Science Department Course Offerings
- BI311: Advanced Ecology
- BI312: Aquatic Sciences
- BI320: Accelerated Biology
- BI533: Pox and Pestilence
- BI591: Independent Tutorial in Biology
- BI592: Independent Tutorial in Biology
- BI830: AP Biology
- BI845: Honors Seminar in Biology I
- BI846: Honors Seminar in Biology II
- CH210: Chemistry
- CH220: Accelerated Chemistry
- CH230: Honors Chemistry
- CH830: AP Chemistry
- CH845: Honors Seminar in Chemistry I
- CH846: Honors Seminar in Chemistry II
- PH110: Physics
- PH120: Accelerated Physics
- PH130: Honors Physics
- PH740: AP Physics 2
- PH840: AP Physics C
- PH850: Honors Seminar in Physics
- SC501: Scientific Literacy in the 21st Century
- SC502: Scientific Ethics
- SC504: Forensic Science
- SC523: Adolescent Psychology
- SC541: Introduction to Engineering
- SC542: Introduction to Performance Engineering
- SC544: 3-D Design and Prototyping
- SC591: Independent Tutorial in Science
- SC592: Independent Tutorial in Science
- SC720: AP Psychology
- SC730: AP Environmental Science
Term: Semester 1
This one-semester course will allow for students with some background in biology or environmental science to dive deeper into questions around ecology. We will explore the dynamic interactions between organisms and their environment. There is a strong emphasis on a hands-on approach to learning ecology both inside and outside of the classroom. This will also function as an introductory field ecology course, where students will learn how to design inquiry-based projects to investigate some aspects of species interactions. The concept of a global change will also be a constant unifying theme throughout the course.
- Potential work with either/both White Memorial and/or Flanders Nature Center to collect data/work with local research scientists.
- Emphasis on lab-work over conventional tests
- Could handle students from a large range of experience because of how the inquiry-based projects will be designed (could take post reg Bio to post-AP Bio or APES kids)
Term: Semester 2
This introductory course will allow students an insight into the of our water systems. Students will study the basic properties of freshwater (limnology) and seawater (oceanography), the general categories of organisms along with their environmental and ecological relationships, and the impacts of humans on the world’s aquatic systems. The course includes hands-on laboratory activities, comparative anatomy, occasional field trips, among other cooperative group assignments.
- Entry fish tanks will be regularly incorporated into the course
- Local streams field trips + possibly a Woods Hole overnight field trip (have done this 4 times in the past)
- Emphasis more on practicals and projects over conventional tests
- Could handle students from a large range of experience (could take post reg Bio to post-AP Bio or APES kids)
This year-long laboratory course will build on students’ knowledge of physics and chemistry to explore topics common and fundamental to AP Environmental Science, AP Psychology, and AP Biology. As a natural and logical progression from general chemistry, students will investigate topics starting with the chemistry of life and move to higher levels of analysis. Topics will include cell biology; energy and metabolism; chromosomes, inheritance, and DNA; evolution; biodiversity; human body systems; and ecology. Effort will be made to connect these topics to current issues in science and society whenever possible. The course will culminate with a research project to further explore topics of interest and instill a curiosity about the world around us.
Though a series of different exercises including laboratory experiments, demonstrations, lectures, discussions, research projects, and group work, we hope that students will gain mastery in the six tenents of our Science Department Portrait of a Graduate.
Students should have completed chemistry before enrolling in this class.
Term: Semester 1
Pox and Pestilence is an interdisciplinary course that will examine the biology, history, and economics of human disease in the Old and New Worlds. Focusing on one disease at a time, this course will follow multiple learning threads: the biology of the diseases, the history of the disease outbreaks, the social context for the diseases, and the metamorphoses of these diseases through different time periods. This course will encourage the use of historical and epidemiological perspectives to understand the changing prevalence of disease in diverse settings. Students will research not only how a disease affects human communities physically, culturally, socially, and economically, but also how those human communities affect the disease itself. Pox and Pestilence will use a case study model that will utilize a variety of academic skills: lab work, document-based research, critical thinking, analytical reasoning, collaboration with peers, and oral and written communication. This course will also evaluate past attempts to prevent, contain, and control the diseases in different ecological, social, and political environments. Finally, we will look ahead at the predicted future of disease.
