High School Biology Resources

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High School Biology Resources by Jamie McMillin

A note to parents: Please keep in mind that these are adult level books about biology – thus there will occasionally be scientific mention of reproduction and sex. I highly recommend you read each of these books before handing it over to your student, not just to decide if the material is appropriate for the age of your child but also so you will be able to discuss it. Discussion is one of the best ways to integrate new information and stimulate critical thinking – so your child needs someone to discuss it with!

Primary Texts:

Hoagland, Mahlon and Dodson, Bert. The Way Life Works: The Science Lover’s Illustrated Guide to How Life Grows, Develops, Reproduces, and Gets Along. New
York: Three Rivers Press, 1998

I cannot express enough how much we have enjoyed reading this book. This biologist and artist team obviously love their subject matter; and manage to convey the complexities of enzymes, proteins, DNA, etc… with wonderful humor and clarity.

Carr, Nancy, ed., Coulson, Joseph, ed., Levine, Mike, ed., Schoepfel, Gary, ed., Whitfield, Donald, ed., and Stefanski, Mark, ed. The Nature of Life: Readings in Biology. Chicago, Illinois: The Great Books Foundation, 2001.

This is a compendium of original essays by prestigious scientists such as Aristotle, Francis Bacon, Charles Darwin, Gregor Mendel, Rachel Carson, Konrad Lorenz, Stephen Jay Gould, Lynn Margulis and others. The selections were chosen for their historical significance, quality of the writing and the stature of the authors within the scientific community.


DeKruif, Paul. The Microbe Hunters. Harvest Books, 2002

Gonik, Larry and Wheelis, Mark. The Cartoon Guide to Genetics.
Collins, 1991

Gould, Laura L. Cats are Not Peas: A Calico History of Genetics.
A.K. Peters, Ltd. 2008

Hudler, George W. Magical Mushrooms and Mischievous Molds.
Princeton University Press, 2000.

Margulis, Lynn and Sagan, Dorian. Microcosmos: Four Billion Years of Microbial Evolution. Berkely, CA: University of California Press, 1997.

Sykes, Bryan. The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science that Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2001.

Thomas, Lewis. The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher.
New York: Penguin Books, 1978.

Wells, Jonathan. Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design.
Regnery Publishing, Inc. 2006



Smithsonian Institution. Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide to the World’s Wildlife.
London: Dorling Kindersley, 2005.

If your budget allows, this is a visual feast for animal lovers – and a great overview of the animal kingdom from mammals to invertebrates.

Rainis, Kenneth G. and Russell, Bruce J. Guide to Microlife.
Danbury, Connecticut: Franklin Watts, 1996

This is a nifty little reference book to keep next to the microscope or handheld magnifier. It even explains how to collect microlife from different habitats, with detailed instructions for building a core sampler, a Baerman Funnel Apparatus, and various nets.

Lab Materials:

A microscope if you can afford or borrow one. Guidelines for choosing a microscope can be found here: http://www.microscope-microscope.org/basic/buyers-guide.htm

If you cannot get a microscope, try a Discovery Scope, a wide-field handheld magnifier microscope . There are many places to buy one of these. Here’s one source: http://scientificsonline.com/product.asp?pn=3081425&cmss=pocket+scope&bhcd2=1243998112

K’Nex DNA Kit or http://www.thednastore.com/dnastuff/dnamodels.html

or other home materials for building DNA models. Here are some sites with good ideas:


Dissection Materials – I decided to use dissection software called Froguts, which worked well for us.
But you may choose to buy actual animals for dissection. Here are just a few sources to check out:

Web sites with biology labs: http://www.troy.k12.ny.us/thsbiology/labs_online/home_labs/labs_online_home_labs.html

This site has loads of cool medical mysteries for students to solve, as well as biology activities and labs submitted by education and scientific advisors. It is a bit hard to navigate, but I suggest letting your student roam through the site noting which activities she/he will want to do as part of their curriculum.

DVDs (We were able to rent all of these through Netflix):

In the Womb
Unlocking the Mystery of Life”
Before the Dinosaurs” – this one is speculative but fun
Life in the Undergrowth
Flock of Dodos

There are lots of fabulous science and nature documentaries out there on various animals, ecosystems, and anatomy. The “Planet Earth” and “Blue Planet” series are amazing. Don’t be ashamed of watching videos for science because there are some things that a book just can’t convey: the bizarre mating rituals of birds, the beauty of a bat fishing by moonlight or the speed of bamboo growing in a forest. Try to be a discerning viewer however; some videos are more fluff than substance.

For an explanation of how we used all these resources, please click here.

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