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Biology: Concepts & Practices™

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Grades 9–12. Biology: Concepts & Practices™ is a comprehensive, standards-based high school biology curriculum. Develop scientific literacy, problem-solving skills, and disciplinary core ideas mandated by state and national standards. Each set of "Learning Experiences" eBooks offers a semester of instruction, captures student interest with relevant, real-life case studies, and supports varied instructional strategies and learning styles. Teacher's Guide eBooks offer complete instructional aid.


Real-world challenges that students solve through hands-on activities, authentic text, and group discussions

Grades 9–12. Introducing a new comprehensive, standards-based high school biology curriculum. Biology: Concepts & Practices™ enables students to develop scientific literacy, practice 21st-century problem-solving skills, and understand disciplinary core ideas mandated by state and national standards. This curriculum consists of modular "Learning Experiences" that:

  • Offer a full year of biology instruction, integrating STEM and Common Core ELA support
  • Capture and sustain student interest with relevant, real-life case studies taken from the headlines
  • Support a variety of instructional strategies to accommodate different learning styles
  • Are teacher and student tested

What Teachers Are Saying
"It's a CURRICULUM! Not a simple textbook."
"Because of the stories, student participation has increased 100-fold."
"The strengths of the curriculum included the requirement of students thinking, analyzing, and questioning rather than just memorizing stuff. Overall, our Ohio Graduate Test results were higher than in the past."

Description of the Complete Student Learning Experiences for Biology: Concepts & Practices™
The Search for Medicinal Plants: Unifying Characteristics of Life

Characteristics of life, plants in everyday life, nature of science and scientific investigations.

Students consider the various roles plants play in their everyday lives and read about ethnobotanist Mark Plotkin and his quest for medicinal plants. Students carry out an experiment to investigate the potential of certain herbs and spices in treating microbial infections then construct an argument based on their findings and readings about the promise of medicinal plants.

Simple Change, Unintended Consequences: Exploring Ecosystems

Connections among biological, physical, and chemical processes; how interactions among the biotic components and between the biotic and abiotic component define the features of an ecosystem; dynamic equilibrium in ecosystems; impact of change in ecosystems.

Students examine the impact of a seemingly small change on the ecosystem of Lake Victoria. To learn about ecosystems, students first characterize and analyze soil and water samples as ecosystems and read about dynamic equilibrium in ecosystems. They then analyze the impact of a natural or human-made change in the ecosystem on the biological, chemical, and physical components and their interrelationships.

Changes in the Neighborhood: Ecological Succession

Factors involved in ecological succession.

Students read about the impact the eruption of Krakatoa had on surrounding ecosystems and explore ecological succession directly by investigating milk as it undergoes successive changes. Then they apply their understandings to explaining ecological succession in the recovery of Krakatoa.

So Many Species, So Much Time: The Origins of Biodiversity

Nature of biomes, definition of species, origins of biodiversity, natural selection, vertical and divergent evolution.

Students analyze patterns in the distribution of species around the world and identify factors in the environment that determine the amount of biodiversity in an ecosystem. They identify criteria that define a species using the results of an activity and a reading by E.O. Wilson. Students model natural selection using different implements to pick up different foods, explain observations about finch evolution in the Galapagos Islands, and are challenged to explain the enormous diversity observed in the cichlids of Lake Victoria.

Go Forth and Populate: Population Dynamics

Communities and populations in ecosystems, population interactions and resource use, carrying capacity and limiting factors, patterns of population growth, biotic potential.

Students calculate an ecological footprint for a fictional person, then read about the possibility of a population crisis in the future. They construct growth curves for a model rabbit population, identify factors that affect the population growth using a model system of a rabbit population, and consider how carrying capacity determines the growth of populations. Then they apply their understandings about factors that affect the population growth to decide whether Earth can sustain a population of 9.5 billion people.

Cycling Through the Ecosystem: Matter and Energy in Ecosystems

Interdependence of organisms, flow of energy in ecosystems, trophic levels, role of decomposers, biogeochemical cycles, recycling of matter through ecosystems and through organisms.

