Crime Scene Protocols

An introduction to crime scene personnel and procedures.  This is the first lesson in my Crime Scene Protocols unit. It takes students through what happens once a first responder has determined that, yes, we have a crime scene here!  Then the CSI team gets called in and the process of documenting the scene and properly collecting any evidence must begin.

In addition to the prezi I give my students the following note guide to fill in as I go through the lecture.  You can download the note guide as a PDF below.

Crime Scene Protocols Note Guide – PDF

In practice…

This lecture takes approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on how much detail and examples are given.  There is a 10-minute youtube video embedded in the prezi that details methods for picking up trace evidence from carpet.

Mysteries of Matter: Into Thin Air video worksheet

I like to use this video in chemistry classes either when learning about the periodic tableMysteries of Matter Cover, or later when beginning reactions.  It could really fit in anywhere, even as a good sub plan!

These questions follow the video Mysteries of Matter Episode 1: Into Thin Air.  For more information about the film visit the website: The video is 1 hour long and is available through the PBS store or your library.

Brief summary of the video:

This is the first of 3 episodes in the Mysteries of Matter series.  It introduces us to 3 scientists and how their work progresses in related topics.  We begin with James Priestley in England who experiments with ‘fixed air.’  Then, it moves on to Paris for the work of Antoine Lavoisier in discovering oxygen.  Finally, Humphrey Davy is described as a charismatic lecturer, enthusiastic ‘tester’ of different gasses, and discoverer of more elements.

In addition to discussing elements, the following topics become good discussions with this video:

  • Does a gas have mass?
  • Scientific collaboration – is it wise to share all of your experiments and results?  What if you don’t understand the results?  Who should get credit for a discovery – the person who performed the experiment, or the person who understands its significance?
  • Lab Safety – Compare the procedures and equipment that we would use today, with the methods used in this episode
  • Chemistry as a hobby – in a time without TV, internet, etc.  people went to lectures as entertainment, people tinkered in their own homes to make new discoveries.

I have created a video guide with questions for students to fill in as they watch this film.  If you are interested in the handout it is available through my Teachers Pay Teachers store by clicking here:

What do you think of this video?  I thought it was very valuable and my students found it interesting!

Forensics: Virtual Autopsy Activity

forensics: virtual autopsy activityThis is a great virtual autopsy activity for a Forensics course or unit on pathology or anatomy.  Students visit a website that has 18 different examples of autopsies with lab results for each body system.  Students record all relevant information and then try to determine the cause of death.  This can be used as an introduction to the unit, as an activity within the unit, or even as a great sub plan!  Best part, we don’t have to view a real autopsy!
Here is the link to the website used in the activity:
The following handouts are available from my store for a very low price.  Click here to get the handouts.
Virtual Autopsy Student Handout (MS Word File)
Virtual Autopsy Student Handout (PDF)

My students love this project, even seniors who are nearing the end of their high school days!  Each file is included as both a PDF and Word document so you can customize as needed.  Please comment your questions, suggestions, or successes!

Cell Biology Inspiration

The following links are very useful in teaching Cell Biology:


Forensic Hair & Fiber Analysis Inspiration

Links for Teachers

Campbell Biology Reading Guides

Campbell BiologyCampbell 9th edition is a widely used textbook in both AP Biology and college freshman biology courses.  Thankfully, the text comes with some wonderful reading guides to accompany each chapter.  I have my AP Biology students use the following guides as they read each chapter.  It is a great time saver for students since they don’t have to take detailed notes on their own!

You will find these as PDFs on many other websites, I have created Google Docs for them linked below.  The following chapters are aligned to the AP Biology 2013 Curriculum Framework.

Campbell Biology Reading Guides:

