If you are interested in homeschooling high school biology, particularly if you are arriving here as a Waldorf homeschooling parent, I would ask myself several questions:
- Do you want to run this as a “track” class (all year, the way it is run in public schools in the United States?) or do you want to continue to run the sciences in blocks such as done in the middle school grades?
2. Is ninth grade the right grade for this subject to run as a track class?
3. If it is, and we look at living biology in topics or units, what sense do the order of topics make coming from doing the middle school science grades from a Waldorf perspective?
4. What resources – non-Waldorf and Waldorf – are available to help me teach?
5. What experiential things are available to really make this subject come alive? How can we touch the heart and hands before jumping into the heady portion?
I am eight weeks into high school biology with our high schooler, and I think I would answer these questions the following way –
- Yes, I would run this as a track class. I don’t think there is any way to run this in blocks throughout high school and garner enough hours (180 hours) to count as a high school science on a transcript as a homeschooler.
- Is ninth grade the right grade for this subject? The ninth grade year is the year of “what” so in one sense I think this is well for “what” since it is life all around us – but some of the “why” I think gets a little lost on the ninth grader as well and will need to be re-visited in other grades.
- If we look at biology in units or topics, now that we are into it, I think it makes more sense to actually start with ecology and evolution and then move into the level of the cell and molecular biology. I didn’t do it this way this year, and most traditional textbooks and high school biology courses start where we started with the cell, but I want to try a different order next time. It seems like a much more familiar place to start if one begins with ecology as opposed to the cellular level.
- What resources are available? I will post a list by unit of what we used and liked (and didn’t like). Part One is below.
- What experiential things are available? We used 4H experiences and field trips, along with classes at our local zoo. Depending upon where you live, I think this is an easy subject to find experiences that match with topics. I think in high school we take the Waldorf method of presentation-artistic method-academic piece with revisiting and nuances on the new material to be inciting the hands and heart (so could be experiements, field trip with hands-on component, etc) with hands-on piece and academic piece with lots and lots and lots of review and at the school level, the student has to be able to take notes, read follow up materials,etc. in the homeschooling environment.
I started our year in the very traditional way of sort of an introduction to biology, the basic chemistry of biology, the working cell, cellular respiration and photosynthesis. I wish I had started with ecology and then moved into evolution and form and function for my Waldorf-based student, as I mentioned above. I would put the unit we started with more in the January time frame instead of the beginning of the year. That is my plan when I teach it the second time!
Also, you may move much faster than me, but i think this material (Introduction, The Cell, Cellular Respiration/Photosynthesis) takes about eight weeks to cover. If you have less children to homeschool or your student is super motivated and flies through materials and main lesson book pages and lab write-ups and reading, then it could take less time.
Our main resource materials for Introduction to Biology/The Cell/The Cell At Work for our discussions, my presentations:
- The Way Life Works, Hoagland and Dodson, Chapters 1 and 2
- Campbell Biology Concepts and Connections , Eighth Edition, Chapters 1-7
- PBS Evolution, Handouts, Leaf Cutter Ant story illustrating scientific method
- Article by Graham Kennish, “Teaching Ninth Grade Biology In A Human Context” – Steiner Education, Volume 22, No. 1)
- Article by Craig Holdrege “Learning to See Life – Developing the Goethean Approach To Science”
- Article by Craig Holdrege “Metamorphosis and Metamorphic Thinking” – Waldorf School Life Science/Environmental Studies Colloquium
- Chapter 5 “Matter and Energy in Organisms and Ecosystems” from “Hard To Teach Biology Concepts” Revised 2nd Edition. Available online through National Science Teachers Association, NSTA.
- Articles about homology
- Teachers Pay Teachers Nitty Gritty Science Photosynthesis, Cell Process & Energy (more generalized)
- Teacher Pay Teachers Science with Mrs. Lau: Biochemistry Activity with Four Macromolecules; Photosynthesis and Cellular Respiration Coloring Bundle (very detailed)
- Teacher Reference: Environmental Educators Alliance Workshops in my state – my first workshop is in just a few weeks!
Labs: (Teacher Reference: Biology Inquiries by Shields; Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments by Thompson, Online Resources) We did a lot of work with acids, bases, carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, enyzmes, in our seventh and eighth grade chemistry so that was a good basis for this, so we didn’t do as many labs with this. There were also hands-on components to the Teachers Pay Teachers materials mentioned above – not artistic and beautiful, but still with ideas for coloring, sequencing, using the hands for concepts that are not always easy for students to really “get” deeply.
- 3 Labs on “What Is Life?” (a harder question than one might think!)
- Introduction to Enzymes
- Exploration of Enzyme Activity
- Osmosis Lab
- Onion and Cheek Cell Lab
- Observation of Carbon Dioxide Uptake, Determining Effect of Light Intensity on Photosynthesis
Well, this fall coincided with our Forestry Judging for 4H which included identifying 79 types of trees, insect and tree diseases, estimation of sawtimber, and compass and pacing so that to me totally counts as a biology experience!
We also will have/ have had field trips this semester to a class on native fish of our state and fish adaptations; our local museum involving presentations on weather and a new dinosaur exhibit; an aquarium behind-the -scenes visit and three high school homeschooling classes at our local zoo that involved neuroscience of the mammalian brain, neuroscience of the bird brain, neuroscience of the reptile/amphibian brain and two of those three classes involved dissection.
Main Lesson Pages Required:
- Beautiful Title Page
- Milestones in Biology 4 Billion BCE – 200,000 BCE (Anatomically modern humans)
- The Sixteen Patterns of Life
- A Generalized Animal Cell
- A Generalized Plant Cell
- Cellular Respiration
- Comparision Page of the Holistic Cellular Respiration/Photosynthesis relationship
- Gestural Drawing of Animals and Plants at zoo
- Cell Model