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AP® Biology                                                                Instructor:  Alexander Coke Smith

Syllabus                                                                      Term:  2009-2010 Academic Year


Personal Philosophy

Biology is without a doubt one of the most fascinating and most important scientific disciplines.  There was once a time when a scientist could claim to be an expert in virtually every field but currently the knowledge base within the biological sciences is so vast that being an expert in simply one area of study could require a lifetime commitment.  But in order to be scientifically literate in today’s scientifically demanding society, it is important to have a general knowledge of many areas of the biological sciences. It is with this in mind that I have presented a broad course of studies that covers in good depth many of the fascinating areas of this wonderful subject. 


Course Overview

Classes meet daily for approximately 56 minutes. Depending on our complicated schedule, we will have lab activities that may carry over in to after school hours. This makes it possible to not only do all of the 12 labs in the AP Lab Manual for Students but many additional labs and activities as well, resulting in a diverse and interesting hands-on laboratory program.


Our course is organized around the eight themes from the AP Biology Curricular requirements.   Students are required to read the textbook chapters listed on the syllabus, and take a test at the end of each unit. The course textbook is the 8th edition of Neil A. Campbell and Jane B. Reese’s Biology.


All students who take the AP Biology course are required to do an independent research project outside of class time. I assign this in September and it is due at and of February. Students do most of the work on it independently - at the library and at home.


I spend very little in-class time on preparation for the AP Exam other than to discuss some test-taking strategies. AP Biology Released Exams will be made available to students to aid in their preparation for the AP examination.  After school study-sessions will be available starting at the end of February.


 Required Text:  8th edition of Neil A. Campbell and Jane B. Reese’s Biology.

& Jane B. Reese, Biology, 8th Addition

AP Biology Includes and Emphasizes:

  • Applications of biological knowledge and critical thinking to environmental and social concerns  
  • The course includes a laboratory component that fulfills all of the objectives of the required AP Biology labs as listed in the Course Planner. Students will spend a minimum of 25% of instructional time engaged in hands-on laboratory work.

  • The integration of the general topics of biology through the eight major themes as specified in the Course Planner and AP Biology Course Description:

Science as Process


Energy Transfer

Continuity and Change

Relationship of structure to function


Interdependence in nature

Science, Technology and society

In addition to the above:  Diversity of life & the structure and function of plants and animals.


Course Planner

AP Biology is divided in to 11 units that vary in length from two to three weeks.  Every unit includes a hands-on laboratory exercise designed to integrate the topic of that unit into the eight major themes of the AP Biology Course Description. Throughout the time spent on each unit, we will discuss as a class how the topic at hand relates to and fits within each theme, and how these themes transcend all of the unit topics.  

Theme 1 – Science as Process – Students engage in a project (Radish Seed Experiment) demonstrating the use of scientific reasoning to solve a problem.

Theme 2 – Evolution – Students compare ecological time with evolutionary time and examine how they correspond.  Students will explore the concept of change over time as well as the diversity of life (with a survey of living things ranging from viruses, bacteria to higher plants and animals) produced through evolutionary processes.

Theme 3 – Energy transfer – Students are asked to describe the movement, conversion, and storage of energy within an ecosystem, usually originating with the sun, then stored and converted to chemical energy by autotrophs, then passed on to heterotrophs and/or dissipated as heat.

Theme 4 – Continuity and change – Students are asked to consider how specific changes to an ecosystem (geological, climatic, introduction of new organisms, etc.) can affect the organisms that live within it.

Theme 5 – Relationship of Structure to Function – Students consider how organisms are physically adapted to survive and reproduce in their environment. Detailed studies of plant and animal structure and function will be part of the curriculum as well.

Theme 6 – Regulation – Students are to understand how an organism’s regulatory mechanisms (such as those that control body temperature) serve to aid or hinder its survival in particular environments. (This should be considered as further study of the structure and function of plants and animals.)

Theme 7 – Interdependence in Nature – The very key to ecology – how organisms interact within their environment, and how they cannot survive without such interactions.

Theme 8 – Science, Technology and Society – Students are asked to consider how the population growth of human beings has influenced local ecosystems throughout history, and how it continues to do so, even to the extent of affecting the entire biosphere.


