The primary goal of the science department is to engage and challenge our students with the hope of producing thoughtful citizens who have the ability, confidence, and enthusiasm to inquire about the natural world. The science department supports these goals by promoting a durable understanding of the world through the study of chemical, biological, physical, engineering, and computer science 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, and to design tests to collect data to develop increasingly sophisticated models. This emphasis on scientific process and creative problem-solving 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 a rich elective program with curricula designed to meet the interests and passions of students.

Requirements

For students entering Park in the Fall of 2018 or later: 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 for the Classes of 2022 and 2023.

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 are 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: Chemistry and Biology

Grade 10 • Required for the Classes of 2022 and 2033. Prerequisite: Core 9

Core 10 is the second of two foundation courses in Park’s science program. This integrated course covers key biological principles, such as ecology, evolution, genetics, and the environment, by grounding them in chemical concepts such as molecular structure and function, solubility, rates of reactions, and equilibrium. 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 course includes student-driven experimentation both in the lab and outside on Park’s extensive campus. 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.

Biology

Grade 11 - A biology course is required for graduation for the Class of 2020 and Class of 2021.

This course is designed to take advantage of students' prior work in Chemistry. Biology will cover much of the same material as Skills in Biology, but with an emphasis on the molecular basis of biological reactions. Students studying Biology can expect a substantial lab component, focused on experimental design and critical thinking. They will learn how to write formal, scientific journal style papers and receive an introduction to primary literature. This course will give students a firm foundation to take the SAT Subject Test in Biology, but complete preparation will require additional independent work.

Prerequisite: Chemistry or Accelerated Chemistry

Biology (Accelerated)

Grade 11 - A biology course is required for graduation for the Class of 2020 and Class of 2021.

This challenging course is designed to take advantage of students' prior work in Chemistry. The faster pace of Accelerated Biology will allow the class to cover some additional topics and to emphasize 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 Accelerated Chemistry, 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 will give students a firm foundation to take the SAT Subject or Advanced Placement (AP) Test in Biology, but complete preparation will require some additional independent work.

Prerequisites: Chemistry or Accelerated Chemistry and permission of the department

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. This is a Physics with Calculus (Accelerated) rigorous year-long elective for those students considering pursuing engineering after Park, as it provides a fundamental background in many of the topics covered in college-level engineering courses.

Physics with calculus (accelerated)

Grades 11-12

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—analytically and experimentally. This course covers a broad range of practical and theoretical material, including the topics needed to take the Advanced Placement (AP-C) Mechanics exam in May.

 

 

Fall Semester Science Courses

Anatomy and Physiology

Grades: 11-12

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.

Prerequisites: Biology or Accelerated Biology and permission of the department

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 the class reads 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.

Prerequisite or corequisite: Biology or Accelerated Biology

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 participate in the race, which is held the first Saturday in May. This is considered a broadly accessible elective for those students who are interested in an introduction to engineering topics.

Environmental Chemistry: Earth, Air, Fire, Water

Grades 11-12

Curious about greenhouse gases and global warming? The effects of birth control compounds on fish in our waterways? How pollutants enter our environment, and how they can be cleaned up? This course will cover the chemical principles behind the environmental issues you hear about every day in the news. The issues students choose for their focus will depend on the interests of the group – they might decide to discuss toxic waste disposal or modeling ways to fix the hole in the ozone layer. This course will also encourage students to work in small groups to pursue original research questions, inventing procedures, and collecting data from our local urban, suburban, and rural environments.

Prerequisite: Chemistry

Organic Chemistry 

Grades 11-12

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 interests in applications of organic chemistry, which might include neurotransmitters, chemical weapons, plastics, and the origins of life on Earth.

Prerequisite: Chemistry or Accelerated Chemistry and permission of the department

Physics 2: Advanced Mechanics

Grades 11-12

Within the broad category of Newtonian Mechanics, this course picks up where Physics 1 and Core 9 left off. With some review of prior content, this lab-based, problem-solving course will begin with a deeper exploration into kinematics, Newton’s laws (statics, dynamics, and linear momentum), and energy, work, and power. Students will then jump into the topic of circular motion, including rolling, torque, and angular momentum. Gravitation, Newton’s breakthrough concept that our direct experience of gravity on Earth extends to the moon, solar system, and universe, will then be uncovered. The course will conclude with a study of waves. It is intended for students interested in Physics or Engineering, and is accessible to all students comfortable with algebra. Students will walk away with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the physical universe.

Prerequisite: Physics, Faster Physics, or Core 9

The Woods

Grades 9-12

Does knowledge help us see?  Does art inform our empirical understanding? How do we view the world around us? Learning to draw is learning to see; it's about careful observation and perception. This course deals with the world of seeing, observing, and perceiving while focusing on Park’s outdoor campus through a naturalist’s eye. In this team-taught Visual Art and Science course, students will observe and make connections as they strive to understand the botanical world of Park’s campus. Students will come to appreciate the local flora from both a scientific perspective and an artistic aesthetic. They will create portfolios containing observational drawings, journaling, plant specimens, and more.

This course can be taken for either an Art or Science credit.

 

 

Spring Semester Science Courses

animal behavior

Grades: 11-12

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.

Prerequisite or corequisite: Biology

Exploring Space and Time: Astronomy, Optics, and Relativity

Grades 10-12

This course will take students on an astronomical journey from the big bang through the death of the universe. Students will gain a new perspective, vocabulary, and tool set in their approach to observing, thinking, and talking about Earth’s place in the universe. This study will begin with a historical overview of the field of Astronomy, including practical applications of its mathematical and scientific tools like Kepler’s laws and astrometry. Optics, based on electromagnetic principles, will be the next focus of study where the class examines geometric and physical optics, a touch of quantum mechanics, and the technology resulting from this branch of physics (mirrors, lenses, telescopes, lasers, and fiber optics). The course will conclude with a dive into relativity, covering such topics as inertial reference frames, time dilation, length contraction, and the famous physics equation, E = mc2. This work is accessible to all students comfortable with algebra; there will be quantitative and lab components to the course, and students will be expected to participate in a couple of evening observational outings with the class.

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 participate in the race, which is held the first Saturday in May. This is considered a broadly accessible elective for those students who are interested in an introduction to engineering topics.

Forensic Science

Grades 10-12

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.

Integrative Medicine (Accelerated)

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.

Permission of department required

Molecular Gastronomy

Grades 10-12

This broadly accessible course will cover 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 you knead bread dough or how does whipped cream turn into butter? This is not a cooking course; students will not be cooking from recipes, but rather from fundamental principles, and any eating of student products will be for the purposes of scientific observation.  This course will be heavily lab-based and may require some cooking to be done outside of class.

Prerequisite: Either Chemistry or Biology