Upper School Curriculum Guide
The Science Department promotes an understanding of the methods and significance of science in contemporary society, a broad and basic knowledge of scientific principles, the ability to experiment meaningfully in an unfamiliar situation, and a curiosity toward the wonders of the natural sciences.
In recognition of the fact that the world is our laboratory, fieldwork and field trips are an integral part of many course offerings. Such trips may include Edith Read Wildlife Sanctuary, Rye Nature Center, the Marshlands Conservancy, and trips on Long Island Sound under the guidance of experienced marine biologists.
RCDS Science Department faculty encourage and help qualified students pursue projects and study outside the classroom. In the past, students have worked and/or done substantive scientific research at such places as the Harvard Astronomical Observatory, the Albert Einstein Hospital in New York City, the biochemistry laboratory at Harvard University, and Yale University. Qualified students have participated in the Columbia University Science Honors Program for high school students and entered the various Science Talent programs and competitions.
Although only three years of science are required – one physical, one biological, and 1 other unit – four years of science are strongly recommended for a solid college preparatory background.
COURSE SELECTION GUIDELINES
In order to be considered for Science Research, AP, and Honors Science courses, all students must be approved by the department and the teacher of the course or the Department Chair. Some Science courses may require placement tests.
To be considered for AP, Advanced, or Honors science courses, students must sign up using the policy outlined on RCDS News. Before signing up, students should email and/or talk to the appropriate science teacher of the course they are interested in taking.
- For Science Research, new and current students should contact Ms. Doran
- For Honors Chemistry, direct questions to Mr. Burt
- For AP Biology, direct questions to Ms. Bischoff
- For AP Environmental Science, direct questions to Ms. Linderoth
- For AP Chemistry, direct questions to Ms. Farrell
- For AP Physics and Advanced Special Topics in Physics - YPT, direct questions to Dr. Krasovec
- For Advanced Physics 1 and 2, direct questions to Dr. Bove
DEPARTMENTAL POLICIES REGARDING ENTRY INTO HONORS AND ADVANCED COURSES
- For current RCDS students: approval from 8th grade science teacher
- For new RCDS students: placement is dependent upon your math placement test score
- B or better in Honors Geometry AND Honors Biology OR A in Biology and A in Geometry or Advanced Geometry
Advanced Physics 1: Mechanics
- B+ or better in Advanced Algebra 2/Trig
- And B or better in previous science course
Advanced Physics 2: Electricity, Magnetism, and Waves
- B- or better in Advanced Physics 1
- B+ or better in Advanced Algebra 2/Trig
AP HOMEWORK GUIDELINES
- AP Physics: Students spend an average of 30-45 minutes on homework. Some tasks require more time, such as finishing lab reports.
- AP Biology: Students spend an average of 30-45 minutes on homework. Some tasks require more time, such as finishing lab reports.
- AP Environmental Science: Students report spending 30-45 minutes on nightly homework, excluding labs, projects, and article reviews. For these longer assignments, students have several weeks’ notice and can plan accordingly.
- AP Chemistry: 30-45 minutes on homework. Informal lab reports are due 1-3 school days after completion of the lab and should take students 30-90 minutes to complete.
DEPARTMENTAL POLICIES REGARDING ENTRY INTO AP COURSES
Entrance into Advanced Placement courses depends on departmental approval based in part on the following criteria and final approval of the instructor:
- Should have received the following grades: B+ or better in Honors Geometry, Honors Chemistry, and Honors Biology OR A grades in Advanced Geometry, Chemistry and Biology.
- Recommendation from previous biology and chemistry teachers.
- May be concurrently enrolled in Honors Chemistry.
- Should have received the following grades: A- or better in Honors Algebra II/Trig and an A- or better in Honors Chemistry OR an A or better in Advanced Algebra II/Trigonometry and Chemistry.
- Rising tenth graders should have received an A+ in Honors Biology and be concurrently enrolled in Honors Precalculus or AP Calculus.
- Recommendation from first year chemistry teacher and AP Chemistry teacher.
AP Environmental Science:
- Should have received the following grades: A- or better in the most recent full year science course and/or an A- or better in Biology and Chemistry.
- Recommendations of biology and previous science teacher.
AP Physics 1:
- Must have completed Advanced Precalculus with A- or better or be enrolled in Honors Precalculus.
- Should have a favorable recommendation from the previous science and mathematics teachers, as well as a favorable recommendation from the AP Physics teacher following an oral/written diagnostic examination.
AP Physics C: Mechanics and Electricity & Magnetism
- Must be enrolled in or have completed BC Calculus and be favorably recommended by their math teacher.