 AP Biology Syllabus




Chapter Readings

First Semester, First Term

Sept. 3–30


Ecology and Behavior

First-Term Project: Radish Seed Experiment

50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55

Oct. 2–21


Atoms and Molecules, Bonds, Water Carbohydrates, Lipids, Proteins, Nucleic Acids, Enzymes

2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Oct. 23–Nov. 10


Cells, Cell Membranes, Transport, Cell Communications

7, 8, 11

Second Term

Nov. 13–Dec. 2


DNA Structure and Replication, DNA, RNA, Protein, Protein Synthesis, Viruses, Bacterial Genetics, Biotechnology

Second-Term Project: Original DNA/Genetic Code Papers Presentation

16, 17, 18, 19 (pp. 356-68), 20

Dec. 4–18


Cell Respiration and Photosynthesis

9, 10

Jan. 4–27


Mitosis, Meiosis, Classical Genetics

Third-Term Project: Human Karyotype

Construction (completed and graded during the third term)

12, 13, 14, 15, 19 (pp. 354-56)

Second Semester, Third Term

Jan. 29– Feb 17



22, 23, 24, 25, 26

Feb. 26–Mar. 17


Three Domains, Phylogenetic Trees, Prokaryote and Eukaryote Diversity, Animal Phylogeny and Diversity, Animal Development (Diversity of Life)

21, 27, 28, 32, 33, 34, 47

Mar. 19–Apr. 2


Plants (Structure and function of plants)

29, 30, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39

Fourth Term

Apr. 12–May 19


Digestion, Circulation, Gas Exchange, Homeostasis (excretory systems), Immune System (Structure and function of animal systems)

40, 41, 42, 43, 44

May 21–June 18


Hormones and Reproduction, Nerves, Muscles, Sense Organs (Continuation of structure and function of animal systems)


Fourth-Term Project: Owl Pellet Investigation

45, 46, 48, 49

Lab Schedule

Unit 1

Dissolved O2

Students complete AP Lab 12, Exercise 12A, “Dissolved Oxygen and Temperature.” We will also include measurement of aquatic primary productivity.


Choice Chambers

Students complete AP Lab 11, Exercise 11A, “General Observation of Behaviors.”



Students examine biomes in this lab based on teacher generated materials.



Unit 2

            Acids, Bases, and Buffers

In this lab, students test various substances to determine how resistant they are to changes in pH.


Molecular Models

Students use the “Design Your Own” Custom Molecular Model Kit 530A from Lab-Aids to build fatty acids, fats, amino acids, and simple proteins using molecular models.


Enzyme Catalysis Activity

Students complete AP Lab 2, “Enzyme Catalysis.”


Unit 3

Use of the Microscope/Microscopic Measurement

Letter “e,” starch grains, cork, onion, cheek, Elodea.


Prokaryotic versus Eukaryotic Cells

A comparison of Elodea (a eukaryotic plant) and Anabaena (a cyanobacterium, a prokaryote).


Examining Protists

Amoeba, Euglena, Paramecium, Stentor, Blepharisma. These protists will be observed and described in this lab activity.


Diffusion and Osmosis

Students complete AP Lab 1, “Diffusion and Osmosis.”


Cell Membrane Model Building

Working in pairs, students build a model of a cell membrane, a phospholipid bilayer.

Properties of Water

How many drops of water can fit on a penny? We also do simple demonstrations of capillary action in this teacher-generated lab.


Unit 4


Students will explore the concept of transformation. 


Gel Electrophoresis

Students complete AP Lab 6, “Molecular Biology.”


DNA Extraction from Onion Cells

Students extract DNA from onion cells or fruit fly salivary glands in thisUnit 5


Students complete AP Lab 4, Exercise 4B, “Photosynthesis/The Light Reaction.”


Plant Pigment Chromatography

Students complete AP Lab 4, Exercise 4A, “Plant Pigment Chromatography.”


Examining Stomates in Zebrina Leaves

Students will observe the functions and structure of stomata on Zebrina leaves


Examining Xylem

Students put celery (about one-inch lengths of stalk) in red food coloring and watch the food coloring move up the xylem.


