Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Standard Set #3: AP Biology Units 3 and 4

Two more units worth of AP Bio standards today. Unit 3 covers energy transformations, starting with basic energetics and enzymes. Energy capturing (photosynthesis) and energy releasing (cellular respiration) pathways are also covered. For the organismal aspects, the animal digestive system is covered, as well as some basics of animal nutrition. In the past, we had covered plant nutrition as well, but with the new curriculum guidelines from the College Board we removed most of that, and rolled it in to other plant information.

I was able to pare the animal digestive system and nutrition down to one standard, since these topics were not stressed in the College Board curriculum framework. However, these standards may be expanded in the future. When I shared these standards with the other AP Biology teacher, she felt as though there should be more specific standards for the different pathways (glycolysis, fermentation, Calvin cycle, etc.) Also, I am not sure that something as important as the digestive system can be adequately covered with a single standard. I will have to look more closely at the curriculum framework before making a decision about it.

Unit 4 is communication. Again starting with the general cellular-based mechanisms (receptors, signal transduction) and moving onto larger system-based topics (hormones, nervous system, immune system) I feel that this unit is where students really begin to see the benefit of our organization. Presenting the basics of cellular communication right before going over hormones helps immensely. Especially since I don't require them to memorize hormones and effects; rather they just have to know the basics.

The College Board has identified the nervous and immune systems has being areas to focus on in AP Biology. Putting them in the same unit may seem tough for the students, but I actually think it helped. They knew they were responsible for more detail in this unit than they were for others. I think that them knowing that going in helped them focus, and they knew that the future units would not be so detail heavy.

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