Science, Education, and Science Education

classroom applications
May 8th, 2021 by Luann

End of Year Science Scavenger Hunts

A few decades ago, I wrote a scavenger hunt for my AP Chem students to do After The Test.                                                                                                      It’s gone through many iterations, and has been modified for a general chemistry class. A Biology version soon followed. It’s a great end-of-the-year activity as students must apply what they’ve learned all year and make connections among several concepts. The hunt can be done as an out of class assignment, or time in class can be given for students to plan the items they will use and write the index cards. I’ve had students work alone, in pairs, and in groups or 3.

Here’s how it works:

Students get a list of 75 items to find and a set of rules. Here are a few items students on the Biology version:

  1. A substance made of amino acids. Define amino acid, sketch the structural formula, and tell which type of substances are composed of amino acids.
  2. A structure containing an organelle that carries out photosynthesis. Sketch the organelle and label the parts.  What is the source of the energy used in photosynthesis?
  3. A plant that does not have roots at any stage in its life cycle. Label the structure that anchors the plant to the earth.
  4. A solution from which water would diffuse into a plant cell placed in the solution. Describe the solution and explain why water would diffuse into the cell.

They find an item that meets the criteria, seal it in a plastic sandwich baggie,  and attach an index card telling:

    • The ID number from the list and the identity of the item
    • Any labeling, verification, measurements, calculations, formulas, equations, explanations, etc.
    • Explain of how the item answers the question. Include chemical formulas, where appropriate.
    • Include the reference or source in a format that can be easily traced, such as a specific website URL. You may cite the person who told you information as a credit.

Three points are awarded for explaining how the object chosen meets the criteria in the bullet points.

Students would find, for Item 1, something containing protein. They would write on the index card the definition of amino acid, sketch the structural formula of any amino acid, state that protein is made of amino acids, and explain how their item meets the criteria by being an example of protein. Suppose the student chose a chicken bone (they really don’t smell all that bad in a sealed plastic bag.) An explanation might look something like:

“Item 1: A chicken humerus, with some meat still attached. The meat is protein, which is made of amino acids.”

The fun really begins when students realize, as the directions encourage, that a single sample may meet the criteria for several listed items.  The chicken wing could also be used for #28, which states

28. An object from a living thing that is considered amniotic. Explain how the object represents the living thing, why the living thing is considered to be amniotic, and explain the significance of an amnion.

The student would write on a card, and attach it to the same baggie:
“Item 28: A chicken humerus. This bone is from a chicken.  Chickens lay eggs with amnion, a lining inside the shell.  The amnion, or amniotic membrane, helps the egg retain water while the chick is developing.”

Water, sugar or salt solutions, a leaf from a plant can be used for many of the items listed.

It’s a lot of fun to write your own list for such a scavenger hunt. If you don’t want to do that, mine are linked below.

Biology Scavenger Hunt

Chemistry Scavenger Hunt

Biology and Chemistry Scavenger Hunts 

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