This month's newsletter from Science and Plants for Schools, for members of the free SAPS Associates community, is focusing on microscopy.
We've got a great resource for your new A-level set practicals, and for your 14-16 students too. Plus an amazing collection of microscopic images, and a wonderful macro time-lapse video of a plant from germination to setting seed.
Launching the first of our new resources to support A-level set practicals
We're developing brand-new materials to support the teaching, learning and assessment associated with the new A-level biology practical activities, across all A-level specifications. They include practical worksheets, support materials for teachers, technicians and students, and materials to help your students revise for indirect examination of practicals. The first of the practicals is now available online, focusing on the dissection and microscopy of a plant stem.
The images above show the transverse and the cross-section of vascular tissue from celery using this protocol.
This practical and the accompanying resources went down a storm with teachers at the ASE Annual Conference. Take a look, and see what you think!
Animation - Growth, mitosis and differentiation of cells
If you're using the practical protocol on staining vascular tissue, take a look at this animation, showing growth in plants at the cellular level. It demonstrates how growth occurs at specific regions within the plant, how cells divide by mitosis, and how cells become specialised into different tissues (differentiation).
Resource - Specialised cells under the microscope, for 14-18 students
Sometimes an 'ordinary' houseplant can provide a wonderful resource for the biology classroom. African violets are cheap, easy to get hold of, and are excellent plants for investigating specialised plant cells using a microscope. There's no need to stain the slides, and students simply place a small piece of plant tissue in a drop of water on the slide, before covering it with a cover slip. Cells to be seen include guard cells, stomata, xylem, and trichomes and their contents.
Video resource - Macro timelapse video showing plant growth
Spring is on its way, and this gorgeous macro video of plants germinating and blossoming will get you in the mood for spring. You could use it to introduce or review a plant growth topic, or you could just enjoy it yourself.
In the news - The plant that's turned its leaves into satellite dishes
The SAPS team always love a surprising plant adaptation, so this one caught our eyes - or should that be 'ears'?
New research suggests that a Cuban plant that depends on bat pollination has evolved a special leaf that acts as an 'acoustic echo beacon' to lure the creatures close. We tend to think about plant-pollinator adaptations as being visual - how many more acoustic pollinator adaptations are waiting to be discovered?
On the web - Fabulous microscopy images to inspire your students
This Pinterest page brings together some of the best and most beautiful microscopy images that the SAPS team have ever seen. Take a look, and then see how well your students can re-create some of these stunning images in the classroom - you'll be surprised by the quality of images taken with a phone camera pointed down a microscope.
Celebrating outstanding UK teachers
The UK science teaching community has some truly outstanding members - and we're always delighted to see them recognised. So the SAPS team were particularly excited to see that science teacher and SAPS Associate Richard Spencer is one of the 10 finalists for the $1 million Global Teacher Prize - the only UK teacher left in the competition. This is a real tribute to the innovative teaching styles that we see in biology classrooms today, and the crucial importance of high-quality science teaching to the world. We're wishing Richard all the best for the final judging!
Harriet Truscott, Dan Jenkins, Claire Pennycuick and Ginny Page
The Science and Plants for Schools team