BIOL-6A: Biological Form & Function


Biology-6A is the first of three courses for serious enthusiasts of the biological sciences to present the foundations of life's processes and the methods for scientific investigation. In this first course we shall elaborate on organismal biology - the comparative structure (form) and physiology (function) of the diverse range of living inhabitants of our planet relevant to the basic universal necessities of being alive. Central themes include producing and maintaining a stable internal body environment while exchanging energy, nutrients, water, gases, and wastes with the outside world; sensing and responding to stimuli; and transporting materials and coordinating actions in a multicellular organism.

The class lectures examine specific biological phenomena across a wide variety of organisms, but the laboratory portion focuses on the overall structure of specific groups of multicellular organisms. Thus, while the concepts presented in lectures are applied to this survey of the major plant, fungus, and animal body plans, the lab exercises do not directly parallel the lectures and much of the content is presented only in lab. Therefore, it is mandatory to fully participate in both the lecture and laboratory components to pass the class.

  • Required Text: Campbell Biology, 11th ed., Urry, L.A., et al; Pearson Education, 2017.
  • Required tutorial-homework-quiz website: Mastering Biology
  • Required Lab Manual: Biology 6A Laboratory Manual, Heyer, B., DeAnza College, 2014.
  • Recommended Lab Supplement: Van De Graaff's Photographic Atlas for the Biology Laboratory, 8th ed., Adams, B. & J. Crawley; Morton Publishers, 2018. (Older editions or E-book versions are fine.)
  • Required materials: stitch-bound lab notebook, 8.5x11”, preferably quad-ruled or unlined.
  • Recommended optional materials: colored pencils.
  • Optional: Dictionary of Word Roots and Combining Forms, Boror, D.J.; Mayfield Publishing, 1960.
  • Optional Study Guide: Biology—Student Study Guide, 11th ed., Campbell, N.A., et al; Pearson Education, 2017.

Catalog Information

BIOL 6A: Form and Function in the Biological World

  • 6 Units
  • Hours: Four hours lecture, six hours laboratory (120 hours total per quarter).
  • Degree Status: Credit course - Degree applicable
  • Transfer Status: CSU & UC
  • General Education Status: De Anza area B; CSU area B2; UC [IGETC] area 5-B
  • Grading Method: Letter Grade only


Introduction to biology and scientific methods for students beginning the biology major series. Study of the structure and physiological processes of living organisms, with an emphasis on plants and animals.

Student Learning Outcomes

(1) Analyze and compare the process of homeostasis as applied to common physiological processes across higher taxonomy.

(2) Develop observational skills in the context of scientific methodologies.

(3) Contrast the Linnaen, traditional phylogenetic and cladistic processes of taxonomy.

Course Objectives

A.  Explore science as a process and assess its role in building a reliable body of knowledge accessible to the global community.
B.  Reconstruct the historical development of systematics and the classification of living organisms.
C.  Articulate the characteristics and challenges shared by all living organisms.
D.  Introduce the cell as the fundamental unit of life and differentiate its basic features.
E.  Examine the structure, physiological processes and diversity of protists.
F.  Examine the structure, physiological processes and diversity of Kingdom Fungi.
G.  Examine the structure, physiological processes and diversity of Kingdom Plantae.
H.  Examine the structure, physiological processes and diversity of Kingdom Animalia.

Lab Topics

A. Scientific methodology and experimental design
B. Life cycles and systematics of plants
C. Plant tissues and vascular function
D. Plant reproductive strategies and anatomy
E. Structure and life cycles of fungi
F. Animal tissues and development
G. Form and function of selected animal phyla, such as porifera, cnidaria, platyhelminthes, nematoda, annelida, mollusca, arthropoda, echinodermata, and/or chordata
H. Vertebrate structure and variation

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The study of biology requires a comfortable familiarity with chemistry. To enroll in Biol-6A, you need to have passed Chem-1A or Chem-50 with a grade of C or better, or passed the Chemistry Placement Test administered by the Testing Center. For information, see

Using equations to calculate solution concentrations, rates of diffusion and gas exchange, and physical parameters of comparative anatomy requires above average math skills. Intermediate algebra equivalent to Math-105 or Math-114 is recommended.

