High School Biology, CM-style

This next school year (2017 – 2018), I’m teaching 2 classes at one of the local co-ops. We meet once a week, on Friday from Sept through April. I’m teaching high school Biology and jr high general science. For both classes, we are using the Apologia text, which students are required to obtain for themselves.

I plan to run this class as Charlotte Mason-esque as I can muster. I’m familiar with CM philosophies when it comes to teaching, but this is the first time I’m teaching a high school class and applying those philosophies. So, there will be some muddling through, because I still need the class to be rigorous enough to prepare these students for an AP-Biology class or a entrance level college class. I don’t think CM means it can’t be this, but when she was writing 100 years ago, science was a different animal. (ha! pun intended!)

I have set up a page that you can find the link to at the top that will have links to all my CM science class notes.

There are some supplies that are high dollar, but are also for long term use. Like a microscope. Really, you gotta have a microscope. You can get one on amazon for between $100 and $200, you can get a nicer one for $300 to $400. And this is the sort of thing you will use through out jr high and high school. This one is a good beginning scope, as you can use it for a greater variety of objects, and its less than $150.

I also have a sets of slides (for microscope use) purchased in previous years. Homesciencetools.com has slides specifically for Apologia Biology. They have sets designed for other curriculums also.

In fact, Homesciencetools.com has bundles with the basics of what you need to do the Apologia Biology. I’m not getting those for my co-op because I already have slides, and because of our schedule, I cannot just get all the dissection specimens at once. If you order the bundle, e.g. the dissection bundle for Apologia Biology, you will get the dissection kit (nice!) and the 4 specimens all in one bag (ooky!). Unless you are going to dissect all 4 in 1 month, you will want to get stuff separately. And don’t buy dissection specimens until you are within 6 months of using them. Yes, you get stuck with more shipping charges, unfortunately, but this is science. And you don’t want your child or students dissecting a partially decayed specimen. Of course, if you are doing this just within your family, you can schedule your time so that you do the dissections all in one month.

I will link to the items I’m getting for my class. I compared prices and availability between homesciencetools.com, amazon.com and carolina.com.

The advantage of doing a class like this in a class is that the cost of some items are shared across the class. I will (or have) purchase a set of petri dishes, agar (2 bottles), corral, sponge specimen, pond jars and protozoa mixture that the whole class will use. Scalpel blades and pins for dissection come in numbers for the whole class.

I want to get, for the whole class use, a frog hatchery kit, a root viewer kit and a carnivorous fungi kit. I think the supply fee will allow for these 3.

Per set of 2 students, I will get these items. Frog, crayfish, earthworm, perch, scalpel, probe and dissection tray. As funds and time allow, I’ll also get grasshopper, clam, starfish and pig. The pig is a higher priority than the others, so if it turns out that time or funds are tight, I’ll skip grasshopper, clam and starfish and just do a pig. And if I need to do it more as a demonstration, we can do that.

The ‘as time and funds allow’ items are things not specifically talked about in the book, but I think would add to the students understanding of the biological world. And should add to their ‘wow’ factor for the biological world. Because the biological world is just crazy awesome and worth going “wow” for.

And, of course, a nature notebook. I found ones I liked better on amazon, but the one offered here is a better price and still good enough for the beginning nature journaller. I have basic colored pencils, which I know are not ideal, but I’d rather spend more on the biology supplies than on the colored pencils. Yes, I know my CM priorities might be off, but we will deal. This will serve as their ‘lab notebook’ as they draw what they see in the microscope or on the dissection tray. This is another reason to have students work in pairs… one person works the specimens, the other draws, then they switch.

Don’t forget to get gloves. Any time you work with a live specimen or dead one, wear gloves. The formaldehyde that dissection specimens are in will stink up your skin horribly, and, really, you don’t want some random whatever on your skin. And always wash hands with soap well after dealing in these things.

There are books that will help along the way. There are dissection guides for anything you might dissect. There are good books and articles to round out the reading. I will talk about these as we reach that part of the year.

Are there supplies you’d add to this list? What is scary or overwhelming for you? How can I help you be a better biology teacher?


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