Experience Biology: Level C is an online high school biology course for Christian students that easily adapts to the needs of students working at different levels. Whatever the level of difficulty, all students will use the online lectures, Experience Biology Student Guidebook, Experience Biology Student Lab Guide, and the lab videos. The two books are available as free PDFs. This course and others from Journey Homeschool Academy are open for enrollment only during the summer.
Video lectures for each lesson are well presented with clarity and expressiveness by Luke Gilkerson. The professionally produced videos include images, animations, clips from films, and other elements that help hold the interest of students. Gilkerson helpfully summarizes key points at the end of each video. Students will watch two of these lectures per week that run 20 to 25 minutes each.
The required Experience Biology course books are written by Trisha Gilkerson. Trisha is the main presenter on the briefer videos for each lab activity. She explains what is to be done and sometimes demonstrates techniques such as those for performing dissections.
The 328-page Student Guidebook is available to registered students as a free download, but you can order a printed copy if you want. For each lesson, it has new vocabulary words followed by a number of pages where students fill in the blanks to create their own notes as they watch the video lectures. There is also space for students to write their own notes if they wish. Occasionally, there will be images for students to label, such as one on page 23 showing the parts of a cell. The Student Guidebook includes quarterly study guides to help students prepare for the four exams included with the course. Online flashcards help students master the vocabulary words.
The course is presented in 35 lessons that begin with the chemistry of life and the cell then continue up through the plant and animal kingdoms, including six lessons on human anatomy. The course concludes with a lesson on ecology.
The optional textbook, The Riot and the Dance: Foundational Biology by Gordon Wilson is recommended but not required. This 440-page textbook teaches topics following an outline fairly similar to that of Experience Biology, although The Riot and the Dance does not address human anatomy and physiology other than as part of the study of the phylum Chordata.
A free, three-page PDF titled “Experience Biology Weekly Reading and Lab Overview” has a chart that correlates the Experience Biology Lessons in one column, reading assignments in The Riot and the Dance in a second column, and the lab activities in a third column.
Research questions are included in the online menu for the lessons. Two or three questions are presented each week, and students are directed to use whatever resources are available to them to find the answers. These need to be done offline and turned in to a parent or teacher for evaluation. As is often the case, a question for Lesson 15 is actually a series of questions: “What is the function of chloroplasts in plant cells? What is the function of mitochondria in plant cells? Why do plants need both chloroplasts and mitochondria?” Clearly, the research questions will take a bit of time to answer.
The online course includes weekly quizzes and quarterly exams. These are automatically scored, and students need to get 70% correct on the quizzes to continue to the next lesson. In contrast, the exams are available to be taken only one time, and that score is final. The weeks in which students will be taking the quarterly exams dedicate most of the week for review using the provided study guides. Students have no lectures, lab work, or research questions those weeks.
Parents and teachers have a separate login they need to use to access important resources. The Parent Curriculum Guide explains how the course works and has forms and rubrics that you will need. Even though the course automatically grades quizzes and exams, parents have to compute the student’s course grade by including scores for research questions and lab work using the various forms in the Parent Curriculum Guide.
Answer keys for the Student Guidebook, quizzes, research questions, and the few predictable assignments for lab work are available under the Resources tab in the parent’s portal.
All students are expected to complete a minimum of 15 lab reports for the course, although there are 30 possible lab activities. They will use the 208-page, PDF Experience Biology Student Lab Guide, the online lab videos, and lab equipment. (A printed version of the Student Lab Guide is available for purchase.)
The lab activities parallel the lessons in the course, although there are a few lessons that do not have a lab activity. Even though students are required to complete only 15 lab activities, all students will benefit from watching all of the lab videos.
The Student Lab Guide explains how to write a complete lab report. The lab activities include step-by-step instructions, formatted pages for taking notes, and important points students should address in their reports. However, students will write up their reports outside the guide. A few of the lab activities do not require a lab report.
Journey Homeschool Academy has a complete list of supplies and a link to Home Science Tools that sells an Experience Biology Custom Lab Kit that has all of the unusual items needed except a microscope. If access to a microscope is a problem, images of what students would have viewed through the microscope are available in the online lesson material.
Parents need to evaluate lab work and assign grades using a rubric from the Parent Curriculum Guide.
Adapting the Course
Students who need a challenging course should use the optional textbook, and they might also complete more of the labs than the 15 that are required.
Students who need an easier course might skip the optional textbook, and they might also do only 15 of the easiest labs.
The course concentrates primarily on science with only occasional mentions of views held by those with a creationist Christian perspective. For instance, a lesson on eugenics mentions the potential benefits of genetic selection. However, in regard to human life, Luke Gilkerson presents a life-affirming, Christian viewpoint rather than promoting the idea that man should make choices about who is fit to live and reproduce. He specifically challenges artificial cloning, the use of genetic screening, and abortion based on sex selection or physical defects. In addition, Gilkerson teaches students about evolutionary interpretations of scientific data, while also presenting alternative explanations from a creationist perspective. The course is not at all preachy.
The textbook The Riot and the Dance is also written from a Christian worldview.
Experience Biology: Level C offers solid coverage of biology in a format that is easy to use and has the flexibility to meet the needs of students working at different levels. Parents need to evaluate some student work, but answer keys and other tools make it manageable.