Meet the College Board endorsed Consultant for AP Biology APSI: Mark Krotec

Mark Krotec has been teaching Life Science at Pittsburgh Central Catholic since 1981.  His primary work involved the instruction of Honors Biology, Bioengineering/Biotechnology, Environmental Science, and AP Biology students.  In addition, he served as the director of extracurricular science (Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science, Science Bowl, Pittsburgh Regional Science and Engineering Fair, Science Fair, Fairchild Challenge, and the Envirothon) for over twenty years.   Currently, Mark teaches Honors Biology, AP Biology, and Bioengineering, and is the director/sponsor of extracurricular research science competitions (PJAS and PRSEF).  In addition, he serves as the director of the CCHS STEM outreach initiative, a program designed to expose local schools to the excitement of science process. 

Outside of his school, Mark has been actively involved in the promotion of teacher education and curricular development.  He has served as the Pennsylvania Director of the NABT-sponsored Outstanding Biology Teacher Award program for the past 20 years.  He has served as president and executive board member of the Western PA Biology Teachers Association, in addition to serving as a frequent workshop presenter at local, statewide, and national conventions, including the NSTA, NABT, and College Board.  Mark has also created a Diocesan Teacher Scholarship program, resulting in the full funding of over 80 teachers to NSTA conventions.  In addition, Mark has developed a Diocesan in-service program, directing yearly workshops with the help of these funded teachers.  This program will now include the development of week-long teacher enhancement institutes. 

Mark has served as a consultant for the College Board for over 30 years, directing various workshops and summer institutes.  He has continued to focus much of his efforts on promoting science process, especially inquiry science, within the AP curriculum.  

Mark continues to update his science knowledge and skills through research internships at local universities, further inspiring him to translate those experiences into secondary science curricular supplements.  He has been awarded research fellowships from the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI), the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB), the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), and the Professional Enhancement Program (PEP).  In addition, he has participated in numerous educator enrichment programs such as the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Biology Initiative and Howard Hughes Science Teacher Workshops.  From June of 2000 to August of 2001, Mark immersed himself in the revolutionary field of tissue engineering, performing sabbatical research and educational outreach for the Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative (PTEI). With the development of the first tissue engineering educational outreach manual, he continues to serve as a liaison between the biomedical research community and science educators.  Within the past 22 years, Mark has presented to classes in over 60 schools, in addition to directing over 40 tissue engineering workshops for science educators, as well as leading Middle School and High School Tissue Engineering summer camps.  He continues to serve as a “master” teacher for bioengineering/tissue engineering, performing educational outreach and contributing to the further development of the summer bioengineering camps.   Mark also served as an instructor of a tissue engineering course in the CMU-sponsored Summer Academy for Math and Science (SAMS).  He also continues to serve as an outreach coordinator for Carnegie Mellon-based laboratory exercises, three of which he personally developed.  Over fifteen other curricular supplements have been shared locally and nationally, including the activity manuals Beyond Bead Biology and An Education Outreach Manual in Tissue Engineering.   

For these contributions to science education, Mark has been honored with a variety of local and national awards including: Outstanding Biology Teacher of PA, NSTA Distinguished Teaching Award, NABT Molecular Biology Teaching Award, Presidential Teaching Award (PAEMST), Radio Shack National Teaching Award Recognition, Diocesan Golden Apple Award, Carnegie Award for Excellence, and the Pittsburgh Spectroscopy Society Teaching Award.   

Outside of academics, Mark continues to serve as a table tennis coach for the school.  In addition, he serves as the founder/president (current vice-president) of the Pittsburgh Table Tennis Club, a USATT-affiliated table tennis club.  

APSI Session Schedule:

This comprehensive outline allows for flexibility and attendee choices regarding activities and modules.  Due to time constraints, the majority of supplementary activities will not be performed.  Teachers will be able to select those of interest.  Priority will be given to those most aligned with the AP Biology Course Framework.   NOTE:  Review sessions and/or engagement in supplementary activities are offered BEFORE and AFTER daily APSI meetings upon request.  In addition, zoom sessions can be scheduled outside of the allotted APSI calendar upon request. 

REMINDER: extra resources are also available in the instructor’s dropbox upon request.; 412-916-2439. 

Day 1  

Morning Session 

An overview of strategies for establishing and maintaining a rigorous AP Biology course.  Note:  This introduction will be spread over the course of the workshop in order to maintain effective participation and to allow teachers to engage in the numerous planned activities.  

