Science

Science

The aim of the Overlake School Science Department is to capitalize on students’ curiosity in order to engage them in a rich exploration of the natural world. Through a rigorous journey of inquiry, the Science program guides students in their investigation of natural phenomena and scientific issues to lead them to become scrutinizing and ethical science practitioners. Embracing an openness to new ideas and a willingness to fully consider these in a scientific manner, students learn to pose and investigate scientific questions, engage in data analysis and interpretation, and communicate scientific reasoning to explain experimental results and observed phenomena.

During the required years of study, students encounter concepts, principles, laws, and practices of science across the three main disciplines of science at successively higher levels of abstraction. The required course of study is designed to immerse students in the investigation of the nature and behavior of matter, energy, and living organisms. The departmental requirements prepare students for more advanced study both at Overlake and at college, as well as helping them develop an appreciation for the important role of science in their everyday lives.

The department staff is committed to active learning experiences, engaging the students in the process of science via lecture, discussion, inquiry and laboratory work that serve to develop in students personal responsibility for their own learning and a recognition of the importance of approaching scholarship with the highest level of integrity. Honest effort and full engagement serve to enhance the students’ ability to think critically, communicate intelligently, and fully appreciate the full range of contributions that help us develop meaningful understanding of scientific problems and issues. 

Curriculum Requirements

High school students are required to take three years of science: BioChem I, BioChem II must be taken in grade 9 and 10, respectively.  The third-year requirement must be a Physics course, but this can be taken in either grades 11 or 12.

View the Science Honors/Advanced Placement Criteria.

 

Science 5

The fifth-grade science course begins with an introduction to science process skills and then applies them using the scientific method. The students use an inquiry-based approach to explore topics in the areas of physical science, earth science, and biological science. Students utilize investigatory skills to look for patterns, relationships and connections between various topics of the different disciplines of science. Topics covered include: the nature of properly designed experimental procedures, properties of the Earth, interaction of species and their environments, and environmental awareness and stewardship.

Science 6

The sixth grade science course focuses on the study of matter, biological systems, and ecology by unraveling misconceptions and gathering prior knowledge. In this course, students will examine ideas concerning identity, continuity, and interactions within and between living systems. The course begins by continuing the investigation into scientific inquiry started in the fifth grade with a study of Forensic Science. The study of biological science will include investigations into cell structure and function, life cycles and genetics, and the relationship between biotic and abiotic factors in an ecosystem. Relying on investigation as a primary way of acquiring knowledge, the students will gain an understanding of the scientific process while developing skills in data recording, data analysis, experimental design and lab report writing. Laboratory materials and skills are introduced and used in a series of basic experiments.

Science 7

Seventh grade science focuses on a variety of earth science disciplines.  It uses National Parks as a lens to understand what is happening in our Earth.  Areas studied include rocks and landforms, earthquakes and volcanoes, climate, and Earth’s place in the universe.  The course focuses on an inquiry-based approach with students engaging in hands-on investigations in order to frame the lessons.  There is also an emphasis placed on technology and using online resources to study our earth.  The seventh-grade course continues to build on the laboratory and analysis skills developed in sixth grade. 

Science 8

Eighth grade science is the final course in the middle school program. It emphasizes scientific inquiry and experimentation while helping students develop their problem solving and evaluative skills. Eighth grade science concentrates on the study of physical science by investigating the concepts of kinematics; Newton's Laws of motion; work, energy, and power; fluid statics, density, and buoyancy; wave phenomena and sound; and light and the Electromagnetic Spectrum.

Biological and Chemical Systems I

Required 9th grade course.

Biological and Chemical Systems I (BioChem I) is the first course in the Biological and Chemical Systems two-year sequence. Required for ninth graders, this interdisciplinary course centers on a study of the structure and properties of matter, energy, and living organisms. Topics such as atomic structure, chemical and physical properties of different categories of compounds, nature and function of biologically active molecules, cell structure and function, genetics, and evolution are all introduced in this course. Furthermore, significant emphasis will be placed on the development of science practices that allow students to effectively carry out the process of scientific inquiry.

Biological and Chemical Systems II

Required 10th grade course.

Completion of BioChem I with a course grade of 60%, including the second semester exam.

Required for tenth graders, Biological and Chemical Systems II (BioChem II) continues the interdisciplinary study of biology and chemistry started in the ninth grade. In this course studies will focus on the connection between macroscopic properties of various types of matter and their atomic/molecular structure. Inquiry into the relationships between atomic structure and chemical activity will serve to enable students to delve into biochemical reactions and biochemical energy production. This course emphasizes practices of quantitative problem solving and data analysis as a tool for elucidating patterns and information.

