REAL Science Odyssey Biology 1


REAL Science Odyssey Biology Level 1, written by Blair Lee, M.S., is a year-long, secular homeschool life biology curriculum for grades 2-5. Students learn key science concepts through an incremental series of lessons and hands-on exploration.

What is RE.A.L. Science Odyssey Biology Level 1?

R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey Biology Level 1 is a year-long, secular homeschool biology curriculum. If you were to distill Biology 1 into one statement, it would be “similar but different.” It holds true if you are studying individuals of the same species or species of organisms as different from each other as Amoeba proteus and Homo sapiens. That is because all organisms share fundamental characteristics and processes. The unifying concepts found in Biology Level 1 are the cell theory, the theory of evolution, genetics, and the processes used to define and describe the concept of organism. Building an elementary biology course around the theory of evolution with a focus on similar but different profoundly changed the presentation of topics. Like most biology courses, Biology Level 1 explains early in the course about the characteristics non-viral organisms share. Later in the course, anatomy and physiology are taught through the lens of these characteristics. For example, in the chapter covering how all organisms respond to their environment, the discussion covers how those with a nervous system, like people and tardigrades, and those without one, like plants and unicellular microbes, respond to their environment. Connections are made, such as when students work on side-by-side models of a human nervous system and the nervous system of a tardigrade, and differences are explained.
Age-appropriate math and labs are woven into the course, providing students with many opportunities to apply the scientific method and reinforce their knowledge. The course guides elementary-age learners as they Read, Explore, Absorb, and Learn life science:
  • Read– Fun, engaging readings introduce big ideas and details for the chapter. The text is designed to be read aloud to students, fostering questions and discussion.
  • Explore– Carefully crafted, hands-on experiments demonstrate science concepts. Your student will observe and record the subtle patterns of nature throughout the course.
  • Absorb– REAL Science engages visual, auditory, and tactile/kinesthetic learners, to help every student understand and retain key concepts.
  • Learn– with Biology Level 1, you don’t just learn about our amazing natural world, you get your hands dirty and learn how science is done!

It’s also important to understand what REAL Science Odyssey is not. This curriculum is NOT:

  • A random selection of labs. It’s a fully developed, incremental homeschool science curriculum.
  • Children will learn REAL life science, in the real world, and they’ll use the real scientific method.
  • Dry or boring. Children will get their hands dirty with this elementary biology curriculum! They will play, sing, dig, and get outside, bringing concepts from the page alive.
  • Influenced by religion. All REAL Science Odyssey courses are secular and based on valid, empirical science.

Unit 1: The Study of Life

In this unit, students meet the narrator of the course, a funny, feisty tardigrade named Bear. Bear narrates with a sense of wonder right along with students as they learn about biology. Students also learn how scientists define what is living and what is not through the characteristics of life.

Unit 2: The Building Blocks of Life

Cells and genetic material are the focus of this unit. Genetics is covered on a very basic level with a focus on those aspects shared by all DNA and how differences in DNA can lead to different traits.

Unit 3: Characteristics of Life

The focus in this unit is on how similarities and differences in anatomy and physiology allow different organisms to meet those characteristics. This is a fascinating area of biology, filled with lots of ah ha information. For example, have you ever thought about how insects move? It turns out they have muscles connected to the hard outer shell of their exoskeleton that work just like a person’s muscles do. The next time you watch a bee in flight, think about how hard their muscles are working.

Unit 4: Evolution

Once students have learned about genetics, anatomy, and physiology, they are ready to learn the basics of evolution. This unit covers common ancestors, fossil formation, mutations, natural selection, and of course, evolution! The discussion is on a basic introductory level, with hands-on labs as students learn by doing.

Unit 5: Ecology

In the unit focused on ecology, students learn about ecosystems, food webs, biomes, and the environment. When developing the course, it was important to honor scientists’ current understanding of best practices for ecosystems. Because of the risk of adding invasive species to your ecosystem, no live animals are used in any of the labs in this course.

Unit 6: The Evolutionary Tree

In the final unit, learners build a model of an evolutionary tree over successive lessons. This model is an important visual representation of similar but different. It ties the course together, showing the evolutionary history of groups of organisms, including why birds are dinosaurs but lizards are not. Bacteria, archaea, plants, fungi, and animals are a part of the model. It also covers the evolution of the cell, including the endosymbiotic theory. Connections are made between common ancestors and placement on the tree. Differences are covered as branches diverge from each other.

Who can use R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey Biology Level 1?

R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey Biology Level 1 is an elementary science curriculum designed for 2nd through 5th grade, though it is flexible enough to be used with middle school students.

Elementary level learners are the right age to learn about the connectedness of life. The facts they learn at this stage form the foundation future knowledge is built upon. The connections they make aid in their ability to understand higher level concepts through a process called metacognition. It was with this in mind that Biology 1 was developed around biology’s unifying theme: evolution. The goal is to provide explanations for similarities that connect all life, while teaching about the differences between groups of organisms and within them.

What’s more, you don’t need to have a science background to use this homeschool science curriculum! All materials are written with the science novice in mind, so you don’t need to do a lot of extra research in advance of the lessons.

The following is a list of topics your child will learn during the year while completing Biology 1. Each topic includes one to three lessons complete with lesson story, labs, reading, and other activities. Remember your child will also be having a whole lot of fun. Also included in this scope are laughing, playing, digging, exploring, reading, singing, and begging for more science!