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How important is it for a high school student to take biology?  My son had it last year in The Rainbow Science and hated it so much.  I told him he has to take it again next year in 10th grade (I'm considering Experience Biology for this), but he is dreading the thought.  How important is it to colleges?  What if he never takes it?  He isn't interested in a science career, but he's only 14 and I know he can change his mind.

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If it were my ds, I'd tell him I was sorry I made a mistake picking Rainbow Science Biology, and that there are much more interesting options out there for him to enjoy in high school.  If you look at the pinned thread at the top, you'll find programs to research, both here on the boards and online in general.  Biology may not be his favorite subject, regardless of materials, but there is a lot of information not covered in Rainbow that he should probably be familiar with.

That said, some people do get away with not taking bio in high school.  However, there are some colleges that expect it for all applicants, regardless of major.  You might want to take a look at the admissions requirements of the 5-10 colleges you think he'd be most likely to attend to see what they require, keeping in mind that those requirements could change at any point before graduation.

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Nearly every single college that names specific courses names biology or a biological science. Nearly every state requires it. Like Klmama said above, you might be able to let him escape without it, but it would definitely be a risk. I'd focus instead on finding an option for some kind of biology credit that he can enjoy or at least endure. Since he's only 14, if you really need to take a breather, then I might do that instead and take it junior year.

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I think a life science is pretty much a standard and expected requirement; even MIT (a college not known for biology) recommends it.  Can your DS do a biologically-based science that he has some interest in?  I was thinking a home-brewed and customized course, something like Environmental Science, science of contagious diseases, etc..  My DS hates biology, so we are doing a year-long botany course that has the very, very basics of biology (as it relates to plants), and then we'll be concentrating on hands-on work with plants.  I am hoping the non-gross nature of plants (DS hates biology is because it's "repulsive", LOL), along with field trips, adn hands-on work, will get him through.  I liked Guest Hollow Botany for this kind of non-traditional stuff.

 

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Biology is important because we are biological beings.  That said, you don't need to do a bunch of organismic stuff, and you don't need to fill the course with a bunch of hands-on busywork.  Biochemistry and molecular biology, cell biology, inheritance, evolution, and ecology with maybe ten targeted lab/field experiences are sufficient for a modern biology course.

Edited by EKS
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5 minutes ago, Reefgazer said:

I think a life science is pretty much a standard and expected requirement; even MIT (a college not known for biology) recommends it.  Can your DS do a biologically-based science that he has some interest in?  I was thinking a home-brewed and customized course, something like Environmental Science, science of contagious diseases, etc..  My DS hates biology, so we are doing a year-long botany course that has the very, very basics of biology (as it relates to plants), and then we'll be concentrating on hands-on work with plants.  I am hoping the non-gross nature of plants (DS hates biology is because it's "repulsive", LOL), along with field trips, adn hands-on work, will get him through.  I liked Guest Hollow Botany for this kind of non-traditional stuff.

 

These are good ideas I will discuss with him.  What are you going to call the course on his transcript?  Would environmental science count for biology?  All my kid wants to learn about in science is the weather and oceans.  I would have him take marine biology, but don't know where to begin with that, except for Apologia, which I don't think he would like.

 

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3 minutes ago, EKS said:

Biology is important because we are biological beings.  That said, you don't need to do a bunch of organismic stuff, and you don't need to fill the course with hands-on busywork.  Biochemistry and molecular biology, cell biology, inheritance, evolution, and ecology with maybe ten targeted lab/field experiences are sufficient for a modern biology course.

Thank you.  Do you have any specific books or curriculum to recommend?

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56 minutes ago, klmama said:

If it were my ds, I'd tell him I was sorry I made a mistake picking Rainbow Science Biology, and that there are much more interesting options out there for him to enjoy in high school.  If you look at the pinned thread at the top, you'll find programs to research, both here on the boards and online in general.  Biology may not be his favorite subject, regardless of materials, but there is a lot of information not covered in Rainbow that he should probably be familiar with.

