Jake and Lexi eating their colored goldfish crackers. Photo by Kelly Hogan.

Mutualism: It is 7:00 PM, and it is Jake’s bedtime. He wants to stay up past his bedtime and pleads with his mother to stay up late. His mother agrees on the condition that he first go to the kitchen and do her a “favor” by grabbing her some chocolate to snack on.

Commensalism: In passing, Kelly mentions to her neighbor, Evette, that she is going to their health club later that day. Evette says, “Since you are going, can I hitch a ride with you?” Kelly says, “Sure, no problem.”

Examples that my students came up. You can also read them to students and let them decide what they are analogies for.

1. Professors get paid to teach, students get an education in return.

2. My brother tackles me to get the one Wii remote.

3. My roommate drinks all the water from my Brita filter and never refills it, so I hardly ever have good water to drink.

4. I use my friend’s notes from last semester.

5. When two siblings both want to ride in the front seat, one rushes out of the house first and waits in the front seat.

6. Studying with a friend.

7. I drive to class every day. Yesterday a friend of mine asked if she could ride with me after she missed the bus.

8. My sister and I buy a bag of candy. She eats her favorite colors (orange and green) and I eat my favorite colors (red and purple)

9. Tarheel’s basketball player Harrison Barnes gives teammate Tyler Zeller an assist. They both get stat increases, and the team benefits.

10. We only have one shower in my suite. My suitemates and I take showers at different times.

11. Eating earlier at the dining hall to ensure you get chocolate cake before others.

  1. Mutualism
  2. Interference competition
  3. Exploitative competition
  4. Commensalism
  5. Interference competition
  6. Mutualism
  7. Commensalism
  8. Resource portioning
  9. Mutualism
  10. Resource partitioning
  11. Exploitative competition

Leaf, Stem, Root, or Flower? A Game

Written by Kelly A. Hogan, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Learning Outcomes:

– To examine the basic structures of plants and the variations on the body plan

– To encourage a little fun and competition in the class related to plants

Activity Description: A few students are chosen to play a game in front of the class, but the rest of the class must also play the game on a piece of paper like a quiz. Students are shown various food plant parts they are familiar with and must then determine if what they eat is the leaf, stem, root, or flower of the plant. Students have a lot of fun, as some of the foods are intentionally tricky!

Time Needed: 15 minutes

Materials Needed: A PowerPoint presentation showing the images of the foods described

Activity Instructions: Before the game, students need to know about some basic plant structures. Randomly choose two teams of students to compete for a prize. (You may choose to give a plant food as a prize!) A website such as has a unique way of choosing students if you enter the roster into the fruit machine. As you move through the PowerPoint slides, keep track of the score between the two teams. Have the students at their seats also write down their answers in order to self-grade.

I have given a list of foods you may want to use. At the top of each slide, make the title, “Leaf, Stem, Root, or Flower?”

  1. Potato – This is a stem, an underground storage stem called a tuber.
  2. Carrot – This is a modified tap root, for storage.
  3. Celery – Leaf; the part we eat is an enlarged petiole (the stem of the leaf).
  4. Broccoli tops — These are sometimes called florets, meaning flowers. They are immature flowers.
  5. Sweet potato – Root; despite being called a potato, this kind of potato is a modified root for storage. (Unlike a regular potato which grows “eyes” as leaves bud from it when left on the counter too long, this does not happen from sweet potatoes.)
  6. Onion layers – The bulb of the onion contains both a modified stem, in the center, but most of what we eat are layers that are modified underground leaves.
  7. Artichokes – All the green “layers” are part of a flower bud that is picked before the large purple flower blooms.
  8. Ginger – Often called ginger root, it is not a root. It is a modified storage stem called a rhizome.

Dining with Snakes: A Comparison Between Snakes and Human Digestion

Written by Kelly A. Hogan, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Learning Outcomes:

– To present the diversity of anatomical and physiological systems (comparative anatomy)

– To examine the structure and function relationship in the digestive system

Activity Description: In class, students watch a short video of a snake eating. They may or may not have already read an assigned article associated with this too. Students make observations about how a snake eats differently from humans and thus how its anatomy differs.

Time Needed: 15 minute class discussion (may be more in-depth if students have read the article attached)

Materials Needed: Video, notecards, and the guided reading worksheet that accompanies the “Dining with Snakes” reading

Activity Instructions:

1. Assign students the “Dining with Snakes” article and guided reading questions. The guided reading questions are meant to keep them actively engaged with the reading assignment. (If you choose not to assign the article, you can still use the activity as a quick lecture launcher.)

2. When students come to class, show a few minutes of a snake eating (without sound). You may need to find one via an internet search. If this link works, I recommend this David Attenborough one: Show the first part of this without any sound so as not to guide them through the answers you are looking for them to share next.

