January 3, 2017

Ask a Biologist Site Invites Life-Sciences Questions from Students, Teachers

By Rob Klindt, Contributing Writer | Literacy Resources

The world of biology is as fascinating as it is sometimes confusing. Do you have a question about DNA, cell division or what a biologist does? Just ask. A biologist is as close as your internet-connected computer, digital tablet or smartphone.

K-12 teachers and students can direct these kinds of questions to Ask a Biologist. The website’s homepage features a cool “Ask a Question” link where visitors can post queries and get replies from biologists trained to answer questions from K-12 students.

Ask a Biologist invites students and teaches to post questions to experts trained in biologyMore than 38,000 biology questions have been answered since the website was launched in 1997. And the best part? It’s free.

Ask a Biologist was developed as a learning resource tool for teachers, students and parents and is maintained by volunteers at the Arizona State University School of Life Sciences. More than 30,000 people visit the website every day.

And there’s more.

Beyond its signature Q&A feature, Ask a Biologist boasts a plenitude of educational articles, online simulations, podcasts, video links, downloadable lesson plans and experiments aimed at students in K-12 classes.

STEM activities for students

Many of the materials on the website align with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs and science educational standards in most states. By clicking on the “Activities” or “Stories” links on the homepage, students will uncover a wide range of fun and interactive biology study materials. Here is a sampling:

  • Building an ant farm, printable coloring pages and worksheets.
  • Growing pocket seeds, composting, air pollution studies.
  • Read articles or listen to podcasts from biologists describing why they enjoy biology and how they became professional biologists.
  • Videos, podcasts, image galleries, interactive puzzles and games.
  • Bone anatomy viewer, beetle dissection tool, cell viewer.

Many of the activities and experiments include fun companion games that help explain related biology principles.

Lesson plans for teachers

By clicking on the “Teacher Toolbox” link on the homepage, educators will find an impressive collection of classroom materials that can be added to existing lesson plans or adapted into independent study programs. Materials include biology experiments, games, activities and simulation tools. Among the most popular:

  • How animals see color
  • Extracting DNA from a banana
  • Biology flash cards
  • Virtual bone lab
  • The structure of proteins

Most of the articles and experiments include a list of biology words and definitions that students should know after finishing each unit. Also, teachers looking for specific topics can use a search box that can be customized by category and grade level.

Finally, under the “Listen & Watch” link, there are dozens of free downloadable audio podcasts and videos that feature experts sharing information about all branches of biology. Among topics are DNA, zombie ants, how birds fly and secrets of desert plants.

The Ask a Biologist website is always a work in progress with content updated and added regularly. Teachers should check back often to make sure they don’t miss a thing.

Visit the Ask a Biologist website

Rob Klindt’s “App Reviews” combine his passion for writing with an ever-growing interest in educational technology. His simple, straightforward approach to reviewing educational apps help educators and parents leverage new tools for students in and out of the classroom.

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