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

Two year-long courses, Physics in ninth grade and Biology (or Biology with Chemistry) in tenth or eleventh grade, are required for graduation. However, most Park students complete four years of science.

Full Year Courses

Physics

Grade: 9 Required

This course examines a careful selection of topics that govern the natural world such as waves, sound, light, electricity and magnetism, and mechanics. Students have the opportunity to explore topics while building a substantial foundation in laboratory skills with an emphasis on experimental design and data analysis. Writing is also central to the course, as students learn to form a cohesive argument using both data and scientific theory as support.

Biology

Grades: 10-11 Required

This course is designed to take advantage of students’ prior work in Chemistry, and emphasizes the molecular basis of biological reactions. Students taking Biology can expect a substantial lab component focused on experimental design and critical thinking. Students will learn how to write formal scientific journal style papers and receive an introduction to primary literature. It will give students a firm foundation to take the SAT Subject Test in Biology, but complete preparation requires additional independent work.

accelerated BIOLOGY

Grade 11 

Prerequisite: Chemistry and permission of the department

This course is designed to take advantage of students’ prior work in Chemistry, and emphasizes the molecular basis of biological reactions. Students taking Biology can expect a substantial lab component focused on experimental design and critical thinking. Students will learn how to write formal scientific journal style papers and receive an introduction to primary literature. It will give students a firm foundation to take the SAT Subject Test in Biology, but complete preparation requires 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.

skills in chemistry

Grade: 10

This course is framed equally around chemistry content, student skill development, and making personal connections to science. Its content moves from the big picture of qualitative chemistry to the small details of quantitative chemistry. Experimental design, chemical reactions, atomic theory, gas Laws, thermodynamics, and environmental chemistry 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.

 

 

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.

animal behavior

Grades: 11-12

Prerequisite: Biology or Biology with Chemistry

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 will investigate flocking behavior in Canada geese, stereotypical aggressive behaviors in Siamese fighting fish, and optimal foraging by humans, in addition to other activities. 

biomedical research

Grades: 11-12

Prerequisite: Biology with Chemistry and permission of the department.

This course will center on experimentation and reading and writing scientific literature. Experimentation will provide skill development in techniques common in biomedical research. Reading scientific literature frames the relevance of each technique. Writing provides practice to hone scientific style and improve efficiency in finding and citing primary sources. Antibiotic disc diffusion, viral titration, cell culture, tissue engineering, and microscopy are examples of techniques covered. Field trips provide opportunities for first hand observation of research labs whose literature students will read and who are currently using these techniques for their own work. In addition, interaction with researchers reinforces the patience and perseverance necessary to do interesting research both in this course and outside of Park. 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.

Electricity and Magnetism

Grades: 10-12

Pre- or co-requisite: Physics with Calculus, Advanced Calculus, and permission of the department.

Newton’s Laws are inextricably linked with the Law of Universal Gravitation, and together they provide a comprehensive description of how and why most objects move. Yet, the phenomena of Electricity and Magnetism remained unexplained even after Newton, and it took the observations and work of many scientists, including Ampere, Faraday, and James Clerk Maxwell — culminating in the triumph of Maxwell’s Equations — for there to be a cohesive explanation of the subject. This course will explore electric charges and fields, magnetic fields, their interaction through electromagnetic induction, and the surprising connection Maxwell found between Electricity, Magnetism, and Light. It will cover all the material of the AP-C Electricity and Magnetism exam, as well as reaching beyond it in several areas — particularly in the area of Special Relativity.

ENGINEERING FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

Grades: 10-12

When you think of things that are “engineered,” what comes to mind? Bridges? The latest smart phone? What if we used the engineering design process to solve authentic student-selected problems focused on equity and fairness? Through an in-depth evaluation of local social justice issues and application of the engineering design process, students will solve problems that they identify as a hindrance to access and opportunity for people either in the Park community or beyond.

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. 

Spring Semester Courses

acoustics 

Grades: 10-12

Prerequisite: Physics

Why do different instruments have different voices? How do you shape the sound in a performance hall? How do you build a speaker, microphone, or a guitar pickup? This course will focus on the practical application of the physics of sound through a series of design and construction projects. Areas of study will include musical acoustics, psychoacoustics, and acoustics in electronic and architectural design. Students may take this as a music or a science elective.

engineering for social justice 

Grades: 10-12

When you think of things that are “engineered,” what comes to mind? Bridges? The latest smart phone? What if we used the engineering design process to solve authentic student-selected problems focused on equity and fairness? Through an in-depth evaluation of local social justice issues and application of the engineering design process, students will solve problems that they identify as a hindrance to access and opportunity for people either in the Park community or beyond.

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. 

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.