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. We help 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.
Two year-long courses, Core 9 (Physics, Engineering, and Computer Science), and Core 10 (Chemistry and Biology) are required for graduation.
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: Chemistry and Biology
Grade 10 • Required
Core 10 is the second of two foundational 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 in 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. Prerequisite: Core 9.
Physics with Calculus (Accelerated)
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. 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 AP-C Mechanics exam in May. Prerequisites: Core 9, Calculus (Accelerated), and permission of the department.
Anatomy and Physiology
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 time enough to explore injuries and other practical applications of the material. Prerequisites: Core 10 and permission of the department.
Biology 2: Biotechnology and Biology 2: Biotechnology (Accelerated)
Expanding on the foundational understanding students have from Core 10 about genes and proteins, this course will dive deeply into the molecular details of how genes work. In addition to molecular genetics, students will also learn about inheritance; both classic Mendelian genetics and non-Mendelian. The skills this course focuses on include dissecting complex systems and using figures to support learning, scientific reading, and writing. Biotechnology lab techniques will be taught, with less emphasis placed on experimental design in this course. The accelerated version of this course will assume more comfort with a faster pace while learning detail-heavy information. Prerequisite or corequisite: Core 10. Permission of the department is required to take this for accelerated credit.
Biology 2: Ecology and Biology 2: Ecology (Accelerated)
The natural world is all around us, but we often don’t have a well-developed appreciation for how natural systems work and function. Ecology is the study of the interactions between organisms and their environment, and we will begin the course by looking deeply into the underlying ecological processes that drive the natural world. Particular emphasis will be paid to population, community, and ecosystem level processes. Students will be exposed to ecology both in theory and practice, through lectures, readings, discussions, and various field trips and activities both in our woods and other local environments. Additionally, the concept of global change will be a constant thread throughout the course. As the footprint of human activities on ecological systems continues to expand, it is critical to understand how humans have been drivers of ecological change on multiple scales. The skills this course focuses on include field research and lab research, documentation in a lab notebook, and a heavy component of experimental design. In addition, scientific reading and writing will be required. The accelerated version of this course will assume more comfort with a faster pace while learning detail-heavy information. It will also be reading and writing intensive. Prerequisite or corequisite: Core 10.Permission of the department is required to take this for accelerated credit.
Chemistry 2: Explosive Chemistry
In this broadly accessible course, students will explore the chemistry of explosive processes. From elements that react violently with water to a hydrogen bomb, students will consider questions like, “what does it mean to explode?” and “how do we control explosions?” through laboratory investigations, demonstrations, readings, data analysis, and discussion. Along the way, the class will be introduced to a variety of chemistry concepts including techniques for measuring the heat generated by a reaction, activation energy, stability and volatility, and nuclear vs. chemical reactions.
Chemistry 2: Organic Chemistry (Accelerated)
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. Prerequisite: Core 10 and permission of the department. This class is offered in alternate years and will be offered this year.
Cellular Biology Research (Accelerated)
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 students will have 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. Prerequisite: Core 10 and permission of the department.
In this course, students will explore the scientific basis of climate change, learn about the potential impacts of climate change, and evaluate climate change mitigation strategies and adaptations. Through data analysis and application of scientific concepts including the greenhouse effect, Earth’s energy balance, and climate forcings and feedbacks, students will address the following questions: How do we collect and analyze data to understand climate change and create models to predict future impacts? How does anthropogenic climate change differ from historical changes in the Earth’s climate? How can we mitigate or adapt to the effects of climate change locally and globally? Prerequisite: Core 10.
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 will delve into the science behind why foods behave certain ways—what happens when you knead bread dough or how whipped cream turns 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: Core 10
Physics 2: Advanced Mechanics
Within the broad category of Newtonian Mechanics, this course picks up where 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. It 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 as well as with a solid foundation for university studies in Physics and Engineering. Algebra facility; trigonometry facility; collaborative lab work; medium-paced. Prerequisite: Core 9. Students who take this course will not be able to sign up for the Physics with Calculus (Accelerated) course in the future.
Science and Sustainability
In this class, students will explore what it means to be sustainable on a global, national, and local scale. They will cover topics ranging from human population growth to landfills, and use scientific research to try and answer the following questions: What does sustainable energy mean? Is LEED Certification making a difference? Is recycling helping our planet? How can you be more sustainable? Are carbon and nitrogen footprints helping to reduce institutional and individual impacts? The semester will culminate in everyone proposing a sustainability initiative. Prerequisite: Core 10
Astronomy, Optics, and Relativity: Exploring Space and Time
This course will take students on an astronomical journey from the big bang though 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. The course begins with a historical overview of the field of Astronomy, and students will gain confidence in navigating the night sky and its gems. Optics, based on electromagnetic principles, is the focus of the next area of study; students will examine 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). Next, the class will dive into relativity, covering such topics as time dilation, length contraction, dark matter, and dark energy. The course will conclude with units on stellar evolution and cosmology. This course is accessible to all students comfortable with Algebra and Trigonometry; it is much less quantitative than Physics, though there will be lab components to the course, and students will be expected to participate in a couple evening observational outings with the class.
