Middle Grades Life Science

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Teacher: Tracy
Customers Who Have Viewed This Course: 4354

Course Introduction

0 Course Introduction 04:28


1 Characteristics of Living Things 13:16

Picture of Characteristics of Living Things

This lesson teaches students the qualities that something must have in order to be considered a living thing. We compare and contrast two sets of living and non-living things to give students an in-depth understanding of each of the  This information will come into play as we delve more deeply into the cell unit and gives us a base to start from for the lessons to come.

2 Characteristics of Living Things Review 09:42

A review of the assignment that accompanies this lesson, including elaboration on why each item is or is not a living thing and on the characteristics of living things that organisms exhibit.

3 Introduction to Cells 11:40

Picture of Introduction to Cells

In this lesson we define a cell and look at what it means to be a "building block of life".  We also compare prokaryotic and eukarotic cells, plant and animal cells, and look at the difference between multicellular and unicellular organisms (which is actually a little more than just being made of mulitple or single cells!)

4 Introduction to Cells Review 04:34

This review shows the correct vocabulary and some sample ways to create illustrations to demonstrate understanding of the vocabulary words from this lesson.

5 Cell Theory 14:12

Picture of Cell Theory

In order to fully understand the basics of biological sciences, we begin with Cell Theory as this theory established the basis of biological sciences.  In this video we explore the difference between common usage and scientific usage of the word "theory" and why that's important, we look at how the cell theory was developed over time, and what each tenet of the cell theory means to us.

6 Cell Theory Review 03:57

An examination of the idea of Spontaneous Generation and how experimentation with this idea lead to further confirmation of Cell Theory.

7 Organelles 12:05

In this lesson we give an overview of the function of the major organelles within a cell and discuss their functions both individually and how they work together as a unit to make a cell be able to work.  We make analagous comparisons to familiar objects, systems, or institutions to help students undertand the organlle functions. The animal cell is used as the primary example, but the differences between an animal cell and a plant cell are distinquished. 

8 Organelle Review 06:20

A review of the concepts learned in this lesson - students will see a completed drawing along with organelle descriptions to compare to the one they created as the assignment for this lesson.

9 Cell Form and Function 08:10

The structure of a cell is related to its function, and in this lesson we examine several examples of just how form and function work together to make the cell work efficiently.  We compare the form and function relationship of cells to the form and function of other items, such as cars and powerlines to relate to student's prior knowledge.

10 Cell Form and Function Review 03:14

This video reviews two different kinds of cells and how their structure helps them do their job.

11 Cell Membrane 14:51

This lesson examines the function of the cell membrane and how it moves molecules in or out of the cell via diffusion, osmosis, and active transport.  We spend time on each of these processes as we take a virtual field trip to my kitchen to look at the cell membrane in action!  Students can follow along and use some everyday items in a lab that is provided in the resources section to show how these processes occur.

12 Cell Membrane Review 04:17

A review of active and passive transport across a cell membrane

13 The Chloroplast and Photosynthesis 12:56

This lesson is a detailed look at the organelle, the chloroplast. Most of our focus is on how plant cells use sunlight to create food for the plant.  We discuss what it means to be an autotroph, how the plant takes it what it needs to create its own food, and we examine the chemical formula of this reaction as well as the concept of conservation of matter.

14 The Chloroplast and Photosynthesis Review 03:23

A review of the material presented in this lesson using the small manipulative pieces.

15 The Mitochondria and Cellular Respiration 07:42

This lesson examines the role of mitochondria in converting glucose into energy that is used by the cell to be able to function.  We look at this process in relation to photosynthesis as the same molecules are involved, and in relation to eating and breathing - which is often confused for respiration.

16 The Mitochondria and Cellular Respiration Review 03:35

A review of the material in this lesson.

17 The Nucleus and Mitosis - Part 1 12:51

The nucleus controls all the functions of the cell and this lesson looks at the nucleus and its role in cell division; mitosis.  This is the first part of the lesson that examines the role of the nucleus and how it is involved in cell division.  We go through the phases of mitosis and show how the DNA is divided in that process and how the cell splits into two identical cells by the end of the cell cycle.

18 The Nucleus and Mitosis - Part 2 09:57

Part two of an examination of the role of the nucleus and how the cell divides during the process of mitosis, including all the steps of cell division and ending with the creation of two new identical cells.

