Science Department2022-02-26T11:50:03+00:00

Science Department

Placement Requirements

The placement process for new students is different from that for returning students. Please review the placement requirements for the appropriate group at the links below.

Placement Requirements for New Students
Placement Requirements for Returning Students

All placements are subject to review by the head of the department.

Grade 9

Grade 10

Computer Science

Available to all students. Computer Sciences courses do not fulfill the science diploma requirement.

Grade 11 & 12

Engineering

AP/Honors

Semester Science Courses

The Semester Science course offerings are single semester courses and can change from year to year.

The registrar works with students to request particular semester science courses in May.

*courses marked with an asterisk, if successfully completed, can serve as a booster class to help students qualify for the corresponding AP class if they had not otherwise met its prerequisites.

Biology

Chemistry

Physics

Science Course Descriptions

Principles of Scientific Inquiry

Available to: grade 9 students, required for those students

Relying on the motto of the Royal Society of London, Nulius in verba (“take no one’s word for it”), we emphasize that science is an experiential endeavor. How do we know what we know? This class lays the foundation of expectations and approach to the science learning experience that permeates all aspects of the Stevenson science curriculum. Through an integrated science curriculum, foundational topics in physics, chemistry, biology and environmental science are woven into an interdisciplinary study of core scientific concepts. We take advantage of our local marine environment, the world renowned Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary, the Monterey pine forest, and the classroom to solidify practices of scientific measurement, data organization, and analysis. Emphasis is placed on the interconnectedness of all major branches of science necessary for fully analyzing any scientific phenomena, and students develop the knowledge and skills to prepare them for upper-level courses. A significant portion of the second semester is organized around varied capstone projects, designed by students with coaching from instructors and outside experts, to hone the skills that make scientists expert critical thinkers. During this research experience, students learn to back up their scientific reasoning with carefully collected evidence. The year culminates in grade 9 Science Night in May, where students present their research to peers, teachers and parents.

Science 2 / Science 2 Honors

Type:honors available

Available to: grade 10 students, required for those students

grade 10 students, required for those students
The natural world depends on the flow of energy and the transformation of matter. How does that reveal itself in how mountains form, the greenhouse effect, wave propagation, and in how humans use energy for transportation? Building on the skills of inquiry and scientific method emphasized in the grade 9 Principles of Scientific Inquiry course, students explore thematic topics in chemistry, physics, and biology. Foundational scientific concepts are presented in the context of everyday phenomena and observable examples from the world around us. We start with the theme of mountaineering, where students learn about plate tectonics, atmospheric dynamics, gas laws, and investigate why the human body cannot survive at high elevation. In the second thematic unit students come back to sea level, exploring the theme of waves, focusing on the energy of sound and light, then shifting to examining the fundamentals of chemical reactions and the chemistry of ocean water. Students will also investigate our local environment and issues facing marine life, from ocean acidification to plastic pollution. The concluding unit focuses on engines and the mechanics of transportation. Students learn about rocketry, the physics of motion and propulsion, gravity, and orbital mechanics. Students complete their experience with work on a collaborative project to simulate a mission to Mars. Throughout the course, students conduct formal laboratory investigations and activities in class, and engage in research projects.

The honors sections follow the same sequence, but require deeper analysis of chemistry and physics, including computational problems in areas of stoichiometry, titration and gravitational forces. Placement in Science 2 Honors is determined by the Principles of Scientific Inquiry instructors and the science department head.

Available to: grade 11 and 12 students

Schedule: each meets during a single semester.

The Semester Science course offerings can change from year to year. The registrar works with students to request particular semester science courses in May.

* Semester courses marked with an asterisk, if successfully completed, can serve as a booster class to help students qualify for the corresponding AP class if they had not otherwise met its prerequisites.

