Regents Prep: Living Environment: Laboratory:

Scientific Methods
Scientific explanations are developed using both observations and knowledge about what people already know.  All scientific explanations are tentative explanations of phenomena and are subject to change. Good science is a combination of questioning, experiments, evidence, logical argument, ingenuity, and skeptical peer review. The scientific method and good scientific technique can be used in every day decision making, as well is in scientific investigation.  Scientific literacy involves the use of science and it knowledge so that it can be applied in everyday life, particularly in relation to the health, commercial, and technological claims.

Organization & Analysis of Data
When assessing the results of a scientific investigation, it is important to have a data collection method which is objective, well organized, and easy to follow.    Some common ways of organizing the data collected in a scientific investigation include charts, graphs, and drawings.    It is important to collect this data in an unbiased manner, so the results of the experimental question posed may be properly assessed.

Almost all laboratory investigations have special hazards which must be taken into consideration.    In the high school living environment/biology laboratory, your teacher will usually engage in a pre-lab discussion which will include a discussion of the lab methods, special instructions, and most importantly, the specific safety procedures which are involved in the laboratory experience.

Work in the living environment/biology laboratory requires some knowledge about and the ability to use several pieces of specific scientific apparatus.    Some of these tools include the light or compound microscope for looking at microscopic specimens and the dissection microscope for looking at three dimensional specimens larger than the naked eye.   More specialized laboratory techniques include that of gel electrophoresis and paper chromatography.

Measurements of mass, volume, and length are commonly required in lab.  The triple beam balance and graduated cylinder are other commonly used pieces of equipment for determining mass and volume respectively.    Various types of rulers may be employed to provide measurements of length depending upon the specimen being studied or observation being made.

Indicators are substances which are used to provide information about the classification of a particular substance.    Some commonly used indicators in the living environment/biology lab include Litmus (pH) paper, Lugol's (iodine) solution, and Benedict's solution. 

Dichotomous Keys
Making sense of observations is important in science.   Classification provides a means of describing objects or organisms by their common characteristics.  A dichotomous key is used to provide a method of sorting categories of organisms and specifically identifying particular organisms.

The dissection of representative plant and animal specimens is a required skill for the living environment/biology course.    Dissection provides information about the internal and external characteristics of a specimen in a direct manner which other techniques can not as directly provide.   Flowers, frogs, and fetal pigs are commonly dissected specimens.

This page and the links at the left are designed to aid students in reviewing the following topics pertaining to the lab component of the New York State Living Environment Regents Examination; scientific method, organization and analysis of data, lab safety, lab instrumentation, laboratory measurement, commonly used indicators, and dichotomous keys.   In addition, students may test their knowledge of the material presented here by accessing multiple-choice questions from past Regents Exams.


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