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High School Biology Series 2 of 4: Cells, Genetics, and Evolution

General Biology 2


This is part 2 of 4 in a full year (36 week) high school biology series, lasting 12 weeks.
This class is only offered once per year in the fall.

It is not required, but it is highly recommended that you take these classes in order. Later courses in the series refer back to information we learn in earlier courses.

The other courses in the series are as follows:
General Biology: Series 1 of 4- Chemistry and Ecology
General Biology: Series 3 of 4- The Kingdoms of Life
General Biology: Series 4 of 4- Human Anatomy

This is one of the most advanced classes we offer at Next Level Homeschool, meant to be a comprehensive full year biology program for serious students. You will not find another online high school homeschool program that covers this much biology content. Students who complete the full year will be easily prepared to take AP or college biology. In fact, former students have told me they learned more in this class than their college biology!

My degree is in Marine Biology (from Texas A&M University at Galveston), and I am truly a biologist at heart! I have a passion for this branch of science, and truly love sharing that passion with my students. And it’s my goal to make sure students come away with a deep understanding of the science of life. Because biology is not just a science, it is what we are! It is in us and around us and we are being it and interacting with it every second of our lives. I may be biased, but I truly feel that it is the most important branch of science students will ever learn. And I treat teaching it as a huge responsibility. This will be an academic, in-depth approach to biology.

This session will cover 3 major topics in 12 weeks:

1. Cells: 
What are the different types of cells (prokaryotic, eukaryotic)? What are the different organelles and their functions? How do materials enter and exit the cell (diffusion, osmosis, active transport)? What is the purpose of photosynthesis, and what are the chemical reactions that power it? How do cells turn food into energy? What are the processes of cellular respiration (glycolysis and the Krebs cycle)? How do cells grow and divide (the cell cycle- mitosis)?

2. Genetics: 
What are genes and alleles? How can you predict genetic traits (Punnett squares with F1 and F2  crosses)? How does meiosis play a role in genetics, and how does it differ from mitosis? What is DNA? How does DNA replicate? What is RNA and what is its role in protein synthesis? How do mutations occur, and are they all bad? In what ways can humans use genetic engineering to increase the probability of certain traits appearing in offspring? What are the processes and potential risks of this technology? What is the human genome, how do our genes play a role in inherited disorders, and what are the ethics involved in using genetic engineering on people?

3. Evolution: 
Using many real life examples to illustrate the topics, we will learn: What is Darwinian evolution? How do artificial selection and natural selection work? What is the role of genes in evolution? How do entirely new species evolve from other species? Where did life originate from? How has it evolved over billions of years? How does the studying the history of the earth reinforce the theory of evolution? What patterns can we find in evolution (adaptive radiation, convergent evolution, coevolution, punctuated equilibrium)?

At the end of the course, students will have a firm understanding and working knowledge of all aspects of general biology. This foundation will serve them very well if they progress to an AP biology course in high school or for college biology. That said, it’s going to be engaging and a lot of fun as well!

No live classesview lessons on YOUR schedule. In general, expect 1.5-2.5 hours to work through the lesson plan each week, and an additional 2-5 hours working on assignments (it really depends what assignment your child chooses to do and how they manage their time). For classes with two levels, the material is the same for boththe depth of the assignments differs. Younger students should usually be placed in Level 1. Older students, or younger students who want more of a challenge, should be placed in Level 2.

Each lesson consists of a fully narrated PowerPoint presentation with images and videos to enhance the topics. Students will have access to our learning management system, Canvas, for viewing their lesson, printing worksheets, taking quizzes, viewing/submitting assignments, participating in discussions, and viewing grades/feedback. Read more details about class format.

Week 5
We'll start our study of cells by learning about the history of various scientific breakthroughs that led to the Cell Theory. We'll then begin building our foundation of knowledge about cells by learning the two main types of cells (prokaryotic and eukaryotic), the organelles found in each, and what their functions are. We'll cover the differences between plant cells and animal cells. Then we'll discuss the importance of the cell membrane in detail- including the lipid bilayer, diffusion, osmosis, and active and passive transport.

Week 6
We'll focus on plant cells this week, specifically how they obtain energy. We'll discuss ATP and ADP, photosynthesis and the structures involved, the electron transport chain, light dependent and light independent reactions, the Calvin cycle, and more.

Week 7
This week is all about animal cells and cellular respiration. We are going to dig deep into the steps involved in glycolysis, how cellular respiration occurs in the presence and absence of oxygen, the Kreb's cycle, more information on the electron transport chain, and the end products of cellular respiration. 

Week 8
We'll begin our study of genetics this week with a detailed discussion on the structure of DNA. From there, we will discuss the cell cycle and all of the steps involved for a cell to duplicate its genetic material (mitosis) in depth so students have a firm understanding of this important process. We'll then talk about what can happen when cellular reproduction goes wrong, specifically the formation of cancerous tumors, and finish with a discussion on different types of stem cells.

Week 9
Now that we understand the basics of DNA, it's time to figure out what it's for! This week is all about traits- phenotypes, genotypes, and alleles. We'll create Punnett Squares to predict possible genetic outcomes for offspring from different combinations of homozygous recessive/dominant parents and heterozygous parents. We'll move into polygenic traits, incomplete dominance, codominance, and multiple alleles. Then we'll discuss fertilization, how meiosis works and is different from mitosis, and different reasons why siblings from the same parents don't look alike!

