A conversation with members of the Class of 2017 on their STEM experiences at St. Andrew's
Albert Einstein once described science as "the attempt of the human mind to find connections between the world of ideas and the world of phenomena." The St. Andrew's Science Department strives to bring Einstein's definition of science to life in the minds and work of its students. Courses in biology, chemistry and physics expose students to the crucial observations and theories that constitute our fundamental understanding of the natural world. A tandem goals is lead students learn and experience the process by which scientists create, validate, revise and, in some cases, completely restructure this understanding.
Laboratory work is integral to all courses. As we guide our students through experiments that introduce them to new phenomena, demonstrate key concepts and challenge them to solve problems, we seek to demystify scientific inquiry by stimulating curiosity and enabling students to satisfy this curiosity through discovery. Throughout our courses we strive to teach students how to think and act like scientists and to nurture in them an appreciation of the natural world and an inclination to use their abilities in science to solve problems and act responsibly in society.
Teacher-guided discussion forms the basis for our courses, emphasizing careful observation, hypothesizing, questioning and reasoning. Weekly laboratory double periods accompany every major course. Computer technology is integrated into the curriculum, primarily in the form of computer-interfaced measurement probes and data analysis programs. Biology classes make frequent use of Noxontown Pond and the extensive woodlands and marshlands that surround the campus. Field studies are also conducted at nearby natural sites such as the Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge.
Students are required to earn three yearlong course credits in a laboratory science.
Open to III and IV Form students
As the first course in the departmental sequence, Biology is designed to equip students with scientific skills that they will continue to draw upon throughout their education. Particular emphasis is placed upon systematic observation and the formation and testing of scientific hypotheses. Students learn to be skeptical and to construct scientific explanations that are detailed, logical and supported by evidence. The course also seeks to stimulate student appreciation and concern for the natural world. Areas of primary conceptual focus include:
- energy transformation;
- human impacts on the environment; and
- the diversity and characteristics of species.
Each spring, students journey to nearby Lewes, Delaware to review research conducted at the University of Delaware's College of Marine Studies and to tour dune, beach and forest ecosystems at Cape Henlopen State Park. Texts:
- Hoagland, Dodson and Hauck, Exploring the Way Life Works: The Science of Biology;
- Johnson and Raven, Biology: Principles and Explorations;
- Jane Goodall, Through a Window; and
- Farley Mowat, Never Cry Wolf.
Open to VI Form students
Prerequisites: Biology and Chemistry
The aim of this advanced biology course is to more closely examine a range of topics in biology, with a thematic emphasis on the unity of life and life's molecular basis. Topics that recur throughout the year include:
- the structure-function relationship;
- the importance of energy; and
- the role of information.
In addition to its factual content, the course stresses rigorous scientific analysis and reasoning. Many lab investigations are student-designed and involve long-term, open-ended inquiry. Several labs closely follow the College Board's Advanced Placement recommendations. Text: Campbell, Reece and Mitchell, Biology: Concepts and Connections.
Open to VI Form students
This college-level course is intended to foster in its students the awareness and appreciation of the natural world and the interdependencies that exist within it. Students explore the natural environment and resources of the School and surrounding areas while becoming acquainted with the principles and methods used to examine environmental issues. Topics include:
- population dynamics;
- energy efficiency:
- climate change:
- food resources; and
The course includes visiting speakers, supplemental readings, investigations and labs drawn from college curricula, and a year-long independent project. Students make visits to nearby organizations and locales that provide insight into environmental issues, including a spray irrigation water treatment plant, a local cemetery and an organic farm. An overnight camping trip exposes students to the natural beauty of the Appalachian Mountains; students hike the Appalachian Trail and canoe on Antietam Creek. Students are prepared to sit for the Advanced Placement Environmental Science examination at the end of the year. Texts: Miller, Living in the Environment; McPhee, Encounters with the Archdruid, and supplemental readings.
Open to IV and V Form students
Prerequisite: Problem Solving in Algebra & Geometry
This course introduces students to the fundamentals of descriptive and theoretical chemistry. Emphasis is placed on how physical and chemical properties and processes may be explained in terms of the kinetic-molecular theory and the electronic structure of atoms. While this course stresses conceptual understanding, it also includes substantial treatments of chemical calculations and problem solving. Weekly laboratory work complements class discussions and demonstrations. The course syllabus generally reflects the breadth and depth of the College Board SAT Subject Test in Chemistry. Text: Russo and Silver, Introductory Chemistry, 2nd ed.
Open to V and VI Form students
Prerequisites: Honors Physics
Honors Chemistry applies the foundation of concepts, computational techniques, and laboratory practices students learn in Honors Physics to support their study of chemistry. The course begins with an introduction to descriptive and analytical chemistry through several weeks of laboratory work. Students here become familiar with important chemical properties and tools for uncovering patterns of chemical behavior and the laws that govern them. Laboratory work remains the central focus of the course as it recreates the empirical lines of evidence and creative reasoning from which modern chemical theory evolved during the 19th and 20th centuries. Students are challenged to construct their knowledge from their own experiments and collaborative discussions that utilize their prior knowledge of physics. Text: Brown et al., Chemistry: The Central Science, 10th ed.