 

Good idea.  It's not the first book I've had to apologize for~😀  He liked all the other topics in Rainbow, though.  However, I won't have child #2 do Rainbow year 2 since it was such a disaster for my guinea pig.

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2 minutes ago, RubyPenn said:

Thank you.  Do you have any specific books or curriculum to recommend?

I used Essential Biology with my son.  It's well written and to the point. 

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My gut feeling is that most University Admissions people would find the lack of Biology on a High School transcript to be extremely troubling and that they would then question the rigor of the courses taken and look for other weaknesses in the applicant and probably not accept the applicant.  DD was subject to the laws of the State of Texas, which require five (5) (?) EOC (End of Course) examinations be passed, so a school operating under Texas State Law can issue a High School Diploma. I believe one (1) of the five (5) EOC exams was for Biology...

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2 minutes ago, Lanny said:

My gut feeling is that most University Admissions people would find the lack of Biology on a High School transcript to be extremely troubling and that they would then question the rigor of the courses taken and look for other weaknesses in the applicant and probably not accept the applicant.

My gut feeling is the same, but thought I'd throw the question out there to see what others have experienced.

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12 minutes ago, RubyPenn said:

These are good ideas I will discuss with him.  What are you going to call the course on his transcript?  Would environmental science count for biology?  All my kid wants to learn about in science is the weather and oceans.  I would have him take marine biology, but don't know where to begin with that, except for Apologia, which I don't think he would like.

 

I am still deciding this, but I am leaning toward "Botany" for 1 credit.  Alternatively, I may call it Biology (0.5 credit) and botany (0.5) depending how it plays out.

If your DS is not totally opposed to botany, I highly recommend Guest Hollow - lot's of hands-on and not overly-biology like.  AS a biology professor, I did have a problem with the Guest Hollow stuff being not as solid a hard science as I would like, so I am modifying it a little bit for DS (I don't consider making chocolate biology, for example), but overall, there is a great mix of things in there that can qualify as a high school life science, but still would be appealing to a non-biology kid.

I definitely think Environmental Science would qualify as a science, as long as you added lab stuff in.  Marine Biology would be great, if he likes it.  I actually taught a Marine Biology course to DD for high school and used the following book "Marine Biology:  An Ecological Approach".  It's a college-level book, but it allowed me to pick and choose what I wanted to do.  My class was only 1 semester, by design, but you could easily make it 2 semesters.  PM me for a copy of my syllabus if you would like.  I would stay away from commercial curriculum, except for the TOC to see what topics are in the offing and for ideas.

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Another idea:  Do a very brief biology class (a quarter of a year, for example), and then make your biology class topics that your DS would find interesting.  For example, after he completes his intro to biology sessions for a quarter of the year, if he is interested in genetics, then have him study inheritance/genetic technology/etc.  Once he's done with that, he may want to explore how meteorology and inorganic chemistry affects living things in the ocean.  You get the idea....

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If he's more of a humanities kid, then you could totally do a course that was mostly reading and videos. I guess I don't think it has to be onerous. It can be so many things.

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3 minutes ago, Reefgazer said:

Another idea:  Do a very brief biology class (a quarter of a year, for example), and then make your biology class topics that your DS would find interesting.  For example, after he completes his intro to biology sessions for a quarter of the year, if he is interested in genetics, then have him study inheritance/genetic technology/etc.  Once he's done with that, he may want to explore how meteorology and inorganic chemistry affects living things in the ocean.  You get the idea....

This might just work.

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Just now, Farrar said:

If he's more of a humanities kid, then you could totally do a course that was mostly reading and videos. I guess I don't think it has to be onerous. It can be so many things.

Yes, definitely more of a humanities kid.  Science is more of a struggle.

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5 minutes ago, RubyPenn said:

My gut feeling is the same, but thought I'd throw the question out there to see what others have experienced.

