Science

The core science sequence encompasses a three-year, inquiry-based program designed to foster the spirit of curiosity and encourage the ongoing pursuit of scientific knowledge.

The goal of the course work is to develop a conceptual framework that students can use to investigate a variety of disciplines. The courses are integrated in that concepts and skills introduced in ninth grade Conceptual Physics are reinforced in tenth grade Chemistry and applied to living systems in eleventh grade Biology.

The advanced electives present an opportunity for students to apply their fundamental knowledge of science to a particular area of interest. The ultimate goal is for students to possess sufficient knowledge and confidence to explore the ramifications of modern science in their lives. 

The Science Department’s mission is to see each student develop the ability to:

  • Explore the process of science
  • Examine how models and theories are formed, communicated, tested and changed
  • Increase awareness of current areas of research and testing of theories
  • Be scientifically literate
  • Appreciate and understand the science in their everyday lives
  • Apply their understanding of a set of basic scientific principles to new concepts
  • Build confidence in their ability to learn science and be willing to think about science on their own
  • Read newspaper or magazine articles involving science and be able to understand and willing to think about them
  • Differentiate between what makes intuitive sense and what really happens
  • Participate in scientific experimentation by doing hands-on learning activities, inquiry based experiments, and student-led demonstrations
  • Gain a deep understanding of concepts
  • Learn material in depth
  • Implement concepts rather than memorize content
  • Prepare for advanced science courses at both the high school and college level.

Click on any course name below to learn more.


Science Core Courses

The Conceptual Physics course covers topics related to sound, light, collisions, projectiles, and electricity and magnetism. Lab work is the primary focus of instruction. Students use their results to develop mental models about how the world works. In addition to traditional problems, students are expected to write about physical concepts and apply what they have learned to real world situations. Students also learn how to evaluate the scientific claims of others. This course collaborates with the music department in studying sound and with the fine arts department in studying light and color.

Prerequisite(s): Conceptual Physics

Chemistry aims to develop students’ understanding of the particulate nature of matter, and of the changes in matter and energy that occur during chemical reactions. We will build on many of the skills (like making mental models) developed in Conceptual Physics. Topics that will be covered in this course include matter, atomic structure, the periodic table, chemical bonding, chemical reactions, stoichiometry, gases, thermochemistry, solids, liquids, solutions, acids and bases, electrochemistry, and organic chemistry.  Students interested in preparing for AP Chemistry will also study additional periodic trends, molecular geometry of molecules with expanded octets, percent composition, spontaneity, and weak acid/base models.

Prerequisite(s): Chemistry

Biology is a college preparatory lab course. It aims to develop students’ understanding of the fundamental characteristics of life at both the cellular and organismal levels. This course will build on students’ understanding of physics and chemistry as we explore the science of living things. Through an exploration of biochemistry, cells, and genetics, students learn how molecules and energy combine to form and direct all life, and apply these lessons to the study of 2-3 physiological systems in the human body.  As the class studies evolution, students learn how the logical consequences of differential survival and inherited traits produce the vast diversity of species. We conclude the year with the study of ecology, investigating the complexities of these species’ interactions. 

This course has a heavy emphasis on student-led investigations, the process of science, and experiential learning. As this course builds on students’ prior science learning, there is an emphasis on continuity and the integration of key themes such as the relationship between structure and function and interdependence in nature.

Science Elective Courses

Prerequisite(s): Algebra II, Biology, Chemistry, and Department Approval  

The goal of the AP Biology course is to develop a broad understanding of living organisms and biological systems, and the skills and practices necessary to interpret biological data and evaluate evidence. It is divided into eight units: Chemistry of Life, Cell Structure & Function, Cellular Energetics, Cell Communication and Cell Cycle, Heredity, Gene Expression and Regulation, Natural Selection, and Ecology.This course is designed to be equivalent to a typical first-year college general biology course, and to prepare students for the AP Biology Exam. Thus, students will be expected to work independently outside of class-time, and significant amounts of homework will be assigned.

AP Biology is a quantitative course. Although neither Statistics nor Pre-Calculus are co-requisite, students not concurrently enrolled in one of these or a higher-level math class should anticipate some additional math work outside of class time. This course requires a significant amount of laboratory work, and it may be necessary to schedule some after school laboratory sessions.

Please Note: AP courses may require additional meeting times throughout the year.

Prerequisite(s): Precalculus (or concurrent enrollment in Precalculus), Chemistry, and Department Approval

The goal of the AP Chemistry course is to develop an in-depth understanding of the relationship between submicroscopic atomic/molecular structure and the macroscopic (observable) properties of matter. It is divided into nine units: Atomic Structure & Properties, Molecular & Ionic Compound Structure & Properties, Intermolecular Forces & Properties, Chemical Reactions, Kinetics, Thermodynamics, Equilibrium Acids & Bases, and Applications of Thermodynamics. This course is designed to be equivalent to a typical first-year college general chemistry course, and to prepare students for the AP Chemistry Exam. Thus, students will be expected to work independently outside of class-time, and significant amounts of homework will be assigned.

AP Chemistry is a heavily quantitative course. In May and June (after the AP exam), juniors in the class will work on one or more fun, chemistry-related topics outside the scope of the AP curriculum. This course requires a significant amount of laboratory work, and it may be necessary to schedule some after school laboratory sessions.

Please Note: AP courses may require additional meeting times throughout the year.

