The Science Department engages and challenges students to develop the ability, confidence, and enthusiasm to inquire about the natural world. The Science Department supports these goals by promoting a durable understanding of the natural world through the study of chemical, biological, and physical principles. Rather than seeing each of these as separate disciplines, we encourage students to grapple with their interaction and mutual influence. 

In our classrooms, we emphasize processes of inquiry and thoughtful analysis over rote recitation. Students learn to question what they observe, to look for evidence for and against a particular viewpoint. They design tests to collect data and develop increasingly sophisticated models. This emphasis on scientific process encourages an open-minded and rigorous independence of thought that students then bring to bear on the world around them.

The science department feels strongly that students should have the opportunity to pursue advanced work in the major disciplines. We feel that this is best accomplished by offering a rich elective program with curricula designed to meet the interests and passions of students.

Requirements

For students entering in 2018: Core 9 (Integrated Physics, Engineering, and Computer Science) and Core 10: (Integrated Biology and Chemistry) are required for graduation. However, most Park students complete four years of science.

Full Year Courses

CORE 9: Physics, ENGINEERING, AND COMPUTER SCIENCE

Grade: 9 Required

This is the first of two foundational courses in Park’s science program. Using an integrated approach, the course examines a careful selection of topics that govern the physical world such as kinematics and electricity, as well as engineering and computer science concepts that dictate the designed world. Integrations of these disciplines consist of utilizing physics as a context for engineering and computer science projects while incorporating computer and engineering skills and models to better understand physics. These concepts will be grounded in hands-on culminating experiences and projects. Throughout the year, the course provides a substantial foundation in laboratory skills with an emphasis on experimentation, design, modeling, and data analysis. Writing is also central to the course, as students learn to form a cohesive argument using both experimental data and scientific theory as support.

CORE 10: integrated biology and chemistry (with options in Engineering and Computer Science)

Grades: 10 Required (FALL 2019)

This is the second of two foundation courses in Park’s science program. Using an integrated approach, the course covers broad biological principles, such as ecology, evolution, genetics, and the environment, while infusing chemical concepts such as molecular structure and function, solubility, rates of reactions, and equilibrium. This course will use both the campus and various habitats in Maryland as a laboratory for culminating projects and experiences. The foundational laboratory skills practiced in Core 9 will be expanded upon in Core 10 with an emphasis on original research and statistical significance. The writing component will include exposure to primary sources of literature to support experimental findings. Throughout the year, this course will offer differentiated levels of challenge; accelerated credit is possible for students who routinely select and achieve the highest level of challenge and rigor.

SKILLS IN BIOLOGY

Grade 10-12 Required

This life science course is framed equally around biology content, student skill development, and making personal connections to science. Its content moves from the big picture of ecology to the small details in cells and back to organism level applications. Experimental Design, Ecology, Evolution, Cells, Genes, Proteins and Mutations, Inherited Disease and Cancer, Select Body Systems, are a few of the topics explored. As suggested in the title, this course will also include significant academic development on note taking, test preparation, test taking, and writing science reports.

accelerated BIOLOGY

Grade 11 

Prerequisite: Chemistry and permission of the department

This challenging course is designed to take advantage of students’ prior work in Chemistry. The faster pace of Accelerated Biology allows for the coverage of some additional topics and emphasizes the molecular basis of biological reactions, with an exploration of biochemistry and biophysical chemistry. As in Biology, students can expect a substantial lab component, focused on experimental design and critical thinking. Students who were successful in Chemistry or Chemistry–Accelerated, are eager to explore the chemical basis of biological processes, and are willing to challenge themselves with a greater degree of difficulty and independent work should consider this course. This course gives students a firm foundation to take the SAT Subject Test or Advanced Placement test in Biology, but complete preparation requires some additional independent work.

Chemistry

Grades: 10-12

This course focuses on the basics of chemistry, including atomic structure, bonding, reactions, heat and energy, phases of matter, and acids and bases. It emphasizes an understanding of the unifying principles of chemistry and their applications. There is a substantial lab component emphasizing critical thinking, experimental design, and written clarity. These labs allow students to see concepts illustrated, to draw generalizations of theory from specific examples, and to develop good lab technique.

Chemistry (Acc)

Grades: 10-12

Prerequisite:  Permission of the department.

This challenging course covers all topics from regular Chemistry, but in greater depth. Its faster pace allows the study of additional topics. As in Chemistry, there is a substantial lab component to demonstrate concepts from class and to develop critical thinking and writing skills. Students should be comfortable interpreting conceptual problems and figuring out where to apply math (most often algebra), along with grasping some concepts on their own from the reading without taking much class time. Comfort with abstract thinking, independence, hard work, and open-ended questions are the most helpful attributes to success in this class.

