Euglena inquiry

Euglena Vials

Euglena in vials

After complaining that I struggle with inquiry in biology, I was confronted with a great opportunity to take a non-inquiry lab and bend it to my inquiry will!

The lab involves students observing Euglena (a photosynthetic protist) and their response to limited light. The basic lab consists of placing the Euglena in a container wrapped with black paper and cutting a small hole with a chosen shape in the paper. The Euglena then move to the location of the hole to get the needed light. Rather than just having the students do the lab as is and move on, I am going to ask them to generate questions about the Euglena and design an experiment to test their questions. We will do this in a whole class inquiry style where each group will test a variable and report their findings back to the class.

The key will be making the photosynthetic properties of the Euglena the central feature of the inquiries. In other words, students won’t be adding chemicals to the medium or doing other tangential inquiries.

Our process:

  1. Brainstorm variables that may affect the photosynthesis of the Euglena
  2. Eliminate any that we can’t measure or are inappropriate
  3. Select our top 6 that we think are the most interesting or important
  4. Each group selects one variable to test and plans their experiment
  5. Once their plan is approved, each group carries out their experiment and gathers their data
  6. Each group uses a whiteboard to organize their findings and report back to the class
  7. We have a whole class discussion about our findings and connect our results to photosynthesis

Once we’re done – I’ll report the results!

Note: this post cross posted at my blog, Wisdom Begins with Wonder
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2 Responses to Euglena inquiry

  1. Love it that you took a cookie cutter lab with a predetermined outcome and will allow students to determine the outcomes, based on their questions. Only thing I would ask is, why no tangential inquiries? You might not want to close your mind to possible inquiry side-trips before the journey starts. Good luck with your work!


    • Tyler says:


      Great question. I am working within a department of several biology teachers and we are expected to be at the same point in the curriculum at roughly the same time. In order to make this lab an inquiry experience, I’m having to drop and/or consolidate other parts of the curriculum to get to the “end” of the photosynthesis unit at the same time. Basically, I’m trying to work with what freedom I have to optimize the experience for my students while still being a team player. It’s a tough balancing act that many teachers are faced with.


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