Curriculum unit

Bio 101 syllabus

Here's my current plan for the Bio 101 course for undergraduates planning on entering teaching. I encourage any other college professors out there teaching a similar course to give me feedback or use a similar syllabus yourself!

Particle Awareness


This is a test bed for posting to Irene's website. I'll be posting at least one full lesson as the semester progresses. My hope is to develop a series of ooey-gooey usshy-gusshies to provide visceral experiences as foundations for particle awareness.


Plate Tectonics Box

In this box are an assortment of lessons to teach students about earthquakes and plate tectonics. As students progress through the unit, evidence supporting the theory of plate tectonics accumulates. They begin by researching the 10 largest earthquakes over the last 30 years. This information is plotted on a world map along with information about the location of active volcanos and mid-ocean ridges.

Physiology Box

Physiology is the study of living things – their structure, organization, and biochemistry. This unit gives students an opportunity to discover the fundamental characteristics of living things and explore some basic cell biology. Students begin with several activities culminating in the creation of a list of characteristics that all living things have in common – the characteristics of life list. From here, students learn to test for signs of life by growing microbes on agar plates, conducting biochemical tests, visualizing cells, and experimenting with photosynthesis and respiration. Finally, students learn about the organization plants and animals through dissection and the raising of plants and fish in the classroom. Throughout the unit, students return to the characteristics of life list, refining and revising their list as they learn new concepts. A planning guide for a voyage with the Marine Science Institute is included as a way for students to learn about the many forms of life in the San Francisco Bay.

Genetics Box

This box hooks students into the study of genetics by investigating the inheritance of human traits. Drawn by students' natural curiosity about how they come to look the way they do, they learn the basics of Mendelian genetics. From this introduction, students extract DNA, build DNA models and use them to study replication, transcription and translation.

Exploratorium Box

This megabox contains teaching boxes created by the fabulous teachers of the Exploratorium Teachers Institute. What is a teaching box? It generally takes the form of a cardboard box in a science teacher's classroom or garage. Inside you will find the collected materials, lesson plans, background information and ideas needed to teach a set of lessons on a certain topic.

Watersheds Box

This box covers watersheds, wetlands, and the shaping of the San Francisco Bay Area. Students will create several 3 dimensional classroom models to explore watersheds, erosion, sedimentation, and wetlands.Students will explore the geography of the local area through maps and physical exploration, thereby learning where water in the Bay comes from and the path it takes before it reaches the ocean. Throughout the unit are strategies to apply classroom learning to the real world in the form of:

  • case studies - learning about the science behind the recent Hurricane Katrina disaster
  • projects - studying erosion at a local creek and staging a town hall meeting about California's levee system

Ecology Box


The Ecology Box covers ecosystems, food webs, habitats, and water/soil quality monitoring. Students will investigate water and soil quality, study habitats ranging from a drop of pond water to a rotten log, and learn about population change through various case studies. At the core of this unit is a long term project where students build mini-ecosystems with water collected from a local creek, soil from the schoolyard, and seeds. Their ecosystem will be monitored over one month as the plants grow and the water quality changes (measured by pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen, and water volume). In the second month, students will design their own experiments with their mini-ecosystems. Student teams will model various human environmental impacts (pollution, acid rain, global warming, etc.) and observe the effects on the plants, soil, and water in their mini-ecosystem.