3. Ask students to list on  paper or a notecard (without their name) three things from the video (and/or reading) that are different between how a snake and a human eat:

They might say, “A snake…”

Does not chew food.

Swallows the animal whole (not even large pieces ripped).

Takes a long time to swallow.

Has jaws that open really wide.

Doesn’t really use its teeth much.

4. Students should share their answers with a partner and then pass their paper to another and another (thus shuffling the papers anonymously). Classmates can open the class discussion by sharing what someone else wrote on the paper they have in their hand.

5. Use their ideas to bring in structure/function talk related to teeth, jaws, HCl production, ectothermy vs endothermy, etc. Use the linked article by Jared Diamond as reference. You may decide to show them the video again (with sound) if using the David Attenborough video.

6. Two clicker questions you can use post-reading or on an exam:

Which below is a difference between human and snake digestive physiology?

a) Snakes do not make saliva, only humans do.

b) Snakes do not have intestines.

c) The function of teeth differs.

d) The name of the acid produced by the stomach differs.

When a snake ingests a large meal,

a) the snake will move to a sunny spot to increase its body temperature.

b) its HCl production continues for days.

c) the intestines double or triple in size as individual cells grow.

d) its oxygen consumption increases drastically.

e) all of the above is true.

Worksheet: Guided Reading Questions for Dining With SnakesGuided Reading Questions for Dining With Snakes KEY

Applying Understanding of Female Hormones to Birth Control

Written by Kelly A. Hogan, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Learning Outcomes:

– To explain how the female hormones LH, FSH, progesterone, and estrogen change through a human female’s menstrual cycle

– To understand how the birth control pill provides negative feedback to the hypothalamus and pituitary gland

– To demonstrate the value of the application of material to students in addition to lecture/reading

Activity Description: Students are given a mini-lecture on the female cycle. They are then asked a clicker type question to test their understanding post lecture. Students apply the material through two small case-based questions about female birth control. Students are then asked the same clicker type question to see if their understanding has increased.

Time Needed: Questions and activity require approximately 15-20 minutes.

Materials Needed: Handouts, clickers if available, blank paper for students

Activity Instructions:

1. Give the students the lecture diagram (attached) that they can fill in with you as you lecture. Give a mini-lecture on the female hormone cycle, being sure to highlight how the pre-ovulation follicular phase differs from the post-ovulation luteal phase. Hormones that should be discussed include GnRH, LH, FSH, progesterone, and estrogen. How progesterone and estrogen provide negative feedback for the hypothalamus and pituitary gland are of importance to do this activity.

2. Give a post-lecture (pre-activity) clicker-type question. Have students answer independent of their classmates and don’t give them the answer yet. Collect the answers to measure the percent of students with the correct answer.

In the luteal phase (pre-ovulation) of the female cycle, the levels of _______________ remain high, inhibiting production of ________________.

a) GnRH; estrogen

b) LH and FSH; estrogen

c) progesterone; estrogen

d) estrogen; progesterone

e) None of the above. (Correct answer)

3. Give them a worksheet case study activity. Allow students to work in pairs and use their textbook images to answer the following case study questions (attached). A good way to increase discussion, even in a large class, is to have the students not put their names on their answers. You can collect them and read a few examples, letting the students decide if the answer is sufficient or not. Alternatively, you can have the students shuffle their answers among themselves and take turns reading some of the answers they have on the paper they received after the shuffle.

4. After discussing case study answers as a class, ask the same clicker-type question again. You should see a rise in the percent of students with the correct answer and you can now have the students fill in the blanks to make a correct statement: In the luteal phase (pre-ovulation) of the female cycle, the levels of estrogen and progesterone remain high, inhibiting production of FSH and LH.

Two potential test questions related to the activity:

1. Using your knowledge of the feedback loops of human female hormones, which of the following would you predict would result if a woman was continually exposed to estrogen and progesterone?

a) increased secretion of FSH

b) increased secretion of LH

c) degeneration of the corpus luteum

d) absence of monthly ovulation (Correct answer)

e) all of the above

2.  In hormone production, how do the follicle and corpus luteum compare?

a) Both produces primarily estrogen.

b) Both produce primarily progesterone.

c)The follicle produces more estrogen than progesterone; the corpus luteum produces more progesterone than estrogen. (Correct answer)

d) The follicle produces mostly progesterone; the corpus luteum produces estrogen and progesterone.

Lecture diagram for students:

What happens if there is no successful fertilization?


What happens if there is a pregnancy?


