The Science Department offers Upper School students courses in the fields of biology, chemistry, and physics. In the study of each of these disciplines, scientific inquiry, creative problem-solving, mathematical analysis, and scientific writing are emphasized. Students work in collaborative teams designing, conducting, and reporting on laboratory, field, and research investigations. Students use traditional lab equipment as well as electronic probes and sensors, graphing calculators, and computer software when collecting and analyzing experimental data. Intensive level classes in biology, chemistry, and physics allow students to pursue topics in greater depth and require a higher level of independent problem-solving. As scientific literacy is a principal goal of the Department, connections to current issues are woven into the curriculum of each course.
Students in Biology develop critical thinking skills and an ability to apply the scientific method through inquiry-based and teacher-directed labs, small group activities, and student and teacher presentations. Students learn how to use spreadsheets and graphing software for data analysis and how to write formal lab reports. Content covered includes: experimental design; the characteristics of living things; cell structure, function, and reproduction; DNA biology; genetics and evolutionary biology; and ecology and ecosystem functions. Note: This course is also offered in an Intensive format.
Chemistry is designed for sophomores and juniors who have strong algebra skills. It has a laboratory-based curriculum intended to give students a working knowledge of general inorganic chemistry. Topics explored include: the properties of matter; problem solving using dimensional analysis; atomic structure; chemical nomenclature; writing, balancing, and predicting the products of chemical reactions; the mole concept; stoichiometry; the quantum model of atoms; chemical bonding; molecular structure; acid-base chemistry; radioactivity; and the behavior of gases. Note: This course is also offered in an Intensive format. Prerequisites: Biology for all sections; plus Algebra II for Intensive sections.
Physics is designed for juniors and seniors and explores motion through the use of laboratory and problem-solving activities. The course begins with a thorough study of Newtonian mechanics, including one- and two-dimensional kinematics, forces, work, energy, and momentum. Simple harmonic motion (waves), optics, electricity, and magnetism are explored in the second semester, as time allows. Strong math and problem-solving skills are required. Note: This course is also offered in an Intensive format. Prerequisites: Chemistry and Algebra II.
This course is offered to juniors and seniors. A seminar-style course with a lab and field component, Environmental Science challenges students not only to understand environmental issues, but to take action in order to create change. Students spend the first semester investigating basic ecology in order to understand global environmental concerns. During the second semester, students apply their knowledge to local environmental issues, working with local and state government and nonprofit organizations. Readings for the course are taken from current periodicals, scientific journals, and selected texts. Outside speakers and field trips to local ecosystems are aspects of the course. Topics in the first semester include: how to research and understand environmental issues, organization of the environment, flow of energy and matter, biogeochemical cycles, ecological pyramids, tolerance curves, and an introduction to population dynamics. Topics in the second semester include: understanding human attitudes and behavior toward the environment, land and water use, energy use and alternative energy, global climate change, and research into a variety of current environmental issues. Prerequisites: Biology; completion of Chemistry is highly encouraged.
This is a field- and laboratory-based course. Topics covered during the first semester include the ocean as an ecological and biological environment, ecology of rocky and sandy intertidal environments, macroscopic and microscopic algae, and the simpler invertebrates. During the second semester, students study the more complex invertebrates, marine fish, deep-sea biology, and the biology of marine birds, marine reptiles, and mammals. This course includes trips to rocky and sandy shore sites in the area and lab work involving a marine aquarium. Additionally, students participate in several ongoing field-based research projects as well as investigating a number of case studies focused on ocean health. Note: This course is open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Prerequisite: Biology.
This course is offered to seniors who are interested in studying the physics of the universe and its components. The curriculum uses a combination of laboratory activities, problem-solving techniques, research projects, online data sources, computer charting software, and field trips as tools for exploring the dynamic field of astronomy. Topics covered include: the motions of celestial bodies, electromagnetic radiation, stars and stellar evolution, black holes, pulsars, relativity, and other topics in cosmology and modern physics, including the origin and fate of our universe. Note: This course is open to seniors only. Prerequisites: Physics and Precalculus.
This course is designed for seniors with strong science skills. Topics covered in depth include: biochemistry, the cell, bioenergetics, DNA biology (principally as it applies to humans), microbiology, evolution, and population genetics. Special topics include the biology of stem cells, the biology of disease (including the flu, HPV, and cancer), the evolution of sexual reproduction and human races, and a look at intelligent design. Readings include material from Biology, Neil Campbell; Genome, Matt Ridley; and Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond. Laboratory experiments include college-level and Advanced Placement investigations. Note: This course is open to seniors only. Prerequisites: Biology and Chemistry.