UCCI Course Description

Length of Course
Full Year (2 semesters; 3 trimesters; 4 quarters)
Subject Area - Discipline
Science (D) - Biology / Life Sciences
UC Honors Designation
CTE Sector
Health Science and Medical Technology
CTE Pathway
Public and Community Health
Grade Level(s)
9 - 12
Algebra 1 or IM 1


Biology and Community Health is a college preparatory laboratory science course with Next Generation Science Standards for Life Science integrated with Public and Community Health Pathway standards. This course is designed to provide students with an understanding of biological concepts through the study of the effect of disease on public and community health. Students will engage in experiments, conduct research, complete simulations and apply knowledge of cellular physiology to understand the spread of disease, which is the foundation of public and community health. Students will use experiments and genetic concepts to demonstrate the prevalence of hereditary disorders within a community. Using the concepts of evolution, students will examine the relationship between humans and pathogens and their change over time. Students will trace how public health has impacted the size of the human population over time. They will identify environmental issues affecting health in their community and then create action plans to improve the health outcomes within the community. The course culminates with students engaging in community health by going out and educating their community about relevant health problems prevalent in that community.

Course Content

Unit 1 : Cell Physiology

Unit 1 Description

This introductory unit exposes students to key terms and areas of knowledge about mental health concepts. Through research of science journals, psychology websites, and community resources, students will identify, classify and summarize physical and emotional aspects of mental illnesses.  They will examine attitudes and myths surrounding mental health and investigate how stereotypes and stigma related to people living with mental illness contributes to lack of treatment and/or misdiagnosis. Students will also assess their own mental health status through personality testing and reflection and will apply this concept to patient diagnosis and care.  Students will also be introduced to their end-of-course culminating project in which they will choose a mental illness to research, illustrate, and apply holistic applications from each unit of study.

In order to understand public health issues related to diseases, students will explore cells and cell processes. Understanding the pathology of disease is integral to understanding how to approach public health in terms of identifying the mechanisms in which disease spreads in order to provide prevention, control, and treatment on a community and global level. It is important for students to understand the physiology of cells in order to understand how diseases affect the body on a cellular level. First, students will identify various non-living objects that may be vectors for disease-causing microorganisms. They will learn that disease causes homeostatic imbalances in the body and that the body is constantly fighting to maintain homeostasis. Students will design an investigation on the effect of exercise on heart rate to provide evidence for the feedback mechanism used in order to maintain homeostasis. They will then explore the gatekeeper property of the cell membrane, the cellular boundary that may block the entrance of microorganisms. Students will then study the importance of enzymes in carrying out cellular processes in order to maintain health by conducting a lab experiment on how the catalase enzyme breaks down hydrogen peroxide. In the culminating project for this unit, students will be assigned an infectious disease and will research how cells are affected by the pathogen that causes their disease. They will research how the pathogen invades the cell and disrupts homeostasis and how the body’s immune cells fight back to restore homeostasis. This knowledge is foundational in order to understand the key components of public health.

A. Lab: Identifying Fomites.  To understand that infectious diseases spread through the transmission of microorganisms and that microorganisms can be found on everyday objects, students will sample various objects (fomites) for the presence of bacteria by growing bacteria on agar in petri plates. They will analyze their results by comparing the number and different types of bacterial colonies that grew. This lab will serve as the foundation for students to further explore how bacteria infect human cells to cause disease.

B. Lab: The Effect of Exercise on Heart Rate. This lab will serve as the foundation for students to understand that homeostasis must exist for the body to remain healthy and that diseases may disrupt homeostasis and therefore cause disease. Students will plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence that feedback mechanisms maintain homeostasis. The human body uses feedback mechanisms to maintain homeostasis both on a cellular level and on an organ system level. Students will observe how heart rate changes in response to exercise in order to maintain homeostasis. They will create a hypothesis about the effects of exercise on heart rate and then will design an experiment to test their hypothesis.

D. Lab: Diffusion Through a Semipermeable Membrane. The semipermeable membrane controls what enters and leaves a cell. Disease can result when pathogens cross the cell membrane and enter the cell, or when molecules can’t enter or can’t leave the cell. Students will simulate ways that pathogens and molecules interact with a cell membrane using models such as dialysis tubing or an egg to represent the cell membrane. They will predict the movement of substances across the membrane and will design an investigation to test their hypotheses. Their investigations will serve as a testament to the semipermeable properties of a cell membrane. In their lab write up, students will use their knowledge of the structure and composition of the cell membrane, as well as their newfound understanding of the semipermeability of the cell membrane to hypothesize as to how different pathogens may breach the cell membrane.