Biology: Brains and Behavior*

How do organisms take in information about their environment, make sense of it and respond in a way that helps them survive and thrive? How do animals learn from their experiences, and how did these systems evolve over the course of hundreds of millions of years? In this course, we will study the neurobiology of a wide range of animals, from the nervous system of the lowly worm to the most complex system of them all, the human brain. We will learn how we see, smell, feel and hear, and how the brain instantly integrates all this information to guide our behavior. How, for example, does a signal from your eyes get to your hands quickly enough for you to catch a rapidly moving ball? Why do some things taste bad? We will also research the consequences of damage to specific regions of the brain, and how the brain compensates and recovers. Is it true that some people can smell colors? What happens if you disconnect the two sides of the brain? How can you be unable to learn any new information, yet still be able to learn to play the piano? Throughout the course, we will consider the contributions of influential neuroscientists, psychologists and ethologists such as Pavlov, Hebb, Skinner, Lorenz, and Sacks, and investigate how our understanding of learning and the brain evolved over the past two hundred years.

Biology: Evolutionary Biology*

How did we get from a primordial mixture of chemicals, 4.5 billion years ago, to the rich diversity of life present on earth today? How are new species formed? What do we know about the molecular mechanisms that underpin evolution? How have changes in the environment driven some organisms to incredible success, and others to extinction? How have humans evolved since we first appeared in North Africa some 300,000 years ago, and are we still evolving? We will consider the various theories of how life on earth came to be, focusing on the work of Charles Darwin and the neo-Darwinian scientists inspired by his theory of evolution. This course integrates biochemistry, molecular genetics, anatomy, physiology, animal behavior, botany and environmental science in a broad introduction to the vast field of evolutionary biology.

Biology: Infectious Disease and Public Health*

This course weaves together immunology, pathology, and epidemiology to explore the human body, public health, and what makes us sick. We will explore the human immune system, the ways it can malfunction, and learn how vaccines boost immune response. This course will explore pathogens and pandemics that have shaped human evolution and history, ranging from Plasmodium parasites (malaria) to coronavirus disease (COVID-19). We will also take a look at how humans have shaped pathogen evolution, such as the rapid rise of multi-drug resistant bacteria. Students will research communicable diseases and noncommunicable diseases, and explore how these can be prevented in order to improve public health. In the laboratory, students will perform blood-typing tests to explore the function of antibodies and use models to explore the origin and function of CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing. A main focus of this course will be the COVID-19 pandemic, the origin and spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), and measures that may prevent future global pandemics.

Biology: Human Anatomy and Physiology*

The human body is an extraordinary collection of organ systems that enable us to do amazing things. How do these systems work and how are they interconnected? What happens if the systems break down or get damaged? This course is a laboratory-based elective in which students investigate the structure and function of the human body. Students explore each organ system on the cellular, tissue, and organ level, then investigate how they integrate and function together. They also explore health topics associated with each organ system, such as how dietary choices affect the digestive system, and substances of abuse and addiction impact the nervous system. Dissection of a fetal pig and other appropriate organs complement our coursework.

Biology: Sports Medicine

Sports Medicine gives students a fundamental understanding of a range of musculoskeletal and neurological injuries. In this laboratory-based class, students will learn basic regional anatomy, the evaluation process, and acute care and rehabilitation skills for a variety of common injuries associated with sports participation.
Students will gain thorough understanding of traumatic brain injuries and will be able to assess the severity of concussions, manage acute injuries and make informed decisions on appropriate return to sports participation. We will also investigate techniques for athletic performance improvement and preventative treatments.

Biology: Ornithology, Bird Nerds 101

Bird diversity abounds on campus in the Monterey Pine forest and along our nearby coastline. What behaviors can be discovered about our campus-resident crows? How do survival strategies differ between birds of the forest compared to the coast? In this course, students will participate in place-based bird studies, which will include the identification and photography of local bird species during our frequent field trips to local birding hot spots. Classes and labs will further investigate bird evolution, morphology, ecology, and behavior.

Chemistry: Experimental Chemistry*

Labs, labs, labs!

Get deep into hands-on learning through an immersion in experiments in chemistry. After conducting a series of labs on topics including rates of chemical reactions, thermochemistry, equilibrium studies and more, students will be presented with experimental problems for which they will design their own lab procedures to gather appropriate data. Foundational concepts covered in this class will help to prepare the successful student for enrollment in AP Chemistry in their grade 12 year.

