Let's get cellular.
To life, to life, biology! In this course, we lift our soda bottles to biology, the study of life.
Chances are, you've heard of cells, genetics, and evolution. After all, you can't watch the news or any show on Hulu without hearing about stem cells, DNA evidence, or the controversy over evolution. But can you tell us
- how plants manage to get energy from the sun?
- how a blond-haired kid can be born to a brown-haired family?
- why exactly carbs are not the evil enemy the media has made them out to be, but the one molecule essential to human survival?
Our lessons, glossaries, readings, and activities could help you out there, dontcha think? Tagged with the Next Generation Science Standards, our course has everything you need to make science your biomass.
P.S. Biology is a two-semester course. You're looking at Semester A, but you can check out Semester B here.
Unit 1. Introduction to Biology
In this introductory unit, we'll answer the big questions of life. No really. We'll ask the question: what is life. You'll also get comfortable with other big issues of biology, including the scientific method and biological organization.
Unit 2. The Chemistry of Life
What better way to get acquainted with biology than through...chemistry? That's right. In this unit, we'll go straight down to the bottom of the biological pyramid by learning some foundational concepts for our study of biology, including atomic bonding, the properties of water, and macromolecules.
Unit 3. Cells
Movin' on up the biological pyramid, we come to the smallest unit of life: the cell. This unit covers the properties and components of eukaryotes and prokaryotes, enzymes, osmosis and diffusion, and everyone's favorite cellular process: mitosis.
Unit 4. Biochemical Pathways
Ever wondered how that Snickers bar is broken down by your cells? Well, you're in luck, because this unit covers the basics of cellular respiration, the process by which your cells get energy from food. You'll get the deets on aerobic and anaerobic respiration and find out about plants' superpowers: photosynthesis.
Unit 5. Mendelian Genetics
Peas changed the world. True story. In this unit, we'll find out how Gregor Mendel discovered genes, and indirectly founded the field of genetics, through observing peas. You'll get cozy with DNA, meiosis, Punnett squares, genetic disorders (well, not too cozy), and other genetics issues.
Unit 6. Molecular Genetics
Our quest to gain total DNA mastery continues in this short unit on DNA and RNA. Replication, transcription, and translation will make their appearances here, culminating with a mini-unit on biotechnology.
Sample Lesson - Introduction
Lesson 2: Finding Life in the Backyard
Ever felt truly alone? Like those movies when it's raining outside and the movie star is staring longingly outside with sad music playing in the background? Well, cheer up. No matter how alone we feel, there are thousands of organisms swirling in the air around you and thousands—okay, let's be real, millions—in the dirt you're walking on. We can't see them, microscopic as they are, but you can be sure they're creeping around and watching you Big Brother-style. But no worries; these guys just want to keep you company. They just need a little attention. Oh yeah, they also all display the 5 characteristics of life.
In this lesson, we'll travel out into the wide, wild world, i.e. our own backyards or the local park, to find some living specimens. In our own personal version of A Bug's Life, we'll get down and dirty with the bugs and examine the world from their point of view. Just don't let yourself get eaten. It's a bug eat bug world out there.
But before we grab our explorer gear and head out into the great beyond, we'll learn a little bit about the major "themes" of the study of biology. If you're freaking out because you thought you left themes behind in World Literature class, chillax. By themes, we just mean major ideas that will come up over and over again as we learn about biology. Like evolution. Since almost everything we'll learn about in this bio course has evolved to perform a specific function, it's one of those biggie concepts that will always come back to haunt us.
If you noticed that "evolution" sounds spookily like one of the characteristics of life, "life evolves," ding, ding, ding! Congrats. You've discovered that the themes of biology closely mirror the characteristics of life. Which makes sense, because if all living things share the same characteristics, of course we're going to see these concepts over and over again.
Sample Lesson - Reading
Reading 1.2: Patterns in Biology: Slimier Than Plaid or Polka Dots
Just like in mathematics and English and every other subject we study in school, biology has patterns or major themes that emerge as we study it. These major concepts can be seen in every example of life, whether we are collecting data in our backyard or defining the mechanisms of genetics later on in this course.
