Accelerated Christian Education's (A.C.E.’s) Biology course for high school is recommended for ninth grade but can be used in tenth grade or higher. This course is presented in 12 PACEs—booklets that contain both instructional material and workbook pages for students to write answers. Students also need to watch the free online lab videos.
The topics covered in the twelve PACEs are:
- fish, amphibians, and reptiles
- invertebrates (sponges, cnidarians, mollusks, and echinoderms)
- invertebrates (segmented worms, flatworms, roundworms, and arthropods)
- the plant kingdom
- eukaryotes and prokaryotes
- integumentary, skeletal, and muscular systems
- nervous, circulatory, and respiratory systems
- digestive, excretory, and endocrine systems
- reproduction and genetics
- environmental science
Compared to other high school biology courses, A.C.E.’s Biology spends proportionately more time on human anatomy and physiology, with one-third of the PACEs devoted to that topic. (In comparison, BJU Press’s Biology devotes just one-fifth of the course to human anatomy and physiology. And Apologia Press addresses human anatomy and physiology only within its presentation about other mammals in their biology course, although they do have an entirely separate course titled Exploring Creation with Advanced Biology: The Human Body.)
Each PACE is divided into three or four sections that are further subdivided into subtopics. Each of these subtopic sections begins with a list of vocabulary words, a pronunciation key, and definitions. This is followed by an exercise with the vocabulary words. The information taught in each sub-topic section is further divided into three or more lessons.
Usually, each lesson consists of two or three pages of text with colorful illustrations. The pages of text are followed by an extensive set of questions. These questions might be multiple choice, fill-in-the-blanks, true/false, or matching columns. The questions often conclude with lines where students are to write out the scripture memory verses assigned by that PACE.
This course uses a mastery approach. The set of questions for each lesson ensures that students are learning the material. Student work needs to be checked as it is completed since students are not supposed to continue working ahead if they have not mastered each lesson. Each group of lessons on a subtopic is followed by a Checkup with two pages of questions that review the content of that section. At the end of each PACE is a self-test covering all of that PACE’s lessons. In the center of each PACE is a final test that should be removed before the PACE is given to the student. If the student scores satisfactorily on the self-test, he or she should be given the final test. There are four Score Key booklets for the course—one for every three PACEs. Since answers are predictable and brief, checking student work should take little time.
The course is designed so that students can work independently, and the teacher or supervisor does not need to know the subject matter. Consequently, the course relies on lower levels of thinking—comprehension and recall—rather than deeper critical thinking skills. The course's strong emphasis on the mastery of vocabulary is in line with that approach. The heavy reliance on recall and memory also means that students are more likely to spend time looking for the exact word required, rather than pondering concepts. This approach will work for some students, but those with inquisitive minds might find it restrictive.
Students do no actual lab work. Instead, there are two excellent online lab videos for each PACE for students to watch. The online lab videos are included for free at aceconnet.com. The PACEs tell students when they are to watch each of the videos.
Examples of some of the lab activities are an introduction to the microscope, microscopic observations of chicken embryos at different stages of development, blood typing, nutrient analysis, and dissection of a fetal pig. Students are shown both actual and microscopic views of dissections. As you can see, the lab videos include a greater variety of lab activities than most homeschoolers would probably experience if they were doing labs at home. Students answer a brief set of questions in their PACE for each lab video. Even though students don’t do their own lab work, the videos do an excellent job of familiarizing them with various types of lab activities and equipment.
Christian content is integrated throughout the course, and it reflects a fundamentalist Protestant point of view. For instance, in PACE 1107 on reproduction and genetics, it says, “The fact that Adam’s DNA lives on in us has a sobering side to it, though. Not only do we share Adam’s DNA, we also share his sin nature” (p.16). It continues with a Bible verse (Romans 5:12) and explains original sin and the message of salvation in a section that takes about one full page. The questions following this section of instructional material include theological questions. Extensive theologically oriented sections like this are rare—most are briefer. However, every PACE begins with a story that has some theological content, and each PACE concludes with text that might contain scripture verses or theological concepts. In addition, students are to memorize the two scripture verses included at the beginning of each PACE.
A.C.E.’s Biology course offers an affordable course that is easy to use for independent study.