Science and Computer Science

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.

The Park School is committed to providing students with opportunities to experience all aspects of computer science and technology. Courses in the field of computer science are designed to teach engineering and design principles, while exposing students to the latest technology in hardware and software. Special interests in computer science can be handled through projects and independent study. 

Beyond computer science, a growing number of classes offered in the arts, math, science, and English departments make use of Park’s extensive technology and take place in computer and science labs, visual art and music rooms, individual classrooms, and the library.


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
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
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 2: Mechanics with Calculus (Accelerated) 
Grades 10-12
This is a physics class designed to challenge students with a rigorous and in-depth study of the fundamental concepts of mechanics. Topics covered include kinematics, Newton’s laws of motion, work, energy, momentum, rotational motion, and gravity. This course will require hands-on lab work, independent problem-solving, and critical thinking in order to apply concepts to real-world examples and solve complex problems. Assessments will take the form of lab reports, problem sets, presentations, and tests. All students will walk away with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the physical universe as well as with a solid foundation for college-level science classes. 

An Experimental History of Science 
Grades: 11-12
This course will explore how paradigm shifts have shaped our understanding of the universe. Through lab experiments and data analysis, students will investigate how beliefs and ideas have changed over time. The class will look at the impacts of society and history on the development of scientific thought, and the ways that science has impacted society and history. Topics will include Evolution and DNA, Energy and Entropy, Atoms and Matter, Time and Space. Students will be assessed through a combination of lab work, quizzes, research writing, and projects. 

Anatomy and Physiology (Accelerated)
Grades: 11-12
This is a demanding course for students looking for a challenge in biology. This course will cover organ systems, kinesiology, immunology, and neurobiology as they pertain to the care and prevention of disease. Students can expect to encounter a large volume of content and to hone writing and research skills in addition to quenching their curiosities about the wonders and limits of the human body. Prerequisite: Permission of the department.

Biology 2: Ecology and Biology 2: Ecology (Accelerated) 
Grades: 11-12
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.

Biology 2: Genetics and Biology 2: Genetics (Accelerated) 
Grades: 11-12

No field within biology is changing more quickly than genetics. Starting with a single cell, students will study cell division and learn how genes both control and monitor growth and development. Students will apply their knowledge to lab skills essential to modern day study of cells and development. The second part of this course will expand upon students’ Core10 understanding of genes and proteins by studying specific genes related to animal and plant health and disease. A complete analysis of the comparative genomics and morphology across a specific species studied by the entire class will entail a detailed study of the mechanisms of gene expression and DNA replication and the execution of molecular biology techniques commonly used in research. Finally, the course will connect the molecular details with organ-level functioning within a body system. The skills this course focuses on include dissecting complex systems and using figures to support learning, scientific reading, and writing. While experiments will be conducted, there will be less experimental design in this course. 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: Core 10

Building Arduino Sensors for Environmental Monitoring
Grades: 11-12
To answer big questions like “how is climate change impacting the abiotic factors around Park School?” or “how does the carpool line affect air quality?”, we need to collect a lot of data over a long time period. Doing so by hand is tedious. This class will explore the potential for using inexpensive sensors to collect environmental data. Students will build on the arduino skills learned in Core 9 and the ecological data collection and analysis techniques learned in Core 10. Students will explore how sensors work, how to interpret the raw data they generate, and how to calibrate them. In the second half of the course, students will have the opportunity to design their own sensing unit and engineer a solution that could be used for long-term environmental monitoring based on real need from other science classes. This class combines environmental science, computer science, and engineering to solve authentic real world problems relevant to the Park School community. Prerequisite Core 10

Cellular Biology Research (Accelerated)
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, cancer cell culture, and analysis of gene expression using qPCR 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 the opportunity to learn, through experience, the patience and perseverance necessary to answer new questions through quantitative research methods. It also prepares students to be competitive applicants for summer internships or senior projects working in labs. Prerequisite: Core 10 and permission of the department.

Chemistry 2: Thermodynamics and Chemistry 2: Thermodynamics (Accelerated) 
Grades: 11-12
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 we 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? Why are some chemical reactions so violent and how can we control explosive reactions? Topics covered include stoichiometry, bond energy, enthalpy, entropy, and Gibbs free energy, along with their applications to redox reactions, kinetics, solubility, and equilibrium. This class was previously listed as Explosive Chemistry. The accelerated version of the course is fast-paced, reading and writing intensive, and requires algebra facility and independent lab work. Prerequisite: Core 10

Engineering 2: Electrical Engineering 
Grades: 10-12
From smartphones to appliances, digital circuits are all around us. This course provides a foundation for students who are interested in electrical engineering, electronics, or circuit design. Students study topics such as combinational and sequential logic and are exposed to circuit design tools used in industry, including logic gates, integrated circuits, and programmable logic devices. Students will develop key engineering skills including teamwork, communication methods, and technical documentation. Students will analyze, design, and build digital electronic circuits. While implementing these designs, students will continually hone their professional skills, creative abilities, and understanding of the circuit design process. The class will be expected to solve problems and learn through doing, experimentation, and collaboration. An accelerated version of the class is offered in the spring. Prerequisites: Core 10 and permission of the department.

Engineering 2: Mechanical Engineering Principles (Accelerated) 
Grades: 10-12
This course introduces students to engineering concepts that are applicable to a variety of engineering disciplines and empowers them to develop technical skills through the use of engineering tools such as 3-D modeling software, hands-on prototyping equipment, programming software, and robotics hardware to bring their solutions to life. Students will apply the engineering design process to solve real-world problems across a breadth of engineering fields such as mechanical, robotics, infrastructure, environmental sustainability, and product design and development. This project-based learning course will include solving open-ended problems that provide opportunities to develop planning and technical documentation skills, as well as transferable life skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and ethical reasoning. The last is particularly important as this course will encourage students to consider the impacts of engineering decisions. Some topics covered will include, but are not limited to, product design and development, designing infrastructure and development sustainability, mechanical design, and application of robots. An accelerated version of the class is offered in the spring, as well. Prerequisite: Core 10

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 procedures, careful use of logic, and thoroughly written explanations. Prerequisite: Core 10 and permission of the department.