Week 10
More DNA! We're going to discuss the chemical structure of the DNA helix, including the different nucleotide bases, and how DNA replicates itself. We'll learn how DNA builds amino acids, which then build proteins- which means we'll be diving into the mysteries of DNA, RNA, tRNA, and mRNA! We'll cover transcription and translation, codons and anticodons, and finish with what happens when DNA replication doesn't happen precisely....genetic mutations. 

Week 11
This week we'll start with how wolves were bred to create all of the different dog breeds we know and love! Artificial selection isn't just for puppies! We'll discuss its role in agricultural as well, along with polyploidy. It's one thing to breed a fluffy dog and a fluffy dog to get another fluffy dog, it's something else to actually get into a lab and manipulate the DNA itself! We'll discuss DNA sequencing, recombinant DNA, polymerase chain reaction, transgenic species, and cloning.

Week 12
We'll end our genetics unit with a detailed discussion on sex chromosomes and how they different from autosomes. XY, XX, and other combinations that can occur as well. We'll learn how to read a pedigree chart and karyotypes, and then discuss different types of mutations that can occur on the sex chromosomes. 

Week 13
We've covered cells and genetics, and that has laid a firm foundation for students to understand the biological processes behind evolution! We'll begin with Darwin and his theory of evolution through natural selection. We'll discuss all of the major scientific reasonings behind why evolution is a theory- a SCIENTIFIC theory, not theory in layman's terms! #petpeeve  Gradualism, punctuated equilibrium, divergent evolution, convergent evolution, and more! We'll also discuss in detail how we did not evolve FROM monkeys, but how we share a common ancestor with monkeys- putting to rest once and for all the question "If we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?" 😉 

Week 14
Time to put Mendel and Darwin in a biological blender and see the link between genetics and evolution! We'll discuss various allele frequencies in populations and how they contribute to evolution. We'll cover disruptive, directional, and stabilizing selection, the Hardy-Weinberg Principle, genetic bottlenecks, the founder effect, genetic drift, reproductive isolation, and more!

Week 15
Now we have the evolutionary knowledge to go back in time and watch its progression through geologic history! We'll go all the way back 4.6 billion years and watch how oxygen formed which led to life being able to exist. We'll see how the different types of cells we discussed weeks ago came into existence, and work our way all the way up the evolutionary tree to the arrival of mammals! 

Week 16

We'll finish up our unit on evolution with learning how scientists classify all of the life on earth through taxonomy. Students will learn the taxonomic order and how scientists determine where to classify organisms. We'll discuss phylogeny, derived characteristics, and how to read and create a cladogram. We'll finish by learning how to read and create dichotomous keys. All of this week's information will be the springboard that launches us into Biology Session 3: The Kingdoms of Life!








All labs are OPTIONAL and not required to complete the work.
These materials will allow students to follow along with the in-lesson labs.
Students who do not have materials can simply follow along with me in the video.

I highly recommend a quality microscope for this class. We will use it in Sessions 2 and 3. If you do not have a microscope, it’s fine. I’ll be recording the microscope labs for the students. This is the one I use and love. It allows for live viewing on the computer screen and the ability to take pictures and videos. This is another that I see recommended by homeschool families often. Not as high of a magnification, but workable. If you have a serious biology kiddo, pay the money for the Omax. If not, go with the Amscope.

Week 5 Lab Materials (This is Week 5 of the overall course, but Week 1 of this session):
LAB 1:
2 slides and 2 coverslips
an onion
2 cotton swabs

LAB 2:
300 ml of water
drinking glass or beaker
plastic sandwich bag (twist tie if it’s not ziplock)

Week 7 Lab Materials:
LAB 1:
8 teaspoons of yeast
4 same sized narrow necked bottles that you can put a balloon on the neck of (plastic water bottles work well)
4 balloons of the same size (blown up a couple of times to stretch them out)
5 teaspoons of sugar
water and thermometer

LAB 2:
2 small clear containers
way to measure 20ml of water
2 straws
bromothymol blue

Week 8 Lab Materials:
2 hard boiled eggs
small container with 200 ml water
20 drops of blue food coloring
sharp knife or scalpel (ADULT SUPERVISION REQUIRED!)
metric ruler that shows millimeters

Week 10 Lab Materials:
4 pieces of paper, preferably 4 different colors of construction paper
Yarn or string that will lay flat and not curl up, about 2 meters long

Week 14 Lab Materials:

Next Level Homeschool is a firm believer that not all learning should happen from behind a screen! That's why we give students the freedom to submit their assignments in the way THEY want to! We don't want regurgitation learning here. By allowing students to use their own talents, skills, and passions to complete assignments, they become even more engaged and retain the information. Why? Because now it's literally in their hands! We receive thousands of projects every year from our students: written reports, videos, models, posters, Scratch, Minecraft, Roblox, songs, poems, skits, drawings, sculptures, craftswe've seen it ALL! And WE LOVE IT!!

Click here to view just a few projects we've received from students who have taken this class and see what YOUR kid could be learning with Next Level Homeschool!

Course Features

  • Schedule TBD
  • Activities Science
  • Lessons 12
  • Suggested Ages 13-17 Two Levels