Students read about biomes and biogeochemical cycles, develop a presentation, and present their cycle to the class in a jigsaw learning activity. Students consider the foods they eat, the functions the foods have in their survival, and the need to recycle elements. They explore how energy flows through an ecosystem and the cycling of matter in biogeochemical cycles. Students then apply their understanding of the movement of energy and matter in ecosystems to designing a lunar biosphere that can sustain life for 2 years.

PROJECT 1 (optional; available in Teacher's Guide only)
Snake Oil or Science?

Plants make many chemical compounds that serve a purpose for the plant but may also be beneficial for humans; not all sources of information are trustworthy, and that criteria can be used to identify reliable sources.

Students return to the topic of medicinal plants that they explored in Learning Experience 1 and research the biology and ecology of certain plant-based supplements credited with improving human health. Students use literacy skills such as reading for comprehension, selecting credible sources of information, evaluating information, and using evidence to support a claim.

Corn to Milk: Metabolic Pathways

Universality of biomolecules and their functions, catabolic and anabolic pathways, metabolism as an indicator of common ancestry.

Students learn about biomolecules in a jigsaw learning experience. They conduct a chemical analysis to compare the biomolecules found in corn and milk. They then trace carbon atoms from starch molecules in corn to lactose in milk and read about the chemical reactions involved in capturing energy, the breakdown of nutrients, and the biosynthesis of new biomolecules. Students then trace a food item that they consumed through their own metabolic pathways.

Pernicious Poisons: Enzymes in Metabolic Pathways

Structure, function, and mechanisms of action of enzymes; role of enzymes in metabolic pathways.

Students observe a demonstration of enzyme action and explore the mechanisms. They then determine the consequences to an organism if a specific metabolic pathway is blocked by an enzyme inhibitor.

Cell—At the Center of Excellence: Cell Structure and Function

The importance of being cellular, cell structure (including membranes) and function, cell specialization, differences between prokaryotes and eukaryotes.

Students read about scientists who are trying to create a living cell, then discuss why they think scientists might want to "build a cell in a test tube." Students build a model of a cell and describe the relationships between metabolic functions and cellular components.

The Unsolved Mystery: Exploring the Origins of Life on Earth

Scientific theories related to the origins of biomolecules, the coalescence, and the formation of cells.

Students read a story about the hypothesis that life did not originate on Earth but rather was brought by meteorites and comets. They create a timeline depicting the history of Earth using scientific information and evidence. They demonstrate how phospholipid membranes can be formed from biomolecules present in the environment and read about the conditions of Earth during the Archaean Eon. Students assume the role of scientists and research 1 hypothesis of the origins of life in preparation for a class panel discussion.

PROJECT 2 (optional; available in Teacher's Guide only)
Creature Feature

Applying concepts in ecology, evolution, and cell biology.

Students imagine and describe an organism using concepts in ecology and cell biology they have explored so far in this course. Students prepare a species entry for the Encyclopedia of Life Web site, an online database for all of the species that are known on this planet.

Discovering the Nature of the Genetic Material: DNA—The Master Molecule

DNA structure and function; DNA replication; history of the discovery of DNA as the genetic material, science as a human endeavor, the nature of scientific research.

Students role-play scientists whose research contributed to the understanding of the structure and function of DNA. They build a model of DNA and use it to learn about DNA replication.

Translating Information into Action: Information Transfer from DNA to Protein

Nature of a gene, transcription, translation, protein structure, mutations, relationship between changes in DNA sequence and changes in traits.

Students read about a scientist's plan to use DNA as a way of sending secret messages. They decode the language of DNA, and model transcription and translation. Students explain how information moves from DNA to proteins to traits and analyze the impact of mutations on proteins and traits. They use their understandings to explain Griffith's classic experiment.

Of Proteins and Traits: The Molecular Basis of Traits

Relationships among DNA, protein, and traits; biochemical basis of traits; making genetically modified organisms.

Students read about genetically modified organisms and conduct an experiment in which they insert of new gene into bacteria, giving the bacteria a new trait. They learn how new traits are inserted into plants then decide whether they would eat a potato with a gene from a different organism, using evidence to explain their decision.