  1. -Intro activity – AP Biology course recognition, teacher APSI outcomes. Inclusion strategies and recruitment
  2. -Workshop Objectives
  4. -THEMATIC INSTRUCTION (Topic Analysis)

[Novice Teachers: Content vs Understanding- balancing the demands] 

[Experienced Teachers: Identification of Course Content Themes- streamlining your course] 

  1. SCIENCE PROCESS AND INQUIRY: Introduction to critical thinking skills – GBU activity
  2. – Science Process and Statistics Activities— Bubbleology + Paper Towel Lab + X-Files

[Novice Teachers: Activity Review and Preparation] 

[Experienced Teachers: Statistical Analysis review and Challenge Problems 

Option: Conditional arguments and the nature of uncertainty] 

Afternoon Session 

  1. Transfer Skills – The Science Practices  (p7-14)

[Novice Teachers: Reveal the practices in morning session activities] 

[Experienced Teachers: Scaffolding your favorite AP labs] 

  1. REVERSE ENGINEERING THE COURSE – Understanding by Design (UBD) (Teacher activity, pages 4-5 + pages 162-163)
  2. -Science Practices and Skills  – New CED
  3. -CONTENT- -Brief Synopsis OF 8-UNIT FORMAT

[Novice Teachers: Unpacking the CED – 8 Unit Organization 

Exploration and Discussion of the 8-Unit CED] 

[Experienced Teachers: Reverse engineering a SINGLE Unit – thematic approach with identification of links to other units] 

  1. Content and Skills: Teaching for Understanding (p15-28)

[Novice Teachers: Identify Skills and Content from AP FRQ’s] 

[Experienced Teachers: Select questions from AP Bank or other sources to reinforce content and skills from a selected UNIT] 

  1. Unit 1 (Chemistry of Life) + Unit 2 (Cells)
  1. Models + simulations 
  1. Student Practice/Assessment 
  1. Detection and Quantification of Molecules Labs: (Growth Factor Concentration Challenge) + intro to Edvotek Chromatography lab + Coliscan Water Analysis + Begin AP lab 4 (O + D) 
  1. Exit Ticket/homework – AP lab 4 statistical analysis challenge 

Day 2  

Morning Session 

  1. Review Science Skills and Statistics (challenge problem reviews) 
  1. Coliscan Lab Results Analysis – Teaching for Transfer 
  1. AP Lab 4 results and analysis 
  1. AP Lab 9- Transpiration – Correlation with Units and Teaching for Transfer 

[Novice Teachers: Pages 47-54, Clarifying the Lab Experience] 

[Experienced Teachers: Alternative Strategies for Utilizing Lab 9; Inclusion in curriculum + infusing statistics] 


The New Course Framework: Overview 

  1. Course Unit alignment with the Science Practices and Big Ideas: 

Spiraling of the SP’s and Big Ideas throughout the Course Units. The new CED (Teacher activity: pages 29-39) 

[Novice Teachers: Understanding and Transferal of the Big Ideas and EU’s] 

[Experienced Teachers: Strategies to reinforce spiraling of the Big Ideas and EU’s. Teacher Activity pages 65-80] 

  1. Formative assessment vs Summative Assessment- Utilizing Progress Checks and Test Bank 

[Novice Teachers: Teacher Activity pages 175-181] 

[Experienced Teachers: Creating Strategies for Formative Assessment Pages 182-186] 

Afternoon Session 

  1. Unit 3 Energetics – Thematic Approach 
  1.  AP Lab 13 – Enzymes 

[Novice Teachers: Pages 47-54, Clarifying the Lab Experience] 

[Experienced Teachers: Alternative Labs + Lessons (Beyond Bead Biology + Amylase Lab); Inclusion in curriculum + infusing statistics] 

  1. AP Lab 5 – Cell Respiration 

[Novice Teachers: Pages 47-54, Clarifying the Lab Experience] 

[Experienced Teachers: Alternative Labs + Lessons (Carbo Races + Algae Beads); Inclusion in curriculum + infusing statistics] 

  1. Algae Growth Labs – Zoom meeting 

 Exit Ticket: Dissolved Oxygen Challenge Lab Questions 


Day 3  

Morning Session 

  1. AP Lab 6 – Photosynthesis 

[Novice Teachers: Pages 47-54, Clarifying the Lab Experience] 

[Experienced Teachers: Alternative Labs + Lessons (Algae Beads); Inclusion in curriculum + infusing statistics] 

  1. Teaching the Course – Reviewing Instructional Approaches 

[Novice Teachers: Pages 91-95, Instructional Approaches] 

[Experienced Teachers: Design and Plan an entire Unit] 

