BioSleuths – June 22, 2o16

I have a feeling they are learning about seeds today? Thank you to our Allies Teacher Colette, who welcomed her students with this decoration today!


Our Sleuths are having a great time determining how different kinds of seeds get spread around. Each student took the role of a type of seed or a method of dispersal. Ask your student who they got to be!

BioSleuths: Honey Bee Tuesday

BioSleuths: Honey Bee Tuesday

One of the four areas students investigated today was the intricate social nature of bees and how the different types of bees work together to make honey, the honeycomb, and more bees! As a group, students enacted the roles of the bees in a hive and “produced” their own honey. “I can’t believe bees have to work so hard just to make a little honey!” observed one student.

Our intrepid biosleuths also used manipulatives and geometry to discover how and why honeybees have perfected their honeycomb design and concluded that hexagons are the optimal shape for honeycomb cells.

Ask your student:

From which part of the bee’s body does the wax come? (abdomen)

Which type of bee in the colony builds the honeycomb? (worker)



Vital Signs Aurora: Sheep Heart Dissection

Vital Signs Aurora: Sheep Heart Dissection

Day 2 is over, and our daring dissectors have had an in-depth look at the workings of every mammal’s most important organ: the heart! During their exploration, students continued to recognize the relationship between structure and function that is present everywhere in biological structures. One student commented, “Every piece of the organ has a specific job, and everything is efficient!”

The scientists-in-training will continue to explore this connection between structure and function as the week goes on!

Ask your student:

What are the jobs of the atria and ventricles of the heart? (Atria take blood from body back into the heart; ventricles pump blood to lungs and then back to the body.)

What is the difference between a vein and an artery? (arteries carry blood away from the heart; veins carry blood to the heart)


Vital Signs Aurora: Chicken Wing Thing

Vital Signs Aurora: Chicken Wing Thing

On the first day of a jam-packed week, students delved into anatomy by learning the basics of dissection! Our budding scientists explored the structures of a chicken wing, discovering characteristics that are shared with the human arm. As they examined deeper levels of complexity during their dissection, they observed the interactions between systems and structures that allow the wing to function.

Students also learned how to preserve the bones of the chicken wing in order to use them in one of Friday’s lessons!

Ask your student:

What is the difference between the flexor and extensor muscles? (They work together to move the arm/wing, flexor curls the limb, extensor extends it)

What are the two bones of the lower arm/wing? (radius and ulna)



BioSleuths Aurora: Soil Life

BioSleuths Aurora: Soil Life

Whether you can see them or not there are many things living in the soil. This is one of the concepts your student learned today.  Students set up two experiments today to learn not only about where life comes from but also what kinds of organisms live in the soil. Students worked in groups to prepare their first experiment. They placed pieces of chicken in cans with different coverings; they will come back to these cans later in the week to observe what is new. After this experiment they collected soil samples to learn about all the living things inside of it. Many of the students found worms or other critters while they were on this mission.

These curious biosleuths shined light directly over the Burlese-Tullgren funnel to help them understand what organisms live in the ground.  “I think I’m going to find more worms in my soil.” hypothesized one of the sleuths.


Ask your student:

How did the light help you find organisms in the Burlese-Tullgren funnel set up? (organisms will tend to move away from the light/heat source, which is downward into the alcohol).

Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois: Who are they?

The Golden Apples Scholars of Illinois program recognizes talented students who demonstrate the passion and drive to become excellent teachers.  This scholarship program provides these scholars with financial stipends, residential summer institutes, and mentoring from a Golden Apple teacher.   In exchange, Golden Apple Scholars agree to work in high-needs schools.  IMSA and the Golden Apples program have been in partnership for 9 years.  This year, IMSA is pleased to host 30 scholars for a four week residential summer institute.

Scholars will be immersed almost immediately in preparing for delivering IMSA’s Statewide Student Initiatives Summer Program, Gold Medal STEM.  They will learn both content and pedagogical approaches to engage their learners in a journey through the 2016 Rio Olympic Games through the lens of force and motion.

Throughout the week, learners will design and develop a mechanical swimmer to meet a series of performance criteria and ultimately compete against a rival design.  They will explore materials and engineer a safety helmet for a cyclist, and will also explore properties of materials used in pole vaulting.  They will investigate rotational inertia, rolling resistance, gear ratios, and applications of Magnus force in Olympic ball sports.  Additionally, learners will use technology to graph motion and apply their knowledge to various sports scenarios.  They will design their own experiments to recommend appropriate materials for an Olympic swim team and will generate and test their own questions in discovering how divers minimize splash.  Other activities will have learners investigating third-class levers to determine which combination of ball and grip position is ideal for a field hockey player and reaching for new heights as they explore standing vertical jumps.

The Golden Apples Scholars look forward to the opportunity to engage and challenge summer campers as they explore the science, technology, engineering, and mathematical aspects of Olympic sports.

Integrated Science Program

Integrated Science Program

This is an IMSA-created blended (on-line followed by an on-campus portion) program for students entering 9th grade. With continued support of funding from Abbvie this summer, IMSA is able to offer this program to 40 promising students from backgrounds that are under-represented in STEM fields.

Students will first complete a two-week, 40 hour on-line course followed with one week of face-to-face experience at IMSA’s Aurora campus. The course incorporates both a chemical and biological exploration of water, and students will be learning about everything from the very small (like how bonds form between molecules in water) to the very large (like how changes in our global environment impact the water cycle).

The over-arching goals of this course include helping students develop the skills necessary to be successful in science. These include critical reading and thinking, data analysis, and written communication, just to name a few.  The course will also provide students with a taste of the kind of work that we do with students here at IMSA during the regular school year.

We are happy to report that many of the students who successfully completed the pilot program in summer 2015 decided to apply to IMSA, and we’re looking forward to seeing the thirteen who were offered and accepted admission in our classrooms and residence halls beginning this fall!