Honors Biology

Unit 1: Biochemistry

Students will begin their study of Biology by engaging in scientific investigations that allow them to hone their laboratory skills and refine and apply their understanding of proper experimental design.  Through the lens of biochemistry, students will work through several complex laboratory experiments.  Ultimately, students will plan and conduct their own experiment to develop a deeper understanding of the processes and properties that determine the function of macromolecules.  Throughout this unit, students will learn the four major categories of macromolecules and their structures and functions and begin to uncover why these molecules are essential for organisms. As students move through this year of a molecular-based biology course, they will continually engage in content that requires an understanding of macromolecules.  Student will not only apply prior knowledge of macromolecules to new situations, but also enhance and deepen their understanding of biochemistry as the year progresses.  

Profile of a Graduate Capacities: Analyzing, Collective Intelligence

Unit 2: Energy and Matter in Ecosystems

Students will explore ecosystems from the molecular level when they examine the processes that sustain life on Earth and through the macroscopic lens of ecosystem dynamics.  Students will investigate what factors lead to a balanced, healthy ecosystem and, through a case study, learn about how ecosystems become unbalanced and the factors that cause this disruption.  In doing so, students will need to apply their understanding of the cellular processes and chemical reactions that are required in an ecosystem to analyze graphical data and consider the viability of solutions capable of restoring balance.  Students will apply the Laws of Thermodynamics and Conservation of Matter to the processes and ecosystems studied. 

Profile of a Graduate Capacities: Product Creation, Analyzing

Unit 3: The Cell: Structures, Functions, and Feedback

Students will explore the cellular processes that govern organisms.  Beginning with case studies that involve errors in cell functions, students will uncover basic cell types, organelles, and how the molecular structure of the cell membrane allows material to pass into and out of the cell.  Students will use microscopes to examine cellular structures, compare on contrast cell types and tissues, as well as perform experiments that will help them visualize the movement of water into and out of the cell as it works to maintain homeostasis. Ultimately, students will return to the analysis of case studies as they apply their understanding of cell structure and function to scenarios that people frequently experience that are part of feedback mechanisms controlled by cell processes.  

Profile of a Graduate Capacities: Analyzing, Design

Unit 4: Inheritance

Students will explore the molecular basis of inheritance of traits as they apply their understanding of cellular organelles and processes to how organisms pass traits from parents to offspring. Beginning with the study of the cell cycle, students will take a deeper dive into the cell as they learn about the structure and function of DNA and RNA, control of cellular reproduction and inheritance.  Students will use basic mathematical probability to determine the likelihood of offspring expressing or carrying genes.  Students will also learn about mechanisms such as mutation and nondisjunction that can result in unexpected changes to the genetic or chromosomal makeup of organisms.  Ultimately, students will use all of the knowledge in this unit to analyze a genetic abnormality, explain how the change to the DNA sequence impacts protein synthesis, and how the lack of functionality in the protein manifests in the person.    

Profile of a Graduate Capacities: Analyzing, Design

Unit 5: Mechanisms of Evolution

The final unit brings together several concepts studied during the year. As students engage in applying their understanding of genetics and inheritance to the mechanisms of evolution, they will explore the genetic basis of natural selection as well as the scientific evidence for evolution. As students analyze phylogenetic trees, adaptations, and examples of natural selection, they will be synthesizing their knowledge of molecular biology, inheritance, and populations. In order to demonstrate their understanding of the dynamic process of evolution, students will analyze examples of natural selection in species to make and justify scientifically-based claims regarding the mechanisms that drove the evolution of the species.

Profile of a Graduate Capacities: Analyzing, Inquiry