Are you including a little bit of organic chemistry in your biology class. Many students grumble about this saying “We signed up for biology, not chemistry!” Of course, this represents a misunderstanding about what biology really is and that on a molecular level, all life is chemical.
I like to spice up this lesson by including stories and excerpts from the book “The Poisoner’s Handbook” by Deborah Blum. What better way to get kids interested than to show them how a simple chemical like methanol can be intoxicating, and also deadly.
Cyanide poisoning also provides a nice opener to discussing why oxygen is so important to the chemical reactions that occur in the mitochondria.
I also have a copy of “Wicked Plants” which describes the effects of various garden plants on human physiology with a little bit of history on plant poisons.
Student Worksheets Related to Toxicology:
- Chicago Cyanide Murders – case study on mysterious deaths caused by cyanide
- Ethanol and Methanol During Prohibition – excerpt from Poisoner’s handbook with questions
- As the Worm Turns – Investigate how substances affect circulation. In this lab, blackworms are used to observe changes in pulse rates when the animals are exposed to caffeine.
- Biological Magnification – worksheet explores how DDT affects ecosystems