Distance learning resources

Distance Learning Resources
Below you will find a selection of resources that have been carefully selected with your students in mind. The resources contain a mixture of videos, animations, practicals and some which are intended for learning outside where possible. Grouped by the anticipated age of the students, we have tried to be mindful of availability of equipment in order to undertake these activities. Click on the green title to view the resource.
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Evolutionary relationships, phylogenetic trees and finding new drugs

Aspects of this resource are suggested as a homework activity where students are tasked with creating their own phylogenetic tree after having read a series of related articles. This activity is designed to get students thinking about plants as living organisms that have to survive, reproduce and defend themselves against disease. It challenges students to explore why phylogenetic trees are useful to researchers, in this case demonstrating how they can be used to assist drug discovery.

Plant disease: fighting for survival
In this worksheet and case study for post-16 students, students develop their understanding of communicable plant disease and how plants respond to infection. Students can work through the sheet answering questions, some of which relate directly to the communicable disease content and others that make synoptic links to other areas of the AS and/or A-Level specification.
This practical shows students how to build a very simple potometer using non-lab items and can be done at home. Though not necessarily practical for every student to set up in their own home, this setup allows students to revise what a potometer does and gives an opportunity for them to investigate further if they want to. This potometer allows students to directly see how much water has been taken up by the cutting as it transpires. All material required for this practical is either usually found in the home or easily accessible meaning it is an ideal alternative for distance learning practical.
Mathematical modelling in biology
When students think about cutting-edge research in biology, it’s usually elements such as DNA or fieldwork in the Amazon rainforest that come to mind. Few students realise how important mathematical and computational skills are in today’s research labs. This collection of resources introduces the importance of mathematical modelling for A-level biology students and their teachers, and allows students to get hands on with online tools used by international researchers.
Understanding Photosynthesis: How Does Chlorophyll Absorb Light Energy?
This short article offers an overview for post-16 students of the processes involved in photosynthesis. A PowerPoint is also attached.
We have a collection of interviews with scientists who introduce contemporary science topics through conversation with some of the UK’s leading researchers. Each video is accompanied with a teachers’ summary, plus student questions. Topics range from computer modelling to food security.
Raising awareness of STEM careers
An activity focusing on the future – sixth-form students are often unaware of the wide range of science careers available to them, falling back on old favourites such as medicine and veterinary studies. This resource is designed to raise awareness of a greater range of STEM careers for post-16 students. This resource consists of 25 PowerPoint slides, each with information about a different science career, ranging from toxicology to environmental conservation.
Developing skills for the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) and other investigations
This collection of 10 activities is designed to support students in developing the key skills they need to carry out a successful EPQ.
Saving the world’s forests
In this 5-minute video Dr Ed Mitchard, of the University of Edinburgh, introduces the use of new technologies in conservation, specifically the role of REDD+ in preventing deforestation across the world. The video leads on to Measuring forests: saving forests where students work with data and identify how new technologies can be used to preserve the world’s forests. This offers a useful opportunity to develop mathematical skills for biology in a clear and engaging context.
Ecology – Abundance and random sampling at Waun Las Nature Reserve, Wales
Students can learn about random sampling, diversity and different measures of abundance, before looking at close-up photographs of quadrats and using our field guide to identify them.

Resources for students aged 14–16

Selective Breeding and Genetic Engineering
This set of learning resources supports teaching about the ways in which plant genetics can be manipulated through selective breeding and genetic engineering to improve crop characteristics. Students can also watch a video from a plant genetic researcher who shares their career insights.
CSI Trees: investigating plant pathogens
An activity for your inquisitive students, with CSI trees they can take on the role of “private-eye” plant pathologists asking questions to determine the cause of a tree’s death and deciding which tests should be carried out. The teacher (or another student) can play the role of the landowner and answer the students’ questions. Alternatively, the resource can be adapted so as to be done on an individual basis. This resource is ideal for strengthening students’ knowledge of plant disease and relates accordingly to International Year of Plant Health 2020.
Tropisms – how do plants grow in space?
In this short activity, you’ll use recently published research into plant behaviour, conducted on the International Space Station, to get your students thinking more about tropisms.
Plant disease detectives
For your inquisitive students, this activity enables students to act as detectives, piecing together information from the sources provided to identify common plant diseases, including the type of pathogen causing it, ways in which the disease is spread, and how to stop the spread.
Biology animations
Our ‘Plant Biology’ animation shows three key processes in plant biology – respiration and photosynthesis, cell growth and differentiation, and the transport of sugar and water – within the context of a whole organism. Are there any other biology topics your students have studied where they could design their own animation by drawing and annotating the key stages?
Ecology – Measuring abundance and random sampling
This online ecology practical exercise uses random sampling to measure the abundance of various different species on an area of grassland.
Ecology – The distribution of species across a footpath
This online ecology practical resource is designed to give students an opportunity to see how systematic sampling can be used to investigate changes in species richness across a footpath and the distribution of species across a footpath.