Physics with Calculus – Accelerated

Grades: 11-12

Prerequisite: Physics and permission of the department. Pre- or co-requisite: Calculus

Physics is the most fundamental of the sciences, allowing one to answer questions everyone asks that are simultaneously simple and profound, such as: “Why, if you jump up right when an elevator begins to stop ascending, do you “float”?, or “Why does a ball move around unpredictably when you throw a knuckleball?” Physics with Calculus examines questions such as these by studying (mostly) the field of Mechanics—Newton’s Laws of Motion, the Conservation of Linear and Angular Momentum, and the Conservation of Energy. The emphasis will be on learning different approaches to solving (often challenging) problems both analytically and experimentally. This course covers a broad range of practical and theoretical material, including the topics needed to take the AP-C Mechanics exam in May.

Fall Semester Courses

Anatomy and Physiology

Grades: 11-12

Prerequisites:  Biology or Biology with Chemistry and permission of the department.

Interested in the science behind the body’s structure, its movement, how it becomes injured and subsequently recovers? This challenging course applies the principles of anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology to real world scenarios in an attempt to create a more comprehensive vision of form and function as it pertains to the human machine. Specific topics of study include the skeletal, muscular, nervous, respiratory, and circulatory systems as well as pathophysiology, healing, and treatment themes. The format of the course includes lectures, labs, and various assessments and will move quickly at times in order to ensure enough time to explore injuries and other practical applications of the material.

CELLULAR BIOLOGY RESEARCH

Grades: 11-12

This course will center on research skills through experimentation and reading scientific literature. Research skills will include documentation, experimental design, troubleshooting, analysis, and presentation of data. Antibiotic disc diffusion, cell culture, tissue engineering, and microscopy are examples of techniques covered. Field trips provide opportunities for first-hand observation of research labs whose literature we read and who are currently using these techniques for their own work. This course provides first-hand, through experience, the patience and perseverance necessary to answer new questions through quantitative research methods. This course prepares students to be competitive applicants for summer internships or senior projects working in labs.

CLIMATE CHANGE FIELD ECOLOGY

Grades: 10-12

This course will provide a unique glimpse of the beauty and complexity of nature through the eyes of an ecologist. Students will construct a framework for understanding how climate, plants, animals, and people interact. They will learn how elements of biodiversity are distributed across an ecosystem by climatic variables, and how climate and land use change can affect habitats. This course will draw heavily upon scientific journals and experimental design as students conduct field research in Park’s 100 acres of woods. Ideally, class experiments will help start a long-term database that will address the impact climate change is having on Park’s campus and guide policy debates and adaptive management responses. Primary forms of assessment will be class participation, keeping a lab notebook, and writing papers.

ENGINEERING FOR AN EQUITABLE FUTURE

Grades: 10-12

Nearly everyone is interested in a cleaner, healthier world. Yet, when we think of living sustainably, we often think in terms of doing less harm (reducing energy use and demands, minimizing waste, polluting less). What if instead, we focused on doing good? In this course, students will be challenged to rethink historical engineering methods and perspectives, concentrating efforts on not simply minimizing negative consequences, but rather designing for positive impact. This course will include two foundational units: 1) mechanical, structural, and materials engineering, and 2) computer, software, and electrical engineering. Each of those units will be punctuated with student design projects. The third and final unit will synthesize their experience throughout the year in a long-term final project bound by pressing societal needs and their individual passions.

ENGINEERING for the kinetic sculpture race

Grades: 10-12

What do a giant pink poodle, an overgrown platypus, and a Viking ship have in common? They were all past entries of the Kinetic Sculpture Race. In this class, students will use the engineering design process to develop a human-powered amphibious vehicle. The team will enter this vehicle in a race hosted by the American Visionary Art Museum in downtown Baltimore. Entrants must propel their mechanized marvels through 15 miles of the city, including sand and mud pits in Patterson Park, and a jaunt through the harbor at the Canton waterfront. This course will also be offered in the spring, where those students will pick up where fall students left off. All students (fall and spring) will be eligible to participate in the race, which is typically the first Saturday in May. 

ORGANIC CHEMISTRY

Grades: 11-12

Prerequisite: Accelerated Chemistry or Chemistry with permission of the department.

