Science Course Descriptions


MS Science 8  (319)

As noted in the Interdisciplinary Offerings, the curriculum for the 8th grade, especially English, History, and Science focuses on three themes: Knowing the Self, Investigating the Past and Understanding the Community, and use the Hudson Valley as a learning laboratory (Place-Based Learning) to explore these ideas.

Introduction to Sciences 336 or 1336

(Typically taken freshman year)

Introduction to Physical and Biological Sciences covers the foundations of measurement, the scientific method and laboratory skills as the students explore topics in biology, chemistry and physics throughout the year. The biology unit covers a variety of topics in plant and animal anatomy and physiology, and the fundamental concepts behind evolution. The chemistry and physics units explore the core ideas of matter, energy and interaction. This course is structured to develop critical thinking skills as well as independent and group problem solving skills.

Freshman Physics (beginning in fall 2017)

Freshman physics follows a modeling approach in which the students actively participate in the process of scientific inquiry. Major concepts are introduced with paradigm labs where students measure observable quantities, extract key relationships between the variables, and develop models to understand the observed phenomena. Multiple representations – schematic, graphical, and mathematical — are developed, which together define the models. Students regularly work in teams and both present and defend their work amongst each other. The curriculum includes kinematics, dynamics, energy, gravitation, wave phenomena, and simple electrical circuits, in addition to other topics, as time permits.

Chemistry 302 or 1302

(typically taken sophomore year)

Chemistry is the study of matter, energy and the interactions between them. This course covers the basic principles of chemistry including atomic theory, the periodic table, chemical reactions, the phases and behavior of matter, organic molecules, equilibria, acid-base theory, and some concepts of nuclear chemistry. Laboratory safety and techniques are emphasized in all experimental activities. This course is structured to develop critical thinking skills as well as independent and group problem solving skills.

Biology  301 o 1301

(typically taken junior or senior year)

Biology is the study of life itself. It has become the preeminent science of the 21st century. Advances in genetics and biotechnology have begun to allow humans to manipulate life to suit our needs. In this course we will study the things all life has in common, how life is passed down from generation to generation, how species change over time, and how life interacts with the environment. We are learning more than ever about life on Earth, including how we can shape its destiny.

Environmental Science 304

(senior elective)

This course seeks to investigate the science behind the major environmental issues of today. Students evaluate and discuss environmental resources from the Storm King School and the Black Rock Forest research facility to understand the issues, problems and possible solutions motivating current trends in environmental science.

Physics 303

(junior or senior elective)

The scientific field of physics has been central in the development of modern civilization, from common conveniences to advanced technologies to our understanding of our place in the Universe, and it will continue to lead us to new discoveries yet to be imagined. The focus of this course is (a) to develop an understanding of the key principles of classical and modern physics, and (b) to learn about the historical/philosophical contexts and some of the key events and figures in the history of physics. This course is part conceptual, describing physics principals qualitatively and descriptively, and part quantitative, learning how to calculate the behavior of objects and materials.

Conceptual Physics 1303

This course is similar to Physics, above, and is offered in the ASP program.

AP Physics 1

(Junior or senior elective, prerequisite: Algebra II)

AP Physics 1 is a full-year course equivalent to a typical first-semester, introductory, college-level, algebra-based physics course.  In this course, students are empowered to develop a deep understanding of physics concepts through the use of student-centered, inquiry-based instructional practices. AP Physics 1 is organized around six big ideas that bring together the fundamental science principles and theories of general physics.  These big ideas are intended to encourage students to think about physics concepts as interconnected elements that describe how the real world around them works. The course also focuses on seven scientific practices that are based on essential skills required to conduct scientific investigations. Approximately one fourth of the class time is devoted to lab investigations to gain a more conceptual understanding of the underlying physics. The course is designed for students to spend less of their time in traditional formula-based learning, and for more of their effort to be directed to developing critical thinking and reasoning skills. AP Physics is a demanding course that requires 4-5 hours of homework per week in addition to some work over the holidays.

AP Physics C (Mechanics) and Astronomy 331 (offered alternate years)

(Junior or senior elective, requires prior or concurrent enrollment in AP Calculus)

The science of physics and astronomy has played a profound role in human civilization from the ancient Greeks to modern times. Physics is at the heart of virtually all modern technology, and also provides the foundation for our understanding of the world. Within the field of astronomy, recent discoveries have dramatically changed our view of the origin and fate of the Universe. The focus of this course is (a) to develop an in-depth understanding of the principles and mathematics of classical physics (mechanics) in preparation for the AP Physics C exam, (b) to practice experimental data acquisition, analysis and reporting, and (c) to learn about fundamentals of astronomy and cosmology. Popular spreadsheet software will be used for data analysis, and several formal lab reports will be required. Calculus will be used throughout the course to gain a thorough understanding of concepts and to prepare students for college level courses. AP Physics is a demanding course that requires 4-5 hours of homework per week in addition to some work over the holidays.

AP Biology 320

(junior or senior elective)

AP Biology prepares students to carry out scientific investigations and to develop advanced inquiry and reasoning skills, and covers the “big ideas” of evolution, energy, information, and interaction within the living world. Students will explore experimental design, data collection and data analysis while conducting twelve laboratory exercises throughout the year. AP Biology is equivalent to a two-semester college introductory biology course, and pacing will be faster and less flexible than regular courses in order to cover all the required content. There will typically be 4-5 hours of homework per week, and several weekend classes may be required.

Introduction to Computer Science 335

(elective, typically taken by sophomores or juniors)

Intro Computer Science introduces the student to a number of topics within computer science including computer programming in Java and the use of microcontrollers. The course begins with an exploration of computer architecture, the fundamentals of data representation in computer memory, and rudimentary website design. The Java programming language is introduced in a graphical environment where students learn about the basic language syntax and structure, and develop their ability to think algorithmically. During the latter half of the year, students are introduced to simple electrical circuits and microcontrollers, which are used to interface with hardware components such as LED’s, servos, and speakers, and sensors to measure light, sound, temperature, touch, and motion. Students must have access to a computer (Windows or Mac) for class work and homework assignments.

AP Computer Science 330

(junior or senior elective)

AP Computer Science is both a college-prep course for potential computer science majors and a foundation course for students planning to study in not only other technical fields such as engineering, physics, and chemistry, but also many other fields that may require an awareness of programming concepts. This course places an emphasis on the application of standard Java programming methodology and object-oriented analysis and design practices. Students will become adept at applying the concepts of inheritance, encapsulation, abstraction, and polymorphism to solving real-world problems in computer science. A detailed examination of several case study programs serves as an introduction to Java building blocks and provides a solid foundation for success in the AP Computer Science Exam. AP Computer Science is a highly demanding course that requires 4-5 hours of homework per week in addition to some work over holidays. Students must have a laptop computer (Windows or Mac) that can be brought to class every day.