Biology: Marine Science

This class provides students with an introduction to marine life, and the principles of marine geology and physical and chemical oceanography that influence the distribution of that life. The course begins with a review of the basic concepts of waves, tides, and currents in preparation for a survey of the living organisms found in the world’s oceans. Monterey Bay, being our home, is the focal point of our studies. The bay is an outstanding backdrop for the course curriculum as it is diverse both geologically and biologically. We take full advantage of our proximity to the ocean by taking numerous field trips to the local rocky intertidal ecosystem, bird colonies, sea otter rafts, seal and sea lion haul-outs, and to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Topics of current interest including global warming, depleted fisheries, coral bleaching, coastal erosion, and plastic pollution are presented throughout the course. Upon completing the course, students are expected to be able to recognize the dominant rocky intertidal invertebrates and algae as well as the most common marine mammals in our local ecosystem and describe the threats to ecosystem balance.

Physics: Field Astronomy

Field Astronomy examines both the dynamics of planetary systems and the life and death of stars. The course will examine the history of the heliocentric and geocentric models of our solar system, Kepler’s laws of planetary motion, Newton’s Law of universal gravitation and the theory behind solar system dynamics. Starting with our sun, the course will examine the formation of stars and their possible fates. Special attention will be paid to the nature of light and the use of spectroscopy to measure characteristics of stars outside our solar system and determine stellar classification characteristics. Laboratory work will include observations of planets, moons, asteroids, and comets as well as classifications of stellar clusters, nebulae and supernova remnants and the observations of other galaxies. Students will incorporate the basics in celestial mapping and telescope use in laboratory work. The course includes a weekly two-hour evening lab, as well as a two-night sky observing trip away from campus.

Physics: Mechanics and Kinematics

Does learning how things move, fly and spin get your creative juices flowing?
This physics class takes a close look at the wonders of the mechanical world around us. Students will roll things down ramps, shoot projectiles through the air and build simple machines, as well as discover why things fall and why they orbit. This course will help establish a knowledge and skills foundation for students seeking to take advanced courses in physics. Topics examined will include Newtonian mechanics, projectile motion, energy, work, simple machines, rotational mechanics, buoyancy and gravity and orbital mechanics.

Physics: Forces and Energy

The world around us offers exposure to everyday phenomena that are often considered mysterious. We will answer some questions like: Why do things float? How come sound can travel through water? What the heck is light? How does electricity actually work? Why does leaving the refrigerator door open make your kitchen warmer? How do you make a nuclear bomb? We will finish by looking into the way that modern physics is changing our understanding of what we think of as the “real” world, including topics of thermodynamics, sound, light, electricity and Einstein’s theories of relativity. This course will also provide a foundation for students seeking to take advanced courses in physics.

Available to: grade 12 students

Engineering Design

Available to: qualified grade 11 and 12 students, see placement requirements link above

Special Notes: This course does not count towards the diploma requirement for the Science department. Students taking this course must concurrently be enrolled in a year of traditional science or have successfully completed three years of traditional science.

This is a course that helps students understand the engineering design process, as well as how prototypes are used to give engineers the ability to explore design alternatives, test theories, and confirm performance. Students will be engaged in stimulating and collaborative hands-on problem-solving activities for the purpose of experiencing how engineers and technicians use a combination of mathematics, science, technology, and prototyping to discover solutions to problems they encounter. In addition to building on their creative and critical thinking skills as young engineers, students in this class will learn how to use Fusion 360 (3D computer aided design tool by Autodesk) as a digital design tool, along with 3D printers, to produce prototypes.

Mechatronics Engineering

Available To: qualified grade 11 and 12 students, see placement requirements link above

Special Notes: This course does not count towards the diploma requirement for the Science department. Students taking this course must concurrently be enrolled in a year of traditional science or have successfully completed three years of traditional science.

