REAL Science Odyssey – Biology Level 1


REAL Science Odyssey- Biology Level 1 is a year-long, secular homeschool life biology curriculum for elementary grades. Students learn key science concepts through an incremental series of lessons and hands-on exploration.

Pages: 534

Grade level: most appropriate for 2nd – 5th grade

Course type: textbook

What is RSO Biology Level 1?

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.


Who can use RSO Biology Level 1?

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.

You can also use Biology Level 1 as part of a co-op or with multiple students.  If you’re using the curriculum with more than one student, you can purchase extra copies of the consumable student pages separately (coming soon).

If you need a homeschool science curriculum for a different grade or a different subject, check out the REAL Science Odyssey homepage!


Science Topics Covered

Biology Level 1 starts with the basics, and each unit builds on the last. Every unit reinforces aspects of the scientific method and critical thinking. Each unit explores a big idea or question in depth through reading, experiments, and conversation.
Unit 1: The Study of Life

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: Building Blocks of Life

Unit 2: 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

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

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

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

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.


Science Skills Covered

In addition to being a complete, homeschool science curriculum, RSO Biology Level 1 will guide your student in learning essential skills that will serve them throughout their education and life, such as:

  • Applying the Scientific method
  • Critical Thinking
  • Observation
  • Presenting scientific data
  • Reading and interpreting informational texts


Lab Experiments


No homeschool science curriculum would be complete without hands-on experiments. In addition to the fact-based and conceptual aspects, as with all REAL Science Odyssey courses, the labs and activities use a scaffolding approach to help students build their skills in critical thinking and the practices and procedures integral to science. The scientific method, basic lab report writing, and the use of observation to form conclusions are learning skills incorporated into the course. Scientific modeling is also included to help learners get a better understanding of more complicated systems. The intentional scaffolding and “learn by doing” approach lead to a more complete understanding of how scientists conduct science and of how science works.

Lab sheets guide your student through implementing the scientific method. Your student will gain experience:

  • Formulating hypotheses based on knowledge gained from the reading
  • Recording observations and results
  • Drawing conclusions based on those results
  • Reinforcing their knowledge by answering questions about the experiment.


Planning and Scheduling

Research shows that science is best learned in deep investigations of a single subject, rather than short hops from one field to another. All REAL Science Odyssey curricula align with this methodology. Each RSO curriculum is designed as a full-year homeschool science curriculum. It includes:

  • 36 weeks of material, assuming you teach science two days per week.
  • Suggested weekly schedule for the entire year
  • Supply list break down for each week
  • Instructor pages that guide you in implementing each lesson and lab
  • Student pages are available if using the curriculum with more than one student (coming soon)


Important Copyright Information: If you choose the eBook version of this course, you are purchasing a license to use the PDF for your own children. You may make copies for your own children, but you may not share (email, download, print and distribute, resell, etc.) this eBook or any portion of this eBook to others.

Licensing is available for group, school, and co-op use. Please contact Pandia Press for details on group licensing (

Most supplies are normal household items that you can find either in your home or at the grocery, craft, or big-box store. You’ll also need a 3-ring binder for lab and notebook pages. Field guides to your local birds, insects, and plants will also be helpful.

Microscope: The four microscope labs in RSO Biology 1 are optional. Microscopy does add a depth of understanding to any general biology course, but they can be left out for elementary students.

Refer to the Try Before You Buy file for a complete detailed list of the lab supplies needed to complete this course.

Biology Student Pages Cover