19 The Nucleus and Mitosis Review 04:20

A review of the assignment that accompanies the nucleus and mitosis unit.  This review includes a summary of the steps of mitosis and how it is a part of the cell cycle.


20 Introduction to Genetics 12:13

Gregor Mendel is known as the Father of Genetics, and in this lesson we examine the experiments he did on pea plants that lead to the field of science we know now as genetics.  We also learn key vocabulary terms such as heredity, traits, genotype, phenotype, and dominant and recessive alleles - all terms we will be using throughout the unit.

21 Introduction to Genetics Review 07:30

A review of the introduction to genetics lesson with supplementary explanation of the material.

22 DNA, Genes, Alleles, Chromosomes 15:00

There are many relationships among the terms we use in genetics, and this lesson helps make the connections among those concepts more clear. In order for students to have a firm grasp of genetics, it is important to fully understand how the pieces all work in the whole.  So toward that end, we look at and explain a couple models to show the relationship between genes, alleles, chromosomes, and DNA.  We also discuss what a gamete is, and break down the composition of DNA.

23 DNA, Genes, Alleles, Chromosomes Review 03:42

This lesson reviews the vocabulary associated with this lesson and explains how the illustrations represent the terms.

24 Meiosis Part 1 12:57

Mitosis and meiosis can be easily oconfused, so this video takes students through the process of meiosis and compares it to the process of mitosis from a previous lesson.  We see the similarities and differences, both in the process and in the outcome.  We also spend time learning about how meiosis produces offspring that are genetically different from their parents , why that's important, and why that's not the case in mitosis.  We also introduce the terms diploid and haploid, as well as the concept of "crossing over".

25 Meiosis Part 2 07:35

This is the second part of the video explaining the process of meiosis and how it results in genetically different offspring than the parent generation.

26 Meiosis Review 07:11

This video reviews the concept of meiosis and guides students through how identifications were made of the processes being depicted.

27 Punnett Squares 14:57

This video teaches students how to use a Punnett square to determine the probability of an offspring inheriting a certain allele combination.  It provides guided instruction and allows students the opportunity to test their skills during the video and then again independently in the accompanying worksheet.  Vocabulary that was introduced earlier in this unit is used a reinforced here and we work out several sample Punnett squares as examples.

28 Punnett Squares Review 06:02

A review of the skills worksheet that accompanied the Punnett Squares lesson.

29 Polygenic Inheritence 12:26

This lesson explains the difference between Mendelian genetics, which is what we've been looking at throughout this unit, and polygenic inheritance, which is actually more prevelent.  Mendelian genetics gives us our base understanding, and then we can build on that with this lesson, looking at the results of polygenic crosses and multiple allele inheritance and the spectrum of varieties in the gene pool that it creates.  We also look at what it means to have co-dominance and incomplete dominance

30 Polygenic Inheritence Review 04:42

A review of the material learned in this lesson by going over the practice polygenic crosses.

31 Sex-linked Traits 14:12

This video discusses how some traits are sex-linked; determined by the same chromosome that determines your gender.  It also goes through what it means to be a carrier and how to determine the probability of inheriting a sex-linked trait.  Students learn how to complete a Punnett square for sex-linked traits and go through some real-life examples of conditions that are linked to specific genders.

32 Sex-linked Traits Review 13:31

This review lesson goes through the practice worksheet in detail to help students process the skills they have learned and apply them to new situations.

33 Pedigrees 11:47

Students learn to read and use a pedigree to trace the inheritance of certain traits through family lines.  This is valuable in determining how a trait was passed on and the odds of inheriting a certain trait in future generations.  We also run through some sample pedigrees together so students can do them on their own for practice later.

34 Pedigrees Review 12:38

This is a step by step review of the materials that accompany this lesson, detailing how the pedigrees are created and using Punnett squares to confirm information.

35 Mutations 14:44

In this video we explore how mutations are a basis for evolution and are so important as a cause of genetic diversity.  We learn about how mutatations are caused, including point mutations, insertion, deletion, and then non-random environmentally caused mutations.  We stress how mutations are primarily neutral and have no ill-effect the vast majority of the time, and we go through some mutations that have had effects on various populations.

36 Mutations Review 04:41

Review of mutations by applying the information learned in the video lesson to situations presented in the assignment.

