Are you homeschooling high school, or preparing to? If so, Biology is probably on your mind as you’re planning your student’s classes and high school transcript. We were so fortunate to be invited to review Bridgeway Academy‘s high school Apologia Biology course (FYC Biology Course w/Lab), which Jackson started in September. It has been an academically rigorous, yet fascinating and enjoyable, way to study high school Biology. I’d like to share some of my son’s experiences with this class and studies.
What is Bridgeway Academy?
Bridgeway Academy is an online educational provider that we’ve long admired. They provide accredited courses, taught online by qualified educational professionals and teachers, which are both academically excellent and interesting to homeschool students. Live courses are offered for students in first grade all the way through 12th grade, and over 30,000 students have participated in Bridgeway Academy classes from 1989 on. And 83% of Bridgeway Academy students proceed to their first choice college!
Jackson is enrolled in Bridgeway Academy’s FYC Biology Course w/Lab for the 2017-2018 school year. This Learning Lab course uses the Exploring Creation with Biology textbook, along with Bridgeway Academy’s own Biology Lab Kit, and the course provides 1.5 credits upon completion with a D grade or higher.
The 16-chapter textbook covers:
- the definitions of life and biology plus classification, taxonomy, and biological keys
- Kingdoms Monera, Protista, and Fungi
- the chemistry of life
- the cell, cellular reproduction, and DNA
- Mendel and Genetics
- Kingdom Animalia (invertebrates, arthropoda, chordata)
- Kingdom Plantae
- Reptiles, birds, and mammals
The textbook contains daily reading sections and questions to answer on the reading, plus experiments, study guides, and review questions for each chapter. It’s definitely a textbook that’s written for high school students; the material is advanced but still very doable for the high schoolers. Good reading and comprehension skills would be an advantage for students, however.
Everything we needed for the course (the Apologia Exploring Creation with Biology 2nd Edition, the Bridgeway Biology Lab Kit, including the Bridgeway Biology Lab Manual) was purchased from Bridgeway Academy. Also included with these are the Apologia Exploring Creation with Biology answer booklets, for the parent. The course and supplies (books & lab kit) are priced separately, so you can price compare items or obtain a used copy of the textbook if you so desire.
You can see the ingredients of the lab kit above. It is shipped in a sturdy cardboard box, but we purchased the plastic containers with lids so we could store them more effectively. (Plus I wanted to keep the dissection specimens, above on the right, in a separate container. As anyone knows who’s ever done a biology dissection, there is an odor to those specimens that we didn’t necessarily want permeating our house!) There is also a dissection pad which is pictured below.
Students will need some additional household goods and objects, like ice cubes, eggs, vinegar, etc.
What a typical class period looks like
The live online class, taught by Carla Berg, an experienced certified science teacher (as well as a very fun and interesting one!), meets once weekly for an hour and a half. Mrs. Berg introduces and teaches about the current chapter’s materials. She includes scientific photos and videos, Powerpoint-type presentations, questions-and-answers (of various styles), and lots of interaction with the students. The students have the opportunity to communicate via text chat as well as via computer audio/video as they answer questions and participate in class discussions. Below, you can see the whiteboard she also uses for class interaction and Q&A and the students’ responses.
Jackson says, “The live class work does usually stay for an hour and a half, with the first 30 minutes covering an introductory topic or some questions that Mrs. Berg wants to address from the previous week. The last hour is usually composed of learning about the topics that will come up in your book that week and doing fun activities sometimes with several other (groups of) people in the class. These many assignments help towards the full grade. The class itself overall is well-taught and the class participation helps the students get to know each other and the time is used well to teach or participate in activities.”
It’s clear that Mrs. Berg is an experienced and quality teacher. She does a fantastic job interacting with the students and teaching and presenting the information. She has high expectations for the students which are communicated clearly.
Following the class, Mrs. Berg puts the week’s assignments and links up on the Moodle site. Moodle is the interactive classroom where the Bridgeway Academy classes are held. Through the Moodle site, students can attend class, view/complete/submit for grading their daily assignments, take tests, and keep tabs on their class scores and grades. It works incredibly well and is, I think, a great tool for today’s generation of students. Generally, the week’s work could include: daily reading and questions; glossary work; experiments; test review assignments. Tests occur every few weeks, one chapter (module) at a time.
