Biology in TOPS utilizes a combination of visual presentations and lab assignments to clearly educate students on a wide variety of topics that range from genetics and evolution to organic chemistry and population dynamics. The courses cover the Ontario grade 11 and 12 biology curriculum, with an emphasis on experiential, student-directed learning in the forms of labs.
The grade 11 course typically includes labs to observe the impact of activity on homeostasis and VO2 max. Evolution and genetics are used as tools to fight against societal injustices. To investigate plant systems, students create a full lab procedure to observe the effect of a variable of their choice, on plant growth. Finally, the course concludes with a full dissection to study the various animal systems.
The grade 12 course begins with an introduction to organic chemistry—the smallest-scale study of biology. Gradually, the course scales up in size, moving through cell biology and molecular genetics before shifting to the topics of metabolism, homeostasis, and ultimately, populations. Many of the labs are highly engaging—for example, students work with liver, apples, and potatoes to determine the function of catalase with respect to hydrogen peroxide. Other labs include using gel electrophoresis to determine paternity, building DNA models, and acting as medical professionals to test artificial lab samples to diagnose patients.
At the same time as their in-class lessons, students are given an opportunity to study a pertinent “hot topic” in biology, such as CRISPR and epidemiology, and spend a class period educating their fellow students on the topic. This project combines the field of biology in the classroom with its real world applications.