37 Modern Genetics 14:48

This video explores several ways genetics affects people now and in the future, including cloning, GMOs, genetic testing, research, and forensics.  I attempt to provide unbiased views on these topics so that students can see the pros and cons of both sides.  This video is a great leaping off point for further family discussions!

38 Modern Genetics Review 04:20

This video covers the aspects of modern genetics that students might most often see in pop-culture; forensic DNA analysis. 


39 Introduction to Evolution 14:16

This is the first lesson in the unit of evolution, and addresses some misconceptions that often give people misgivings about the theory of evolution, and also explains why evolution is important to learn by giving some modern-day examples.  We also prep up some terms that students need to know to be able to understand the concept such as species and population.  And, we do take some time to discuss why that iconic image of apes marching in a row into a human form is a poor representation for the concept of evolution!

40 Introduction to Evolution Review 03:24

 A review of the concepts learned in this lesson; the defintion of evolution and the difference between a species and a population.

41 Genetic Variation 11:37

Potatoes and polar bears!  This lesson explains why genetic variation is important in a gene pool and what the effects would be on populations of organisms if there was no genetic variation. The fact that environments and conditions change is of key importance and we look at the long ranging effects of the lack of genetic variation in the potato that was at the root (!) of the potato famine in Ireland and also how polar bears may not have enough genetic diversity quick enough to survive long term climate change.

42 Genetic Variation Review 03:57

A review of the materials presented in the genetic variation lesson using new situations so that students can apply their knowledge.

43 Natural Selection 14:17

This video shows students examples of natural selection at work and discusses how a trait can help an organism survive and then be passed on to its offspring, eventually changing the population over time.  We look at random and non-random factors in natural selection and how those factors work together to "select" for traits in a population.  We visit the Galapagos island where Charles Darwin visited and see some of the unique organisms that live there, leading to the development of many of the theories we base biological studies on today.

44 Natural Selection Review 04:49

A review of the material covered in this lesson, using differenct scenarios to reinforce the concept of natural selection.

45 Artificial Selection 14:57

This video compares natural selection to artificial selection, also called selective breeding, and presents the pros and cons to this kind artificial selection to both the organism and humans.

46 Artificial Selection Review 07:29

A review of the pros and cons of artificial selection - or selective breeding.  Students are encourages to research on their own and more strongly develop their own opinions and arguements for or against this practice.

47 Genetic Drift 10:17

Genetic drift is a completely random event and as such is different from natural selection.  This video investigates genetic drift and its different pathways, including the Bottleneck Effect and the Founder Effect.  We look at how genetic drift can effect a population - especially small, isolated ones.

48 Genetic Drift Review 01:26

A review over the material presented in this lesson.

49 Mutation for Evolution 05:27

This lesson is just a mini-video refresher on mutations, but stresses the importance of mutation to the process of evolution.  There are no accompanying practice sheets with this video.  There is no accompanying work with this lesson as it is meant to emphasis a lesson that has already been learned, but since mutation is such an important part of evolution, it would be remiss not to mention it here.

51 Evidence for Evolution 12:32

Whle there are many lines of evidence supporting the theory of evolution, this lesson reviews  embryology, morphology, and fossil evidence.  Students often struggle with some of these concepts, so the attempt is made to break them down into simple terms for maximum understanding.

52 Evidence for Evolution Review 05:10

A review of the materials presented in this lesson.


53 Organisms to Ecosystems 07:59

As we being our unit on ecosystems, we need a background in the basic groups of organisme we will be discussing (including the term, "organism"!).  So this lesson will give examples of organisms, species, populations, communities, and ecosystems using a single species - African elephants - a comparison base.

54 Organisms to Ecosystems Review 05:35

A review of the terms presented in this video by using illustrations and explanations.

55 Classification 14:42

This video details the reasons why organisms are classified and how the classification system works.  We look at how you work your way up the heirachy of classification and how the binomial naming system links organisms that are evolutionarily related.  Using common examples such as dogs and bears, we move through the classification system so students are comfortable with reading and using scientific names.

56 Classification Review 02:02

A review of the materials included in this lesson.

57 Biotic and Abiotic Factors in a Habitat 12:52

This video explains the difference between biotic and abiotic factors in an environment and how those factors interact to limit the population in a habitat.  We use several examples, including some that might cause some debate - such as a rotting log, or soil.  We also look at how biotic and abiotic factors affect their environment and what would happen if one were removed - or added.