Mechatronics is the union of electrical, mechanical, and computer engineering, and includes robotics. This course uses design and discovery surrounding mechatronics to expose students to various engineering disciplines and prepare them for introductory college-level engineering coursework, such as physical computing/coding with applied mathematics, control theory, and 3D modeling/printing. Students will engage in intriguing and challenging hands-on projects involving these topics to further develop important problem-solving and critical-thinking skills that are necessary to be an effective engineer. Projects include using an 8-LED display for sensor input and a game, designing an RGB lamp, programming an autonomous robot, and creating a wireless remote control car.

While no prior programming experience is required, it is helpful. Honors level projects will be available to challenge the more advanced student.

Available to: all students

Special Notes: Computer science courses do not fulfill the science diploma requirement

Introduction to Computer Science

Available to: all students

Schedule: one semester

Special Notes: This course does not count towards the diploma requirement for the Science department. Students taking this course must concurrently be enrolled in a year of traditional science or have successfully completed three years of traditional science.

Introduction to Computer Science is designed for students with no assumed computer science background and requires no prior programming experience. In this introductory course, students develop problem-solving skills through the study of real-world examples, reflecting on various uses of technology in the worlds around them. We explore core topics such as design thinking, computational thinking, artificial intelligence, and basic programming syntax. Throughout the course, students will be introduced to a foundational toolbox in Scratch and then Python, a versatile and powerful programming language widely applicable across many fields.

Data Science

Available To: all qualified students, see placement requirement link above

Schedule: one semester

Special Notes: This course does not count towards the diploma requirement for the Science department. Students taking this course must simultaneously be enrolled in a year of traditional science or have successfully completed three years of traditional science.

Data literacy is increasingly important in our world. This course combines the vital arenas of statistical knowledge and programming skills with the purpose of analyzing and visualizing the past, as well as predicting the future. The course content will address common applications in science, marketing, business, and sports, and will give students the skills and analytical tools necessary to learn from data efficiently and make informed decisions. The curriculum includes descriptive statistics, an overview of Python, Jupyter notebooks, an introduction to Pandas, data visualizations, exploratory data analysis, ethical issues, and predictive analytics. The prerequisite is Introduction to Computer Science or its equivalent.

Programming Methodology 

Available to: all qualified students, see placement requirement link above

Schedule: one semester

Special Notes: This course does not count towards the diploma requirement for the Science department. Students taking this course must concurrently be enrolled in a year of traditional science or have successfully completed three years of traditional science.

Programming Methodology is a course designed for students who have a basic understanding of computer science and programming and want to further develop their programming skills. Through individual and group assignments, students will learn a number of important topics of basic programming such as types, numbers, strings, functions, linear collections, dictionaries, logic, decomposition, good programming style, whole-program structure, text, file-processing, debugging, and object oriented programming. Students will creatively and collaboratively learn important core features of the programming language that will help them solve real programming problems. To engage students and reinforce learning, students will perform short programming exercises during class as they learn new topics.

Data Structures & Algorithms / Honors

Available To: all qualified students, see placement requirement link above

Schedule: one semester

Special Notes: This course does not count towards the diploma requirement for the Science department. Students taking this course must simultaneously be enrolled in a year of traditional science or have successfully completed three years of traditional science.

The subject of data structures and algorithms follows programming in a computer science curriculum, both at the college level as well as at high schools that offer advanced courses. It is a class that builds programming skills, but more importantly improves students’ ability to think logically, solve advanced problems (for example how your GPS finds the best route or how a video game “interacts” with the player), communicate, and be creative. The course curriculum includes algorithm analysis, linear structures, queues, recursion, sorting and searching algorithms, trees and tree algorithms, graphs and graph algorithms. The prerequisite is Programming Methodology or its equivalent, including object-oriented programming and writing and using classes in Python. The Honors version of the course includes a heavier workload and more stringent grading standards, and students in the course may choose to take the Computer Science A AP exam if they wish.