This conceptually challenging course will cover the basics of organic chemistry, the chemistry of carbon and living things. Students will study how molecules are built both in nature and synthetically in the lab, with an emphasis on the reaction mechanisms — describing the fundamental principles of how they work — rather than on memorization. This approach to chemistry is more logical than mathematical, viewing the synthesis of molecules as puzzles to be broken down and reassembled. There will be a hands-on lab component, and students will be able to pursue their own interest in applications of organic chemistry, which could include neurotransmitters, chemical weapons, plastics, and the origins of life on Earth.

Spring Semester Courses

animal behavior

Grades: 11-12

Prerequisite or co-requisite: Biology

Animal Behavior is an intensive semester course that develops the analytical and investigative abilities of the students. Students study the ecology and evolution of animal behavior with particular emphasis on social interactions and sexual strategies. Topics include optimal foraging theory, predation avoidance, game theory, kin selection, mate choice, etc. This work is complemented by significant laboratory work and analysis of animal behavior. Students investigate flocking behavior in Canada geese, stereotypical aggressive behaviors in Siamese fighting fish, and optimal foraging by humans in addition to other activities.

engineering for an equitable future

Grades: 10-12

Nearly everyone is interested in a cleaner, healthier world. Yet, when we think of living sustainably, we often think in terms of doing less harm (reducing energy use and demands, minimizing waste, polluting less). What if instead, we focused on doing good? In this course, students will be challenged to rethink historical engineering methods and perspectives, concentrating efforts on not simply minimizing negative consequences, but rather designing for positive impact. This course will include two foundational units: 1) mechanical, structural, and materials engineering, and 2) computer, software, and electrical engineering. Each of those units will be punctuated with student design projects. The third and final unit will synthesize their experience throughout the year in a long-term final project bound by pressing societal needs and their individual passions.

ENGINEERING FOR the KINETIC SCULPTURE RACE

Grades: 10-12

What do a giant pink poodle, an overgrown platypus, and a Viking ship have in common? They were all past entries of the Kinetic Sculpture Race. In this class, students will use the engineering design process to develop a human-powered amphibious vehicle. The team will enter this vehicle in a race hosted by the American Visionary Art Museum in downtown Baltimore. Entrants must propel their mechanized marvels through 15 miles of the city, including sand and mud pits in Patterson Park, and a jaunt through the harbor at the Canton waterfront. This course will also be offered in the spring, where those students will pick up where fall students left off. All students (fall and spring) will be eligible to participate in the race, which is typically the first Saturday in May. 

forensic science

Grades: 11-12

This introductory course offers students the opportunity to use principles of physics, chemistry, and biology to solve simulated crimes by analyzing clues and evidence left at the scene. Trace evidence, blood spatter patterns, fingerprinting, tool marks, and DNA analysis are among the topics covered in this course, which make heavy use of labs focused on the techniques used to analyze forensic evidence. It will require strong attention to detail, following of procedure, careful use of logic, and thoroughly written explanations.

integrated medicine

Grades: 11-12

This course in integrative medicine aims to review current scientific research on practices that work alongside of traditional Western medicine. It will build an appreciation for mind-body medicine and reflect key concepts introduced to medical school students. Students will learn the basic anatomy and genetics needed to understand the mechanisms of sleep, stress, and pain. They will conduct directed research aimed at improving health and wellness for teenagers through collection of quantitative and qualitative data for analysis. Methodologies could include yoga, aromatherapy, meditation, and others. Lab work, guest speakers, and field trips will culminate in a health education service project.

INTroduction to neurology

Grades: 11-12

Prerequisite or corequisite: Biology or Biology with Chemistry and permission of the department

This course will introduce students to the nervous system and the basics of neuroanatomy and neurophysiology. After gaining an understanding of the intricacies of the nervous transmission and brain structure, students will investigate the various ways in which this system can be affected, either due to external perturbations such as trauma and various drugs or due to internal changes in nervous function. Students will look specifically at concussions and CTE, the influence of various drugs on the brain and nervous system, various neurological conditions and diseases, and the memory as a neurological phenomenon. The course will be primarily lecture-based, with various activity and laboratory investigations to complement the content. We anticipate a significant independent project at the end of the course in which students will investigate a particular aspect of neurobiology that they find interesting.

Molecular Gastronomy (Biochemistry of Food)

Grades: 10-12

Prerequisite: Either Chemistry or Biology

This broadly accessible course covers the biology and chemistry of food and cooking, from the flavor profiles of spices to the bacteria in cheese to the starch molecules in bread. Students delve into the science behind why foods behave certain ways: what happens when they knead bread dough, or how does whipped cream turn into butter? This is not a cooking course—any eating of the products is for the purposes of scientific observation. This class is heavily lab-based and may require that some cooking be done outside of class.