  1. Unit 4 – Cell Communication and Cell Cycle (Cell Signaling) 
  1. Thematic Approaches to Information Flow – Biological information flow as an organizing theme.  Mouse Trap signal transduction demonstration: Games biology students can play 
  1. Cancer as a powerful thematic teaching tool 
  1. Labs and Activities –  AP Lab 7 discussion + demonstration; (Growth Factor Measurement Challenge + Termite Behavior)  
  1. Teacher Options: Supplemental Labs and Activities – 1. Biotechnology of information flow: Biorad Explorer ELISA Lab.  2. Carolina Meat Adulteration (Immunotechnology lab) 3. Touch (Homunculus) Lab  4. Neural Response Time Challenge Lab  5. Cognition Lab 
  1. Unit 5 – Genetics  
  1. REMINDER: Online Learning Initiative – Cognitive Tutor for Analytical Genetics (CTAG): a powerful independent study tool reinforcing thematic instruction 
  1. Genetics activities and problem-solving assignments 

Afternoon Session 

  1. AP Supports: AP Classroom + AP Daily (and other resources) 

Aligning Instruction to the AP Exam 

  1. Teaching for Understanding.  Teacher Unit Design. FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT FOCUS. 
  1. Using MYCLASSROOM: Formative assessment and modifying teaching strategies. 
  1. Teacher Planning: Units, labs, films, guests, etc. – balancing the burden 

[Novice Teachers: AP Classroom Basics + Formative vs Summative Assessments (Pages 175-186 review)] 

[Experienced Teachers: Connecting the Exam to the Curriculum (Pages 157- 163) + AP Daily + supplemental resources- plan a unit AND use AP Classroom to evaluate instructional strategies] 

  1. Unit 6 – Gene Regulation and Expression  
  1. AP Molecular Biology labs (discussion or performance) – TEACHER OPTION: Molecular Biology lab – A PCR forensic medicine ‘whodunit’.  Intro and initial DNA sampling.  Gel Electrophoresis of PCR products – forensic analysis review 
  1. Teaching Assessment:  James Bond Cellular Spy Challenge, Lupus Genetic Risk Challenge, Genetics Project Based Learning, Modeling Molecular Biology.  Teacher discussion of supporting activities (OPTIONAL): 
  1. DNA model formative assessment 
  1. D.N.A. biomath activity 
  1. PCR races game simulation 
  1. Lupus PCR lab activity 
  1. AP national labs 8 +9 – Recombinant DNA and Gel Analysis 
  1. The Science Practices: Teaching and Assessing Understanding, pages 129- 148 

[Novice Teachers: AP Classroom Basics] 

[Experienced Teachers: AP Daily + supplemental resources- plan a unit AND use AP Classroom to evaluate instructional strategies] 

  1. Unit 7 (Natural Selection) 
  1. Quantification skill reinforcement – HWC phenomena calculations. 
  1. Artificial selection – AP lab 1 review/discussion 
  1. HWC phenomena modeling and interpretation – AP Lab 2 discussion 
  1. Evidence of phylogeny relationships – AP Lab 3 BLAST discussion. 
  1. (Optional) Evolution of Skittles activity 
  1. (Optional) Lab Aids 92 – Immunology and Evolution kit (phylogeny determination) 
  1. Evolution songs 

Exit Ticket – HWC FRQ challenge question 


 Day 4  

Morning Session 

  1. Unit 8 – Ecology 
  1. Each Day on Planet Earth – entering the 6th mass extinction phase 
  1. Aquatic Productivity Formative Assessment Challenge 
  1. Scaffolding skills through ecology– Reinforcing science process through inquiry-based labs and creative activities:  (OPTIONAL) 1. “Paper Towel Efficiency” 2. “Pollution Assessment Lab Competition” 3. “Environmental Influence on Algal Populations” 4. “Pesticide Effects on Microbes” 5. “Fantastic Farmers” 6. “Smoke Product Effects on Yeast Survivorship” 7. “Human Life Tables and Survivorship Analysis” 
  1. AP Lab 10 – Energy Dynamics discussion 
  1. AP Lab 12Behavior 
  1. Instructional Planning Report (IPR) – Reflecting on teacher/student performance 

[Novice Teachers: Assessing Student Understanding (pages 187-200) + AP Course Audit and Curricular Requirements + AP Teacher Community] 

[Experienced Teachers: Reflecting on your IPR – Reverse Engineering your course + AP Teacher Community and Additional Resources] 

  1. Designing Your Course – Mapping a semester 
  1. Teacher Lesson Sharing – Sharing the Burden 

[Novice Teachers: Share a favorite lesson or instructional strategy/resource] 

[Experienced Teachers: Favorite AP instructional strategy/resource]   

  1. APSI Wrap-Up: What did we learn?  What are the critical lessons? Teacher Choice – Review or Novel activities? 



 Thematic Teaching and the New AP Curriculum  

-Energetics/Development/DNA/Cancer/Regenerative Medicine as powerful organizing themes.     