Advanced Placement Biology is a rigorous survey course providing an in-depth coverage of topic areas designed to prepare the student for future scientific study and the Advanced Placement Biology Examination. Students will be encouraged to actively engage in the process of learning by developing individual and group projects for class presentation requiring clear, purposeful and focused research and expression. The completion of AP Biology will not only effectively prepare students for the AP examination, but also allow for study in areas not prescribed in the Advanced Placement curriculum. AP Biology places a strong emphasis on laboratory data collection, analysis and reporting, which includes using the latest technologies available for the study of simple and complex biological systems. BI830 is open to students who have successfully completed BI320, CH220, or CH230. All must have departmental approval.
Term: Semester 1
This project-based course is intended to allow students to design and carry out their own experiments and to conduct collaborative research projects in three different units of study:
- Ecology and Conservation: We will investigate the dynamics of the ecosystems using actual data collected by scientists working in the Amazon rainforest, Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique, the Hudson River in New York, coral reefs in the Caribbean, and on our campus. This part of the course follows a curriculum developed in part by the American Museum of Natural History, where we will investigate current conservation issues and humans’ role in the recovery of ecosystems. Students will design a research project that, for example, may incorporate actual camera-trap data from the Amazon, Mozambique and Taft.
- Animal Behavior: Students will be introduced to the techniques to identify and describe animal behaviors from an evolutionary and applied context. We will discuss the concepts of the sociobiology of animals and humans, and students will conduct an animal behavior research project of their design.
- Anatomy: this unit is a survey into human anatomical systems from an evolutionary and physiological context, including comparative anatomy and dissection.
Students are encouraged to take both Honors Seminar in Biology courses, but may elect to take just the fall or the spring semester. Each student must have completed AP Biology as a prerequisite.
Term: Semester 2
The goal of this course is to continue the study of biology and further stoke students’ curiosity about the natural world. In this course, we will investigate the connection between molecular biology and biochemistry techniques that researchers use every day in the lab and the big questions that can be investigated using these powerful methods. Students will be guided through hands-on research in a small group format. The teacher will guide students as apprentices, and they will develop lab skills needed to work in a research internship or lab apprenticeship in the future. Specific topics of research will be determined by group interest and faculty expertise. Topics may include using protein analysis to determine evolutionary relationships between species, isolation of DNA from fish samples from local markets for PCR and DNA Barcoding analysis, investigation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), biochemistry of nutrition and fad diets, among others. The majority of class time will be spent actively engaged in laboratory exercises, and assessment will focus on lab notebooks, data analysis, and scientific writing. The culmination of each semester will include student presentations of independent research projects that will be presented publicly to the school via posters displayed in the Wu science building.
Students may elect to take just the fall or the spring semester, but each student must have completed AP Biology as a prerequisite.
This introductory course offers the student the fundamentals of chemistry and an opportunity to analyze modern environmental and biological problems from a chemical perspective. A conceptual understanding of chemistry is taught through lectures, demonstrations, laboratory experiments, and seminar discussions. A diversified study format includes problem-solving sessions, small group presentations, and small-scale research projects. This course will be considered for students who have completed PH110. All must have departmental approval.
This introductory chemistry course integrates a conceptual understanding with a mathematical approach to chemistry. Topics covered will include safety in the laboratory, matter, nomenclature, chemical reactions and composition, energy, atomic theory, chemical quantities, solids, liquids and gases, acids and bases, and equilibrium. This chemistry course is taught through lectures, demonstrations and laboratory experiments. Review sessions are offered several times a week. This course will be considered for students who have completed PH120 or PH130. All must have departmental approval.
This course is similar in scope to CH220 but will cover that material in greater depth and use a more mathematical approach. Middlers and Upper Middlers who have completed PH120 or PH130 and are advanced in mathematics will be considered for this course. All must have departmental approval.