 

It will depend upon the university, but I believe most of them are going to want, if not require, 4 years of Science in High School. Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Astronomy, etc.  Of those, I believe they probably assume that an applicant has had Biology in High School. This link is about the University of Virginia in Charlottesville: 

https://www.collegedata.com/college/University-of-Virginia?pdf=1&collegeProfileTab=admission

Notice that for "Science" 2  Units are "Required" but 4 Units are "Recommended".  I suspect few people are admitted with only 2 Units of Science. Also, note that 5 Units of Mathematics are "Recommended". Also 5 Units of Foreign Language.  They are looking for "Rigor".  

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Just now, RubyPenn said:

Yes, definitely more of a humanities kid.  Science is more of a struggle.

So maybe he'd enjoy reading a bunch of great books about biology. Things like The Soul of an Octopus, The Sixth Extinction, In the Shadow of Man, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Gulp... I could go on. Couple that with a super basic, as basic as you can get online thing about basic biology and call it something like Biology: A Reading Course or Issues in Biology or something like that.

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1 minute ago, Farrar said:

So maybe he'd enjoy reading a bunch of great books about biology. Things like The Soul of an Octopus, The Sixth Extinction, In the Shadow of Man, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Gulp... I could go on. Couple that with a super basic, as basic as you can get online thing about basic biology and call it something like Biology: A Reading Course or Issues in Biology or something like that.

Great ideas!  Thanks, I'll look into those.

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3 minutes ago, Lanny said:

 

It will depend upon the university, but I believe most of them are going to want, if not require, 4 years of Science in High School. Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Astronomy, etc.  Of those, I believe they probably assume that an applicant has had Biology in High School. This link is about the University of Virginia in Charlottesville: 

https://www.collegedata.com/college/University-of-Virginia?pdf=1&collegeProfileTab=admission

Notice that for "Science" 2  Units are "Required" but 4 Units are "Recommended".  I suspect few people are admitted with only 2 Units of Science. Also, note that 5 Units of Mathematics are "Recommended". Also 5 Units of Foreign Language.  They are looking for "Rigor".  

Thank you, Lanny.  Very helpful.

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13 minutes ago, RubyPenn said:

Great ideas!  Thanks, I'll look into those.

There's a ton more out there. Look up best biology books and then start following the Amazon also boughts. I'd say a course with 6-10 books plus a very basic biology online, check the box kinda thing could be a really nice credit.

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3 hours ago, Lanny said:

My gut feeling is that most University Admissions people would find the lack of Biology on a High School transcript to be extremely troubling and that they would then question the rigor of the courses taken and look for other weaknesses in the applicant and probably not accept the applicant. 

Gotta laugh at this a bit, @Lanny. My DD#1 had zero biology and zero biological sciences on her transcript & had no trouble getting accepted to college with large merit awards. (Note:  she did not apply to lottery schools or anything in the extremely selective category as we chase merit $.) 

None of the schools my DD looked at required biology specificly, but I know some do.

My #2 kid will also not have Bio on her transcript but will have 4 yrs of science & will have to take Anatomy, Physiology, & a couple other biological sciences in college for her proposed major.

I'm planning on Bio for Kid#3 since she's not ready for physics yet next year.

YMMV.

ETA:  I agree with all the posts in this thread that say many colleges require a biological science. I also agree with the option to pick a bio topic that your kid will enjoy. Just for the record!

Edited by RootAnn
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4 hours ago, RootAnn said:

Gotta laugh at this a bit, @Lanny. My DD#1 had zero biology and zero biological sciences on her transcript & had no trouble getting accepted to college with large merit awards. (Note:  she did not apply to lottery schools or anything in the extremely selective category as we chase merit $.) 

None of the schools my DD looked at required biology specificly, but I know some do.

My #2 kid will also not have Bio on her transcript but will have 4 yrs of science & will have to take Anatomy, Physiology, & a couple other biological sciences in college for her proposed major.

 

What are the sciences you have your kids take and why didn't your first two take biology?

