Science

Science

The goal of the science department is to prepare students with the skills and knowledge needed to develop a rich understanding of biological and physical principles. During three required years of study students are exposed to successively more sophisticated concepts and experimental skills that allow them to investigate the nature and behavior of matter, energy, and living organisms.  The department staff is committed to active learning experiences, engaging the students in the process of science via lecture, discussion, and laboratory work that serve to develop and enhance their ability to think critically and communicate intelligently about scientific problems and issues. 

The two-year lab BioChem core, taken in grades 9 and 10, allows students to encounter concepts, principles, laws, and skills of science at successively higher levels of abstraction over a two-year period. This approach enables students to develop an awareness of the interdependence of the sciences, preparing them for more advanced study of science in grades 11 and 12.

Curriculum Requirements

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*.

*This Physics requirement is in place beginning with the Class of 2019.

 

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 is the first in a two-course sequence focused on the study of matter, energy, and biological systems. In this course, students will examine ideas concerning homeostasis, 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, biodiversity, 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 begins with a study of the interior of the earth and plate tectonics, continues by learning about types of rocks and landforms, moves to a study of the ocean and watersheds, the atmosphere and weather, and finally a study of the earth’s place in our solar system. 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; fluid statics & dynamics; work, energy, and power; wave phenomena and sound; light and the Electromagnetic Spectrum; and electricity and magnetism.

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 class expands on concepts in genetics studied in 9th grade by exploring the molecular basis of inheritance. 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 BioChem I with a second semester course average of 95%, including the second semester exam, plus consent of instructor. In addition, students must be concurrently enrolled in Algebra II Honors or have already completed the course with a grade of 85% or better.

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. 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.

Physics

Required for students graduating in 2019 and beyond. May be taken in either 11th or 12th grade. Full-year elective.

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 mechanics, thermodynamics, electricity and magnetism. 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.

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 much higher level of rigor. 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.
  • 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 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.

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.

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.

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 Lab Science II, 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.

View the College Board AP Physics C Course Description

AP Environmental Science

Open to 11th and 12th grade students who have met the necessary prerequisites.

A minimum course grade of 85% in BioChem II, including the second semester exam, as well as consent of instructor; or BioChem II (H) with a minimum course grade of 80%, including the second semester exam.

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.

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.

View the College Board AP Environmental Science Course Description

Evolution

Semester elective.

Open to 11th and 12th grade students who have successfully completed Lab Science 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.

Global Health and Infectious Diseases

Semester elective.

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

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.

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?

Digital Instrumentation

Semester elective.

In this semester-long course, students will explore the design, construction, and testing of digital scientific measurement devices.  After an introduction to the Arduino platform and general concepts of digital electronics, students will work to create a range of sensors to be used in environmental observations and experiments.  Students will explore the concepts of accuracy and precision as they develop protocols for calibrating their instruments.  No previous experience with programming or digital electronics required.

Anatomy & Physiology

Semester elective.

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

The purpose of this class is to study the structure and function of several different systems in the human body (circulatory, respiratory, digestive, excretory, and immune.) With an emphasis on the concept of regulation, we will examine the mechanisms by which these systems support the process of life. This course will focus on the practical and hands-on application of anatomy and physiology. Each student in the course will take on the role of doctor and will be in charge of analyzing and diagnosing four patients over the course of the semester by compiling their knowledge of the body systems in order to come to a concrete diagnosis. Investigation of some common diseases and evaluation of bioethical dilemmas faced in the medical field will be included. There will also be a few dissections so that students can get a better idea of how different organs or systems work. 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