Chemistry is "the central science" that provides an explanation of much of what occurs in our universe. It is fundamental to work in other sciences. As a continually developing science itself, significant applications of chemistry have inspired progress in biology, physics, medicine, geology, astronomy, environmental science, psychology, and other areas of science. The AP Chemistry course provides students with a college-level foundation to support future advanced course work in chemistry and other sciences. Students cultivate their understanding of chemistry through inquiry-based investigations, as they explore the Big Ideas of chemistry: atomic structure; intermolecular forces and bonding; chemical reactions; kinetics; thermodynamics; and equilibrium. The Big Ideas encompass core scientific principles, theories, and processes that cut across traditional boundaries and provide a broad way of thinking about the particulate nature of matter underlying the observations students will make about the physical world. Approximately one-quarter of the scheduled class time will engage students in lab investigations, several of which are inquiry-based. Students will establish lines of evidence and use them to develop and renew testable explanations and predictions of natural phenomena. All students will keep a lab notebook throughout the course. Completing laboratory reports in a variety of formats will allow students to develop skills in presentation as they work both independently and collaboratively on projects. CH830 is open to Middlers, Upper Middlers, and Seniors who have completed a one-year Physics course (PH120 or PH130 or equivalent) AND a one-year Chemistry course (CH220 or CH230 or equivalent). All students must have completed mathematics courses through Algebra II. Departmental approval is required.
Term: Semester 1
The advanced chemistry electives, intended to be taken post-AP Chemistry, are designed to explore various aspects of chemical and physical sciences that follow the Advanced Placement Chemistry curriculum and to include some of the newest developments in the central science. The first semester course will start with a study of the complexities of organic chemistry, including the structure and nomenclature of aliphatic and aromatic compounds. The course will then look at the way that organic compounds react, including a study of functional groups. We will complete a microscale laboratory program that emphasizes organic chemistry reactions and qualitative relationships. Students will work independently to read and review titles from applications of chemistry and the history of chemistry. CH843 is open to students who have completed AP Chemistry or its equivalent.
Term: Semester 2
The second semester advanced chemistry elective will focus on biochemistry and its important types of macromolecules, polymer chemistry, and physical chemistry. An in-depth review of thermodynamics will lead us to an introduction to the topics of materials science and nanotechnology. At the end of the course, we will discuss chemical situations in works of popular fiction. Students will work independently to read and review titles from applications of chemistry and the history of chemistry. CH843 is open to students who have completed AP Chemistry or its equivalent.
This is an introductory course in physics that emphasizes conceptual understanding and laboratory experience. Topics covered will include motion, Newton’s laws of mechanics, energy and momentum, thermodynamics and the description of gases, electricity and magnetism, waves and optics, and quantum phenomena. While conceptual understanding is emphasized, students will also be introduced to a precise, quantitative description of nature with a problem solving approach that uses elementary math skills. All new Lower Middlers and Middlers who will be enrolled in Algebra I at Taft should sign up for this course.
This is an introductory course that integrates conceptual understanding with a rigorous mathematical approach to physics. Topics covered will include motion, Newton’s laws of mechanics, energy and momentum, gravity, electricity and magnetism, waves and optics. Laboratory work will be frequent and students will learn how precise observations are analyzed and interpreted. Quantitative problem solving using Algebra I skills will be emphasized. This course is open to new Lower Middlers and Middlers who have finished an Algebra I course and will be enrolled in Geometry or a higher math level at Taft.
Honors Physics introduces students to many of the major fields of physics. Topics include Newtonian mechanics, Newtonian gravity, electricity and magnetism, waves, quantum phenomena, and thermodynamics. It is assumed that students are comfortable with basic algebraic manipulations and elementary trigonometric concepts are introduced within the course work. Emphasis is placed on both quantitative applications of the basic laws of physics and a conceptual understanding of these laws. Lab work is frequent and extensive, and is an important component of the course. After completing the course students are encouraged to take the SAT 2 Physics subject matter test in early June.
AP Physics 2 is a second-year physics course for students in the upper school who have already successfully completed AP Physics 1 or have completed and earned an honors grade in PH120. AP Physics 2 is equivalent to a second semester college course in algebra-based physics. Topics to be covered include forces and energy (review of first year topics), fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, electricity, magnetism, optics, and modern physics (quantum, atomic, and nuclear physics). Deep conceptual understanding is expected to be gained through in-depth, student-led inquiry. Students will learn important methods in practicing science, including principles of scientific inquiry and reasoning. Upon completion of AP Physics 2, students will be expected to sit for the AP Physics 2 exam. Precalculus is a co/prerequisite.