Biology 2: Aquatic Ecosystems (Accelerated)
As three quarters of the globe is covered in water, this course will introduce the class to all of the aquatic ecosystems. Students will cover everything from oceans to estuaries, wetlands to lakes, ponds to streams. They will examine the biology and geology of aquatic ecosystems and dive deep into the impact of humans on these ecosystems. This course will be reading, writing, and lab intensive. There will be numerous short field trips to visit nearby Maryland aquatic ecosystems and opportunities to collaborate with local scientists. Prerequisite: Core 10. Permission of the department is required to take this class for accelerated credit.
Biology 2: Genetics of Cancer (Accelerated)
In this course students will study cell division and learn how genes control and monitor growth and development. They will apply their knowledge to lab skills used routinely in the study of cancer cell genetics and will have the opportunity to learn about the history of cancer while exploring the technique and application of cell culture. The second part of this course will tackle specific cell-signaling pathways related to animal and plant cancers, treatment options, and personalized medicine. Through case studies and activities, students will learn several key pathways. For a final project, they will apply their knowledge to a specific type of cancer. The accelerated version of this course will assume more comfort with a faster pace while learning detail-heavy information. The skills this course focuses on include: dissecting complex systems and using figures and models to support learning. Molecular Biology lab techniques will be taught, with less emphasis placed on experimental design in this course. The accelerated version of this course will assume more comfort with a faster pace while learning detail-heavy information. Prerequisite: Core 10. Permission of the department is required to take this class for accelerated credit.
Biology 2: Extinctions
This course will introduce students to the five major extinctions of Earth’s past as the vehicle for exploring the history of life on earth. It will focus on the conditions that lead to each extinction and the explosions in biodiversity that occurred as a result. There will also be an emphasis on the state of mass extinction happening today on our planet. The fields of paleontology and geology will be introduced as needed to understand the consequences and benefits of each major extinction and what nuggets of wisdom can be gleaned for the future of life on earth. This course will include the genetic technique of barcoding to unveil evolutionary relationships between species currently living in the pond, stream, and woods of Park School’s campus. This work will inspire opportunities to work in collaboration with local scientists. Reading, writing, and experimenting will be essential to the class. Prerequisite: Core 10
Chemistry 2: Pollution
Curious about lead and heavy metal poisoning? The effects of birth control compounds on fish in our waterways? How pollutants enter our environment, and how can they be cleaned up? This course will cover the chemical principles behind all the waste and byproducts of human life that end up in our environment. Chemistry content would include chemical reactions, solubility, concentration, state changes, and nuclear reactions. Students could end up talking about toxic waste disposal, strategies to break down ocean plastic, or modeling municipal water treatment. This course will also encourage students to work in small groups to pursue original research questions, collect data from our local urban, suburban, and rural environments, and produce research-based advocacy projects to share with our communities. Prerequisite: Core 10.
Chemistry 2: Thermodynamics (Accelerated)
All around us, the energy of chemical reactions is used to do work; from driving your car to school to powering the cells in your body, life is taking advantage of the energy released by chemical reactions. This course explores the relationship between chemical reactions, heat, and work. Some of the questions students will consider include: where does the energy of chemical reactions come from? How much energy from a chemical reaction is available to do work? How do we drive a process that is not spontaneous by coupling it with ones that are? Topics covered include stoichiometry, bond energy, enthalpy, entropy, and Gibbs free energy, along with their applications to redox reactions, kinetics, solubility, and equilibrium. This accelerated course is fast-paced, reading and writing intensive, and requires algebra facility and independent lab work. Prerequisite: Core 10 and permission of the department.
Engineering for the Kinetic Sculpture Race
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. Students will participate in the race, which is typically 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. This course requires facility with algebra, and an eagerness to think outside of the box and solve problems in a systematic way. Prerequisite: Core 10.
Integrative Medicine (Accelerated)
This course in integrative medicine aims to review current scientific research on practices that work alongside 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 needed to understand the mechanisms of pain, stress, and sleep.
Methodologies will include meditation, yoga, aromatherapy, music, tapping, and others. There will be a significant journaling component to the course as well as required volunteering that will generally occur during class time. Prerequisite or corequisite: Core 10 and permission of the department.
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 will delve into the science behind why foods behave certain ways—what happens when you knead bread dough or how whipped cream turns 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: Core 10.
This physics-based course will start out with an introduction to energy and the electric grid. Students will discuss renewable and non-renewable forms of energy production and transition to units about specific types of renewable energy including solar, hydro, and wind. In each of these units the class will learn about the physics behind these forms of energy production, as well as explore questions such as: Where and why is this form of energy production being used today? What does sustainability mean for both the environment and human communities? How can science help us understand environmental issues and create solutions for a better future? This course will include hands-on projects and labs and will culminate in a final project where students will take a deeper dive into one of the energy production forms discussed earlier in the course. Prerequisite: Core 10