Biology: A Look Inside

It's just past 11 a.m., and the biology room smells of formaldehyde. Sophomores huddle around the lab tables with excitement and trepidation. Some students carefully approach the fetal pig, eager to learn more about its anatomical design. Others look less enthused.

This year's dissection was just one component of a completely revised biology curriculum designed to better balance breadth and depth of content. Last year's science department evaluated how best to foster a greater cultivation of the tools of learning – observation and inductive reasoning – and teach science in a way that helps students see the discipline in its historical perspective. The redesign also integrates Christian theology more consistently and stimulates genuinely meaningful Christian reflection by placing theology throughout the course and not merely at the beginning.

"The most significant change is the flipping of the course content," explained Academic Dean Mr. Matt Beatty. "Mrs. (Ruth) Hopson worked diligently this summer to give the course a 'concrete-abstract' orientation versus an 'abstract-concrete-abstract' one."

The teachers worked with a veteran biology teacher and classical Christian school consultant and examined curricula from public, private, and classical schools.

"We added the fetal pig dissection lab along with more short demonstrations to illustrate scientific principles, processes, and concepts," Mrs. Hopson said. "These increase the students' ability to apply what they learn and to see science in a more concrete form."
During the first semester, the tenth-graders were introduced to how the human body systems are integrated, learning how the body performs life processes, how the systems depend on each other, and how man's view of science has changed over time.

"This new approach organizes the material historically. Students learn biology in the same progression of mankind – moving from what is more easily observed to more complex and abstract biological concepts. For example, before the invention of the microscope, we began with observation of what we could see," Mrs. Hopson explained. "Additionally, this progression from macro to micro naturally facilitates historical and theological discussion."

Students also maintain a science sketchbook with notes and drawings to capture their observations and reinforce the lessons. The science team is evaluating the changes throughout the year as they prepare to do more science curriculum work for next year.

"We do not want this to be another biology class that just fills students with facts," Mr. Beatty said. "Instead, we want to instill awe and wonder for our amazing God."