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Kingdom Animalia: Body symmetry and Sponges

February 6, 2008

Sea_anemoneChers Amis,

Just when you thought we had vanished, we resurface with another exciting entry from our weekly Adventures in Life Science!  This semester we have moved from the microscopic realms of the Kingdom Monera and Kingdom Protista and the ever fascinating fairyland of the Kingdom Fungi, to the Kingdom Animalia. My co-conspirator and I spent much of the Christmas break trying to design the framework for this study and stumbled upon a fantastic 8-part television series produced by the Sea Studios Foundation and National Geographic called "The Shape of Life."  The series, which orginally aired on PBS in 2002, follows the evolution/development of animal life on earth by focusing each episode on the morphology and design of the major eight phyla in the Kingdom Animalia.  There is an AMAZING companion  The Shape of Life website and a downloadable activities guide. We were able by sheer chance and blessing  to locate a copy of the 8 episode series on VHS from a lending institution to use as our ‘spine’ (no vertebrate/invertebrate pun intended).  I imagine that many library systems would carry a copy.  Watch it and prepare to be astounded.

So what have we done this year so far? 

Week 1 was a general introduction the Kingdom Animalia, what makes an animal an animal, the three basic types of body symmetry (bilateral, radial, an asymmetrical), we watched a United Streaming video on "Biology: The Science of Life: The World of Animals", reviewed the suggested vocabulary, and had the kids use play doh to quickly model an example of an animal exhibiting each of the types of body symmetry.  No homework except to start reading anything and everything about our first phylum Porifera – Sponges.

Week 2 – Sponges/Porifera.  We started by watching episode I: "Origins" of The Shape of Life.  Gorgeous photography of taxonomists collecting and researching sponges in the waters of Indonesia.  My favorite part was when they added a bright non-toxic dye near the exterior of a sponge and how it streamed forth from the osculum in a brilliant column of color. There was also an excellent explanation of how scientists at Woods Hole are extracting DNA from sponges and using gene sequencing to trace life back to a ‘animal Eve."  If you haven’t already tried extracting DNA from lentils/beans you have to try it!  We did this a few years ago.  What great fun!  Here is a link from the University of Utah for instructions on How to Extract DNA from anything. I also found a great link at Purdue University to teach about DNA and gene sequencing using Legos. We haven’t done this yet, but we will probably spend at least a week later on in the semester talking about genetics. After the video we also reviewed the 3 major classes of sponges and basic sponge cell types.

For homework they had to read and complete this Sponge Coloring Diagram, label another sponge diagram from  Power Practice Life Science book, and research a sponge from their assigned class, write a short report and make a model.  Caddie wrote about the Hexactinellida and spicules, Scarlett, Demospongea and the purple tube sponge, and Cornflower, Calcarea and the three canal arrangements – specifically the leucoid. Pippin, not to be left out, made a very nice  sculpey  scleropongiae or coral-like sponge (some books do not consider this to be a separate class, but we needed a fourth 🙂 and completed one of the sponge diagrams from Enchanted Learning.  They all turned out very well.   Argh!  My camera is not docked to my computer so I can’t upload a picture. C’est la vie!

Yesterday we started Week 3 on the Phyla Cnidaria – sea anemones and jellyfish – but I am out of time.

–Marjorie (who has no time to edit, spell check or find a sponge photo- je suis desolee!)

PS – Tu vois, Helene, je ne suis pas morte 🙂 au moins, pas encore!

PSS – Here is a great site and animation of sponges  and another with animation of water flow and feeding in sponges

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 13, 2008 4:56 am

    I love this study you all are doing and wish we could join you! And, thanks for the comment you left on my blog about DNA and genetics. I was planning on doing a DNA extraction next time our co-op met, and we will be building a model of DNA. I’m interested in checking out the links you posted – especially about Legos. Thanks again! Dana P.S. When you left a comment and I clicked on your name to visit your blog, it didn’t take me to this blog but a private blog. Just wasn’t sure if you knew that!

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