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Lesson Plans & Experiments

Help your students learn about how and why things work the way they do. This section features lesson plans and experiments created by educators.

Statement on Use

The lesson plans and experiments available at the Biophysical Society web site have been designed for use under supervised instruction. Although the lesson plans and experiments in general do not require harmful materials or procedures, reasonable care should be taken when performing procedures such as heating liquids or weighing out chemical substances. It is the view of the Biophysical Society that taking reasonable precautions while performing the procedures posted at this site is the responsibility of those who use the materials from this site.

The BASICS: Biophysics – A Step-by-Step Introduction to Concepts for Students is a series of lesson plans designed for high school teachers and students; one lesson plan is adapted for K-6. The lesson plans introduce biophysical concepts, including Diffusion, Viscosity, Elasticity, and Experimental Error, with easy-to-perform experiments to illustrate the concepts. The lesson plans are available in Spanish, as well as English. We hope that these lesson plans excite both teachers and students, and inspire students to consider biophysics as a course of study during their college careers.

 

Lesson Plans

Experiments

Science is all about exploration and discovery. Below are some easy and fun hands-on activities and science experiments to get young curious scientists excited.

 

Replicating X-ray of DNA

How do we know that the DNA molecule is a double helix?

In 1952, Rosalind Franklin took a picture of DNA by shining x-rays on crystals of DNA and looking at the pattern of light that emerged. This light pattern was then used by Watson and Crick to determine that DNA has a double-helix structure. In this demo, you will reproduce this nobel-prize winning experiment! However, instead of x-rays you will use a green laser pointer, and instead of DNA you will use the filament from a light bulb. Changing the structure of the filament will allow you to change the pattern of light emerging from the filament for your audience.

 

Measuring the Mechanical properties of a Cell

Cells change their chemical and biological properties when they respond to stimuli. Do they change their mechanical properties too?

Recently, biophysicists found that immune cells become softer or less stiff when they are actively fighting disease! They were able to measure the change in stiffness by indenting the cell with a sharp tip. Here your audience will perform a similar experiment and use their fingers to indent water beads to measure their mechanical properties..

 

Random Walk Game

Cells can actively transport things using small miniaturized motors. But, how do we know if something is being actively transported? How do we know it isn’t moving randomly due to Brownian Motion?

One job of a Biophysicist is to be able to spot when things are moving randomly in a cell due to Brownian motion and when the cell is using energy and resources to actively transport things. In this demo, you will have your audience play a game so that they can see the difference between random motion and directed transport. In the game, everyone moves randomly back and forth until one person reaches a target, then everyone runs away as fast they can in a directed manner, hoping not to get caught! After playing the game, you can quiz your audience about what patterns of movement they would look for to tell the difference between random motion and directed transport.

Lesson Plans Taught Around the World