Reading Guide 3 – Water and Life

Reading Guide 4 – Carbon and the Molecular Diversity of Life

Reading Guide 5 – The Structure and Function of Large Biological Molecules

Reading Guide 6 – A Tour of the Cell

Reading Guide 7 – Membrane Structure and Function

Reading Guide 8 – An Introduction to Metabolism

Reading Guide 9 – Cellular Respiration and Fermentation

Reading Guide 10 – Photosynthesis

Reading Guide 11 – Cell Communication

Reading Guide 12 – Cell Cycle

Reading Guide 13 – Meiosis and Sexual Life Cycles

Reading Guide 14 – Mendel and the Gene Idea

Reading Guide 15 – The Chromosomal Basis of Inheritance

Reading Guide 16 – The Molecular Basis of Inheritance

Reading Guide 17 – From Gene to Protein

Reading Guide 18 – Regulation of Gene Expression

Reading Guide 19 – Viruses

Reading Guide 20 – Biotechnology

Reading Guide 22 – Descent with Modification: A Darwinian View of Life

Reading Guide 23 – The Evolution of Populations

Reading Guide 24 – The Origin of Species

Reading Guide 25 – The History of Life on Earth

Reading Guide 26 – Phylogeny and the Tree of Life

Reading Guide 38 – Angiosperm Reproduction and Biotechnology

Reading Guide 39 – Plant Responses to Internal and External Signals

Reading Guide 40 – Basic Principles of Animal Form and Function

Reading Guide 43 – The Immune System

Reading Guide 45 – Hormones and the Endocrine System

Reading Guide 47 – Animal Development

Reading Guide 48 – Neurons, Synapses, and Signaling

Reading Guide 49 – Nervous System

Reading Guide 51 – Animal Behavior

Reading Guide 52 – An Introduction to Ecology and the Biosphere

Reading Guide 53 – Population Ecology

Reading Guide 54 – Community Ecology

Reading Guide 55 – Ecosystems and Restoration Ecology

Reading Guide 56 – Conservation Biology and Global Change

Phew!  That was a lot of chapters! I hope you find this helpful.

AP Biology Book Club

Science Books

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The AP Biology Book Club was created as an interesting way to introduce my students to the science writing genre.  The College Board recommends that students in an AP Biology course read nonfiction works and other outside reading to get them beyond the textbook.  There are so many great books to choose from, I found it hard to select just one or two.  So, I decided to let the students choose!  The logistics of the book club are evolving but I am happy with the results so far.  Here is how the AP Bio Book Club is working for us.

Students Select From a Reading List

I have created a list of 6 titles that I give to students prior to the course for summer reading.  I teach at a small high school and have a small class size for AP Bio so I start with only 6 titles.  If you have larger classes you may want to expand the list.  I like to have at least 2 students who have read the same title so that I have 2 ‘experts’ when we discuss it.  Before the students leave for the summer I have them select one or two titles to take home with them and hopefully read over the summer.  Titles are listed in the course syllabus.

The Format is Informal

I’ve been involved in a few book clubs personally and my favorite ones are the informal ones.  I understand that I am the teacher and this needs to be a valuable learning experience so I keep a few goals in mind:

  • Introduce students to the ‘Science’ genre (there’s even a whole section at the bookstore!)
  • Link the book that we are discussing to the AP Biology Big Ideas
  • Link the book that we are discussing to as many specific science concepts as possible
  • Relate the concepts in the book to our daily lives


From a teaching perspective, the book club is implemented with two tasks.  First, a set of guiding questions are given for each of the books.  My course is delivered via a hybrid model so in our online course I’ve created a book club section.  Students can find a short description of each book to help them choose which one they want to read, and can also access the guiding questions for each book.  An online discussion board is set-up only for the students reading a particular book.  They can discuss the book and the guiding questions as they prepare for their book discussion in class.  They can also collaborate on their book club discussion if they doing a special presentation, skit, debate, etc.

Second, a class discussion of the book takes place at some time throughout the school year.  The timing of the discussions has been a challenge at times.  Some of the books are fairly specific as to which topic they should be placed with for discussion and they are easy to place within the curriculum schedule, but others span several topics areas.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing!  It is often an opportunity to make more connections across Big Ideas.

When the class discussion of a book is going to take place, the student ‘experts’ take center stage.  The discussion is scheduled in advance and I meet with the students involved to determine what they would like to do for their book discussion.  It is helpful if more than one student has read the title being discussed, but if there is only one we can still have a good discussion with that student as the leader. This is where the students get the opportunity to create visuals, gather other resources, videos, demonstrations, etc.  We use the guiding questions as the guide for the class discussion but I explain to the students that they are just the foundation, and the students who have read the book have the opportunity to create any other kind of presentation around them that they choose.


The students put a lot of time and effort into reading and discussing the book club books.  They prepare to be the discussion leaders.  And even the students who didn’t read the book must be active listeners and participants in the book discussion.  They may not have read the book, but they ARE knowledgeable in the topic!!  Each student receives a score for being the discussion leader, and each student receives a score for being a book club discussion participant by completing a quiz on the concepts discussed in the book.

How Many Books?

The first question students ask, “How many books do we have to read?”  At this point, only one of the books is required reading for my course.  A second one is extra credit.  This could change.  We all get a little overwhelmed with all that is AP Biology and books in the Science genre are not considered beach reading or fluff.  Plus, while each student is required to read only one, they are thoroughly discussing six.  Have you ever gone to a book club meeting where you didn’t finish the book?  You still got the gist and maybe the discussion was still valuable, right??  And we will read plenty of case studies and a few science journal articles before the course is over as well.

I’m interested in how you incorporate outside reading into your AP Biology courses.  What are the titles you enjoy most?  What titles do you find most valuable?  What titles do students enjoy?  Help me out, I could use some inspiration 😉