The AP Physics C course is designed for students with an intense interest in the inner workings of the physical world and a desire to be challenged both conceptually and mathematically. The curriculum has been developed by the participating college physics departments to cover the material of a first-year college physics course for those students focused on careers in the technical fields. Specifically, the course consists of a one-semester study of mechanics and one semester of electricity and magnetism. The topics in mechanics include the description of motion, the analysis of motion using Newton's laws, and the application of the three major conservation laws to a wide range of systems. Familiarity with differential calculus is assumed from the beginning, and all of the topics studied will make some use of this level of math. Topics involving the use of integral calculus arise in the first semester, but these are developed slowly with an eye to the second semester when this aspect of calculus will be embedded in much of what is studied. The second semester consists of a study of the laws of electricity and magnetism. Beginning with Coulomb's law, electrostatics is introduced. Gauss's law, electric potential, and capacitance are examined in detail. Steady state DC circuits and the transients of RC circuits finish the electricity section. About one-third of the second semester is spent studying magnetism. The nature and effects of the magnetic force as well as the origins of magnetic fields in electric currents are examined. Students learn to apply Ampere's law to current distributions to determine the field created. The semester concludes with a study of electromagnetic induction. Faraday's law is developed and applied to a variety of physical systems including inductive circuits. The focus of the course is on the quantitative application of the basic laws to the analysis of a wide range of systems. In practice this means problem solving, and each chapter includes a lengthy assignment of problems from the book. Optional "extra credit" problems are also frequently assigned. These explore the concepts and math at a somewhat higher level than required by the AP syllabus. Laboratory work is done regularly, and it is important that students remain familiar with the basic apparatus available as well as with data collection and analysis. Students must also become familiar with the simulation program Interactive Physics. There are several major computer projects that involve independent design and analysis by each student. The AP Physics C course has two separate AP tests, one for mechanics, the other for electricity and magnetism. Thus students will have two grades reported to the colleges they choose. AP Physics C can be elected with consent of the Department by Seniors who have completed PH 130 or a one-year course in physics and CH220 or CH230. Students must also have completed a course in calculus or be concurrently taking the BC level AP calculus course.
An Introduction to Quantum Mechanics
The course will begin with a discussion of the wave function and its interpretation. A review of concepts of probability and statistics will follow. The full-time dependent Schrodinger equation will be introduced, followed by the time-independent version of the equation and a thorough investigation of its solution for one-dimensional potentials. With a solid basis for how QM works, we will go back to basics and look at the formalism underlying QM. Operator formalism, transformation between bases, and representing the Schrodinger equation in different bases will be studied. With a more complete understanding of QM, we will look at three-dimensional problems, including the Hydrogen atom. As time permits, we will look at further topics such as the description of identical particles and various approximation methods.
Term: Semester 1
The National Academies defines scientific literacy as “the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity.” From popular television shows and movies to social media feeds, much of what Americans are exposed to in terms of science comes from general news outlets and most report that they get this news by happenstance rather than intentionally. One of the goals of this course is to help students develop the tools and confidence to be able to read articles about science in the popular press and to engage in thoughtful conversations about the validity of the claims. Additionally, we will explore how the scientific method and scientists have been portrayed in popular television shows and movies and debunk some of the misconceptions about science perpetuated in media. There are no prerequisites for this course.
Term: Semester 2
In preparing to become leaders in a global community, one cannot avoid considering the many consequences of the advances in science and technology. This class will study important figures in scientific ethics from Kant to Caplan. Combining historic cases and current events, the approach will be case-study based, using many forms of media that may include journals, magazines, newspapers, novels, and even movies. Possible topics include pharmaceutical research and marketing, environmental law, regulation of chemical use in everyday products, and testing of nuclear bombs. The goal of the class is to provide students with a framework to analyze difficult situations in science, using their own moral compasses and theories in ethics as guides. Open to Seniors and Upper Middlers with permission of the Department.
Term: Semester 2
This course introduces students to the principles and practices found in the field of forensic science, which draws from the biological and physical sciences. The course begins by examining the theories and concepts necessary to effectively examine, analyze, and reconstruct a major crime scene. Specifically, the legal issues related to the search and seizure of physical evidence, crime scene documentation techniques, and basic crime scene reconstruction methods will be studied. Students will also study trace evidence and how it is analyzed, compared, interpreted, and used in criminal investigations. Types of trace evidence to be discussed will include glass, paint, hair, fiber, and fingerprints. Case studies of actual crimes and trials will be discussed to illustrate how the science and techniques may be used in the real world. This course is taught through lectures, laboratory work, and student presentations. Open to Upper Middlers and Seniors with permission of the Department.
