We recently completed a project that covered mitosis and cancer.  We learned about what goes on during the cell cycle, including the 3 stages of interphase, mitosis and cytokinesis.  Then we went on to explore the relationship between the cell cycle and cancer.  We were briefly introduced to two common tumor suppressor genes (p53 and BRCA1) that when functioning normally, regulate the cell cycle thus working to suppress tumor growth.  There is another category of genes that when activated eventually lead to causing cancer.  These are called oncogenes.

What I would like my students to do is to do a little research and find out more about either a tumor suppressor gene or an oncogene.  Since we have already learned about p53 and BRCA1, I do not want you to research these two.  When conducting your research, I want you to look for the following:

  • Name of the gene
  • Which chromosome it is located on
  • What that gene’s normal function is
  • When the gene isn’t functioning normally, what happens?
  • What type of cancer can a malfunction or activation of this gene cause?

In order to received the 10pts extra credit for this assignment, you need to include all of the above in your post, which should be in paragraph form.  You will only get credit if your post is well thought out, free of spelling errors use the spell check!!) and in paragraph format.

I’m looking forward to reading what you have learned about tumor suppressor genes and oncogenes!


As we move through the scaffolding of our project, Life As We Know It, our focus continues to be on carbon and it’s role in the world around us.  One of these areas is polymers.  Because carbon can form four covalent bonds, it serves as the ‘backbone’ for polymers.  We have learned that natural polymers exist along with synthetic, or man-made polymers.  Some examples of natural polymers include silk, cellulose and nucleic acids.  Some examples of synthetic polymers include nylon, silicone, and rayon.

The past two days we have been experimenting with examples of both types of polymers.  On Monday, we played with corn starch which is a natural polyoobleck_bookmer.  By adding water to the corn starch, we were able to create oobleck.  The name oobleck comes from the Dr. Seuss book ‘Bartholomew and the Oobleck’.

The oobleck is an example of a non-newtonian fluid, so it goes from liquid to solid states based on the amount of pressure, or lack thereof, applied to it.  Students had fun squeezing it in their hands only to watch it turn back into a liquid once they released the pressure on it.


Today the classes worked with a synthetic polymer, glue and made GAK.  For this experiment, students combine glue, water and a solution of Borax and water to form this goopy material.

gakAlthough making the GAK was a lot of fun, the main focus of the lesson was for the students to get practice writing an experimental procedure.  It will be interesting to see how they did when the classes trade procedures and try to replicate each other’s procedures!

Geobug is on it’s way!

We are participating in a geocaching project with 6th grade language arts and history students at Chalone Peaks Middle School in central California.  They will be tracking the journey of geobugs to various schools around the world including New Zealand, Australia, Vancouver, and our own school.  Please check out Mr. Miller’s Bug Tracker for more detailed information.

If you would like more information on geocaching, be sure to visit

Project – Life as We Know It

The first major project of the school year is under way!  This project is called Life as We Know It (LAWKI) and we are trying to find out if an element other than carbon can be the basis life.  We are performing research that will culminate in a presentation to the organization called SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) where students will show evidence on whether or not it would be a good idea to search for something other than carbon-based life.  Students are learning about the field of astrobiology and the type of work an astrobiologist does, in addition to the efforts made by SETI in searching for extraterrestrial intelligence.  Another important part to the project is learning about carbon and what makes it so important to life as we know it.

In the end, students will understand the role carbon plays in living things and be able to explain why or why not another element could be the basis for living things.