Unit 6

Fruit Fly Lab

Students complete AP Lab 7, “Genetics of Organisms.”


Mitosis and Meiosis

Students complete AP Lab 3, “Mitosis and Meiosis.”


Probability I

Students flip a coin 100 times in groups of 10 to show that in probability, as numbers become larger, you more closely approximate your predicted ratio.


Probability II

Students do an M&M’s® and chi-square lab.


Unit 7

Hardy-Weinberg Law of Genetic Equilibrium

Students complete AP Lab 8, “Population Genetics and Evolution.”



Students create a timeline—1,000 mm of time.


Evolution Round Table Lab

This lab involves a serious of stations that will exhibit various aspects of evolution and natural selection.  This lab will be completed in approximately one week of intense lab time.


Unit 8

Earthworm Dissection

Crayfish Dissection


Zoology Roundtable Survey: “Diversity of Animal Life”

This lab involves a series of stations that show and discuss various phyla of organisms.  These stations will discuss and exhibit the various structures and characteristics that differentiate the various groups being presented.  Specimens and amazing images will be presented to illustrate example species from each phylum. In this lab, we will also explore the simplest of life forms – the viruses and bacteria to help present a wholistic view of living things and the progression to ever-increasing complexity.


  • Fetal Pig Dissection

(If time permits)

Unit 9


Students complete AP Lab 9, “Transpiration.”


Flower Dissection

Students will study the various parts of the flower through a standard dissection to further understand the structure and function of these sexual parts.



Students will study various examples of fruits.


Units 10 and 11

Pulse Rates

Students complete AP Lab 10, Exercise 10A, “Measuring Blood Pressure,” and Exercise 10B, “A Test of Fitness.”


Heart Rate and Temperature

Students complete AP Lab Manual Exercise 10C, “Heart Rate and Temperature”.


  • Respiration

Students will complete AP Biology Lab #5, “Cellular Respiration”.



Teaching Strategies

This course will be divided in to four general teaching modalities:

            Hands-on Student-centered Lab Activitie


Group work

Independent Discovery


The scope and sequence of the course will follow the basic themes presented above as well as the detailed timeline syllabus.


As often as possible I recycle previously-covered concepts and make a conscience effort to relate concepts covered in previous units to newer units to instill an “everything-is-interconnected” conceptualization of the biological sciences in my students. For example, the concepts of evolution, biochemistry, ecology, while being themes in and of themselves, will be interwoven throughout the course.


Lab Component

Working in pairs, students will do every lab exercise in the AP Biology Lab Manual for Students. They also do a variety of labs I have written myself or modified over the years from various sources.


Students do a lab every week, and they are required to turn in a write-up for each one. The level of these write-ups will vary depending on the lab. Some labs require only well-organized data summary and brief conclusions. Others, such as dissections and microscope labs, merely consist of a well-drawn diagram of what students saw. For labs that come from the AP Lab Manual, students must complete the graphs and answer the questions in the manual and present their findings in a specifically formatted manner. Independent research projects require a full lab report.


Students have one week from the completion of a lab to turn in their reports.


Student Evaluation

Unit tests = 65 % of final grade

Independent research project = 10 % of final grade

Lab reports, homework, and quizzes = 10-15% of final grade

Term Projects – 10% of final grade


Term Projects

Each term students complete a project that requires them to do independent work and turn in a report.


            First-Term: Radish Seed Experiment (Unit 1). Students design and carry out an experiment at home that tests whether radishes grow better in the light or the dark. This project emphasizes the elements of experimental design, as well as how to make graphs and tables for data presentation. Students submit a written lab report, which will be graded on experimental design, presentation and discussion of data.


            Second-Term: Original DNA/Genetic Code Papers (Unit 4). Students read one of the original papers on the discovery of DNA or the genetic code and give an oral presentation (and written report) to the class.


            Third-Term: Human Karyote Construction (Unit 6). Students prepare a human karyotype on paper at home.


            Fourth-Term: Owl Pellet Investigation (Unit 11). Students will reconstruct an owl pellet in the lab after the AP Exam. They are required to reconstruct the skeletons of all the animals the owl ate that are present in its pellet. This lab emphasizes comparative anatomy, and homology among mammals, as well as scientific reasoning.