Students will be expected to interpret and accurately follow written exercises and compose written solutions with an expected eloquence appropriate for scientific professionals. Coherent composition, accurate vocabulary, proper grammar, and correct spelling DO count! English skills equivalent to EWRT-1A or ESL-5 are highly recommended.

Biology-6A/B/C is the three-quarter introduction to biology for college students majoring in biology or a related science. This series is acceptable for transfer to the University of California and California State University systems and most other colleges. This course is equivalent or exceeds the rigor and depth of the corresponding introductory biology courses at these universities. Since the precise sequence of presented topics differs among institutions, it is strongly recommended that you complete the whole series at one college. 

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There is no question that this class can seem intimidating with novel concepts, new vocabularies, and applied chemistry and physics. You must be prepared to invest a substantial allotment of time and effort to this endeavor. Some keys to success and satisfaction are:

  • Attend every lecture and lab.
  • Be prepared! Do the text reading before you come to class. If my lecture is the first you hear of a topic, you'll likely get lost. Especially with the pace we fly through topics: unprepared = frustrated. Prepare questions for unclear material - questioning is a form of active learning.
  • Download and print out the lecture slides, when available, and bring them to class. But don't expect them to replace taking notes. Taking notes is another form of active learning.
  • Develop good study habits. Spend time studying outside of class every day. Do not let yourself fall behind! Review lecture notes after each lecture. Be able to explain the concepts for each diagram presented in your own words.
  • Construct study tools. Learning content-intensive material such as Biology often requires many steps: seeing, hearing, thinking, and doing. Create a list of terms in bold print presented in lecture. Write out flashcards and reorganize your lectures notes after each lecture as physical activities to help you process the material.
    I do not provide study guides for exams - that's your job! I will critique them though if you wish.
  • Form a study group! Repeated experience has shown that those who study collectively do better. A study group will help you get to know your fellow classmates and provide intellectual reinforcement as well as moral support. Come prepared to a group study session by reviewing lecture material on your own first. Compare notes and test each other. Learn by teaching: an excellent way to learn how well you understand a matter is by explaining it to someone else.
  • Review! The textbook supplemental CD-ROM and the publisher's MASTERING BIOLOGY website have flashcards, quizzes, games, and other tools to enhance your comprehension. They even have an online tutor to answer questions! Play the games with your study group. For access, follow the instructions on the first page of the textbook. You can go to the College Library or the Open Media Lab downstairs in Learning Center West for help with internet access.
  • Check for individual and group tutoring at the Math, Science & Technology Resource Center (MSTRC) located in S-43.  
    * A new resource available through the De Anza College student Portal is the Smarthinking Online Tutoring, including biology. For information, go to

Participation in this class is expected to proceed with professionalism and mutual respect. Questions and experiences you have to clarify or enlarge on the topics being discussed are welcome. Please do not be distracting to your colleagues (including me) in class. Students are expected to be familiar with the Student Conduct Code and College Policies on academic integrity and academic freedom stated in the De Anza College Catalogue. Individuals found engaging in cheating, plagiarism, or disruptive behavior will be expelled from the class, awarding a failing grade, and reported to the administration for further disciplinary sanctions.

Science majors are also expected to have read the BHES Division Student Handbook for additional advice and standards. The Handbook may be downloaded from .



The college has a wide range of support services to provide students with assistance. These services range from tutoring and special short courses in reading and writing skills to financial aid and special programs for educational transition, reentry, and disabled students. If you would like to see if any of these programs would be of help to you, please check with the Counseling and Advising office in the Registration and Student Services building. Consult your class schedule for a list of telephone numbers, or go to the Student Services website at .

Mini-workshops in academic skills are available through the Student Success Center.

If you need a special accommodation for a physical or learning disability, please talk to me after the first class session so that I can make appropriate adjustments in the class to meet your needs. Visit Disability Support Services (DSS) in Learning Center West, room 110, for qualification, testing, advice, assistance, and special programs.