Open to VI Form students
Prerequisite: Honors Chemistry and Honors Physics
This course offers students an opportunity to continue their study of chemistry at an advanced level by further exploring topics in physical and organic chemistry. The course is laboratory-centered with structured experiments that extend the students' experience with analytical techniques and instrumentation, followed by opened-ended projects that develop students' research skills. Text: Brown et al., Chemistry: The Central Science, 10th ed.
- Honors Physics
- Advanced Study in Physics (Algebra-Based)
- Advanced Study in Physics (Calculus-Based)
Open to IV, V, and VI Form students
Corequisite: Problem Solving in Geometry & Algebra II
In Physics, students discover the fundamental laws that govern nature through the process of inquiry—posing their own questions within an agreed-upon framework and conducting careful experiments to find their own answers. The class is taught using Modeling Instruction pedagogy, a research-based approach developed at Arizona State University. Students organize their knowledge according to a series of physical models which can be used to analyze and explain increasingly complex phenomena. This course also devotes significant time to helping students articulate the methods and results of their experiments to their peers in discussion, in writing, and in the models they create to explain the physical world. Text: Adapted from publically available Modeling Instruction materials.
Open to IV and V Form students
Corequisite: Honors Problem Solving in Algebra II & trigonometry
The Honors Physics curriculum is derived from a course developed by the Physical Science Study Committee (PSSC), a group first organized at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under the auspices of the National Science Foundation. This rigorous curriculum is coupled with the Modeling Instruction pedagogy used in Physics 1 to create a unique and research-based approach to teaching physics. Its strength resides in its guidance of students through experiments and conceptual constructions that require authentic scientific thinking and practice. Rather than asking students to memorize a catalogue of facts and equations, coursework is organized around a a series of physical models students use to explain and predict the structure and interactions of matter. Each student is called on to develop his or her abilities to analyze, infer, evaluate, synthesize and reason quantitatively from the results of his or her experimental work. Laboratories involve extensive use of computer-interfaced instrumentation. Text: Teacher-authored text inspired by Haber-Schaim et al., PSSC Physics.
Not Offered 2017-18
Open to VI Form students
This course explores college-level, algebra-based physics through work generally aligned with that of the new Advanced Placement Physics 1 curriculum. It focuses on the conservation principles of classical (Newtonian) mechanics (Conservation of Mass, Conservation of Charge, Conservation of Momentum and Conservation of Energy). Students’ understanding of elementary kinematics, dynamics, and energy conservation is strengthened with review of models and representations of the motion of individual objects and interactions between objects, and is then extended with explorations of projectile motion, oscillating motion (including pendulums, spring-mass systems and circular motion), orbital/planetary motion, and wave mechanics. Linear and angular momentum are introduced as conserved quantities that simplify the analysis of more complex motions of objects and systems of objects. Students review models and representations of energy conservation and learn additional forms of potential energy (including electric potential energy) and are introduced to electric circuits, emphasizing conservation of charge and conservation of energy in simple resistive circuits.
Beyond the AP Physics 1 curriculum, students may use the concepts of conservation of energy, mass, and charge to explore chemistry topics such as stoichiometry, reaction energetics and reaction rates, and may also study electric circuit analysis and wave mechanics. Text: Etkina, et al. College Physics.
Open to VI Form students
Prerequisite: Honors Physics
corequisite: AS Calculus BC
This course covers a calculus-based college-level physics curriculum, and includes explorations of mechanics, thermal physics, and electricity and magnetism. This course assumes a deep curiosity about physics and willingness to work on the part of the students. The course approaches the above topics by focusing on matter and its interactions at the atomic scale through students' creation and application of models. Toward this end, students learn V-Python, a powerful object-oriented computer-programming language that they use to model real physical systems. Students are prepared to sit for the Advanced Placement Physics examination, Level C. Text: Chabay and Sherwood, Matter and Interactions (vols. 1-2).
In this course, students are introduced to object-oriented program design using the Java computer programming language. Platforms for teaching Java may include BlueJ, Eclipse, and Sun’s native Java Development Kit. Through a project-based approach, students are led to a mastery of Java’s syntax, data types, and control structures. Course topics include arrays, lists, two-dimensional graphics, and basic Graphic User Interface (GUI) design.
Prerequisite: Computer Science 1
Students extend their knowledge of Java programming learned in Computer Science 1. The course begins with concepts of inheritance and polymorphism and continues through the study of interfaces and abstract classes. Course topics also include recursion, analysis of algorithms, data structures.
Students use case studies to pursue a more in-depth exploration of these concepts. Independent completion of all programming projects is encouraged and supported by student participation in the American Computer Science League.
Prerequisite: Computer Science 2
Students in this course explore a multitude of new programming languages and techniques in order to form a foundation on which to work collaboratively as a software development team in the latter part of the course. Students work together to develop a deliverable software package, solving problems as they arise and enhancing its features, using the language skills and programming techniques developed throughout their study of computer science at St. Andrew's.