 Science Process and Curricular Inquiry Infusion 

-Introductory unit to AP Bio or pre-AP courses:  The Nature of Science (and Science Process) as an organizing theme.   

 (A) Teacher Options: Discussion/lecture/demos of the use of conditional argument forms to reveal the philosophy and nature of science process.  Analogy of court room process: theories cannot be proven, but can be discounted.  Review of classroom strategies to reinforce application of conditional arguments, including Evolution/creationism/ID debate (Nova, Judgment Day, etc. curricular application). 

 (B) The nature of uncertainty, the practice of science, data interpretation, and the power and utility of statistics.  Demo/discussion of powerful class activities, including 1. “X-Files: Paranormal Investigation” 2.  “Paper Towel Analysis” 3. “Bubbleology” performance and interpretation 4. “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” homework review.    Review of videos serving to reinforce science investigation and the power of critical thinking.   

 (C) Discussion-  Further means of infusing statistics into AP activities:  

 Using stats in the classroom and in assessment.  ANOVA, t-test, Dunnett’s test, and Chi-square review 

 TEACHER OPTION: Physiology Phun!  The anatomy and physiology of organisms can serve as a natural model for systems analysis, a relevant ‘hook’ for any student, and a powerful means of reinforcing evolutionary and biochemical themes.  

(A) Plants – Slow Motion Creatures!   

  1. The Plant Game: growth strategies in response to the environment.
  2. Fantastic Farmers: Team competition.
  3. FF: Form and Function Challenge Slides.
  4. Environmental/Evolution Influence on Plant Form and Function.

 (B) Animalia – Comparative Anatomy and Physiology  

  1. Planaria behavior.
  2. Star Trek dissection discovery!
  3. 3.  Animal embryology/development.

(C)  Human Physiology 

  1. Heart rate influence.
  2. Human respiratory capacities.
  3. Homunculus Man/sensory mapping.  
  4. Neural response time.
  5. Muscle madness!  Chicken Little.
  6. Human center of gravity.
  7. Meat Adulteration Kit: Immunology techniques (Carolina). 
  8. Tracking of an Outbreak – BIORAD ELISA lab.
  9. 9. Medical Rounds: House presents!

(D) Teaching assessment – 1. authentic assessment of teacher investigative techniques, measurement, and analysis.  2. Lupus PCR analysis  3. Plant Form + Function Challenge.  4. Statistical analysis of physiology labs. 

 TEACHER OPTION: Tissue Engineering/Regenerative Medicine (TERM) as a powerful unifying theme. 

(A) TERM: Developmental biology and the application to biomedicine. 

(B) Tissue Engineering: the revolution unfolds, connections to a life science curriculum. 

(C) The TE triangle: the basics of regenerative medicine. 

(D) Stem cells: the hype and hope. 

(E) Stem cell seeding efficiency challenge data collection + analysis. 

(F) Bone Engineering competition. 

(G) Cardiovascular engineering: scaffold synthesis and characterization. 

(H) TERM wrap-up: life science connections and new frontiers.  2. STS: Bioethics and societal implications.   

 Engaging students in exciting/rewarding AP assessment 

(A) The Review Game: assessment can be fun! 

(B) Further games: GLAND, NEURO, and HEART.  Biology Trivial Pursuit. 

(C) Testing strategies. 

(D) Unifying themes recognition. 

(E) Teaching assessment: Development Challenge, TERM strategies, Final Project: Design a unit. 

 (D) TEACHER OPTIONS – Yeast/bacteria experimental models and inquiry: 1. Environmental Toxicity Analysis  2.  Discussion of Yeast Mutagenesis. 

 (E) Teaching assessment – 1. Authentic assessment of teacher investigative techniques, measurement, and analysis: Pollution Analysis Lab Competition.  2. Gilligan’s Island Survivor competition: energy flow unifying themes.  3.  Old AP Lab 12: designing challenge and thematic questions. 

(F) The Inquiry Matrix – a preview of future AP curricula.  Modifying traditional labs + incorporating the new AP labs.  Modeling an Inquiry Classroom. 

 Dropbox links and other resources: 

 APSI teacher resources: 

 Teacher AP Biology folder link: 

 Bio 1 site: 

 Beyond Bead Biology Lab Manual: 

 Copied articles for review (HUGE repository of articles spanning life science): 

 Good student reports: 

 Misc PPts: 

 PJAS (MANY student projects ppts, etc.  excellent resource): 

 Teacher share site (many repeats from teacher AP folder):