Curriculum Guideline

Teaching Biology and Earth Science

Effective Date:
Course Code
MSTE 5110
Teaching Biology and Earth Science
Mathematics & Science Teaching
Science & Technology
Start Date
End Term
Not Specified
Semester Length
15 weeks
Max Class Size
Contact Hours
Online participation: 4 hours per week Lecture/Laboratory: 6 hours biweekly
Method Of Instruction
Methods Of Instruction

The course will be taught through problem-based learning and may include a combination of lecture, laboratories and field trips.  Readings and assignments will broaden students’ understanding of science themes in preparation for laboratory experiments and field trips.  Practical application will be assessed through the development of a lesson plan for use in the students’ classrooms.

Course Description
Selected topics from biology and earth sciences are examined through expert presentation, seminar discussion, hands-on laboratories and field trips. Topics are presented with a pedagogical perspective in order to improve experienced teachers’ ability to teach scientific reasoning to an audience of elementary or middle school children.
Course Content

The course content is organized along six themes.  Specific course content will be selected from the following:

1.  Cell and molecular biology.  Cell theory; cell structure and organelles; a survey and comparison of biomolecules and their characteristics. Laboratory component will include microscopy and experimental methods.

2.  Organismal biology.  An introduction to plants and animals; vascular tissue; flower structure; organ systems: circulatory and respiratory, digestive, urinary and reproductive. Laboratory component will include animal and plant dissections.

3.  Evolution and ecology.  Process and mechanisms of evolution; evidence for evolution; life history theory; sexual selection; evolutionary medicine; trophic levels and food webs; population and community ecology; biodiversity and biological invasions.  Laboratory component will involve field excursions and laboratory analyses.

4.  The present as key to the past.  Geology as science; earth materials (minerals, rocks); age of the earth; interaction of earth systems (geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, biosphere); uniformitarian principle; the rock cycle.  Laboratory component will include: Characteristics and identification of common minerals, techniques for identification, rock classification and identification (hand specimens and microscopic thin sections), cross-section diagrams and interpretation of radiometric and relative dates.

5.  Global change, water, and life.  Long-term and short-term global change; plate tectonics; landscape evolution; the water planet; water as a geologic agent; hydrologic cycle; fossils as evidence of ancient life; fossil evidence for evolution; microorganisms and global change; “background” extinctions and mass extinctions. Laboratory component will include analysis of:  Plate tectonics models and three-dimensional visualization, water table experiments and observations; porosity and permeability; and examination, comparison, and identification of important fossil groups using representative specimens.

6.  Earth resources, hazards, and people.  Character and distribution of natural resources; resources and civilization; resource depletion and enhanced extraction technology; fossil fuels, their products, and energy; sustainability; soils; natural hazards; human influences on hazard frequencies; prediction of hazards; human influence on global change; importance of earth science literacy.  Field trip to review hazards in the BC Lower Mainland: Bedrock instability; mass wasting (soil creep, debris flows); human influences causing instability; earthquake-proofing of structures; acid rock drainage (stream sampling for water chemistry).

Learning Outcomes

This course is taught with a focus on pedagogy and with the overarching aim of improving experienced teachers’ ability to teach sciences at the elementary and middle school levels.  Students will be able to:

  • Outline how scientific knowledge is acquired, organized and retrieved.
  • Use and demonstrate techniques for identifying plants and animals, including use of the microscope and dichotomous keys.
  • Understand and be able to explain the anatomy, physiology and functional relationships of certain organisms within each major group.
  • Demonstrate the use of common laboratory equipment.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the essential attributes of important environmental issues.
  • Understand the principles of classification of minerals and rocks and identify common examples.
  • Understand the dynamic nature of earth systems as fundamental to ongoing global change.
  • Identify common fossils using body mass.
  • Understand human dependence upon natural resources and the environmental consequences of this.
  • Describe and understand the progression of biology and earth science content through the BC K-9 curriculum.
  • Use knowledge of common misconceptions and stumbling blocks in children's learning of biology and earth science concepts to assess curricular materials and design appropriate lessons and activities.
Means of Assessment

Specific course evaluation procedures will be provided to participants in the first week of classes.  Such procedures will be consistent with the Douglas College Evaluation Policy and will be formative in nature, consisting of some or all of the following:

Weekly online postings/responses 20-30%
Assignments 20-30%
Presentations 20-30%
Laboratory sessions 20-30%
Textbook Materials

A list of recommended textbooks and materials is provided on the instructor’s course outline, available to students at the beginning of the course


Acceptance to program