Isn't it awesome to study something we can actually get our hands on? Things with scales, luxurious fur, or pincers? No offense algebra, but studying the behavior of a roly-poly is infinitely more exciting than graphing parabolas and exponential functions. The nice thing is that we only have to learn these themes once and we're good for the rest of the year...unlike with parabolas...wait, that doesn't work at all.
Let's study up on the major themes of biology so that we'll be able to recognize examples of them once we don our hiking boots or flip flops and head outside. Take some notes.
We've been treating these themes of biology as criteria or concepts that show up in living organisms. But we should also think of them as questions. Whenever we see, think about, or study a living thing, these are the 5 areas that we want to learn about.
So, if you see a lemur in your backyard (we see them all the time), we'll want to ask:
- How did this mysterious creature evolve?
- How is this lemur organized such that it makes, well, a properly functioning lemur?
- How does this lemur regulate its bodily systems? Isn't it cold here in wintry Wisconsin?
- How is the lemur structured in a functional way? What does that striped tail do? How about the opposable thumb?
- How are all lemurs the same? How are they different from other primates? Why are there different colors of lemurs?
With a working definition of each of our themes, let's head out the door and find some real examples to work with. Maybe we'll find evidence of unity in the order of flower seeds. Maybe we'll observe how a bug regulates his metabolism by balancing exercise and eating. Or maybe we'll just be baffled as to why there's a lemur in our backyard.
Sample Lesson - Activity
Activity 1.2a: Backyard Science: Finding Life in the Backyard
How many of the themes of biology can you find in your backyard? Trick question: The correct answer is all of them. Our backyards and local parks are absolutely teeming with biological observations and experiments waiting to happen. The missing link is us (well, not the primate missing link), so let's get out there and make it happen. Grab your science gear (notebook, paper, observant eyes) and head out.
Please use common sense regarding safety when completing this lab exercise. Don't eat the critters. Don't keep them as pets. Don't take home escaped zoo animals. Look both ways if you cross the street. You get the point. Make smart choices.
Here it is! The first lab exercise of the course, and it's in your own backyard. Yes, that's right. Your backyard, neighborhood park, or even the front yard of your school serves as the "lab" for this experiment.
This activity is simple. Just get out there, crawl on your hands and knees for a better vantage point, and look for examples of each of the 5 themes of biology.
If you need a refresher, here are the themes:
- Levels of organization
- Structure and function
- Unity and Diversity
Step One: With handout in hand (we suggest printing it out, but you can always write in your notebook and fill out the handout later), find an example of life, say, a honeybee. Be careful not to upset him and get stung, so no sticking your hands in the honey comb, Pooh Bear.
Step Two: Once you have your example, observe it. Find evidence of at least three of the five themes of biology. We don't want you to go poking and prodding honeybees, but we do want you to sit down for a minute and watch him. We might find evidence of the 5 themes on the honeybee's body, in his behavior, or how he interacts with his environment; the possibilities are endless.
Once your specimen struts his stuff (or sits there soaking in the rays, if you're looking at a plant), write down on your handout how whatever you've observed about your specimen is evidence for each of the five themes. Remember we want you to fill in at least 3 out of the five boxes in the row.
Check out the example below and then get going.
|Examples||Evolution||Levels of Organization||Regulation||Structure and Function||Unity and Diversity|
||The bee needed to be able to fly around to pollinate flowers, and thus developed wings much like birds.||The bee regulates the speed of its wings to navigate around a flower.||The honeybee's stinger is sharp and pointy to help perform the function of defense for the bee.|
Pro Tip: Don't be afraid to get low (think Honey I Shrunk the Kids, low). You never know what you'll find.
Step Three: Rinse and repeat three times. In other words, observe and record your observations on three different living things.
If you're freaking out because you think you don't yet know enough about biology to accurately describe what you see, don't worry. We're just looking for general observations here. Put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and give us your best guesses about the living things you see.
When you're done filling out three out of the five boxes for each of your three specimens (that means you'll have nine boxes total filled in), upload your completed handout below.
Sample Lesson - Activity
Quiz 1.2b: Themes of Biology
- Course Length: 18 weeks
- Course Number: 210
- Grade Levels: 9, 10
- Course Type: Basic
- High School
Pre-Algebra—Semester A (Retired)
Pre-Algebra—Semester B (Retired)
Just what the heck is a Shmoop Online Course?