E. Photosynthesis Lab- In this activity students will complete a photosynthesis lab of the instructors choice to understand the basic concepts of photosynthesis. Students will investigate how variations in light affect the production of oxygen. Students will then investigate how increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will affect the productivity of various crops and food production and determine how those factors affect community health.  

Students will review a case study on Anabaena circinalis to see how human impacts on the environment and increased atmospheric carbon dioxide have produced favorable conditions for harmful blooms of this photosynthetic bacteria and include information and analysis Re: these effects on community health in their lab write up.

F. Cellular Respiration Lab: In this lab, students will measure the rate of cellular respiration by determining the rate of carbon dioxide (CO2) production. Each team will observe CO2 produced by an individual at rest, during aerobic exercise, and anaerobic exercise. In this way, students will have a better understanding of the amount of energy produced through cellular respiration when different demands are placed on the body. Students will then choose any mitochondrial disorder, all of which impact cellular respiration. Students will then research one of these diseases creating a brochure that includes the following information:

A description and cause of the disease

Symptoms of the disease

How the disease specifically impacts cellular respiration

Treatment options

Prevalence in different communities


G. Lab: Enzyme Reaction Rate. Students will learn that cells depend on enzymes to carry out various cellular functions. One function of enzymes is to break down harmful chemicals in the body. This is imperative in keeping the cell alive.  In this lab, students will use the catalase enzyme found in chicken or beef liver to observe the breakdown of hydrogen peroxide (a common harmful substance produced by the body) into harmless byproducts, water and oxygen. They will then test the effects of pH and temperature on the functioning of the catalase enzyme. In their lab write up, students will summarize the symptoms of an enzymatic disease and the community that is most affected by it. In the next unit, students will recognize the importance of enzymes in maintaining human health by studying the effect that enzyme malfunctions can have in producing a genetic disease.

Enzyme Lab

H. Cell Physiology Unit Culminating Project. Students will create a poster which will be displayed in a local community center to educate their community about the effect of disease on the human body. Students will choose an infectious disease and will research how the causative agent affects the body on a cellular level. How does it invade the cell?  How does it obtain energy in order to multiply within the body? How does the disease upset homeostasis in the human body? How does the body fight back to re-establish homeostasis? Throughout this process, students will research the symptoms of the disease and specific cells and proteins of the immune system (e.g., macrophages, B-cells, T-cells, dendritic cells, antibodies) that counteract the invading pathogen.

Unit 2 : Genetics

In this unit, students will study genetics and DNA in the context of public and community health. Using their knowledge of cell processes and how diseases affect communities, students will develop an understanding of genetics with an introduction using the movie Lorenzo’s Oil, which tells the story of the Odone family attempting to find a cure for their son’s genetic disorder. Students learn about cell division and its connection to old age diseases. Students use Mendelian Genetics to examine genetic disorders. From there they move to examining the factors that affect public health policy and funding. Students perform a DNA extraction and then link the knowledge to a DNA profile of a genetic disease. As a unit final project, students develop a public health policy related to bioethical issues in genetics.

A. Lorenzo’s Oil Movie Analysis - In order to develop a context for public health issues and the connection with genetics, students will watch Lorenzo’s Oil and answer questions about the science of the genetic disorder.  They are able to apply their understanding of enzymes and cell functioning and make connections with how adrenoleukodystrophy affects an individual. They will also examine medical research and FDA drug development policies.  After finishing the movie, students will read a Washington Post article comparing the movie with the “real life sequel”. Students will write an essay comparing the movie to the real science it is supposed to depict. This assignment allows students to understand the role of media in how the public views diseases that are worthy of increased funding or health policy.