Home on the Chromosome: Structure and Function of Chromosomes

Chromosome structure, chromosomes as the genetic legacy, meiosis and gamete formation, recombination, the origins of trait variation, karyotypes.

Students assume the role of genetic counselors and analyze karyotypes for a couple expecting a baby. They build a model of a chromosome then model gamete formation and meiosis. Students explain how mistakes can occur during meiosis and the consequences of those mistakes.

The Sickling Cell: Dominant and Recessive Traits

Dominance and recessiveness, homozygosity and heterozygosity, relationship between genotype and phenotype.

Students read about sickle cell disease, use data to explain the biochemical and molecular basis of the disease, and explore patterns of inheritance. They explain why, from an evolutionary perspective, a mutated gene might be retained in a population.

Return of Martin Guerre: Exploring Simple Inheritance Patterns

Mendelian genetics, patterns of inheritance, Punnett squares, crossover predicting and explaining variations in offspring, DNA analysis, and RFLPs.

Students read about a man returning to a village claiming an identity. They analyze Mendel's data and determine how variation can occur using chromosome models. Students then analyze molecular genetic data and patterns of inheritance to determine the man's true identity.

So Many Traits, So Few Genes: Exploring Non-Mendelian Traits

Non-Mendelian patterns of gene expression; principle of 1 gene more than 1 protein; role of environment in trait variation.

Students consider patterns of height variation and speculate how this might occur. They read descriptions of various traits and identify the non-Mendelian mode demonstrated. Students then apply their understanding of non-Mendelian traits to the trait of height.

There's More to Life than Sequences: Exploring Epigenetics

Epigenetics: the effect of environment on gene expression.

Students read about changes that occur in identical twins as they age. Students build a model of chromatin and investigate how methylation affects gene expression. They use their understandings about epigenetics and the effects of environment to explain changes in gene expression.

One If by Land, Another If by Sea: Exploring the Process of Evolution

Meaning of the word "theory" in science; change over time is the result of random variation in the genetics of a population and natural selection; interaction between environment and evolution; the role of population dynamics in evolution.

Students discuss the scientific meaning of theory and the kinds of evidence they might look for to support the theory of evolution. They read about the discovery of a fossil of a killer whale that lived 12 million years ago. Students are challenged to prepare an exhibit for the local library on the evolution of the whale and the biological factors involved that resulted in the change from the terrestrial to aquatic habitat of whales. They create a timeline of evolutionary history, read the evolutionary history of whales, order pictures of the evolutionary intermediates that led to the modern-day whale, and prepare their exhibit on whale evolution.

Marvelous Blunders: The Molecular Basis of Natural Selection

Mechanism of natural selection, role of variation in populations, changes in the gene pool of a species as the basis for all evolutionary changes.

Students read about mutating bacteria as a world health crisis. They conduct an experiment to determine how bacteria develop antibiotic resistance and discuss how the development of resistant strains of bacteria is the result of natural selection. Students discuss the importance of understanding evolution to life in the modern world.

Ancient Genes, Age-Old Processes: The Molecular Evidence for Evolution

The nature of scientific evidence; similarities and differences among the biochemical and molecular structures and functions of organisms; relationships between molecular and anatomical evidence for evolution.

Students identify similarities among seemingly very diverse organisms, interpret an experiment, and analyze data relating to gene homologies among different organisms. Students are challenged to create a model of evolution that accounts for the molecular and anatomical evidence. They determine how cladograms can provide information about the relatedness of organisms.

Fishing Expedition: Anatomical and Fossil Evidence for Evolution

Anatomical homologies; nature of fossils and the significance of fossil evidence; transitional organisms.

Students take on the role of paleontologists looking for transition animals between fish and amphibians. They make predictions about what to look for and where based on their understanding of evolution. Students revise their model of evolution based on new evidence and understandings.

PROJECT 3 (optional; available in Teacher's Guide only)
Creature Feature Returns
Apply concepts in molecular biology, genetics, and evolution.

Students return to the organism they described for the Encyclopedia of Life Web page and add information about its molecular biology, genetics, and evolution.