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My DD who plans to major in bio actually doesn’t have straight bio on her high school transcript, because her cover school does not count science before 9th grade, regardless of level.  If a school can’t read between the lines and realize that she obviously has a pretty strong bio background, given the other classes she’s taken and her portfolio, I figure it’s not the right place for her. 

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17 minutes ago, RubyPenn said:

What are the sciences you have your kids take and why didn't your first two take biology?

Eldest took, physics, chem & uh, more chem (DE class). DD#2 took physics, chem, earth science (this yr) & will either take DE Meteorology & Climatology this summer or a DE Physical Science for non-science majors next school year. Either one will count toward her physical science gen eds.

I will likely never teach high school biology if I can help it. Dd#3 will likely take it asynchronously online if we go in that direction.

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2 minutes ago, RootAnn said:

Eldest took, physics, chem & uh, more chem (DE class). DD#2 took physics, chem, earth science (this yr) & will either take DE Meteorology & Climatology this summer or a DE Physical Science for non-science majors next school year. Either one will count toward her physical science gen eds.

I will likely never teach high school biology if I can help it. Dd#3 will likely take it asynchronously online if we go in that direction.

My son has asked for chemistry instead of bio.  He's in algebra 1 this year, so I don't know if he'll be ready for it.  My dad is a retired chemistry, ecology, and physics teacher and oh how I wish he lived nearby.

Why don't you want to teach biology?

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5 hours ago, Farrar said:

So maybe he'd enjoy reading a bunch of great books about biology. Things like The Soul of an Octopus, The Sixth Extinction, In the Shadow of Man, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Gulp... I could go on. Couple that with a super basic, as basic as you can get online thing about basic biology and call it something like Biology: A Reading Course or Issues in Biology or something like that.

I am reading this right now! It is an excellent book, but I highly recommend reading it along with your son, or beforehand. It explores ethical and racial problems in a backdrop of black poverty and discrimination in the 50s. There is also a minor thread involving the institutionalization of mentally challenged black people in the 50s. This is a topic that is very valuable to learn about, but should be processed with a loving parent. In short, it would be a great book to tie in both biology and post WWII American history. Also ties in nicely with modern day race relations and racial justice issues.

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Do you not have a subject you dislike teaching? Bio is mine. [I'm an engineer by schooling & profession. Chem & physics are fun. Bio isn't ... for me.]

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53 minutes ago, RootAnn said:

Do you not have a subject you dislike teaching? Bio is mine. [I'm an engineer by schooling & profession. Chem & physics are fun. Bio isn't ... for me.]

Edited by RubyPenn

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My kids don’t particularly care for any of the science but they like chemistry better than biology. Our state requires biology so I wouldn’t consider avoiding it but we didn’t spend a ton of time on it. I’m perfectly okay with some courses being lighter than others. My youngest ds took a co-op class for biology that was more of a middle school life science class in my opinion. I didn’t realize it was going to be quite that light but I just went with it. He had physics and chem I would consider honors level and dual enrollment science as well honors level math and humanities. So the biology was wimpy but I don’t feel bad about it. Not everything has to be high level. I wouldn’t misrepresent it but I wouldn’t fret about being creative with the credit.

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I don't know exactly what was in your middle school bio class, but middle school bio tends towards organisms and body systems, while high school biology spends a lot of time on molecular biology (assuming you follow the standard content from state standards - I've compared TN, CA, and NY and they are basically the same).  So, other than the idea of cells and maybe mitosis, there is a lot of difference in content.  In my class, 5 of the 8 modules focus on various molecular topics, with the remaining 3 being genetics, ecology, and classifcation/evolution topics.  My class is designed to fulfill state requirements at the request of my co-op and students' parents, but I could see several otherr interesting biology-related courses.  Ecology and environmental science could easily be a semester.  Genetics is at least a month long even in a standard course.  If he likes psychology, maybe a unit of neurobiology.  Botany, marine biology, or other specialty courses could be combined as a couple of 1/2 credit classes.  There are a lot of topics that students never cover in a traditional class - prion disease, for instance.  The caveat to looking at some special topics is that it may be slow going without a decent foundation in 'the basics' - if you don't know what a prokaryote or a virus is, bit might be hard to understand why a prion is different.  But, you could do a bare bones 1/4 or 1/2 credit and then do special topics for the rest.  I know that in our state students need 1 credit of life science and 1 credit of either chem or physics, plus a 3rd science credit of any kind.  I dont know if that's univeral, though.  

