Tagged: biology

“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.

Aquatic Macroinvertebrates


After all the rain in August and September, our creeks are flowing and the water tanks are full. There are sun-dews popping up all over the embankments near the dam and the water is teeming with life. We found an excellent site for assisting to identify these creatures at “Identification and Ecology of Australian Freshwater Invertebrates”. As well as plenty of tadpoles of all different sizes, we have found lots of different aquatic macro-invertebrates, including:

  • leeches
  • damselflies
  • tiny freshwater molluscs
  • mosquito larvae
  • red mites
  • shield shrimp (like the one shown above)

Shield shrimp grow to 35mm and have between 35 and 71 pairs of legs. This minor group occur in ephemeral lentic waters. They are benthic and burrow into soft substrata. Notostracans are omnivores feeding on algae, bacteria, protozoans, rotifers and plant matter.  Eggs can withstand long periods of desiccation and are activated by the presence of water. Eggs hatch to microscopic larval forms with only three appendages, antennules, antennae and mandibles. Larvae undergo several moults before attaining adult form.

Year 8 Science – Reproduction

tigers mating

Photo Source

Year 8 students are continuing to learn about the Human Body Systems in Science this week. We have looked at the male and female reproductive systems and tried out the National Geographic “Incredible Human Machine” and the BBC Interactive Human Body – Puberty Demo. 

We have also learnt about reproduction in other animals and in plants. In the comments below, add a “Did you know…” with unusual facts about reproduction in other animals. Make sure you post a link to your own blog and write a brief account of reproduction in a specific animal.

Animations for Biology students and teachers

Screen capture from EduAnim

I was collecting some resources for my year 11 Biology class when I came across this great new site, eduAnim. The Centre for Scientific Visualization (CSV), produces scientific and educational software projects containing animations in virtual reality about the structure and function of the cell, tissue, human body and other topics from the field of biology. They develop products helping to learn about those topics in biology that are hard to be understood from the textbooks only. The software package “Cell-Tissue-Human Body” recognized the Ministry of Education of Slovenia as an official educational tool in slovene schools. Its English version can be seen also here. It has been selected for inclusion in the Awesome Library, a collection of the top 5% of sites in the field of K-12 education and nominated for the Stockholm challenge award.

How are penguins adapting to climate change?

Image Source

We don’t know yet, but Jean Pennycook is working in Antarctica to find out! She is a Californian scientist and teacher, living in a tent on Ross Island and researching how penguins are responding to climate and ecosystem changes. We are very excited at Hawkesdale P12 College today, to link up with Jean, through a discoverE virtual classroom. Students from prep to year 9 were able to ask questions via audio and text and Jean was able to talk about the slides on show and answer their questions. Students were surprised to find out that it takes about four days to travel to the camp, that it is daylight for 24 hours a day and that Antarctica is the fifth largest continent – bigger than North America and Mexico put together. They were very concerned that some male penguins abandoned their eggs when the female fails to return to the nest and wanted to know whether Jean could save them. Unfortunately, although she might be able to keep the eggs warm until they hatched, she would have no practical way of feeding the thousands of baby chicks! At the Penguin Science website you can find out more about the adelie penguins and see a penguin-cam movie, showing the daily movements of penguins across the changing sea-ice.

Thanks very much to Anne Mirtchin and Lorraine Leo for organising this Extraordinary Learning Eevent!

End of year visit to Melbourne Aquarium

This is an egg case from a Port Jackson shark, photographed at the Melbourne Aquarium. Eight students from Hawkesdale College had the oppportunity to visit the aquarium when we attended the ResourceSmart awards recently. The mother shark lays a soft egg case and uses her mouth to wedge it in between rocks, where it hardens. After ten or twelve months a baby shark emerges and the egg case if often washed ashore. You can read more about the Port Jackson shark here. This site is also great for learning about dissecting fish and their internal organs. Learn about different species of fish and play the fish memory game here.

We are winding up the year at Hawkesdale with a number of camps and excursions. Last week, 30 year 8 and 9 students walked the recently opened Timboon Rail Trail. A good three hour walk through pockets of native forest and past three old timber railway bridges was great exercise. This week, 27 students from year 7, 8 and 9 are riding the Great Hawkesdale Bike ride, about 200 km over five days. Although they have experienced some challenges, with wind, rain and scorching heat, they are all enjoying themselves!

Be a Virtual Surgeon with the Interactive Human Body!

Screen capture

That science powerhouse, National Geographic, has an amazing interactive human body for you to discover. Drag the organs into the body to place them into the correct position, or hover to find out more about each organ. Creepy noises and heart beats add to the experience of delving inside the Incredible Human Machine.

Giant Squid dissection at Melbourne Museum

Image: Paul McCoy Source: DPI Victoria

What has three hearts, blue blood and a brain shaped like a doughnut? A giant squid that’s what!
On Thursday 17th July, an immature female specimen, weighing 248kg and measuring up to 12 metres long, was dissected at the Melbourne Museum. The squid was caught by fishermen, deep off the coast of Portland and held on ice until the public dissection. You can watch a Melbourne Museum recording of the dissection here. The Herald-Sun has a short clip here.