58 Biotic and Abiotic Factors in a Habitat Review 06:11

Review of concepts presented in this lesson.

59 Limiting Factors 14:30

This video explores the impact of density in limiting a population and compares both density dependent and density independent limiting factors.  We discuss examples such as illness and natural disasters and how the population can be affected by them.

60 Limiting Factors Review 04:54

This video reviews limiting density-dependent and density-independent limiting factors.l

61 Carrying Capacity 14:39

Who doesn't love graphs?  This video discusses carrying capacity of an environment and how it is related to the renewable and non renewable resources in an area, and why this affects human populations differently than the populations of other organisms.  And we get to analyse graphs!

62 Carrying Capacity Review 04:23

A review over the materials that accompany this lesson, including details on how numbers for the chart were attained and an evaluation of the graph that students create.

63 Exponential Population Growth 10:58

More graphs!  This video explores how populations can grow exponentially, compares exponential and linear growth, and explains the real life applications of this kind of growth.  Exponential growth can have devastating effects on not just the population in question, but populations that depend on it.

64 Exponential Population Growth Review 08:10

A review of exponential growth by graphing using a hypothetical virus example.

65 Food Chains and Food Webs 11:56

This video discusses the defining characteristics of producers and consumers and examines how energy flows from one organism to the next.  We also look at the hierarchal nature of energy levels and trace energy flow through food chains and food webs. 

66 Food Chains and Food Webs Review 13:02

This video shows students how to complete the food web that was assigned with this lesson and then reviews all the material in the lesson and gives students a new situation to apply this information to in an effort to evaluate student learning.

67 Niches 12:52

This video explains what a niche is and why each organism in a given environment must have a unique role to play in that environment, even if the role is similar to that of another organism.  We also look at the consequences of having more than organism fulfill a particular niche, and what happens if a niche suddenly becomes vacated, or crowded due to an invasive species.

68 Niches Review 04:52

Students will look at a short description of the feeding habits of and functions of coyotes and then apply their knowledge of niches to the scenarios presented.

69 Ecological Interactions 13:19

This video explores the various types of relationships among organisms, such as competition, predation, and various types of symbiotic relationships, like mutualism, commensialism, and parasitism.  We use several examples to explain the different relationships so that students have a good grasp of the concept.

70 Ecological Interactions Review 06:53

A review of the terms and concepts introduced in this lesson.


Hello! In this life science course, students will learn the basics of biology: cells, genetics, evolution, and ecology. The videos are succinct and interesting to keep student attention and include a lot of visuals to aid in understanding. Connections and analogies are made between what the students are learning and what they already know, giving them some background upon which to build their knowledge. 


Target Audience:

This life science course is geared towards students in the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades and will guide students through the basic understanding of biology at the middle school leve, preparing them for course work at the high school level.


Course includes:

  • 4 units
  • 34 lessons and review lessons
  • 70 total videos
  • a quiz with every video lesson
  • answer key for the quizzes for parents to reference
  • supplemental materials for parents to add at their discretion


Each lesson includes:

  • Visuals to aid in understanding
  • Supplemental materials; an accompanying practice activity or worksheet
  • A video review of the supplemental materials
  • A comprehension quiz


Units of Study:

  1. Cells:  This unit begins with an introduction into the characteristics of living things, cell theory, form and function of cells, and then the remainder of the unit focuses on specific cell organelles and their functions; the mitochondria and respiration, the chloroplast and photosynthesis, the cell membrane and active and passive transport, and the nucleus and the cell cycle and mitosis.
  2. Genetics:  Buillding on student's knowledge of cells, we move into genetics and explain the connections between DNA, chromosomes, and genes.  Then students learn about the process of meiosis and how it results in non-identical offspring.  We learn how to determine probability of the results of genetic crosses using Punnett squares and how to trace lines of inheritance using pedigrees.  We examine sex-linked traits and polygenic inheritance, and then spend some time looking at how modern genetics affects us all today by going through some examples of genetics at work in the food industry, forensics, and medical technology.
  3. Evolution: Students progress to learning about how populations change over generations.  We introduce the concept of evolution, look at various it ways it can occur; mutation, natural selection, genetic drift, etc., and then we look at different lines of evidence for evolution.  We also take some time to look at how this knowledge can be used today in instances of selective breeding of crops and domestic animals.
  4. Ecology:  Evolution leads us into genetic variation, an important concept in ecology.  In this unit we investigate the different features of an ecosystem and how they work together.  We examine biotic and abiotic factors of an ecosystem, carrying capacity, population density, niches, population growth, food webs, and the interactions of organisms.