Article: A Real Life Sequel to Lorenzo's Oil

B. Mitosis and Meiosis Laboratory Activity - In this experiment, students will examine and compare the phases of mitosis in animal and plants cells and determine the relative time cells spend in each phase of mitosis. This lab helps students understand that cell division contributes to disease in that cell aging allows for the opportunity for mutations to develop. Students then prepare their own microscope slides of mitotic cells using onion Allium root tips and follow the processes of mitosis and meiosis in the life cycle of Sordaria. Students then examine the arrangement of Sordaria ascospore microscopically to determine the frequency of crossing over and calculate the distance, in map units, between a specific gene and the chromosome centromere.  After completing the lab activity, students will research how mitosis varies in older adults, leading to the health disparity in older adults and examine how this impacts society, including this research in the potential applications section of their lab report. PDF: Mitosis Lab

C. Genetics Laboratory Activity using Drosophila or Wisconsin Fast Plants® -In this experiment, students will learn basic handling and culture techniques for working with the selected organism and apply concepts and principles of Mendelian inheritance patterns. Students diagram sex-linked crosses and gain experience sorting, sexing, and observing phenotypes of the organisms. Students then perform a chi-square statistical analysis of experimental results. After completing this lab activity, students will use the understanding of Mendelian genetics to examine different case studies of human genetic disorders (recessive, dominant, and sex-linked genetic disorders) and their prevalence in various ethnic communities. They will then write an analysis of the case study.

D. DNA Extraction Laboratory Activity - After researching and studying the structure of DNA, students will be extracting DNA from a strawberry. They will first research and sketch the structure and function of DNA including all components (nitrogenous bases, nucleotide, deoxyribose sugar, and phosphate group) and the double-helix structure. Using a strawberry students will extract the DNA by physical and chemical means. Students will see the DNA separate from the rest of the liquid and have an understanding of how scientists can then take extracted DNA for use in testing for genetic diseases by doing research for the application section of their lab conclusions.   

**Optional Lab - Gel Electrophoresis Laboratory Activity - Through research students will learn about restriction enzymes and the process by which they search for a “code” then cut the DNA at that “code”.  Through practice on a paper model, students will see how the restriction enzymes work and the different Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphisms (RFLP’s) that are created. At this point students will prepare and perform an actual gel electrohoresis which takes the RFLP’s and separates them according to length to create a DNA profile.  Students then take the knowledge of DNA profiles to research how it can be used in relation to genetic testing for diseases and the relation to public health and write a short paper explaining the use for this method in the medical field.

E. Genetic Counseling Activity: Students will link the concepts of genetic disease to public and community health by role playing as genetic counselors advising patients or relatives at risk of an inherited disorder. Students will be assigned a case study with detailed family history regarding a specific hereditary disease. Students will use this information to synthesize a pedigree and calculate the risk that an individual will or will not be affected by the disease. Students will then research the assigned disease and prepare a short oral presentation in which they will be educating the patient on the consequences and nature of the disorder, the probability of developing and transmitting the disorder and the options open to them in management and family planning.

F. Genetics Unit Culminating Project - Public Policy - Students research and analyze an area of bioethics and public health policy related to genetics such as genetic testing and counseling, intellectual property and genomics, genetic discrimination, stem cell research, research funding concerns, and informed consent. Students will take what they have learned and formulate the public health policy that they believe should be put in place in their community related to the bioethical issue using the evidence from their research to support their opinion. Policy Issues in Genomics

Unit 3 : Evolution

In this unit students will analyze evolution through the lens of public health.  I. In addition, students will hypothesize how humans (through the use of medicine) have affected the evolution of the microorganisms. Students will investigate the significance of genetic changes leading to survival of various organisms as a result of their environment and random chance occurrence. Students will investigate current events for an existing disease and determine the role the human population has played in the evolution of the pathogen. Students will predict the sustainability of the pathogen based on the current and future community health practices. The unit will culminate with an investigation of the use of antibiotics, our hygiene practices, and how the increasing human population has affected the evolution of microorganisms.

A. Essay: Students read an excerpt from The End of Food. Based on the reading, students will research and write an essay that will trace the course of human evolution based on our food habits and how it plays a role in the health of today’s society because of our food choices.

B. Lab: Modeling E.coli - Students will model the internal structure of the an E.coli bacterium to allow them to grasp the size of the cell relative to the amount of DNA. Students will also use proportions to determine how much DNA is in a eukaryotic cell as compared to a prokaryotic cell and the implications for microorganism survival and reproduction in affecting human health.

