Upper School Science

Students in our Upper School deepen their understanding of science and form personal connections to it. In our core sequence of biology, chemistry and physics, students gain a strong foundation of skills and knowledge, and then explore topics of interest more deeply through our extensive elective program. Labs and projects allow students to experience the uncertainty and discovery that are intrinsic to science, supported by teachers who know them and their discipline well. We believe that science learning should be relevant to our students’ lives and the world outside the classroom, and our science curriculum strives to accomplish this at all levels of scientific experience and skill.

Required Courses

Biology

Required, ninth grade
First semester + first intensive or
second semester + second intensive

Students gain an appreciation for the diversity of life on Earth in this course, beginning with the cellular and genetic mechanisms common to all living organisms and building up to the life-sustaining systems and traits unique to specific organismal groups. Throughout the term, students explore how evolutionary processes shape relationships between structures and their functions and between organisms and their environments, while developing a solid foundation of laboratory skills. In addition to providing students with an understanding of core biological concepts, the course is designed to provide them with the critical thinking skills necessary to make informed, socially responsible decisions as consumers and global citizens. The course includes inquiry-based, differentiated, and direct instruction, hands-on labs, modeling activities, independent research, and discussions.

Students more deeply investigate specialized fields during the intensive portion of this course. Students engage with course content beyond the walls of UPrep through field work, field trips, and community involvement. While in the classroom, students have time to focus deeply on investigating biological phenomena and synthesizing information presented in multiple modalities—reading, lecture, class discussion, labs, and projects.

Incoming ninth grade students who have taken high school biology in eighth grade may request exemption from the semester portion of the course. The intensive is required for all ninth grade students.


Chemistry

Chemistry or Quantitative Chemistry required, tenth grade
Full year

This course emphasizes a conceptual understanding of fundamental topics in chemistry. Subjects include atomic and molecular structure, states of matter, chemical and physical behavior of elements and compounds, kinetics, acid/base chemistry, thermochemistry and electrochemistry. Laboratory activities and demonstrations reinforce core topics, foster inductive and deductive reasoning, connect core topics to everyday phenomena, and hone laboratory skills. Students are engaged both as small groups and as a class with laboratory-based challenges.

Quantitative Chemistry

Chemistry or Quantitative Chemistry required, tenth grade
Full year

This course is for those students who have a strong interest in science and a solid mathematical background. The emphasis is on a conceptual and mathematical understanding of topics such as atomic theory, stoichiometry, chemical equilibrium, and thermochemistry. These topics are covered quickly and in great depth, possibly leaving time to pursue advanced topics. A combination of lecture, laboratory activities, and demonstrations are the major components of the course.

Biology: From Cells to Systems

Required for 11th grade students in the Classes of 2020 and 2021
Subsequent classes take biology in ninth grade.

Students gain an appreciation for the diversity of life on Earth in this course, beginning with the cellular and genetic mechanisms common to all living organisms and building up to the life-sustaining systems and traits unique to specific organismal groups. Throughout the year, students explore how evolutionary processes shape relationships between structures and their functions and between organisms and their environments. In addition to providing students with a solid foundation in biology, the course is designed to provide them with the knowledge and critical thinking skills necessary to make informed, socially responsible decisions as consumers and global citizens. The course includes inquiry-based, differentiated, and direct instruction, hands-on labs, modeling activities, independent research, and discussions.

Elective Semester Courses

Advanced Topics in Chemistry

Elective, eleventh or twelfth grade
Second semester

This course offers students an opportunity to deepen their study of the science of chemistry. Designed in part by areas of student interest, topics may include: kinetics, thermochemistry, environmental chemistry, reaction energy, and qualitative analysis of known and unknown substances. Students are expected to expand and deepen their understanding through small-group work, problem-solving, and lab experiences. The class format includes lecture, discussion, and laboratory work with an emphasis on group collaboration and experimental design, similar to collegiate-level laboratory settings. Prerequisite: successful completion of one year of chemistry.

Astronomy

Elective, first semester
Ninth - 12th grades

Astronomy applies the tools of science to the sky above us and the universe beyond our planet. Topics include the size and age of the universe, the diverse history of astronomy, light and telescopes, the formation of the solar system, the life cycle of stars, extrasolar planets, the possibility of extraterrestrial life, and looking at astronomy as a way of learning about the nature of science. Some evening meetings may be included.

