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Animal Behaviour and Zoology

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Course Description

This is an honors class
This course explores the tremendous diversity of animal life and the interconnectedness of different animal species with each other and with humans. The first part of the course explores the classification and characteristics of all the animal phyla, with an emphasis on the evolution of animals and the adaptations that have allowed such diversity to flourish. The second part of the course focuses on many different animal behaviors (including human behavior). Students learn about different types of behaviors – from innate (genetic) behaviors to learned behaviors. The social interactions between animals will be covered in depth as we study courtship, aggression, altruism, and parental behaviors in animals. Students also discuss different careers in the animal sciences as a culminating activity, which should be of great interest to students who wish to pursue their love of animals as their professions. The course will utilize a number of interesting articles, discussions, virtual field trips, activities, videos, and projects to give a wider perspective of the animal kingdom and animal behavior.


Course summary

By the end of this course, students will:
  • Understand the history of the theory of evolution by natural selection.
  • Know how the environment affects the diversity of life and how organisms will adapt to environmental changes resulting in speciation.
  • Understand how organisms are classified using a phylogenetic approach.
  • Be able to classify animals into their appropriate phyla or class.
  • Know the value of good zoo design in maintaining a healthy animal population.
  • Be able to determine if a behavior is innate or learned.
  • Understand the differences between the different modes of learning, including classical conditioning, operant conditioning, insight learning and punishment.
  • Understand how learning theories are applied in animal training.
  • Be able to list the different types of social behaviors and understand the proximate and ultimate causation of these behaviors (the “how” and the “why” of these behaviors).
  • Be familiar with different careers in animal sciences and how to pursue those careers in their future


Course Dates

VHS courses follow an academic calendar and run for 15 weeks:

Fall 2017
Sept 6th – December 19th, 2017

Spring 2018
January 24th – May 8th, 2018


  • Successful completion of a full year of high school biology or equivalent


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Start Date Spring 2017

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