Term: Semester 1
What is adolescence? Why is the study of adolescence important? These are two of the many questions which inspire our search for understanding of this particular life stage. This course is a basic introduction to the field of psychology, with a focus on adolescence. The course examines the many ways in which adolescence has been defined and analyzes the way that adolescence is currently portrayed. The course exposes students to psychological, biological, sociocultural, and ethical perspectives regarding adolescent development. The course also provides a forum for discussion of issues such as experimental strategies, education, the nature vs. nurture debate, puberty, identity development, teenage drug abuse, stress and coping, and social networking, as well as Hollywood portrayals of adolescence. Evaluation is based on class participation, homework assignments, short critical reflection papers, tests, an oral presentation of current research, and final project. Open to Seniors and Upper Middlers with permission of the Department.
Term: Semester 1
This one-term introductory course is designed to provide students with an overview of major engineering principles and applications, as well as an opportunity to implement those principles through experimentation, design-based projects, and presentations. The course will take an interdisciplinary approach that draws upon and develops skills from math, science, technology, and art. Students will use technology including Tinkercad to create 3-D models to be printed on an Ultimaker 3 3-D printer, SAM Lab kits for coding, and a Corel Draw for a laser engraver/cutter.
Term: Semester 2
This one-term introductory course is designed to provide students with an overview of data collection and decision making based on date. This project-based class takes advantage of Traxxis Ultimate Slash RC Cars, as a platform to collect data. Throughout the semester the students will look to see how different adjustments on the car impact the car's performance on a variety of surfaces. The students will then learn to properly display the data and make final set-up decisions based on the data collected. The capstone project for the class is the completion of a detailed tuning guide describing what the data revealed throughout the semester.
Term: Semester 2
This one-term course is designed to provide students with the opportunity to become more proficient in working with CAD programs to design with and the use of different modeling machines to produce prototypes. The course will take an interdisciplinary approach that draws upon and develops skills from math, science, technology, and art. Students will use technology such as computer-aided design software Fusion 360 to create designs that will be produced on a 3-D printer, CNC machine, and Laser Engraver. Students need to have successfully completed the Introduction to Engineering course prior to taking the course.
This course introduces students to the systematic and scientific study of behavior and mental processes. While considering the psychologists and studies that have shaped the field, students will explore and apply psychological theories, key concepts, and phenomena associated with such topics as the biological bases of behavior, sensation and perception, learning and cognition, motivation, developmental psychology, individual differences, mental health, and social psychology. Throughout the course, students will employ psychological research methods, including ethical considerations, as they learn to use the scientific method, analyze bias, evaluate claims and evidence, and effectively communicate ideas. While the course is designed to prepare students to succeed on the AP Psychology exam offered in May, the broader goal of the class is to help them develop a new lens through which they can interpret the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of themselves and others. The class is open to seniors only, with permission of the department. As the course relies heavily on reading, writing, and scientific thinking skills as well as previous biology knowledge, entrance requirements to the class include earning an 85 or above in a high school biology class and an 85 or above in the student's most recent English class.
The challenge of understanding and maintaining a sustainable environment may be the single most pressing scientific issue that will confront students throughout their lives. Today, environmental science is not only relevant to students' personal experience, but it is also vital to the future of the entire biosphere and human civilization. As humans continue to alter the Earth's land, water, and atmosphere at local, regional and global levels, the resulting environmental dilemmas can seem overwhelming. Educated properly, students may confront these problems and contribute to their ultimate solution in the future. This course will equip students with a fundamental understanding of our environment from which the solutions to these problems may spring. An initial goal of this course is to instill an understanding and appreciation of the complexity and precise functioning of the natural ecosystems that form our biosphere. Therefore, this course will begin with a close examination of the basic ecological principles that govern the natural world followed by the many ways that humans affect that world through the investigation of the topics of human population growth, energy production and consumption, natural resource depletion, and agricultural and industrial pollution, among others. While exploring these issues, students will integrate knowledge from the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, history, political science, geology and demography. In addition to class discussion, lecture, reading, and field investigations of various ecosystems, the study of industrial and agricultural processes and methods of transportation will be accomplished. This course will prepare students for the AP Environmental Science examination in May. Open with permission of the department to Seniors and the occasional Upper Middler who have successfully (85 or above) completed one year of physics (PH120 or PH130) and one year of chemistry (CH220 or CH230)and also acquired the permission of the Taft science department.
Listen to Sydney Trevenen '17 talk about her summer internship with the Yale University Discovery to Cure program.
Ben looked to the plagues of the past to predict what's next.