Course Expectations for AP Biology


1. Starr and Taggart. Biology: The Unity and Diversity of Life.  Wadsworth, 2015.
Student companion site provides animations, investigations, PowerPoints to enhance instruction.
2. AP Biology Investigative Labs: an Inquiry Based Approach.
3. Shubin, Neil. Your Inner Fish
4. Skloot, Rebecca. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Course Description: 

AP Biology is designed to meet the requirements for the College Board Advanced Placement Examination in Biology given in May of each year.  Therefore this course differs significantly from the usual first high school course in biology with respect to the kind of textbook used, the range and depth of topics covered, the kind of laboratory work done, and the time and effort required by students.  The Big Ideas covered in AP Biology are set by the AP Biology Development Committee: 

Big Idea 1:

The process of evolution drives the diversity and unity of life.

Big Idea 2:

Biological systems utilize free energy and molecular building blocks to grow, to reproduce, and to maintain dynamic homeostasis.

Big Idea 3:

Living systems store, retrieve, transmit, and respond to information essential to life processes.

Big Idea 4:

Biological systems interact, and these systems and their interactions possess complex properties.

These Big Ideas encompass the core scientific principles, theories, and processes governing living organisms and biological systems. The primary emphasis of this class will be on developing an enduring understanding of these concepts rather that on memorizing terms and technical details.  To meet this goal, we will combine extensive content coverage with laboratory experiences that will increase your knowledge of pertinent content areas and your ability to think scientifically and to design investigations on your own. 



I expect every member of this class to be actively and enthusiastically engaged in the study of biology every day. Preparation for the AP Exam is arduous, but we will all have fun working hard together.  You will need to read extensively on your own from the textbook; lectures will explain and illustrate the main points from the text, but we will not have time to go over every topic presented in the textbook.

Class will meet for three and a half hours weekly. Because of this short amount of time, you will be required to complete several field trips, extended labs, and have after school meetings usually on the 4th Tuesday of every month (notice the bolded dates are different)

Aug 29, Sept 26, Oct 31, Nov 28, Jan 9, Jan 30, Feb 27, March 27, Apr 24.

If you are not able to make this class meeting it is your responsibility to tell me and make up the work missed in a timely manner.


The Laboratory: 

We will conduct the 13 required student-directed AP laboratory investigations, several additional labs, simulations, and computer modeling. Laboratory work will take up at least 25% of our time together, and these assignments will help teach you the big ideas of Biology. You will conduct a minimum of eight inquiry-based investigations (two per big idea throughout the course). Additional labs will be conducted to deepen your conceptual understanding and to reinforce the application of science practices within a hands-on, discovery based environment. All levels of inquiry will be used and all seven science practice skills (see below) will be used on a regular basis in formal labs as well as activities outside of the lab experience. We will not have time to have both a lecture and an experiment for each topic, so you will need to learn the concepts through either lecture or experimentation. The course will provide opportunities for students to develop, record, and communicate the results of their laboratory investigations.

Science Practices
1. Yout can use representations and models to communicate scientific phenomena and solve scientific problems.
2. You can use mathematics appropriately.
3. You can engage in scientific questioning to extend thinking or to guide investigations within the context of the AP course.
4. You can plan and implement data collection strategies appropriate to a particular scientific question.
5. You can perform data analysis and evaluation of evidence.
6. You can work with scientific explanations and theories.
7. You are able to connect and relate knowledge across various scales, concepts and representations in and across domains.

The College Board requires students in AP Biology to complete independent research projects. You will be required to either participate in the science fair or choose one of the following labs to conduct your own experiment. You may work with a partner but I would expect the data collected for your experiment to be two times the amount if only one student were conducting it.

Independent Projects Choices

1. Mitosis or Meiosis with Sordaria and/or onion bulbsFruit fly genetics- you would need to bred your own fruit flies
2.  BLAST (?)
3. Artifical Selection
4. Enzymes
5. Circulation with ghost shrimp
6. Osmosis and Diffusion
7. Cellular Respiration using peas or crayfish
8. Muscle Contraction with rabbit muscle
9. Endocrine lab with fruit fly larvae
10. Nervous system with fruit fly larvae or cricket legs
11. RNAi experiment with nematodes
12. Electrophoresis or PCR (?)
13. Photosynthesis using spinach puree or leaf disks
14. Transpiration using coleus
15. Behavior with Pill Bugs
16. Population Dynamics with Butterflies


Grading Policy

Written evaluations will be made in the form of multiple choice tests, essays and laboratory reports. Students will maintain a laboratory notebook throughout the course that documents all of their laboratory investigations. Points will be assigned to the evaluation and counted accordingly. Each unit will have 4 or 5 essays. Students will be allowed to omit one of the essays in each unit. If an essay is not turned in on the due date, I will assume your are omitting that essay. Students may rewrite the unit essays, and all rewrites are due the day of the unit test. Tests will be taken during study halls and discussed during class the day they are due.


The Examination: 

You will have 2 semester exams. First semester will be during Exam Week before Winter Holiday and Second Semester will be on April 25th during our class and Flex. Each will count as 20% of your semester grade.

The AP Examination is three hours in length and is designed to measure a student’s knowledge and understanding of modern biology. The examination broken into two sections: 1.) 90 minutes section consistin of 60 item multiple choice questions and 5 math problems and 2.) 90 minute free response section consisting of 8 mandatory questions (2 long and 6 short).  Each section is weighted and counts for 50% of the final exam score. 

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