Course Expectations

Advanced Placement Biology

Teacher: Mr. Ryan Woodside


Course Website:

Room: 226

Textbook: Campbell: Biology in Focus by Urry, et. al., Pearson 2014

Required Materials: pen, pencil, 3-ring notebook (2″-3″ variety), laboratory manual (provided), laboratory notebook (provided),  laptop, and access to textbook

Course Description

Advanced Placement (AP®) Biology is a course that focuses not only on the enduring, conceptual understandings and content that supports them; but also the practices of science.  In this course students will spend less time on factual recall of information and more time on inquiry-based learning of essential concepts.  As a student you will find this more difficult (and hopefully more engaging) than a traditional course where the instructor lectures and provides specific and detailed directions for laboratory activities.  Students who take AP® Biology will develop creativity, critical thinking, advanced inquiry and reasoning skills, such as designing a plan for collecting data, analyzing data, applying mathematical routines.  This course is equivalent to a two-semester college introductory biology course.

The AP® Biology Curriculum is organized into four big ideas and seven science practices.  The big ideas encompass the core scientific principles, theories, and processes governing living organisms and biological systems.  Each of these big ideas are further divided into enduring understandings that incorporate core concepts that students should retain from the learning experience.  Enduring understandings are followed by statements of essential knowledge necessary to support it.  

Big Ideas

  1. The processes of evolution drives the diversity of life.
  2. Biological systems utilize free energy and molecular building blocks to grow, to reproduce, and to maintain homeostasis.
  3. Living systems store, retrieve, transmit, and respond to information essential to life processes.
  4. Biological systems interact, and these systems and their interactions posses complex properties.

A practice is a way to coordinate knowledge and skills in order to accomplish a goal or task.  In AP® Biology, the science practices enable students to establish lines of evidence and use them to develop and refine testable explanations and predications of natural phenomena.  The science practices of the course capture important aspects of the work that scientists engage in, at the level of competence expected for AP Biology students.

Science Practices

  1. The student can use representations and models to communicate scientific phenomena and solve scientific problems.
  2. The student can use mathematics appropriately.
  3. The student can engage in scientific questioning to extend thinking or to guide investigations.
  4. The student can plan and implement data collection strategies to a particular scientific question.
  5. The student can perform data analysis and evaluation of evidence.
  6. The student can work with scientific explanations and theories.
  7. The student is able to connect and relate knowledge across various scales, concepts, and representations in and across domains.

The learning objectives for the course combine course content with science practices.  The specific learning objectives of each unit will articulated at the beginning of the unit.  Each unit is organized around a collection of enduring understandings.  Units will be sequenced in a logical manner to build a conceptual framework for understanding how living organisms function.  The sequence of units will be Course Introduction, Evolution, Matter, Energy Transformations, Reproduction & Development, Storing & Expressing Genetic Information,  Communication & Regulation, and Ecological Relationships.  A detailed course planner can be found here.

This course uses inquiry and student-centered learning to help you become:

  • A Collaborative Learner: You will complete various biology assignments in cooperative groups.  You will acknowledge and fulfill your responsibility to the group and actively contribute.
  • A Self-Directed Learner: You will develop and demonstrate initiative and responsibility.  You will self-evaluate and view mistakes as an opportunity for learning and growth.
  • An Effective Communicator: You will develop verbal, diagrammatic, graphical, and mathematical representations of the phenomenon being studied.  You will present ideas and ask productive questions, helping you to become a better thinker and problem solver.
  • An Analytical Thinker: You will use observation, communication, and reasoning in order to gather, interpret, and evaluate information and abstract concepts.  You will utilize and apply these concepts in a variety of new and meaningful contexts.

Your success in class will ultimately depend on how well you adhere to the The 5 B’s:

  • Be Present: Your attendance in class is a key factor to your achievement.  If you need to leave class to use the restroom, please try to wait until an appropriate break in the lesson before presenting your agenda and signing out of the classroom.
  • Be Prompt: Please arrive to class on time.  Late arrival to class is disruptive.  Do not ask to use the bathroom or go to your locker before class begins.  A student who is not in the classroom when the bell sounds is considered tardy or late.  A student is tardy if he or she is without a pass after the bell.  A student is late if he or she arrives with a pass after the bell.  Tardy and late students need to sign-in at the clipboard legibly, and are not to disrupt class.  Late students, please attach you note to the clipboard.  There is no penalty for arriving late to class.  Tardy students are subject to the course consequences.  After signing in, please quietly take your seat, and get to work.
  • Be Prepared: Please bring your materials and any assignment to be completed to class everyday.  Get to work quickly on any “Do Now” posted on the agenda.
  • Be a Participant: You must take responsibility for your own learning and not regard yourself as a passive receptacle for biological knowledge.  Understanding is NOT gained by simply being told something.  You must actively engage with concepts in order to fully understand them.  Ask questions and challenge my explanations or examples that confuse you.  Contribute to class discussions, even if you are unsure of having the “right” answer.  
  • Be Polite: You must make this class a safe place for others to freely express their confusions, learn from their mistakes, and share ideas without fear of ridicule.  Listen to each other politely and deliver questions and criticism in an open and constructive manner.  Be respectful of classroom materials and lab equipment.  Before you leave class, return all equipment to its place and properly dispose of your trash.

Academic Honesty:

Please refer to the policy outlined in the Mt. Ararat High School Student Handbook


Course grades will only be determined by assignments where students demonstrate their knowledge measured against the academic learning objectives for the course (88%) and the MTA Habits of Work (HoW) Rubric (12%).  You will be scored using the MTA HoW Rubric for each unit.  Graded assignments generally include quizzes, free response questions (FRQs), documentations of laboratory experiences, and unit exams.  The questions on unit exams will assess specific learning objectives.  Each unit exam will follow the format of a “mini-AP exam”.  There will be about thirty multiple choice and three grid-in questions that will count for 50% of the score and one long free-response and three short free-response questions that will count for the other 50%.  Unit exams will be scored in a manner similar to AP Biology.  Since the format of the unit exams and the volume of content assessed is often challenging, students are able to do reflection and test corrections to earn back half of the missed credit.


You can expect to have more work to complete outside of class than other courses, much of this work will be “ungraded” and will focus on the learning process, because learning is difficult.  These assignments will generally be completing assigned readings or watching videos and taking notes or completing study guides; outside readings from journals, magazine, and newspapers; completing pre-laboratories, analyzing data, and finishing laboratory work products; and studying for quizzes and unit tests.  Much of this work will be graded as part of your HoW scores for each unit.  

Laboratory Work:

The laboratory work that we complete is an essential part of the course.  Much of the learning that you do will be based on laboratories conducted in class.  If you are absent for a lab, you will need to make it up after school.  You will be provided with a laboratory manual at the beginning of the year with all (or at least most) of the laboratories we will conduct.  It is your responsibility to bring this laboratory manual to all of our classes.  You will also maintain a laboratory notebook in a grid-ruled composition notebook.  These two documents will serve as your evidence of laboratory work.  Your laboratory notebook may be evaluated at any time and you will be provided with specific guidelines for maintaining your notebook.

Please read this course syllabus with your student and sign below.  If you have any questions please contact me at school by phone (207-729-2951) or e-mail (  I look forward to meeting you at parent-teacher conferences.

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