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What is it like to take IB Biology (HL) at GNS?

Alexis Kuo ’24
This is the second article in a series that aims to illustrate what it is like to be an IB Diploma Programme student at GNS from the perspective of a student.
I love the sciences and have been actively involved in the scientific community since Grade 6. When course requests rolled around in April, I knew I was going to choose two Sciences: Chemistry and Biology.

The introduction in Grade 9 to Chemistry really sparked my interest, and had been one of my favourite areas of science to study, and inspired my Grade 9 science fair project. Biology had been my favourite subject in school since Middle School, even more so when genetics was introduced in Grade 10. This year, starting HL Biology I was not disappointed. Bio 11 HL was better than I expected, the first unit “Evolution and Genetics”, was a topic that I enjoy researching during my spare time.

Currently, IB Biology (HL) students have just finished their plant micropropagation labs, where they took cuttings of Epipremnum aureum, or Devil’s Ivy, and grew them in either distilled water or rooting hormone, to compare the effect of rooting hormones and explore plant cell differentiation. Labs are a common and popular method to assess students in Group 4 Science subjects and to encourage interaction with the content they are learning about. 

Ms. Anne-Marie Simard, who teaches IB DP Biology with Ms. Katharine Mikes, has graciously given time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions about HL Biology. 

What should students expect when they decide they want to take IB Biology? 
The Biology course in IB is a well-rounded program that includes units in human biology, genetics, ecology and plant biology. It is a demanding but really fascinating course where the students will learn more about how their bodies work, and how biological systems are all related and work through multiple lab activities to apply their knowledge. The students will need to conduct an internal investigation which is like a DP version of a Science Fair project over 10 hours. 

How is HL different from SL biology? 
The HL course has an additional unit or material to some of the units, going more in-depth on the concepts of DNA structure, transcription and translation of nucleic acids, genetics, metabolism, and plant and animal physiology.

What should HL biology students look forward to this year? 
For Grade 11 HL, we are going to complete our HL plant unit after the November break. We are also working on learning different statistical tests that can be performed to analyze the significance of our experimental results. Both SL and HL students will also start working on their IA topics by the end of the school year.

Anjali Kasmer ‘24 enjoys the labs and interactive activities as she finds that they give a more immersive experience of taking notes and learning. She, among many of her peers, enrolled in the course for a number of reasons. 

Amelie Bate ‘24 chose Biology, as it was the science she was most interested in as well as being a course that would provide a challenge. This is a standard that all DP courses aspire to—providing students with challenges. 

Even after a few weeks, many have found that the course moves quickly and that more time spent reviewing the material outside of class is required to understand it in more depth. 

Overall, most students say they enjoy IB Biology (HL) but admit it has been an adjustment because of the volume of work, marking scheme and the learning pace compared to the Middle Years Programme.

Anjali summed up what it would take to succeed in IB Biology (12) in just one word: commitment.

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We wish to acknowledge and respect the Lekwungen-Speaking Peoples on whose traditional territory we stand, and the Songhees, Esquimalt and Wsáneć Peoples whose historical relationships with the land, where we live, work, play and learn, continue to this day.