AP Environmental Science

Type: honors

Available to: qualified grade 11 and 12 students, see placement requirements link above

This course, the equivalent of a first-semester college-level environmental science course, covers the scientific principles of ecology, chemistry, and statistics that are used to understand how the systems of the Earth are interrelated. Emphasis is placed on how science deals with the environmental issues facing our world and the many possible solutions to these problems. At the same time, the course aims to provide the social, political, and ethical framework in which environmental decision-making occurs. Students receive preparation for the AP Exam in Environmental Science.

AP Physics C

Type: honors

Available to: qualified grade 11 and 12 students, see placement requirements link above

This course is designed to follow either Physics or Physics Honors. It emphasizes mathematical analysis and features a calculus-level treatment of mechanics, electricity, and magnetism. Students learn to understand and interpret physical information in a verbal, mathematical, and graphic context. The weekly laboratory sessions require that the student become familiar with physics laboratory equipment and be able to design basic experiments.

AP Chemistry

Type: honors

Available to: qualified grade 11 and 12 students, see placement requirements link above

Using a curriculum which has been approved by the College Board, this course emphasizes inquiry and a student-centered approach to learning complex phenomena about the behavior of matter and the changes they undergo. After a review of foundational chemistry, students master the following topics: electron structure of atoms, quantitative analysis, thermodynamics, kinetics, and gas laws. Acid-base reactions are also studied in depth and provide a framework for sophisticated quantitative analysis of equilibrium systems. Through extensive lab work, students intentionally build skills of inquiry by developing their own protocols. Students will be prepared for the AP Chemistry exam, and will be prepared to enter college-level programs with confidence in their skills and knowledge.

AP Biology

Type: honors

Available to: qualified grade 11 and 12 students, see placement requirements link above

AP Biology covers fundamental elements of the biological sciences and also seeks to develop an enduring conceptual understanding of the major themes of biology: evolution, energy transformations, and molecular biology, DNA and information storage and retrieval, and the interaction of biological systems. Students learn about the integrity of living systems and the application of chemical and physical principles of life. Students also explore the historical perspective of recent major developments in biology. Laboratory activities hone analytical skills and foster an appreciation of scientific experimentation.

Physics Honors

Type: honors

Available to: qualified grade 11 and 12 students, see placement requirements link above

Students taking this algebra-based course master the vocabulary and concepts of physics in a discussion/demonstration/laboratory format. In a curriculum that covers a broad spectrum of material, students learn the following: mechanics, properties of matter, heat and thermodynamics, wave motion (including sound and light), electricity and magnetism, and atomic and nuclear physics. The use of trigonometry and a more extensive laboratory experience make Physics Honors comparable to a non-calculus college-level survey course.

Science 2 / Science 2 Honors

Type:honors available

Available to: grade 10 students, required for those students

grade 10 students, required for those students
The natural world depends on the flow of energy and the transformation of matter. How does that reveal itself in how mountains form, the greenhouse effect, wave propagation, and in how humans use energy for transportation? Building on the skills of inquiry and scientific method emphasized in the grade 9 Principles of Scientific Inquiry course, students explore thematic topics in chemistry, physics, and biology. Foundational scientific concepts are presented in the context of everyday phenomena and observable examples from the world around us. We start with the theme of mountaineering, where students learn about plate tectonics, atmospheric dynamics, gas laws, and investigate why the human body cannot survive at high elevation. In the second thematic unit students come back to sea level, exploring the theme of waves, focusing on the energy of sound and light, then shifting to examining the fundamentals of chemical reactions and the chemistry of ocean water. Students will also investigate our local environment and issues facing marine life, from ocean acidification to plastic pollution. The concluding unit focuses on engines and the mechanics of transportation. Students learn about rocketry, the physics of motion and propulsion, gravity, and orbital mechanics. Students complete their experience with work on a collaborative project to simulate a mission to Mars. Throughout the course, students conduct formal laboratory investigations and activities in class, and engage in research projects.

The honors sections follow the same sequence, but require deeper analysis of chemistry and physics, including computational problems in areas of stoichiometry, titration and gravitational forces. Placement in Science 2 Honors is determined by the Principles of Scientific Inquiry instructors and the science department head.

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