The Science Department strives to nurture a spirit of inquiry as we guide students in the study of the natural and physical sciences. Engaging in field and laboratory work and studying scientific literature enriches their study of the natural world. We explore the history of science and consider the implications of science in modern life. Students develop their analytical thinking skills as they learn to apply the scientific method.
Students generally enroll in Biology in 9th grade and Chemistry in 10th grade and Physics in 11th grade (see below for levels). In cases where students may not feel confident about their level of science or mathematics preparation, Conceptual Physics can be taken first followed by Biology and Chemistry. Science electives and AP classes are available to 12th graders who would like the opportunity to continue their studies in science. These courses are also available to 11th grade students who have satisfied the necessary prerequisites and are recommended by the science department faculty. Electives may be open to grades beyond 11th and 12th grade; please see course descriptions for details.
open to grade 9
The general biology course covers a broad range of biological topics. Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is the foundation of the course and the tie that binds topics in biochemistry, cellular biology, molecular biology, genetics, anatomy and physiology, biodiversity, and ecology. In addition to these concepts, there is a strong study skills component as it applies to the study of science. Both semesters end with a non-cumulative semester exam. Learning to take notes, use the textbook effectively, and write scientifically are stressed. Placement in this class is dependent upon recommendations from middle school science teachers in consult with the Freshman Class Dean.
The honors biology course is designed for students with a strong background in laboratory-based science and an interest in the natural world. Topics covered are similar to general biology (biochemistry, cellular biology, molecular biology, genetics, anatomy and physiology, biodiversity, and ecology), but are introduced in greater depth and with more analytical detail. Along with a strong background in science, students should have strong reading, analytical, and mathematical skills. Both semesters end with a cumulative semester exam. Placement in this class is dependent upon recommendations from middle school science teachers in consult with the Freshman Class Dean.
AP Biology is an advanced-level course designed to offer a solid foundation in introductory college-level biology. The first semester includes exploration of population and community ecology, cellular biology and Mendelian and modern genetics. The second semester includes molecular biology, evolutionary theory, animal behaviour and a survey of plant and animal life histories. Laboratory work complements all the major topics investigated throughout the year. Investigations of photosynthesis, cellular respiration, enzyme activity, molecular biology, bacterial transformation and cladistics are just a few of the many laboratory investigations undertaken. This course prepares students for the Advanced Placement Exam in Biology. All students enrolled must take the AP exam. Prerequisites: Biology and Chemistry and permission of department chair are required; Prerequisite or Co-requisite: Physics
open to grade 11
This year-long course is an introduction to the science of chemistry. Inorganic and physical chemistry topics are the primary focus of the course. Examples include acid and base chemistry, chemical nomenclature, stoichiometry, solutions and states of matter. Organic, nuclear and environmental chemistry is covered on a smaller scale. A significant portion of time is spent in the lab where students learn how to problem solve, draw conclusions from experimental data and, apply principles learned in class and in their reading. Prerequisite: Biology or permission of department chair, Algebra 1.
This year-long course, for students with a strong background and interest in science and mathematics, covers a syllabus similar to Chemistry, but in greater depth and more mathematical detail. Additional topics such as electrochemistry, organic chemistry, nuclear chemistry, and mathematical treatments of equilibrium and acid-base chemistry are covered. This course involves a significant amount of laboratory work. Students are expected to collect, analyze, and interpret scientific data and use their mathematical skills to understand the underlying chemical principles. Prerequisite: Biology and/or department chair permission. Co-requisite: Algebra II.
This second-year course provides an in-depth study of the topics covered in college general chemistry: elements, compounds, and chemical reactions; properties of gases, liquids, solids, and solutions; chemical equilibrium (including acid-base chemistry); thermodynamics; electrochemistry and oxidation/reduction reactions; chemical kinetics; and an introduction to modern theories of atomic and molecular structure. In this course, students are taught the foundations of chemistry from a mathematical framework, including the important relationships between kinetics, thermodynamics, and equilibrium. This course prepares students for the Advanced Placement Exam in Chemistry. All students enrolled must take the AP exam. Prerequisites: Chemistry and Physics and permission of the department chair are required; prerequisite or co-requisite: Physics.
open to grade 11 and 12
Physics is a year-long introductory physics course. Students learn the central role of the concepts of force and energy in explaining and mathematically analyzing a wide range of types of motion. The same concepts are subsequently used to study such diverse phenomena as waves, electricity, and magnetism. Experimental data are used to test many of the mathematical models presented in class. Co-requisite: Algebra II; Pre-calculus is recommended.
AP PHYSICS 1
AP Physics 1 is a first year, algebra-based, honors-level introductory physics course featuring hands-on investigations in areas of mechanics, energy, waves, and electricity. The course is mathematically rigorous and will require students to understand and apply algebra and trigonometry in various settings in concert with a conceptual understanding of physics. This course prepares students for the AP Physics 1 exam in May. All students enrolled in this course must take the AP exam. Co-requisite: Honors Pre-calculus or recommendation from the math department chair.
AP PHYSICS 2
AP Physics 2 is a second year, algebra-based, honors-level physics course featuring hands-on investigations in areas of fluids, thermodynamics, electricity and magnetism, optics, and modern physics. While the course is mathematically rigorous and will require students to understand and apply algebra and trigonometry in various settings, this course is equally focused on students’ conceptual understanding of physics and students’ ability to construct an explanation for phenomena without referring to equations. This course prepares students for the AP Physics 2 exam in May. All students enrolled in this course must take the AP exam. Pre-requisite: completion of AP Physics 1 or recommendation of the 11th grade physics teacher.
In the Mathematics III course, students expand their repertoire of functions to include polynomial, rational, and radical functions. They also expand their study
of right-triangle trigonometry to include general triangles. And, finally, students bring together all of their experience with functions and geometry to create models and solve contextual problems. The courses in the Integrated Pathway follow the structure introduced in the K–8 grade levels of the California Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CA CCSSM); they present mathematics as a coherent subject and blend standards from different conceptual categories.
The standards in the integrated Mathematics III course come from the following conceptual categories: Modeling, Functions, Number and Quantity, Algebra, Geometry, and Statistics and Probability. The course content is explained below according to these conceptual categories, but teachers and administrators alike should note that the standards are not listed here in the order in which they should be taught. Moreover, the standards are not topics to be checked off after being covered in isolated units of instruction; rather, they provide content to be developed throughout the school year through rich instructional experiences.