C. Lab: Growing penicillium - In this experiment, students will replicate the discovery of one of our most common antibiotics.  Students will speculate as to how Alexander Fleming decided to utilize the penicillium fungus as an antibiotic. Students will be required to read “The Real Story Behind Penicillin”  by Howard Markel and connect their findings to the discovery of penicillin. In addition, students will save their penicillium samples to be utilized in a later lab to see if the penicillium they grew is effective as an antibiotic.  PBS NewsHour: The Real Story Behind Penicillin

D. Lab: Peppered Moth Simulation - In this activity, students will witness changes in allele frequency in the peppered moth population. They will diagram how the changes occurred and then apply this concept to other species. Students will demonstrate how pathogens, such as tuberculosis, have evolved  (due to changes in allelic frequency) based on human health and hygiene practices through a reflection in their lab report.

About Peppermoths                                                             

E. Lab: Natural Selection Activity (Hungry Hungry Hunter) - This is a hands on lab where the students take on the role of different predators in competition with each other. They are all (genetically) varied and will be hunting varied organisms who live in different environments. Each simulation leads to the reinforcement of the advantageous traits surviving and reproducing (in both the hunter and the hunted.) It demonstrates the changes within two populations and how they can influence each other. Based on the information learned, students discuss, in their lab report, how advantageous traits lead to organisms thriving in an environment such as the human body.

F. Lab: Hardy Weinberg Simulation - In this lab, students examine how maladaptive traits continue to exist in a population even though they are a disadvantage. Students will complete simulations on autosomal recessive disorders prevalent in a selected ethnic community and cases of heterozygote advantage such as sickle cell anemia and cystic fibrosis.

Model: Hardy Weinberg Simulation

G. Lab: The effects of antibiotics and antibacterial products -  Students will design a lab experiment to test various antibacterial products they use on a frequent basis, as well as a lab grade penicillin and their own grown penicillium.  Students need to identify a control for the antibacterial and antibiotic component. The lab results should be analyzed and students draw conclusions on the prevalence of use of antibacterials/ antibiotics in their own life. Students will argue the effects of antibacterials/ antibiotics on the evolution of microorganisms and what this means for public health and safety. This information will be used in their unit project.

H. Evolution Culminating Project: Students will investigate the use of antibiotics, our hygiene practices, and ever growing population to determine effects on the evolution of microorganisms. Students will utilize current issues in the news, as well, as research to show the evolutionary path of an existing disease within the community. Students will then make public health policy recommendations, creating a public service announcement to inform the public about how their personal choices related to antibiotics or hygiene practices can lead to future changes in bacterial populations and their resulting diseases.

Unit 4 : Ecology

In this unit, students will study ecological concepts within the context of public and community health. Students will investigate how different factors have affected the human population size over time, and how human activities have impacted the biodiversity of different systems. Students will model population dynamics and speculate as to how these will affect global and community health. Students will discover that the human body is an ideal place for many bacteria and investigate the biodiversity of bacterial flora found in the human body. They will then discover how lack of biodiversity can cause disease. Students will investigate air quality in their community and in a culminating project will investigate other environmental factors affecting community health and present an action plan to combat those environmental factors.

A. Timeline: In order to understand how public health dynamics affect population growth over time, students will create a timeline showing human population growth over time. On the timeline students will discover various points in time where there was a dramatic increase or decrease in human population in a short amount of time, and will then research the ways in which public health may have been responsible for these changes. On the timeline students must demonstrate knowledge of population dynamics by showing the various public health factors that changed the carrying capacity for the human species. Examples include disease outbreaks, changes in food production and availability, medical advancements, the advent of antibiotics etc. Students will then predict the future of human population size based on predicted changes in food availability, medical advancements, economics etc.

B. Lab: Modeling of Population dynamics- Students will use a population dynamic simulation program to investigate how biodiversity affects carrying capacity and viability of a species. Students will then engage in a socratic discussion to speculate about how human impacts on the environment result in decreased biodiversity and how this decrease in biodiversity will affect global and community health. Students will summarize the concepts discussed in their conclusion to the lab report. Ecology Lab: The Habitable Planet

C. Lab: Bacterial Growth in Different Culture Media- In this lab students will culture E. Coli or another bacteria in media with different nutrient concentrations, pH, temperature, and/or other factors. Students will plate the bacteria to determine population size and carrying capacity of the different media. In their analysis students will research the nutrient, pH, temperature etc. of different human tissues and determine which tissues would be a suitable environment for this particular bacteria. Students will then research the biodiversity of beneficial bacterial flora that may be present in a tissue of their choice and speculate as to how the biodiversity could be a benefit for a person’s health, or what might happen if the biodiversity was disrupted.