  • Teacher: Tracy
  • Areas of expertise: Middle Grades Science
  • Education: Northern Kentucky University: BA in Anthropology BA in Middle Grades Education MA in Middle Grades Education Gifted and Talented Endorsement National Board Certified Teacher
  • Interests: Running with my dog, traveling the 50 states, science, all things zombie-related, Obstacle and fun-runs with my family, watching TV in different languages, bicycling, and podcasts. Lots of podcasts!
  • Skills: Archery Coach
  • Associations: Certified Teacher in the state of Kentucky, middle grades science and social studies.
  • Issues I care about: I care about the scientific literacy of our society and helping kids to learn to critically think about the world around them.

Hello! I am so glad to be able to bring a love of science to as many people as possible. As a kid I thought I couldn't "do" science and that it was a subject that was beyond me. As a teacher, I know that everyone is capable of not only fully understanding the topics of science, but engaging in it. Toward that end, I try to make these lessons as visual as possible and break down complex topics into understandable lessons.

Test Preparation Document

Digital Quizzes and Tests Answer Keys Document

Answer Key for Quizzes

Each lesson in this unit has a quiz to review the content that was learned.  This document contains the answers to all those quizzes.  They are titled and numbered to correspond with the lesson numbers.

Mitosis Extra Practice

Mitosis is a hard concept to learn, and for students who don't grasp it right away, this actiivty allows students to more kinesthetically manipulate cells to indentify and order the process of mitosis.  This set of resources includes a student sheet, answer key, and a sample.

Mitosis Extra Practice Answer Key

This document gives parents the information needed to check their child's performance on the mitosis supplemental activity.

Introduction to Genetics Textbook Exerpt

This is an excerpt from a textbook on Gregor Mendel and introductory genetics that I made available to my classroom students, but included places that required the students to stop and think about what they were reading.  Use this as an additional resource for a student that would like or needs a more in-depth explanation at the beginning of the genetics unit.

DNA and Proteins Supplemental Reading

This reading can be used as additional material for students who would like a stronger understanding of the relationship between DNA and the proteins that are made by ribosomes.

GMO Discussion Aid

This document contains resources that help students and families consider and debate the issues surrounding GMOs.  The first is a comparison of Bill Nye's evolving stance on GMOs and a high level reading article is included for additional consideration.

Supplemental Reading: Sex-Linked Traits

For students who wish to have additional resources, this article reiterates the concepts learned in the sex-linked traits lesson.  I recommend watching the video first, and then using the reading since the prior knowledge gained by the video will help students better understand the text of the article.

Limiting Factors in Lake Winnipeg

This assignment requires students to read an exerpt from a news station in Canada, as well as look at some information give on the yellow perch and make connections about how various limiting factors affect the different populations living in Lake Winnipeg.

Naked Eggs

This is a lab that students can do with common kitchen ingredients.  It gives them the experience of physically seeing the results of water molecules moving through a membrane and analyzing what factors are causing this to happen

Naked Eggs Answers

The answer to the two analaysis questions in the lab activity.

Cell Analogy Project

This is a supplemental project opportunity on how cell organelles function as a unit in the cell.  Students can do this either at the end of the cell organelle lesson if they quickly understand the function of organelles, or at the end of the cell unit as a cumulutive assessment.  Students have chosen to make analogies comparing cells to sports teams, malls, fandoms such as Harry Potter or Stranger Things, etc.  From experience, making analogies to parts of the human body tend to be more difficult than it sounds.  Students have done this in video format, 3D models, or simply posters.

Cell Analogy Project Sample

This sample is one I would show my students as an example.  It includes a picture, but also an idea of what the captions should look like that students would write to accompany their picture.  I've also had students create a move (one group created "Barbie Land" with Barbie as the nucleus) and I've had students create PowerPoints, posters, and lego models for their analogies.

Rock Pocket Mouse Activity

Using images, graphing, and analysing data, students examine an example of natural seletion that is happening today in the western United States.

Rock Pocket Mouse Answer Key

While I will be going over the results of this activity with students, if they are still confused in their understanding, this answer key is available for you to go over and give your child additional help.

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