Category: biology

3D Printing for VCE Biology


I have been fortunate to attend the Quantum Victoria Centre several times since it opened in 2012, participating in 3D Printing and Gaming workshops with students from Year 7 to Year 10. Hawkesdale P12 College has also been lucky to receive a 3D printer, which has been installed in our Systems and Engineering shed. This week I have exploring opportunities to print scale models of hominid skulls for use in Unit 4 Biology. These models are useful for demonstrating to students comparisons of canine teeth, brow ridges, sagittal crest, protruding jaw and cranial capacity. The African Fossils site has the best models I have found for 3D printing hominid skulls, which need to be .stl or .obj files.

I have found files for four of the skulls shown above, although we haven’t been able to print any successfully yet. I’ll keep you posted!

“The Strange and Wonderful World of Ants” – App for iPad


This image is a screenshot from the fascinating iPad app “Strange and Wonderful World of Ants” by Amos Latteier with drawings by Melinda Matson. When the call went out from @ktenkely on Twitter for English and Science teachers to review this beautifully produced childrens ‘book’ for the iPad, I jumped at the chance. This unique application has three reading levels, suitable from 7 year olds to adults and information to inspire the most curious insect lovers. A quirky little ant character, E.O. Ant (presumably named after the famous American biologist and ant expert, E.O. Wilson) appears on each page with an informative and humorous commentary.

At the beginners level, the app introduces the life of different types of ants and their relationships with aphids, fungus and each other. The advanced level discusses phermones, symbiotic relationships, the bivouac and trophallaxis, providing excellent examples and descriptions of concepts. My 11 year old daughter, who read the intermediate level, enjoyed the close-up, black and white drawings and learnt about some of the unusual ant behaviours. It was more difficult to get any feedback from my 13 year old son (you know teenagers!) but he seemed to like it, although I doubt it would be something he would install of his own accord. As a teacher of middle years science, this would be a great app to promote scientific literacy in the classroom and to engage students in project about insects. Students always bring their own knowledge and experiences to the classroom and I can imagine this app kick-starting discussions about ants that carry 50 times their own body weight, how they smell when you squash them and why they start running around before rain.

The app also has a message to readers about how humans could learn a lot from the way ants co-operate, create and communicate with each other. I would love to see more educational apps like this, and will be recommending this one to our librarian, although we are still waiting for the Apple bulk purchase discounts for school use in Australia. Congratulations to Amos Latteier and Melinda Matson for an excellent addition to the list of educational apps with a difference.

Kanawinka Flora and Fauna


It has been an unusually wet Spring in SW Victoria and so we have seen some different types of wildlife around the place. This little chick is an Australasian Grebe or Little Grebe (Tachybaptus novaehollandiae), that my daughter found in our farm dam. The mother built a floating nest on the pump pipe and laid 3 eggs. She tends to dive a lot when frightened and lets out a loud “tik-tik” call. We have also found a lot of different tadpoles and frogs in a swampy area behind the dam and identified one as a Southern Brown tree frog. I haven’t been able to identify this little fella in the picture below, so if you know what it is, please leave me  a comment. I have been uploading some of our nature pics to Flickr, using the #pics4school and #kanawinka tags, if you are interested in more images of flora and fauna from our local area.


Energy Challenge: Turning Algae into Fuel


Image Source

Could tiny green plants be the answer to our fuel crisis? Melissa Toifl, CSIRO scientist, thinks they might be! Melissa has been working on a research project to find out how algae can be turned into fuel as a renewable energy resource. Algae could be grown at sewage treatment plants, using excess nutrients to promote algal growth. Melissa will be using Elluminate to present her session tomorrow morning, 9.00am EST (Australia). You can listen to the recording of Melissa’s session here: Introduction to Biofuels. This is her presentation on Slideshare:

View more presentations from Britt Gow.

Lizard Area at Hawkesdale Common

Lizard area#1

On Friday, students from 6/7R walked to the Hawkesdale Common to meet Bruce Mirtschin, member of HADDAC and the Hopkins Moyne Landcare Network. The aim was to create a habitat area suitable for small lizards, using rocks, fallen branches and vegetation. The Hawkesdale Common is 5 acre area opposite Apex Park, with a gravel loop and interpretative signs about the local flora and fauna. This area has been planned by members of the Moyne Shire Youth Council, in conjunction with DSE. If you find and can catch any small skinks at home, take a photograph and bring them in a small container so we can release them at the park. Check the Victorian Museum site, “Bioinformatics” to identify your skinks and lizards. 6/7R students should leave a comment below to tell me what reptiles need to survive and why. For example, why do lizards need rocks?

Year 8 Science: Human Body

human body

Year 8 Science students will continue their study of the human body with an exploration of the digestive system and nutrition. This will include food testing for glucose, starch, lipids and proteins. We will also use the National Geographic’s “Incredible Human Machine“; “Explore the Human Body“, BBC’s “Interactive Human Body” to identify the structure and function of various organs within the respiratory, circulatory and digestive systems.

Each student should keep a food and exercise diary to record the quantity and type of each food consumed over the week, as well as the physical processes that require energy each day. We will use this information to study tyour kilojoule inputs and outputs over a week – do you consume more chemical energy than you expend?

Year 8 Science – Heart Dissection

heart dissection

Year 8 students had been looking forward to “D-day” (Dissection day) for several weeks. Finally, we were able to defrost the sheep’s hearts, obtained from Midfield meats, and examine their structure. Three students opted not to take part, and one was a little queasy, but we also had some budding surgeons who showed their skill with the scalpel! Students are shown here washing their hands after a successful science experiment.

Previously we have looked at the components of the circulatory system and their processes, as well as the structures and functions of the respiratory and excretory systems and will move on to the digestive system next week. In the meantime, you can watch our TeacherTube video of the Heart Dissection.

Year 8 students are asked to leave a comment here about what you learnt from dissecting a sheep’s heart and what you have enjoyed about science this semester. I will be considering these comments as I write your reports, so write your comments in full (no text talk) and be thoughtful.