What we’ve covered this fall
As of this week, Jackson has completed the work for weeks 1-10 of the semester. He has studied these chapters (or modules, as they’re known in Apologia world):
- Biology: The Study of Life
- Kingdom Monera (a.k.a. bacteria)
- Kingdom Protista (including protozoa and algae)
- Kingdom Fungi (yeasts, mushrooms, slime molds, and more)
He has completed several experiments at home, many of which have been just amazing. He grew bacteria in petri dishes for several days, and wrote an extensive lab report on his observations. He’s dissected a mushroom (which you can see above) and drew a diagram labeling the various components of the fungus. That was a painless introduction to the world of dissection and dissection tools. Currently, as he studies the 5th chapter (Chemistry of Life), he’s learning the difference between chemical and physical reactions. (We have an egg in the kitchen which has been soaking in vinegar for two days. The shell has completely dissolved and the egg has expanded. Tonight we’ll switch the vinegar for Karo syrup and make more observations in 24 hours, then soak it again in distilled water. Jackson keeps daily reports on the egg, its measurements, and any visible changes.)
Sometimes, the experiments are done during the actual class time. When Jackson learned about yeasts, Mrs. Berg displayed photos of the changes in yeast that occur when they’re being used in the making of bread. All of these experiments deepen the students’ understanding of the kingdoms being studied and really help them to remember and retain the information.
The tests for the chapters are difficult and challenging, yet still very doable. They are fantastic college preparation, in my opinion; students who are used to a homeschool environment with Mom or Dad can still, via Bridgeway Academy’s classes, learn how to interact with a non-parental teacher in a given subject. He also took a quarter test (sort of a mini-midterm) over the first four chapters. And he and his classmates are just beginning work on a Biology project which they’ll present to their classmates via Powerpoint, YouTube videos, or spoken presentation later in December. Great experiences, all of them.
My impressions thus far
I honestly couldn’t be happier with Bridgeway Academy, Apologia Biology, and Mrs. Berg, as Jackson is working through this high school Biology course. He is gaining vital experience that will benefit him not only for college, but for life after college and even the remainder of his high school studies. The course is fascinating and the class time is enjoyable. Jackson is getting a excellent Biology education in this course.
Jackson says, “This is a good preparation for the type of work one would have to do in college if he’d never taken any homeschool classes like this before. Thus, since I hadn’t, it has been a little challenging. But the On Your Own questions (from the textbook) are good-length assignments and the tests are well-spaced out. They have review pages that are the assignments before these tests, which are good because they help you prepare for it. The labs have people do some very neat and cool experiments, showing different processes in the biological world, such as osmosis, diffusion, and other in-depth topics that cover something in a very neat way.”
I also wanted to mention that last week, Mrs. Berg scheduled a phone conversation with the parents of each student in the class. During this time, she was able to share how she thinks each student is doing in class–sort of a phone parent-teacher conference. I felt that I already knew how Jackson was doing (because I can access his Moodle page, plus I sit nearby for all his classes, but I enjoyed getting to hear Mrs. Berg’s impressions.
I have seen some incredible growth in my son this semester as he has participated in this Apologia Biology Learning Lab. He has learned to schedule and complete his assignments each day so that his class work is completed at the end of each week. By interacting with Mrs. Berg, he is learning more about how to do excellent work; he is challenged not only by the daily assignments and tests but also by the interactive class time, where he is expected to participate. He is also learning about persevering when faced with a difficult task…until success is achieved!
And a coupon for you…to save 15% on a class!
So…does this make you think that you’d like for your child to take a Bridgeway Academy course? I hope so! Our experience has been most excellent and we’re looking forward to the remainder of the year in Biology. (That is saying something, because Biology has always been my least favorite of the sciences!)
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Be sure to visit Bridgeway Academy Learning Labs and check out their extensive list of awesome online courses. They truly are amazing and you might find just what you’re looking for, for your own family!
And just so you know, they have much more than just high school courses. You’ll find elementary and middle school courses as well!
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We’ll continue to share with you over the year more about our experiences with Apologia Biology and Bridgeway Academy, so be sure to stop back by to see more about our homeschool life and science.
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