Biological and Chemical Systems II: Honors Option

Completion of each semester of BioChem I with an average of 95%, including the second semester exam, plus consent of instructor. Algebra II is required for Honors BioChem II, although it may be taken concurrently. In addition, student must have earned a grade of 85% or better in their last completed honors math course or a grade of 93% or better in their last completed regular math course. 

In the honors section of the BioChem II class, students will explore the same concepts as in the non-honors course, though the depth and pace of the course will reflect a much higher level of rigor. The honors section is best suited for students who tend to pick up concepts more quickly and can master introductory problem-solving strategies with fewer examples needed.  This allows the class to investigate more advanced applications of concepts and to solve more complicated problems.  As an honors level course, there is an expectation that subject matter covered in BioChem I has been retained and can be applied to both the breadth and depth of the material covered in BioChem IIIt is expected that students enter the course with strong work habits, complete homework on a nightly basis, read independently for understanding, and demonstrate self-advocacy skills. Students should expect to spend roughly an amount of time working outside of class equal to that spent in class. Lab reports and special projects may add on to this time.

Physics

May be taken in either 11th or 12th grade.

Completion of BioChem II or II (H) with a course average of 60%, including the second semester exam.

This year-long course offers an in-depth study of classical and modern physics. Topics to be investigated include kinematics, projectile motion, Newton’s Laws, circular motion, momentum, energy, thermodynamics, electric circuits and optics. The course is designed to provide students with a systematic development of the main principles of physics. It emphasizes problem solving, critical thinking, and data analysis and helps students to develop a deep understanding of physics concepts. Lab work will provide students opportunities to learn concepts through inquiry and apply concepts to real-life situations. Students will be using basic algebra and trigonometry when solving quantitative problems.

Physics: Honors Option

Full-year option for the Physics requirement.
  • Completion of BioChem II with course average of 93% or better, including the second semester exam, plus consent of instructor.
  • Completion of BioChem II (H) with course average of 87% or better, including the second semester exam, plus consent of instructor.
  • Completion of most recent honors math course with a grade of 85% or most recent regular math course with a grade of 87%

In the honors section of the physics class, students will explore the same concepts as in the non-honors course, though the depth and pace of the course will reflect a higher level of rigor.  The honors section is best suited for students who tend to pick up concepts more quickly and can master introductory problem-solving strategies with fewer examples needed.  This allows the class to investigate more advanced applications of concepts and to solve more complicated problems.  As an honors level course, it is expected that students enter the course with strong work habits, complete homework on a nightly basis, read independently for understanding, and demonstrate self-advocacy skills. 

AP Biology

Open to 11th and 12th grade students who have met the necessary prerequisites. This rigorous, college level course demands a year-long commitment from the student and often ends with the taking of the Advanced Placement exam in May.
  • 12th graders:
    • 83% or better course grade in the Honors Physics, or 87% or better, plus teacher recommendation, in the non-honors Physics course. These benchmarks include the second semester final.
    • 93% or better course grade, plus teacher recommendation, in semester elective courses or AP Environmental Science
  • 11th graders: 
    • Completion of BioChem II with a course average of 95%, or BioChem II (H) with a course average of 87%, including the second semester exam. In addition, consent of instructor and competency in English will be used when making this placement.

This year-long, biology course introduces students to the central ideas of biology. The course focuses on fundamental principles of evolution, cell structure and function, genetics, and interactions between systems. The curriculum is demanding both in its scope as well as its level of sophistication, with particular emphasis placed on the application of biological principles to explain experimentally derived data and results. Students will be asked to read a variety of materials from textbooks to online scientific journals. As an AP course, AP Biology is equivalent to a first-year college biology course.  Therefore, it is expected that students enter the course with strong work habits, complete homework on a nightly basis, read independently for understanding, and demonstrate self-advocacy skills. Students should expect to spend roughly an amount of time working outside of class equal to that spent in class. Lab reports and special projects may add on to this time.

View the College Board AP Biology Course Description.

AP Chemistry

Open to 11th and 12th grade students who have met the necessary prerequisites. This rigorous, college level course demands a year-long commitment from the student and often ends with the taking of the Advanced Placement exam in May.
  • 12th graders: 
    • 85% or better course grade in the Honors Physics plus consent of instructor, or 93% or better, plus teacher recommendation, in the non-honors Physics course. These benchmarks include the second semester final.
  • 11th graders: 
    • Completion of BioChem II with a course average of 95%, including the second semester exam, or completion of BioChem II (H) with test average of 90%, including the second semester exam. Concurrent enrollment in Calculus and consent of instructor are also required.