Human Genetics

Elective, first semester
11th or 12 grade

In this lab-based class, students examine the DNA science that contributes to human genetic variation. We use molecular biology techniques to explore human evolution, the genetic differences between individuals, and the basics of gene cloning. We also investigate the applications of human genome project sequencing and the ethics of human genome manipulation. Prerequisites: successful completion of one year each of chemistry and biology

Engineering II

Ninth - twelfth grades
Second semester

Students who have completed Engineering I dive deeper into more specific challenges with more advanced engineering skills. In addition to civil and mechanical engineering challenges, students complete projects in fields as diverse as robotics, biomedical, chemical and aerospace engineering. Students leave campus when opportunities arise, visiting engineering sites and shadowing engineers. A special emphasis is placed on engineering for social justice, exploring how engineers can have a positive impact on the community and people around them. Prerequisite:Engineering I or equivalent experience with permission of instructor.

Students from backgrounds that are not traditionally well-represented among engineers are especially encouraged to take this class.

Environmental Science

Tenth - twelfth grades
Second semester

The challenge of understanding and maintaining a sustainable environment may be the single most pressing scientific issue that will confront students throughout their lives. This course will equip students to understand and confront the problems facing our region and our globe, contributing to their eventual solution. Beginning with an introduction to ecological principles, students explore the many ways that humans affect the biosphere through population growth, energy production and consumption, natural resource depletion, and agricultural and industrial pollution, among others. To explore these issues, students integrate knowledge from the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, history, political science, geology, statistics, and demography through reading, lecture, class discussion, lab and field work, and projects. Prerequisite: One year of chemistry. Attendance on at least one overnight field trip is a requirement for successful completion of this class.

Forensics

10th - 12th grades
First semester

This class introduces students to some of the fundamental science content, processes, and skills involved in forensics and law enforcement. Fingerprint and crime scene analysis, ballistic event reconstruction, and the rates and markers of organic decay and decomposition are all explored, as students apply what they have learned to solve real world-type problems. Lab skills are especially emphasized in this hands-on, practical course meant to appeal to all students interested in crime solving, applied science, and lab work.

Physics

Elective, full year
Twelfth grade

Physics is designed for students who are interested in understanding the science behind many everyday phenomena. While this course covers similar topics as Quantitative Physics, it is designed to offer more mathematical support for students. It associates physics with real-world scenarios and is recommended for students who have an interest in engineering as many of the topics will be lab or project-based. Students in other grade levels may take the course with permission of the instructor. Prerequisites: Pre-calculus (may be taken concurrently) and successful completion of Conceptual Physics

Quantitative Physics

Elective, full year
Twelfth grade

Quantitative Physics is designed for students who are interested in a more rigorous analysis of the physical world and understanding the “why” behind many everyday phenomena. With an emphasis on Newtonian mechanics, the course balances conceptual understanding with problem solving. Since this course is highly quantitative in nature, a strong background in mathematics is recommended. Students in other grade levels may take the course with permission of the instructor. Prerequisites: Pre-calculus and successful completion of Conceptual Physics

Electives Not Offered in 2019-2020

Advanced Topics in Modern Physics

Anatomy and Physiology

Introduction to Organic Chemistry

Science Olympiad

Waves and Optics

Elective Intensive Courses

Engineering I

Ninth - twelfth grades
First intensive

Students are introduced to the ways of thinking and problem-solving that make engineering unique in STEM. Students work collaboratively to identify and creatively solve real-world problems in a broad range of engineering fields. As students learn how an engineer thinks and works, they gain a better appreciation for how the world around them has taken its current form, and how engineering can address problems that affect real people. This class is designed for students with a broad range of prior experience and math skill. We especially invite students from backgrounds that are not traditionally well-represented among engineers to explore this course.

Teaching Science

Ninth - 12th grades
Second Intensive

Do you like working with younger students? Know what you love or hate about science class? Want to know more about how you learn, and the role of teachers in that process? This intensive partners with a local elementary school class to bring science lessons to their students. In addition to preparing their lessons, students in this class learn how learning works, especially in the context of science, and reflect on their prior experiences with science learning. No prior science coursework is required, though an enthusiasm for learning and working with others is important.