Resources for students aged 11-14

Parts of a plant and flower
This readymade PowerPoint will enable your students to label parts of a plant and a flower. Students could then go on to finding a flower of their own to photograph, attach to a document which they can label allowing them to further develop their observation skills and understanding of plant anatomy.
How much of our food crops is lost to disease?
This interactive resource is a simple and easy lesson starter to encourage students to understand the impact that plant disease has both on the world’s poorest farmers and on consumers in the UK. This activity could be developed further by asking the students to design an animation or draw a story board demonstrating and explaining ways in which crops can be lost to disease. This can then lead on to a discussion about how farmers might mitigate the loss of crops through disease.
Plant Needs
This collection of resources for 11-14-year-old students uses the topic of plants to address important scientific ideas in biology, chemistry and physics. Activities 1-3, ‘Plants, matter and energy’, ‘Plant reactions’ and ‘Plant nutrients’ lend themselves to distance learning.
Can you beat the Giant Redwood? Investigating xylem
In this lively activity to introduce the topic of xylem, students are posed the question ‘Can you beat a Giant Redwood?’ Giant Redwoods can reach 100m tall and have to be able to move the water from their roots, up the trunk, to the very top of the tree.
Pupils are set the challenge to play the role of xylem in a tree, and see how far they can suck water up a straw. Initially designed for teamwork, this activity can be modified so that pairs of students can generate a method together before demonstrating independently and then sharing their results with each other enabling important discussions on fair-testing. Alternatively, families could be encouraged to work together.
Seed dispersal
With this collection of resources, students can investigate how plants have evolved to disperse their seeds in different environments and will cover topics about forces, pressure in fluids, and forces and motion. The resources involve a mixture of independent investigations, engaging and hands-on practicals, and activities to identify misconceptions and strengthen understanding. Teachers can opt to include as many or as few of the resources from the collection as they like.
Making a model plant cell
Here you will find some examples for how your students can make a model plant cell using items around the home.
Investigating gravitroprism with dandelions
Dandelions aren’t the most obvious resource for a science experiment. However, dandelion flower stalks (scapes) have a strong gravitropic response, and this experiment offers a simple and fun way to look at gravitropism. For the purposes of home learning, the students could replace the pipette with a straw.

Resources for students aged 7-11

The ‘Giant Brassica’ activity (page 15 & 16) is a fun way for pupils to understand different parts of a seed and how a seed can germinate by creating a model seed. This is ideal for a live or pre-recorded demonstration. Older pupils could try making their own model at home as all materials required are easily accessible and often found in the home.
Primary Booklet 2 – Reproduction and Life Cycles
Create a flower (page 12). For this activity, the children use their knowledge of the parts of a flower to create one using materials commonly found around the home and suggested by you. An alternative to this would be to allow the children to create a 3D model flower using any materials they can find.Primary Booklet 6 – Plants in their Natural Environment
Comparing two habitats (page 12) – here the children are encouraged to explore and identify the differences between two habitats, perhaps those found in the garden or in local grounds. The children can be tasked with suggesting why certain types of plants and animals may be found in those areas and the effect they could have on each other.
Introducing keys (page 19) – for this activity, children are introduced to using keys with some sweet treats. This activity encourages the children to identify and describe characteristics and features of the sweets. The sweet treats can be replaced for something else commonly found in the home such as buttons or clothes pegs and leaves if fortunate enough to have a garden.
Primary Booklet 5 – Grouping and classification 
Making a key using leaves (page 21) – developing on from ‘Introducing keys’, here children are asked to create their own key using their own descriptions of leaves. There is a leaf identification sheet available if pupils are unable to find their own leaves.
Primary Booklet 2 – Reproduction and Life Cycles
Dissecting a flower (page 5) – suitable flower for each child. The choice of flower depends on the time of year and what is available. (For suggestions and diagrams of some dissected flowers, see Background information for teachers.) To make it easier for the children to carry out the dissection, the child can push the flower stalk into a lump of Blu-tack rather than a bung.
Design a seed (page 25) – this activity involves designing a seed, which has come from a newly discovered plant. It stimulates discussion on how the seeds are dispersed as well as providing a link to the topic of germinating and growing seeds. Pupils can start by drawing their seed before making a model by using “junk”.
Primary Booklet 4 – Living processes, and what plants need to grow
Designing a seed packet (page 36) – this activity has cross-curricular links with literacy and DT. It involves designing a seed packet for seeds that have come from a newly discovered plant. It stimulates discussion on what the seeds need to grow and how to care for the young growing plant.
Primary Booklet 5 – Grouping and classification
Making observations (page 8) – in this activity, children are encouraged to look closely at a leaf and its different features. It provides an opportunity to develop appropriate vocabulary when trying to describe the leaves.

Resources for students aged 4-7

‘Observing leaves and learning how to describe them’ (page 8) is an activity designed to develop pupils’ literacy and observation skills whilst learning the names of the parts of a leaf. The equipment required for this activity can often be accessed at home apart from hand lenses which are not an essential part of the activity.
Primary Booklet 1 – Parts of a Plant and their Function
Create a plant (page 14) – for this activity, children are tasked with creating a plant using materials often discovered around the home. There is also an opportunity to develop children’s knowledge and understanding of sustainability by encouraging the use of recyclable and reusable items.
Primary Booklet 3 – Reproduction and Life Cycles: Pollination, Fertilisation, Fruits and Seed Dispersal
Colours of flowers (page 11) – this exercise concentrates on the role of petals in attracting insects. The activity also provides an opportunity to go outside in to the garden or whilst out for a walk and learn the names of some wild flowers. Children can then make links between their outdoor and classroom activities. An alternative version is given for those who cannot find a suitable range of flowers close to home so if it is impossible to go for a walk, you can find other ways to do this activity with the children by using pictures.
Growing seeds – here are some very simple instructions about how children can grow seeds with only a few household items.
Primary Booklet 2 – Reproduction and Life Cycles
Create a flower (page 12) – here, pupils can use recyclable materials around the home to represent different parts of the flower.
Primary Booklet 5 – Grouping and classification
Observing leaves and learning about their shapes (page 14) – in this activity, children are encouraged to look closely at a leaf and think carefully about its shape. An added element of fun can be brought to this where the children use the shape of the leaf as a basis to draw other imaginary or real-life objects.

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