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We have designed the laboratory exercises to restrict hazards, but we will be handling sharp instruments, heavy apparatus, specimens in preservatives, and organisms with defense mechanisms. All students will be required to read and sign to affirm their understanding and acceptance of the "Standard Operating Procedures" form prepared by the Biology Department. Any student who knowingly or recklessly endangers anyone's safety, or who repeatedly violates laboratory safety rules will be expelled from the class and possibly face further disciplinary actions at the instructor's discretion. If you observe any activity or situation that you think might be unsafe, please let talk to the instructor about it. Beyond this course, developing excellent lab safety habits is essential to your academic progress and scientific career.

Since De Anza College is located in a seismically active area, students should give forethought to catastrophic emergency actions. If a significant earthquake occurs during class, move away from the windows and stay indoors. If you are in lab, disconnect any gas lines or electrical devices, secure glassware, and take shelter under the lab bench.

In the event of an emergency that requires the evacuation of the room, we will exit the building and regroup outside for roll call and further instructions. Be careful to avoid traffic lanes. Do not leave campus until you have been instructed to do so by your instructor or by emergency personnel!

In case of emergency on campus, call 911 on a land line, or (408) 924-8000 on a cell phone.

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  • Each lecture topic coincides with tutorials and graded textbook problem sets presented on the Mastering Biology website. These have been selected to enhance your comprehension of the complex concepts that may be presented too quickly in lecture. Be sure to allow sufficient time to derive the maximum benefit from these exercises.

    • These homework sets are generally posted twice weekly on the Mastering Biology website.
      Generally the exercise is posted the day before the relevant lecture, and due before the following lecture.  I.e., the exercise corresponding to Tuesday's lecture will be posted Monday afternoon, and due by Thursday morning. And the exercise corresponding to Thursday's lecture will be posted Wednesday afternoon, and due by the following Tuesday morning.

    • If you score less than 90% on any homework set, Mastering Biology will offer some additional questions (ungraded) to help you strengthen your comprehension in the areas you missed. After the due time has passed, the entire problem set will again become available for non-graded practice.

    • Your total score of all these graded problems will be used to calculate your percent score. This percentage score = 1/6 of the class grade.


  • At least once a week there will be an exercise or quiz on the material presented in lab.

    • The quizzes require Scantron Form # 882-E (green) forms. 

    • Each quiz & exercise is scored as a percent correct answers. The average of all these percentage scores = 1/6 of the class grade.


  • There are two lab practical exams. These involve rotating among stations with specimens we have observed in the labs and answering a set of questions about each respective specimen.
  • The average of the two lab exam scores = 1/6 of the class grade.
  • Due to the laboratory set-up needed for practical exams, lab exams may not be made up if missed for any reason!


  • There are three exams based upon material covered in lecture. (The final exam is Exam 3.) These exams are non-cumulative and will be composed of multiple choice and matching questions and diagram interpretations. A new (clean and unwrinkled) Scantron Form # 882-E (green) answer sheet and a #2 pencil will be needed for each lecture exam.
  • Please note the dates of all exams. If you are sick or have an emergency, contact me BEFORE the exam and special arrangements might be made in extenuating circumstances. Vacation plans are not extenuating circumstances! If a last-minute crisis occurred on the way to the exam, contact me before the end of the day.


  • Online Homework Exercises: Percent total score of all  ~20 homework exercises counts 100 potential points. 
  • Lab Exercises & Quizzes: ~12 exercises and/or quizzes. Average of all percentage scores = 100 potential points.
  • Lab Exams: Two lab practical exams. Average of lab exam scores counts 100 potential points.
  • Lecture Exams: Three exams. Each exam counts 100 potential points. (3 x 100 = 300 points)

The final class grade will be determined as a percentage of the maximum total 600 potential points:

92-100% = A

89-91% = A-

86-88% = B+

80-85% = B

77-79% = B-

74-76% = C+

65-73% = C

53-64% = D

<53% = F

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