This year-long, college level course expands upon many of the topics introduced in earlier courses. Students will begin with a study of the nature of matter, examining topics ranging from atomic structure and its application to observable macroscopic properties of elements and compounds to real gases to the structure and properties of condensed states of matter. An in-depth, experimental approach to the study of the behavior of matter will occur through an examination of reaction kinetics, equilibrium systems, and thermodynamics. Laboratory work plays a key role in the structure of the course, with particular emphasis placed on the application of chemical principles to explain experimentally derived data and results. While the Advanced Placement test is certainly an important goal, emphasis will be placed on developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills. As an AP course, AP Chemistry is equivalent to a first-year college inorganic chemistry course.  Therefore, it is expected that students enter the course with strong work habits, complete homework on a nightly basis, read independently for understanding, and demonstrate self-advocacy skills. Students should expect to spend roughly an amount of time working outside of class equal to that spent in class. Lab reports and special projects may add on to this time.

View the College Board AP Chemistry Course Description.

AP Physics C: Mechanics

Open to 12th grade students who have met the necessary prerequisites. This rigorous, college level course demands a year-long commitment from the student and often end with the taking of the Advanced Placement exam in May.

85% or better in the Honors Physics course or 93% or better, plus consent of instructor, in the non-honors Physics course. These benchmarks include the second semester final. In addition, successful completion or concurrent enrollment in Calculus is required.

This year-long college level course is an in-depth, calculus-based study of physics. It addresses the concepts of mechanics introduced in Physics, but delves into the topics with much greater depth by employing an experimental and quantitative analytical approach to the material. Topics for study include Newtonian mechanics, the work-energy theorem, momentum and impulse, angular momentum, circular motion, rotational kinematics, dynamics and statics, and simple harmonic motion. All of these topics will be covered at the calculus-based level and use of calculus in problem-solving and derivations increases as the course progresses.  As an AP course, AP Physics C is equivalent to a first-semester college mechanics course.  Therefore, it is expected that students enter the course with strong work habits, complete homework on a nightly basis, read independently for understanding, and demonstrate self-advocacy skills. Students should expect to spend roughly an amount of time working outside of class equal to that spent in class. Lab reports and special project may add on to this time.

View the College Board AP Physics C (Mechanics) Course Description and the College Board AP Physics C (Electricity & Magnetism) Course Description.

AP Environmental Science

Open to 11th and 12th grade students who have met the necessary prerequisites. This rigorous, college level course demands a year-long commitment from the student and often ends with the taking of the Advanced Placement exam in May.

 

11th Graders:

  • Completion of BioChem II with a course grade of 88% or better, or completion of BioChem II (H) with a course grade of 83% or better, plus consent of instructor.

12th Graders:

  • Completion of BioChem II with a course grade of 88% or better, or completion of BioChem II (H) with a course grade of 83% or better. However, students not meeting this requirement at the end of 10th grade may still be recommended by their 11th grade science teacher if they have shown significant growth and progress as a science student during their junior year. Consent of the 11th grade science teacher is required.

The goal of this course is to provide students with the scientific principles, concepts, and methodologies to understand the interrelationships of the natural world. This involves the identification and analysis of environmental problems both natural and human-made, the evaluation of the risks associated with these problems and the examination of alternative solutions for resolving and/or preventing them. This course promotes environmental literacy to enable informed decision-making regarding issues that impact the environment and society. Additionally, this course will help establish and build a sense of stewardship for the environment, illustrating throughout the course that one person can make a difference. The course encompasses human population dynamics, interrelationships in nature, energy flow, resources, environmental quality, human impact on environmental systems, and environmental law. Environmental science is an interdisciplinary study that draws from the biological, physical, chemical and earth sciences, as well as social sciences such as economics, politics and sociology. Critical thinking and problem-solving applications are emphasized. As an AP course, AP Environmental Science is equivalent to a first-year college course.  Therefore, it is expected that students enter the course with strong work habits, complete homework on a nightly basis, read independently for understanding, and demonstrate self-advocacy skills.  Students should expect to spend roughly an amount of time working outside of class equal to that spent in class. Lab reports and special project may add on to this time.

View the College Board AP Environmental Science Course Description.