D. Biodiversity Research Paper- Students will examine real-life cases of infectious diseases by closely reading and annotating case studies or peer-reviewed journals on C-dif colitis, Anopheles darlingi and Malaria, or HIV and Bush Meat and discover that each of these diseases “caught on” because of a decrease in biodiversity. In a 2-3 page properly cited paper students will explain how decreased biodiversity is responsible for or related to the infectious disease.

E. Lab: Air Quality Experiment- In this activity students will continue studying factors that affect the health and size of a community, now focusing on environmental factors. Students will speculate on the quality of the air in the local community and hypothesize as to the determinants of the air quality. Students will then research, design and conduct an experiment to test the quality of the air in their community. Students will then analyze their data, research public policy and regulations, and suggest plausible solutions to increase the air quality and the health of the community. Students will then create a 3-5 minute multimedia presentation in the form of a video, PowerPoint, Prezi or other platform showing their experimental design, research, findings and recommended solutions. In the presentation students must demonstrate thorough knowledge of the scientific method, and also show mastery of research skills, organization, and presentation ability.

F. Collaborative Project: Environmental Impacts on Health- Students will identify and investigate the various environmental factors that affect a community’s health and safety. Environmental factors may include water quality, food supply, industrial hygiene, solid and hazardous waste disposal, etc. Community can be defined geographically, ethnically, socioculturally, socioeconomically etc. Students will research the environmental issues, develop an action plan and prepare a presentation for a panel of professionals from the school and local community. The action plan must address the following:

  1. explain the environmental factor they chose and why they chose it
  2. socioeconomic factors that may have resulted in these environmental conditions
  3. the effects the environmental factor has on community health
  4. summarize the policies and laws that are currently in effect in their community and how they pertain to the environmental factor
  5. synthesize this knowledge into a practical, step-by-step intervention action plan

Presentations include both oral and visual components (PowerPoint, prezi, tri-fold, etc.) Through this presentation, students will demonstrate knowledge of their environmental factor, its effect on health, and of current policies and laws. They will demonstrate their ability to assess a real-life situation in order to apply it to and create an action plan. They will also demonstrate oral and visual presentation skills.  Building on the previous assignment, students demonstrate that they are able to identify critical areas of health care needs in the community and propose viable solutions while presenting them in a logical, coherent manner.

Unit 5 : Culminating Project

Students will identify and investigate the prevalent health problems with social, behavioral and/or cultural determinants that affect their community. Community is defined by the students and can be determined geographically, ethnically, socioculturally, socioeconomically etc. Building on the previous units, students will demonstrate that they are able to identify critical areas of health care needs in the community and propose viable solutions while presenting them in a logical, coherent manner.

Students will research the health problems to answer the following:

  1. How is this health problem determined socially, behaviorally and/or culturally?
  2. How does the disease affect the body on a systemic level?
  3. How does the disease affect the body on a cellular level?
  4. What relationship, if any, is there between this health problem and genetics and/or epigenetics.
  5. How has the disease evolved over time?
  6. How has treatment of this disease evolved over time?
  7. How might presence of this disease cause this community to change over time?
  8. What current legislation or regulation might be affecting the disease?
  9. How do socioeconomic factors affect the prevalence or treatment of the disease?
  10. How can the issue be prevented, controlled or treated?

Students will then educate the affected community on the prevalent health issues. Presentations to the community must include both oral and visual components (PowerPoint, prezi, tri-fold, etc.) that inform the community on:

  1. the causes of the disease
  2. how the disease affects the community
  3. how the disease affects the body
  4. any misconceptions about the disease
  5. how the disease can be prevented, controlled or treated.

Through this presentation, students will demonstrate mastery of public health concepts and biological concepts. They will demonstrate their ability to assess a real-life situation in order to apply it to and create an action plan. They will also demonstrate oral and visual presentation skills.

Course Materials

Title: The End of Food
Publisher: Mariner Books
Author(s):  Paul Roberts
Usage:  pp. 5-11
How it will be used: The excerpt will be used to compose an essay that explains the process of our ancestors development from simple gathers and scavengers to advanced farmers. In addition, students will draw connections between the food we currently eat, and it’s effect on society’s health.



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