Molecular Gastronomy 
Grades: 11-12
This course will cover the biology and chemistry of food and cooking, from the fundamental molecules of food to the thickening of 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: Mechanics 
Grades: 10-12

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. Depending on class interest the final unit(s) can cover circular motion, including rolling, torque, and angular momentum; gravitation, and/or waves. This course 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: Core 9

Physics 2: Waves 
Grades: 10-12
From Simple Harmonic Motion to Sound, Light, and Quantum Mechanics, waves permeate the universe. This algebra-based, experimental-focussed physics class will use labs to investigate the underlying properties of waves and apply them to a wide range of phenomena. Topics will include Vibrations and Waves, Sound and Harmonics, Light and other EM waves, Reflection and Refraction, Interference and Diffraction, and Waves in Modern Physics. Students will be assessed through a combination of lab work, quizzes, tests, and projects.  Prerequisite: Core 9

Python (Accelerated)
Grades: 10-12
This fast-paced course is an introduction to the Python programming language, a relatively easy language to learn, that provides the basic conceptual underpinnings of the important ideas in computer science. Students spend the first half of the class expanding on the concepts they learned about in Core 9: loops, arrays, string and number manipulation, and functions. In the second half of the course, students begin exploring more advanced issues in computer science, including graphical interfaces, recursion, object-oriented programming, data structures, and runtime complexity. Prerequisite: Core 9 and permission of the department.

Biology 2: Aquatic Ecosystems (Accelerated) 
Grades: 11-12
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. Prerequisites: Core 10 and permission of the department.

Biology 2: Extinctions and Biology 2: Extinctions (Accelerated) 
Grades: 11-12

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. Permission of the department is required to take this class for accelerated credit.

Chemistry 2: Organic Chemistry (Accelerated) 
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 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.

Chemistry 2: Pollution 
Grades: 11-12

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 and conversation topics could include: 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 and permission of the department.

Computer Science 2: Software Engineering (Accelerated) 
Grades: 11-12
In this course, students will apply their knowledge of object oriented programming to design, develop, test, and deploy a software program to solve a real world problem. This class aims to grow student programming skills while learning about software development methodologies. The course will introduce students to the Agile approach to software development and provide them with the opportunity to authentically apply the Agile methodology while building a software solution. Students will work through a development process that begins with gathering requirements and understanding the problem they are trying to solve. From there, they will iteratively design, develop, test, and revise their software solution based on feedback. The course is based around one large scale software project where students will develop an interactive simulation to illustrate a science concept, such as evolution or kinetic molecular theory, that is difficult to study/observe directly (think of PHET simulations). Students will work on a team throughout the semester and daily collaboration with peers will be an essential part of the course. Prerequisite: Core 10 and permission of the department.

Engineering 2: Electrical Engineering (Accelerated) 
Grades: 10-12
From smartphones to appliances, digital circuits are all around us. This course provides a foundation for students who are interested in electrical engineering, electronics, or circuit design. Students study topics such as combinational and sequential logic and are exposed to circuit design tools used in industry, including logic gates, integrated circuits, and programmable logic devices. Students will develop key engineering skills including teamwork, communication methods, and technical documentation. Students will analyze, design, and build digital electronic circuits. While implementing these designs, students will continually hone their professional skills, creative abilities, and understanding of the circuit design process. Students will be expected to solve problems and learn through doing, experimentation, and collaboration. The accelerated version of this course is fast paced and much more math-intensive than the regular version. Students who have taken Electrical Engineering (Regular) are not eligible to take this class. 

Engineering 2: 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. 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 
Grades: 11-12
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

Physics 2: Astronomy 
Grades: 11-12

This course will use experiments and activities to explore our growing understanding of the universe. Students will learn how we found our place in the universe and study the technologies that have allowed us to develop this understanding. The course will build on this work to explore the solar system and our historic and future exploration of space. Students will then study stellar and galactic evolution before delving into cosmology ideas. The course will conclude with a unit on astrobiology. This course is accessible to students comfortable with Algebra and Trigonometry.

Physics 2: Optics with Calculus (Accelerated) 
Grades: 10-12
What is light and how can we understand it conceptually, quantitatively, and visually? This course provides an introduction to optical science interwoven with engineering applications. The focus will be on geometrical optics including the following topics: ray-tracing, lens and mirror equations, aberrations, lens design, apertures and stops, radiometry, and photometry. There will also be a briefer introduction to wave optics. Students should be prepared to jump into a fast paced course that weaves together hands-on demos/experiments, calculations, and real world applications. Assessment will be through weekly problem sets, lab write-ups, presentations, and tests.  Prerequisite: Core 9, Calculus (Accelerated), and permission of the department. 

Plastics (Accelerated) 
Grades: 11-12

This is an interdisciplinary biology and chemistry course. Students will begin by understanding the complexity of plastic pollution as both an ecological and cultural issue. From a biological perspective, students will explore the macroscopic and microscopic understanding of plastic contamination. From a chemical perspective, students will then study the molecular structure of plastic polymers and explore the challenges that come along with biodegradable plastics. There will be a service component to this course that relates to mitigating plastic pollution. Prerequisite: Core 10 and permission of the department.

Renewable Energy 
Grades: 10-12
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.