Engineering Design and Analysis

Full-year elective

Open to 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students who have successfully completed Algebra I.

Engineering Design and Analysis is a year-long course that offers opportunities for students to build creative problem-solving and engineering design skills, collaborate to solve complex, modern problems, and build a strong foundation for future learning.  This hands-on, team-based, inquiry-focused engineering design course provides meaningful learning experiences for students with diverse interests and learning styles. This class is open to students whether or not they are interested in becoming engineers.  Regardless of their future career plans, students will develop valuable critical thinking and problem-solving skills as well as habits of mind that can be applied to any field. 

Students in Engineering Design and Analysis will work to discover the engineering design process, make data-driven decisions, and work in multi-level teams to solve complex problems.  Students will explore various fields of engineering through a series of design challenges that illustrate how engineering can improve people’s lives and health, meet the special needs of different customer groups, and even enable creativity.

Global Health and Infectious Diseases

Semester elective.

Open to 11th and 12th grade students who have successfully completed BioChem I and BioChem II.

Open to 10th grade students who have successfully completed Algebra II, earned an 85% or greater in BioChem I, and received consent of their BioChem I teacher.

What makes people sick? How is the cause and spread of disease studied and assessed? What are key factors that determine health and well being for all populations? What are the biggest challenges in global health today and how are these challenges being met? These questions lie at the heart of a study of global health and infectious disease. This course will enable you to develop an understanding of the nature of infectious disease and explore how this class of disease continues to be the central determinant for the health of all populations. Tackling the issue of global health and infectious disease from a variety of perspectives, our work will focus on developing an understanding of the basic concepts of infectious diseases, dynamics of disease transmission, as well as the impact that emerging and reemerging infectious diseases have on society.

Students in this course will be engaged in a variety of laboratory and research projects. Therefore, adequate preparation for class is required and will involve regular homework.

Anatomy & Physiology

Semester elective.

Open to 11th and 12th grade students who have successfully completed BioChem I and BioChem II.

Open to 10th grade students who have completed BioChem I with an 85% or greater, plus consent is required from their BioChem I teacher.

The purpose of this class is to study the structure and function of several systems in the human body (circulatory, respiratory, digestive, excretory, endocrine, and reproductive). With an emphasis on the concept of homeostasis, we will examine the mechanisms by which these systems support the process of life. This course makes regular use of case studies. Students will act as detectives to diagnose patients and link symptoms of a disease to the underlying physiological causes. Students in this course will be engaged in a variety of laboratory projects, dissections, and model building exercises to gain a deeper understanding of body systems. They will also be asked to exercise their intellectual and creative capacity by researching a disease and presenting their findings in a case study of their own. Adequate preparation for class is required and will involve regular homework.

Astronomy

Semester elective. This course is equivalent to the Astronomy 101 course offered at the University of Washington, and may be taken for 5 UW credits.

This semester-long course is an introduction to the universe, with an emphasis on conceptual rather than mathematical comprehension. Topics include modern theories of the universe, evolution of galaxies, quasars, stars, black holes, planets and solar systems. Current observational and research techniques will be explored through laboratory work. Students will have opportunities to utilize telescopes in both direct and remote observing. Major themes of astronomy which will be addressed in this course include:

  • How has our understanding of our place in the Universe evolved over time?
  • How are astronomers able to describe and understand complex phenomena utilizing only the light received from distant sources?
  • What is the role astronomy plays in our daily lives, and in the future of humanity?

Evolution

Semester elective.

Open to 11th and 12th grade students who have successfully completed BioChem I and BioChem II.

This course will focus on developing an understanding of modern evolutionary theory by focusing on major topics within evolutionary biology. These include natural selection, descent with modification, relationships between modern and extinct species, mechanisms of speciation, and molecular evolution. By examining the breadth of current evidence for modern evolutionary theory, an understanding of the mechanisms of evolutionary change will then be applied to address a variety of questions. For example,

  • How can we explain the incredible variety of living organisms on Earth?
  • Why do some insects look like sticks?
  • Are we, as humans, more closely related to insects or sea urchins?
  • What is responsible for the current rise in multi-drug resistant bacteria?
  • How can DNA analysis provided insight into where humans originated and how they came to populate the Earth?

Students in this course will be engaged in a variety of laboratory and research projects. Therefore, adequate preparation for class is required and will involve regular homework.

Contact

Lisa Orenstein
Science Department Chair
lorenstein@overlake.org
425-868-6191 x662