Open to: 10, 11, 12
Prerequisite(s): Algebra I

AP Computer Science is a college level course that teaches students how to program in the Java language, and students will be prepared to take the AP Computer Science in Java Exam in May. Topics include program design and implementation, algorithm analysis, standard data structures, and object-oriented programming design. Assignments will emphasize programming methodology with an emphasis on problem solving and algorithm development, with the assistance of the textbook and online resources. 

Students don’t need prior knowledge of a computer programming language to do well in the class, especially if they have strong problem solving skills. However, many students elect to take AP Computer Science Principles first.

Please Note: AP courses may require additional meeting times throughout the year.

Open to: 10, 11, 12

Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles offers a multidisciplinary approach to computer science, using coursework developed at UC Berkeley. The course will introduce students to programming using the language Snap! Major ideas include abstraction, control structures, list processing, data science, networking, security, the impact of technology on society, ethics, and digital literacy. AP Computer Science Principles students use technology to address real-world problems and build relevant solutions. Students submit an independent programming project to the College Board in addition to the standard multiple choice exam. The course’s rigorous and rich curriculum aims to broaden participation in computer science, while maintaining a strong foundation in theory.

This is an introductory course. Students do not need prior programming experience, or math experience beyond Algebra I.
Please Note: AP courses may require additional meeting times throughout the year.

Prerequisite(s): Conceptual Physics, Chemistry, and Biology; Department Approval for AP

Environmental Science is the study of the natural world and human interactions within it. The course is interdisciplinary, building on concepts in physics, chemistry, biology, earth science, and mathematics. The general scope of the course is investigating how the earth works, how living things interact on earth, the impacts that humans have on their environment, and the choices available to humans today regarding how we will treat our environment in the future. Common topics include geology, ecology, oceanography, natural disasters, agriculture, endangered species and extinctions, renewable and non-renewable energy, global climate change, environmental laws and policy, environmental ethics, human population growth and resource use, and international environmental issues. 

The course includes weekly labs and hands-on activities, ongoing current events presentations and a long-term, independent research project. Students are also expected to go out into the environment; there will be a number of field trips throughout the year.

Please Note: Students may choose to take this course as an AP class. AP students should expect formal lab reports and written assignments and more challenging tests and quizzes. AP courses may require additional meeting times throughout the year.

Prerequisite(s): Conceptual Physics, AP Calculus, AB or BC (or concurrent enrollment in AP Calculus, AB or BC) and Department Approval
This deep and narrow course in Newtonian Mechanics covers momentum, energy, projectile motion, rotation, oscillation, and gravitation. The course is focused on exploring natural physical phenomena and solving problems, especially those involving calculus. It is designed to contain the same course material as the typical calculus-based introductory physics course and laboratory program offered at many colleges and universities. Students examine many real world problems that would otherwise be too difficult to solve by other means. 

Please Note: AP courses may require additional meeting times throughout the year.

Open to: 9

This course exposes students to the fundamentals and history of computer science. This includes cryptography, logic, number theory, the structure and parts of a computer, networking, graph and automaton theory, pathfinding and navigation, linguistics, and AI. We see how ancient computing systems led to the modern computer, take apart computers, build a model CPU out of gate logic circuitry, debate ethics and current events, probe the school’s and students’ home networks, play offline social games to simulate network problems, sail to Monkey Island, and more.

Instead of introductory programming, this course provides a rich variety of activities in computer science, often games, puzzles, and projects. This provides a strong foundation for computer science study in high school and beyond, and exposes students to the subdisciplines that make up modern computer science.

Students do not need any prior programming experience. Foundations of Computer Science can be followed by AP Computer Science Principles, AP Computer Science A, and/or Robotics & Engineering.
Please Note: This is an introductory course open to all ninth graders, which must be taken in lieu of Past in the Present (ninth grade history). It includes a research paper on the ethics of facial recognition technology, which corresponds to an equivalent project in Past in the Present.

Open to: 12
Prerequisite(s): Biology, Chemistry

This is a lab-based course in which students investigate the structure and function of the human body, learning how their own bodies work and in developing “body literacy” that will serve them throughout their lives. Body systems studied will vary based on student interest but may include the nervous system, the musculoskeletal system, the cardiovascular system, the respiratory system, the endocrine system, the urinary system, the digestive system, the immune system, and the male and female reproductive systems. Dissections may feature heavily in the lab portion of this class, so students should consider their comfort with that when enrolling. Students will conclude the year by investigating the physiology of a particular disease of interest as well as the medical and social implications of this disease. This is an ideal course for students interested in pursuing a clinical health career such as medicine, nursing, dentistry, pharmacy, or physical therapy.

Open to: 10, 11, 12Prerequisite(s): Algebra I
Students will build skills related to robotics, computer programming, machine learning, artificial intelligence and important engineering concepts. Students will be introduced to robotics and Java programming by participating in the First Technology Challenge (FTC) and building robots from reusable build kits, powered by Android technology, and programmed using Java-based programming languages. Tinkering and curiosity will be emphasized and encouraged with new technologies like Raspberry Pis and Arduinos, where students will collaborate and write software programs to add new functionality like driving motors, writing to LED displays, monitoring sensors and controlling speakers and microphones. Important engineering concepts will be engineering design process, project management and the importance of learning from mistakes.

Students don’t need prior programming knowledge, although most students will be introduced to at least some programming. Those students with prior programming knowledge will also have the opportunity to do more extensive programming tasks.

Click here to see the complete Curriculum Map.

Biology Experiment: Measuring caloric content of food