Life Science - 2016-2017

Welcome to 7th grade science 
with Mrs. Sorrows!    

Life science, or Biology, is the study of life and living organisms. 
We will explore life from the smallest cells to organisms and their interactions. 

Major Units of Study
        The Scientific Method
        Viruses & Bacteria
        Protists and Fungi
        Simple Invertebrates
        Complex Invertebrates
        Organ Systems in Animals

Previous topics:
During September we explored Ecology. We learned that ecosystems contain both living and nonliving parts that interact. Students sprouted lentil seeds and observed some of the 6 characteristics of living things as they looked for evidence that the seeds are alive.

What roles do organisms play in the ecosystem?
What is the relationship of the biotic and abiotic components of an ecosystem?
How do energy and nutrients cycle in an ecosystem?
How does the interaction between organisms and their abiotic environment affect the distribution and abundance of specific organisms?

Population Ecology (sections of Ch. 21, 1 and 2)
How do groups of individuals interact? 
How do different species interact with other species in the same area? 
Why do organisms compete?What are the possible symbiotic relationships?

Past items:
Quiz - Tuesday, Oct. 18
Cell structures and their functions. See INB 34 for details (posted on Important Documents). For review, especially use INB 28-34 and from Classroom access the video and Quizlet.

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Integration of Knowledge

For the last unit of the year, we spend time thinking about how organ systems interact in an organism's body. For example, how does a lion catch a giraffe? The lion needs to use many organ systems in this process, and the organ systems pass materials to each other in order to function. Our students now know many aspects of the processes that work at the cell level as well as at the system level.

In this unit, we also reflect back on the different phyla of organisms that we have studied and can think more about their interactions in ecosystems and specifically in different food webs.


The genetics unit covers key concepts in how DNA is copied, how sex cells are made, what chromosomes are and how genes are passed from parents to offspring. Students can now make a Punnett Square and explain the probability of the offspring having a particular trait. 


In March and April students examine different groups of animals, beginning with the simplest organisms. It may be a surprise that sponges in the ocean are living, or that they are animals and not related to plants. As we work through different types of invertebrates, students will build their understanding of different body systems, with a focus on the digestive, structural, circulatory, and respiratory systems, and particularly how they work together.

    The Animal unit includes several opportunities to dissect animal specimens. While this is not required, I strongly encourage students to participate, as the opportunity to examine the body structures and the organ systems helps students deepen their understanding of how structures support different functions. Parents interested in volunteering during dissections are encouraged to email me.

    During March, students used homemade playdough to model sponges, jellyfish, sea anemones, flatworms and roundworms. The recipe for the playdough can be found on the Documents page on the left hand links.

    During April and May, we will gradually study more complex animals, continuing our focus on structures and their functions and how the organisms fit together in their natural environment.


The first two weeks after February vacation we focus on evolution. There are a number of online activities that allow students to explore what Darwin and others observed that became the basis of their ideas about natural selection and evolution. Students will manipulate interactive diagrams, identifying relationships between species based on characteristics that they may have in common. They will examine evidence of evolution from fossils, body/bone structure, embryonic structure and DNA.


Parent Volunteers Needed

I would love to have parent volunteers to help with several plant labs. Tentatively, I am looking for volunteers on Feb. 1 (starting experiments planting seeds) and Feb. 3 or 6 (studying the parts of a flower). Please email me if you might be interested. It would be especially helpful if you are able to volunteer for 2 class periods on a given day as you become familiar with the lesson and it's easier, but this is not a requirement. I will send you the possible class times by email.

Plant TEST - Feb. 9

Unit test on chapter 8, plants

Resources for study:

1. Review Packet - INB 99 (completing some in class, some for HW; be sure to check answers)
2. INB 80 to end --- Review your class notes for key concepts, groups of plants and their characteristics
3. QUIZLET - vocabulary practice online
4. Textbook - p. 250- 281
5. Use the model in the classroom to practice
6. Practice your foldables (INB 92,98)
7. After school help:  Monday 2/6 or Tues. 2/7
8. Active participation in review activities & tournament questions during class Tuesday and Wednesday


Mid-January into February, students will be studying plants. I plan to set up a terrarium in the classroom so that we can look at moss up close during this unit, to help students understand the structure and growth of different types of plants. We'll also look at flowers from the grocery store to learn about the parts of a flowering plant and develop an understanding of the function each part of a flower plays in the plant's growth and reproduction.


During early January, we've studied fungi and students now know that there is much more to a mushroom that what you see above ground! 

I found some amazing images of fungi - the gills, hyphae and even new spores just starting to grow, that were taken with an electron microscope: check them out!

Students explored some research articles about protists during early January, to help them revisit and wrap-up their understanding of protists. Some of the articles contained suprising information about the protists we had seen in class, including these:

Viruses, Bacteria and Protists

Term 2 begins with a study of microbiology. Viruses, which we do not consider to be alive, share some characteristics with organisms. We look at yogurt bacteria and living protists in the microscope.

Use the quizlet link to get to my page and then find the Microbiology Dec 2016 set for practice.
Unit test - Tues. 12/20.

Cell Cycle

In this unit, students learn about how and why cells divide.
There are several links to see how cells divide under the QUIZ heading to the right.