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Perhaps you could work backwards, and only study basic biology when needed for understanding larger issues. So find 10 biology topics that are in the news that are interesting to the voting public, and research them. Basically, do biology from a completely practical point of view. 

So maybe you live in Alaska - you could research the impact of the oil pipeline on the tundra. Or maybe you live in Pennsylvania, you could research why the bear population is increasing and how to manage numbers through hunting. You certainly could go after the coronavirus, how is it different, why is it spreading so fast.  What about the impact of the gene sequencing through places like 23andMe on health decisions or insurance brokers. Or perhaps the impact of coal burning on certain trees due to acid rain, or the impact of pollution on a river near you. He could pick an endangered species he loves and study why it is struggling, or why it was such a no-no for the scientist to 'genetically engineer' the 2 babies (Lulu and Nana), or GE of crops and why it is controversial. Or what about health issues?  Pick ones that run in your family and research their biological basis and treatment options - cancer, Alzeheimers, Parkinsons etc. There are just so many cool things to read about, especially for a humanities person.  And it would help a humanities person to come to understand where the good research sites are for scientific topics, which ones are too academic and which ones are too emotive.  Resource evaluation is key for all humanities people. 

I would aim to pick topics at the different scales of biological study - micro (coronavirus, GE), individual (23andMe, cancer), population (bears), and systems (tundra). But clearly you could weight it to the side that he is most interested in.  I would still call it Biology personally, but then in the course descriptions, you describe how this course ran.  

Basically, make biology the critical subject it is to understanding the issues in the world.  No textbook, just research on the internet.  Perhaps a 1 page summary of each issue for his favorite 5 topics of the 10 he studies. It might get him excited to study the field in a way that is relevant and invites curiosity.

Ruth in NZ

Edited by lewelma
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At our high school, all students take biology. In fact, there is a state mandated end of course exam as a graduation requirement.

I would be wary of replacing biology with environmental science. DS15 has LDs and will take the lowest level science track that our public high school offers, which is
1) physical science, 2) biology, 3) environmental science.

So here, at least, environmental science is not a replacement for biology and is the course that non-sciencey students take instead of something like chemistry or physics during their third year.

The expected rigor of an environmental science course may be different in your state or area, but it's something to consider, if you want your son to be competitive with peers for college admission.

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1 hour ago, Storygirl said:

At our high school, all students take biology. In fact, there is a state mandated end of course exam as a graduation requirement.

Same here.  At least there used to be.  Apparently the biology exam has been or is going to be replaced by a general science exam.

1 hour ago, Storygirl said:

I would be wary of replacing biology with environmental science. DS15 has LDs and will take the lowest level science track that our public high school offers, which is 1) physical science, 2) biology, 3) environmental science.

What's weird is that real environmental science is actually pretty difficult in that you need to have a good understanding of biology, chemistry, physics, and earth/atmospheric science to really delve into it.  But the APES course my son is taking this year (because he was interested in the topic, not because he thought it would be rigorous) is dumbed down beyond belief because, just like a college non-majors environmental science course, they have to assume that the students don't know any science.

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Would he enjoy biology experiments/demonstrations better? Could you use the Rainbow Biology material he has already done and add labs to make a full credit of high school biology? 

 

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1 hour ago, threewishes said:

Would he enjoy biology experiments/demonstrations better? Could you use the Rainbow Biology material he has already done and add labs to make a full credit of high school biology? 

 

He actually did do the majority of labs in Rainbow Biology last year.  Is it possible to count that towards high school biology?

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