Worksheet: Female Hormones and Birth Control WorksheetFemale Hormones and Birth Control Worksheet KEY

Collecting Student Misconceptions About the Flu Vaccine

Written by Kelly A. Hogan, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Learning Outcomes:

– For students to find out what misconceptions they have about the flu vaccine

– To learn why the flu vaccine is sometimes ineffective

Activity Description: This can be done as a lecture opener to an immunology discussion or after the adaptive immune system is discussed. Students are surveyed (through a clicker system if available) to find out how many of them received the flu vaccine in the previous or current flu season. They are asked to anonymously write reasons if they chose not to get one. A discussion follows about misconceptions based upon their answers.

Time Needed: Survey and discussion can be completed in approximately 10 minutes.

Materials Needed: Handouts, clickers if available, notecards/paper for students

Activity Instructions:

  1. Survey your students to see how many of them have had the most current flu vaccine. (If your students are like mine, the majority will not have had the vaccine.) If you are using a clicker program, you can easily survey with this. If you are not using a clicker program and have a class of less than 32 students, you can use the free version of to survey students and get an instant histogram like clickers (students use laptops or cell phones to answer through either a web browser or a text message). Of course, a low-tech way to survey is to count raised hands!
  2. Next, seeing that many have not gotten the vaccine, push them to give you the reasons why they chose not get one. To get better responses, use an anonymous method. Have them write on blank paper and pass forward or have them text a free response to the question you might have already set up in
  3. Discuss reasons. Below I state common misconceptions that my students had:


  1. I hear I can get the flu from it.
  2. I have gotten the flu from the flu shot. The vaccine doesn’t work.
  3. I never had the shot and I never got the flu.
  4. The shot is only for babies and old people.
  5. I can get scary, severe side effects from the vaccine. Vaccines are dangerous and I would rather get the flu.

Background information to discuss their misconceptions:

(Based on CDC’s flu vaccine information; for more information.)

1. I hear I can get the flu from it.

The flu shot is made from a virus that has been killed. You cannot get the flu from this. There is a nasal spray version of the vaccine made with weakened, live virus. While some people will have minor side effects, runny nose or headache etc., they will not have the “flu.” People with severely compromised immune systems should not get the nasal spray, since this is a live virus.  This misconception that people will get the flu perpetuates though because someone they know got the flu after being vaccinated (see misconception number 2).

2. I had the shot once, but still got the flu. The vaccine doesn’t work.

Sometimes, people have already been exposed to the flu and are not showing symptoms yet. They receive the vaccine and then develop the flu. (They would have shown symptoms of the flu with or without the vaccine.)

Sometimes the vaccine is not effective because it doesn’t match the circulating strain of virus or there are multiple strains circulating.

“The effectiveness of inactivated influenza vaccine depends primarily on the age and immunocompetence of the vaccine recipient, and the degree of similarity between the viruses in the vaccine and those in circulation. In years when the vaccine strains are not well matched to circulating strains, vaccine effectiveness is generally lower. The vaccine may also be lower among persons with chronic medical conditions and among the elderly, as compared to healthy young adults and children. In addition, estimates of vaccine effectiveness vary, based on the specificity of the outcome that is being measured in the study.” (CDC)

3. I never had the shot and I never had the flu.

There is nothing superhuman about these people. They will likely one day get the flu and if it is bad enough, they will reconsider getting a flu shot in the future!

4. The shot is only for babies and old people.

Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine. It’s especially important that the following groups get vaccinated either because they are at high risk of having serious flu-related complications or because they live with or care for people at high risk for developing flu-related complications: pregnant women, children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old, people 50 years of age and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions, people who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, people who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu.

5. I can get scary, severe side effects from it.

“Almost all people who receive influenza vaccine have no serious problems from it. However, on rare occasions, flu vaccination can cause serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions.” (CDC). People with allergies to chicken eggs or other ingredients of the vaccine should not be vaccinated.

Correlation does not equal cause and effect. It is understandable that people who fall ill look for reasons behind their illness. Remind students about sample size. Just because they heard about  friend of a friend…

The CDC keeps a list of side effects from the flu shot and flu nasal spray in their vaccine adverse event reporting system (VAERS). VAERS data contains coincidental events and those truly caused by vaccines.

Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) is the most commonly cited serious side effect. “The potential association between the vaccine and GBS has been an area of ongoing research.” (CDC)

“Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a rare disorder in which a person’s own immune system damages their nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. GBS can cause symptoms that last for a few weeks. Most people recover fully from GBS, but some people have permanent nerve damage. In very rare cases, people have died of GBS, usually from difficulty breathing. In the United States, for example, an estimated 3,000 to 6,000 people develop GBS each year on average, whether or not they received a vaccination.”

