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Biology

We pride ourselves as a hands-on and forward thinking department and we strive to inspire and cultivate a fascination for life sciences in boys of all ages.

Merchiston-Castle-School-BIOLOGY-STICK INSECT -GCSE - ALEVEL

We allow our pupils to explore Biology through a variety of practical and theoretical approaches. We maintain a large collection of exotic animals (a tortoise, snakes, a chameleon and various insects) to bring real-life Biology into the classroom.

In IGCSE and A level, your son will experience advance genetics techniques as well as a wide range of the usual practical work. The school grounds and the local area also lends itself well to ecological field work. We aim to provide a broad based biological education to prepare your son right up to Oxbridge Medic/ Vet level or simply to encourage a healthy, scientifically informed life.

Staff

Hannah Williams

Hannah Williams

Head of Department
MSc, MEd

In addition to teaching Biology, Ms Williams is the schools Skills Coordinator, promoting Merchiston’s key skills and developing Literacy and Numeracy this year. In addition, she is in charge of Young Farmers Club and the U16s squash team. She also leads the annual school ski trip to Europe. 

Darren George

Darren George

Teacher of Biology, Head of Outdoor Education
BSc

As well as teaching Biology throughout the School, Mr George is also in charge of outdoor pursuits such as climbing. He runs the School's Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.

Nicholas Lieberman

Nicholas Lieberman

Teacher of Biology, Housemaster of Laidlaw South
BSc

Mr Lieberman teaches Biology and General Science from Second Form to the Upper Sixth and is the Housemaster of Laidlaw South boarding house. He is the coach of Merchiston's 1st XI football team.

Richard Lilley

Richard Lilley

Teacher of Biology

Dr Lilley teaches Biology and General Science from II Form to VI Form. He is a tutor in Chalmers West and also a junior rugby coach.

Kelly Ryan

Kelly Ryan

Laboratory Assistant
BSc

Mrs Ryan has a BSc Biotechnology and has a background in research. She has 11 years of experience of working in research labs, most recently at The Roslin Institute. She enjoys being involved in arranging outreach and activities for the Science department.

Facilities

We have two well equipped full sized laboratories and one small lab all with full multimedia facilities and optical microscopes. We are equipped to do the following genetics work: PCR, gel electrophoresis, DNA extraction and fruit fly genetics.

We also have an extensive fenced ‘outdoor classroom’ equipped with a large wildlife pond, vegetable garden, fruit orchard and wild flower meadow. A brand new large greenhouse has been built, where we have set up a hydroponics kit to look at the effect of different nutrients on growth rate of various vegetables.

A white board and outdoor seating area has been installed so classes can be taught ‘al fresco’ in the fine weather.

We currently have the following animals in our menagerie: corn snakes, tortoises, chameleon, stick insects, giant African land snails, salt water tank, chickens, ducks, axolotl, and various fish. After life, we use these organisms for dissections, providing unusual but fascinating specimens to observe.

We use dissection to demonstrate structure of organ systems with material sourced from deer and rabbits that have been culled.

Curriculum

I & II Forms: The Science syllabus for I and II Forms covers the needs of our new intake and is in line with the stipulations of the Curriculum for Excellence and the English National Curriculum.

Biology as a distinct subject is taught from the III Form.

III Form: Our syllabus is written as a link between introductory science topics covered in I and II Forms and the GCSE topics to be commenced in IV Form. The syllabus also caters as an introductory Biology course for those entering the School at this level.

IV Form: The course is an introduction to the GCSE using syllabus content from the KS4 of the National Curriculum. There is an emphasis on relating Biology to everyday situations and to general health. Modules covered are cells and classification, DNA and evolution, microorganisms and diseases, plant and animal reproduction and ecology. There is a strong emphasis on investigation skills and exam technique that will be beneficial on commencement of iGCSE.

Shell & V Form: The Edexcel IGCSE Biology course is taught. 

VI Forms: We teach the EdExcel Specification B Biology course at A level.

Activities

Dissection club for prospective medical/ veterinary students. We look at squid, herring, rabbit, rat, deer, crow and magpie.

 

DNA workshop

UVI boys are given the chance to carry out advanced genetics techniques in our own labs with our own equipment. We cover DNA extraction, polymerase chain reaction for amplification of DNA micro pippeting, and gel electrophoresis to produce a genetic fingerprint of the boys own mitochondrial DNA.

Biology Olympiad

VI Form boys have the chance to enter this national competition to demonstrate Biological excellence.

Edinburgh University

Each term we take a group of interested V form boys to series of talks at Edinburgh University where professors discuss their recent findings but put it in a context that school students will understand and engage with.

Scotland’s International Marine Conference

The conference focused on current national and international actions to protect the marine environment, identify emerging threats to our seas and consider what new measures are required to protect the marine environment for future generations. The conference addressed how to achieve clean, healthy, safe, productive and diverse seas for the first day before focusing on impacts of marine litter and potential solutions to address this global problem on the second day.

Sea Scotland

In 2019 we took a group of LVI Form boys to ‘Sea, Soul and Society: Adapting to climate change.’ It made them aware of climate change adaptation and showed them what steps need to be take to encourage innovative thinking and action

Heriot Watt University

Each year we take the whole of the LVI Form Biology students to Heriot Watt University to show them an up to date electron microscope. They tell them how it works and even get a demonstration using various materials. This links to our A level course s gives boys the real life experience of the theoretical content.

Other Visits

Visits to the Anatomical Museum and Botanical Gardens provide real life experiences of subjects taught at A Level.

 

A morning in the Biology Department

Our student-led Medical Society provides opportunities for prospective medics to collaboratively apply their scientific knowledge in a medical context. On average, 7% of our Year 13 students have applied for Medicine at university over the last three years.

Merchiston

Coming from a state school, science was taught very theoretically. Here at Merchiston, we do so many practicals to reinforce our knowledge. This has given me a totally different view on school in general: every day I wake up and I look forward to my lessons

Vincent B Year 11 (S4)

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