Cell Processes

Active and passive transport, photosynthesis and cellular respiration are just a few of the key processes that happen in cells. Students apply their new knowledge of the cell organelles to understand how materials get where they need to be, what functions happen, and how parts of the cell work together. They examine plant and animals cells in the lab, looking at onion skin and at their own cheek cells, and see a demo of diffusion with starch, iodine and a plastic bag!

In November, we will learn about a final cell process, Cell Division, and put that concept together with the Cell Theory. Then we begin our examination of microorganisms.

Introduction to Cell Organelles

        During October, we will examine cells, their organelles, and the processes that happen in cells. We will look at how the organelles enable cells to perform a wide range of functions and why they are considered the building blocks of living things. Our essential questions include:

·         How is the cell the basic unit of life?

·         How do materials enter and leave cells?

·         What are the structures and function of a cell?

·         What are the functions of the major cell structures?

·         How are the characteristics of life manifested by the cell?

·         Why is each part of the cell essential to survival?


        Our cell exploration will include a Problem-based learning activity examining the different organelles and presented our research for others to learn from. We will build new lab skills using the microscopes and creating our own slides to look at cells. 

Parent Volunteers
I would love to have a few parents help when I take students outside for science activities or during certain labs. Please let me know if you have completed the CORI and are interested. Often I ask volunteers to come in for two class periods in a row, if they are available.

Instructional Materials include:
  • Prentice Hall Science Explorer book Life Science, as well as supplemental print and online materials that Prentice Hall supplies with this textbook. 
  • PBS Learning Media 
  • PhET simulations 
  • for vocabulary practice

Contact Mrs. Sorrows!
My email address is msorrows and all school addresses use
Please feel free to email me any questions or concerns; I check email daily and will get back to you as soon as I can, typically by the end of the next school day. Email is the best way to reach me, however you can also call me by telephoning the office at 978-365-4558 and leaving a message for me.

Miscellaneous Announcements

Online Bird Guide
This is a wonderful website for identifying and learning about birds you see, with calls, descriptions and photos:
Cornell Lab of Ornithology at

Camp Google has some fun, quick videos- 
They might be great for getting ideas about an activity to do with a friend or sibling.

Science Outdoors & in Lab
We had a great time at the Outdoor Classroom in science class, and planting our seeds in the classroom. Many thanks to the volunteers who came in to help us!

Many students asked for the recipe for the playdough that we use in class. There are several versions at this website  and there are other sites with no-cook playdough. 
I do the following:
Mix 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup salt, 2 teaspoons cream of tartar in a pot. Then add 1 cup water and 1 Tablespoon oil.  Mix over medium heat, stirring constantly for 2 to 5 minutes. It turns into a lumpy mess, and just before you think it is going to burn to the pan and be a disaster, take it off, dump it on the counter with a tiny bit of flour, and it will be perfect.  You can add food coloring with the liquids or at the end when you are kneading it on the counter.  When it is cool, store it in a zipped plastic bag and it will last for months. The cream of tartar helps it last longer and is great to have, but it would probably work without it.  
This is a great site to practice your vocabulary. My sets are designed to work well with Match (Scatter) and as Flashcards for practice. Then, if you want to test yourself, create a test but change the # of questions to the maximum for that set AND un-click the "written" option. 

Textbook online!
Use your regular school email address (the part before the @ sign) and the password I have given you at school; it begins with a lowercase l. Send me email if you forget it!

MobyMax is an online program that students will use to review or learn new information on different topics. Put "Luther Burbank" as the school or put in school code ma1071. Use this to review and re-learn topics in Classification (Domains & Kingdoms) or the Cell Cycle and cell division. Note that it calls Domain Archaea by the name Domain Archaebacteria or Ancient Bacteria, but it's the same as what we talked about.

After school help
After school help is typically available on Mondays. Other afternoons and before school are also possible, just ask!

Want to do better in science?
I invite you to come see me for help during or after school! Here are two hints to try, whether you are stuck on the homework, wanting to work toward a better grade on the next test, or trying to make sense of the material.

1. Go through your class notes and try to explain them out loud. When you get to something that is hard to explain or you don't understand, write down a question and bring it in to ask.

2. As you are doing your homework, think of one question that you are curious about, relating to the material. What would you ask a scientist who works on that topic? Bring that in to share and we can discuss it. 

General advice:  Do all homework assignments, practice current and old vocabulary regularly, and don't be shy about coming in for review or when you have questions.

Quiz - Friday, Nov. 18
Classification and Cell Cycle
This quiz covers classification levels, and how & why scientists classify organisms. It also covers the cell cycle. One site with images and video of how a cell divides is:
BrainPOP on Mitosis was also used in class and can be reviewed.

Extra study help is available Mon 11/14 and Tues. 11/15.

past notes:
Test - Wednesday, Nov. 2
Cells Unit
INB pages on cells, starting with INB 10. 
Also refer to Textbook p. 72-94, p. 56
See packet 44 study guide for specific things to practice for the test. 
        Plant and animal cells, and processes in cells are key aspects in this unit. Microscope use and parts, key organelles and core ecology concepts are included in this unit as well.