Traditional distinctions between disciplines have blurred as studies in the biological sciences have rapidly expanded. Consequently, the Foundations of Biology course series has been purposefully designed to maximize "crossover" between disciplines by using themes to demonstrate the unity and integration of life processes on a variety of scales and among diverse life forms. This approach, coupled with effective teaching practices and creative uses of technology for both learning and assessment, support our primary goals of (1) building a solid cognitive base for future learning, and (2) equipping students with the skills necessary to succeed in the research sciences.
Outcomes driven, the Foundations Series is organized around three themes introduced in sequence as: Energy and Matter: Cycles and Flows (BIO 121/121L), Reproduction and Development (BIO 122/122L), and Biodiversity (BIO 123/123L). During consecutive 10-week quarters, each theme is explored in a variety of ways during whole class assemblies (3 hr/wk) and small group laboratory sessions (6 hr/wk).
Multiple lab sections of two or more Foundations Series courses are offered each quarter. While foci of laboratory activities are course-specific, most are inquiry-based enabling students to pose a variety of questions and to pursue hypothesis-driven investigations related to a central concept. Support for these efforts is provided in part by multi-user instruments (e.g. thermocyclers, electrophoresis units), on-line data collection devices (e.g. Moticams, Vernier probes), and computer hardware and software systems (e.g. laptops, projection systems, image analysis) purchased with funds from HHMI. Wireless networking between computers and the central server allow data to be quickly and seamlessly stored, archived, and recalled as part of the Science-Learning Portfolio.