iBio encourages exploration



Investigative Biology, or iBio, is an alternative course to Biology emphasizing cooperative learning through critical thinking and inquiry.

When most students think of junior year classes, they picture neat rows of desks and students furiously scribbling notes from a lecture. However, in Investigative Biology, more commonly known as iBio, no image could be further from the truth.

Science Curriculum Coordinator Ed Wiser said iBio, a current alternative course to Biology, has been offered at the high school for over twenty years.

Originally, the course was based off and named after an organization known as BSCS (biological sciences curriculum study), but biology teacher Bradley Kozel said it has been rebranded over the years as the staff improved the course over time.

“It’s built around exploration and the idea of how people generate understanding of things,” Kozel said. “The approach was to make it much more experiential and much more investigative.”

Wiser said at the time of invention, the style of teaching in iBio was revolutionary due to the level of student involvement, critical thinking and inquiry based approach.

Miles Luther, a current junior and iBio student started off in mainstream biology before switching into iBio.

“I gravitated towards iBio for the interactive element, the community building and the interconnectedness of the class,” Luther said.

iBio steers away from traditional teaching which relies on lectures, and instead tries to allow students to think their way through an idea before a formal explanation, Kozel said.

“The introduction of a topic might be done through some sort of case study, demonstration, or student collaborative activity where they’re given some data and they have to try to make sense of it along the way,” Kozel said.

Luther said cooperative learning between students and teachers is emphasized in the class.

“There’s a high priority on group work and collaboration, and I’ve enjoyed that iBio is less lecture based than mainstream biology. Although there’s definitely still some lectures,” Luther said.

Kozel said aside from the instructional and environmental differences, the major curricular difference is the sequence of subjects.

“We start with evolution and ecology, which are large-scale systems in biology, and then interactions within ecosystems. That’s a very different approach than the other classes, which start really small, thinking about biochemistry and build out to larger scale systems,” Kozel said.

According to Kozel, iBio, as a mixed-level course, was offered for standard and honors credit in the 2021-22 school year, with the latter being attained through completion of more in-depth assignments.

“It’s a good course to try to explore the concept of pushing yourself because even if you sign up for the iBio non-honor credit, there’s an opportunity to move into the honor credit after you get a view of what it’s all about,” Kozel said.

Jeewoo Sonn, a junior and current iBio student, said she appreciates the flexibility that comes with the class.

“I like that it’s a lot more freeform. At times, the teacher will just give us time to work on what we need to. So if that is working on a module packet or an overdue assignment, there are times we have to ourselves,” Sonn said.

Luther said students enjoy the ability to reckon with each topic as individuals.

“iBio is really important and a great medium to develop critical thinking skills and freedom of thinking, because a lot of times when it comes to biology, it could be very cut and dry,” Luther said. “In iBio, there’s a lot more independent thinking and variation in thought.”

Kozel said because of the collaborative nature of the class, an ideal student should be looking to participate in group work.

“It’s not a space where somebody can come into the classroom and be alone and insular,” Kozel said. “If a student isn’t interested in talking with the people around them about what the subject is, it’s probably going to be a little bit of an awkward space for them.”

Wiser said the course selection process is different in junior year, so students should be open minded when choosing courses.

“Be open for it,” Wiser said. “I want kids to read the fine print and ask questions to teachers so that they get a great schedule for next year.”

Luther said students who are interested in ways biology connects to their own lives would enjoy iBio.

“I would say that you should take this course if you want to see biology in a realistic and practical context,” Luther said. “Also, it’s a really fun class and that’s a big plus.”