There is much information to read from the CDC about this:

Blood Flow: Following a Single Red Blood Cell

Written by Kelly A. Hogan, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Learning Outcomes:

– To learn the basic blood flow through the human circulatory system

Activity Description: Students are given a mini-lecture on how blood flows through the human circulatory system by following the diagram provided. Students will label the diagram during the lecture. Students will then be given a location in the body by you and will be asked a variety of questions. Students will work in pairs.

Time Needed: Approximately 15-20 minutes

Materials Needed: Blank diagrams for students (attached)

Activity Instructions:

  1. Deliver a mini-lecture on blood flow through the human circulatory system, allowing students to fill in the diagram as you proceed.
  2. After lecturing, have the students “pair and share” to take turns explaining the diagram to each other. This should take about 5 minutes.
  3. Randomly choose a location and ask various questions to the students. This is an activity where repetition will be useful for many students. (You may choose to set this up as a game show scenario or have the students shout out answers etc.)Have a list of these “locations” in the system either on a set of index cards or pre-loaded as a list in the “Fruit Machine.” (This is a fun way to randomly choose items or student names etc from an electronic list. Cut and paste the list of locations into: arteryLeft atrium

    Superior Vena cava

    Pulmonary vein

    Capillaries of head, chest, and arms


    Capillaries of lungs

    Right atrium

    Left ventricle

    Right ventricle

    Capillaries of the abdomen and legs

    Inferior vena cava

  4. Ask a variety of questions such as:What’s the location the red blood cell will go to next?What’s the location the red blood cell has just come from?Will the red blood cell go through any capillary beds before reaching the left atrium? If so, how many?

    What is the most recent heart valve the red blood cell has travelled through?

    If not in the heart, describe the path how the red blood cell will get back to the heart.


What Animal Subgroup Do I Belong to? A Twenty Questions Game

Written by Kelly A. Hogan, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Learning Outcomes:

– To practice classifying animals based the animal phyla and subgroup characteristics

– To demonstrate a fun way to work with a large amount of classifying information

Activity Description: This is a 20 questions guessing game that can be adapted to various topics and can be limited to less than 20 questions if the scope is narrow. It can be used as a whole class activity with the instructor choosing an animal or in student pairs.

Time Needed: One round can be played in about 10 minutes, but students would benefit from playing many rounds and taking turns as the questioner.

Materials Needed: None

Activity Instructions: Student A (or instructor) thinks of an animal and then writes down the classification information and characteristics about this animal. Student B (or several students) asks questions in which the answer can only be yes/no or sometimes/usually/rarely. Students should be encouraged to ask at least five questions before guessing the phylum or more specific subgroup. Student questions must be questions about characteristics. When student B thinks he/she knows the complete answer he/she must say, “By golly biology, I think I’ve got it!” The student should then state the animal AND the phylum it belongs to.

An example:

Do you have a backbone? (Yes)

Are you ectothermic? (Yes)

Do you use external fertilization? (Yes)

Do you have fins? (No)

Do you have bony limbs? (Yes)

Do you have a tail? (No)

Are you a frog or toad? (Yes)

“By golly, biology, I think I’ve got it!” Are you a frog from Phyla Chordata? (Subphyla vertebrata, Class Amphibian?)

This game forces all involved to actively engage with applying content that many students find dull and overwhelming. If your students need some help to get going, you may choose to put up a list of characteristics that they can choose from such as:

Radial symmetry, bilateral symmetry, backbone, external skeleton, ectothermic, endothermic, internal fertilization, external fertilization, amniotic eggs, scales, hair, segmentation, aquatic, etc.

A Chance Discovery of Endosymbiosis? A Case Study

Written by Kelly A. Hogan, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Learning Outcomes:

– To demonstrate evolution in action based on famous endosymbiosis experiments by Kwang Jeon

– To appreciate how scientific discovery is sometimes accidental

– To explore Lynn Margulis’s theory of endosymbiosis and the differences between prokaryotes and eukaryotes

Activity Description: A short case study about two graduate students is used to explore how an accidental bacterial infection in eukaryotic cells can lead to a case of endosymbiosis. Students are asked to research the endosymbiosis theory and think about the evidence to support it. Students should either come to class ready for discussion after completing the activity or time can be given in class to allow students to research with their books and the Internet.

Time Needed: 50 minutes if given time to discuss and research in class (less if students have completed the questions on their own before discussion)

Materials Needed: Internet for student research. Students should be able to compile the information they need from their book and a single website:

Activity Instructions: Distribute case study and questions to students. Allow them time to research in class and intersperse with discussion and a mini-lecture. Alternatively, have students complete the case study on their own and discuss it in the next class. is a wonderful resource and this case study will expose them to this site.

Worksheet: Endosymbiosis Case Study & QuestionsEndosymbiosis Case Study Questions KEY