- Must have completed AP Physics 1 at RCDS or receive a favorable recommendation from the AP Physics teacher following a written/oral exam.
|Grade 9||Grade 10||Grade 11||Grade 12|
Physics (Sem 1 and/or 2)
Advanced Physics (Sem 1 and/or 2)
AP Env. Science*
AP Env. Science*
Physics (Sem 1 and/or 2)
Advanced Physics (Sem 1 and/or 2)
|AP Physics 1*
AP Env. Science*
|AP Physics C MEM,
AP Env. Science*
*These courses require department approval. See course descriptions for requirements.
Science Research is a course designed to help students create an independent science research project that will evolve over two or three years. Students typically start Science Research in their sophomore year. Students successful in this program will apply for awards such as in the Regeneron Science Awards, a prestigious national recognition award, as juniors and seniors.
Biology is the study of living things. The course consists of the following units: biochemistry, ecology, the study of cells, genetics, evolution, and physiology of humans. Laboratory exercises, modeling, and projects are important components of this course. (1 unit; Grade 9)
Honors Biology is an in-depth study of all living things. Understanding life and life processes depend upon mastering the unifying principles applicable to life at all levels of organization. This course introduces more advanced topics in Biology, including the following themes: atoms and molecules, energy flow, cell biology and genetics, reproduction, evolution, characteristics and evolutionary relationships of organisms, anatomy, and physiology of the human, and ecology. Laboratory exercises reinforce content wherever applicable. (1 unit; Grade 9; department approval required)
This college-level course is designed to challenge students with a strong interest in the biological sciences. The course prepares students for the Advanced Placement Examination in Biology. Material covered includes cell structure and physiology, biochemistry, genetics, evolution, ecology, plant and animal physiology, and similarities and diversities among living organisms. Data analysis and laboratory work will focus on skills that allow students to think and solve problems as biologists. In order to complete the syllabus, students will be given an assignment to be completed prior to the first class meeting. (1 unit; Grades 11, 12; prerequisites: Biology and Chemistry or concurrently enrolled in Honors Chemistry; department approval required)
This is an introductory chemistry course that is designed to study the composition and structure of matter and the changes matter undergoes. The course is designed to raise the student's awareness of the role chemistry plays and will play in society and how it relates to events encountered in day-to-day life. The topics covered in this chemistry course will include types of chemical reactions, nomenclature, stoichiometry, atomic and molecular structure, states of matter, chemical bonding, solutions, acid/bases theory, kinetics, and thermodynamics. The course will expose the student to a variety of laboratory techniques and exercises. Each laboratory exercise will be followed by a formal lab report. (1 unit; Grades 10, 11, 12)
This course is designed for students with strong reasoning, mathematical, and laboratory skills. Topics studied in depth include reaction chemistry, atomic and molecular structure, solutions, states of matter, and equilibrium. In addition to rigorous problem solving, students are expected to be self-disciplined and able to read and use an advanced text. Extensive laboratory work will involve electronic data collection and analysis through a computer. (1 unit; Grades 10, 11, 12; department approval required)
AP Chemistry is a college-level course designed to prepare students for the Advanced Placement Examination in Chemistry. It is a challenging course that requires completion of Biology and Chemistry. It is assumed that the student has a working knowledge of topics from first-year chemistry such as reaction types, stoichiometry, and nomenclature. The course will include extensive laboratory work. In order to complete the syllabus, students will be given an assignment to complete prior to the first class meeting. (1 unit; Grades 11, 12; department approval required)
Organic Chemistry is a college-level course designed to be equivalent to an introductory organic chemistry course. It is a challenging course that requires completion of AP Chemistry. In Organic Chemistry, students will study the structure, analysis, nomenclature and synthesis of carbon-based compounds. These compounds are fundamental to medicines, plastics, environmental science, food, and biology, among many other applications. This course will include extensive laboratory work. (1 unit - Grades 11, 12: Departmental approval required; prerequisite: AP Chemistry)
PHYSICS 1: Mechanics
This course is an introduction to basic physics concepts in mechanics. Topics include, but are not limited to, concepts with energy, motion and kinematics, forces and Newton’s Laws, momentum, and circular motion. Hands-on activities will be used extensively in this course to deepen students’ understanding of physics theory and expand their laboratory skills with data collection and analysis. Algebra and geometry skills also will be used extensively to qualitatively analyze problems. Students will develop skills to solve problems, make predictions, and use technical language to explain physical phenomena. Students will apply what they learn in class and through text to solve problems and make predictions. (1/2 unit; fall; Grades 11 and 12; prerequisite: Algebra II/Trigonometry)
PHYSICS 2: Astronomy, Electricity, and Waves
This course is an introduction to basic physics concepts in electricity, waves, and astronomy. Hands-on activities will be used extensively in this course to deepen students’ understanding of physics theory and expand their laboratory skills with data collection and analysis. Algebra and geometry skills also will be used extensively to qualitatively analyze problems. Students will develop skills to solve problems, make predictions, and use technical language to explain physical phenomena. It is recommended but not required that students complete Physics 1 before enrolling in Physics 2. (1/2 unit; spring; Grades 11 and 12; prerequisite: Algebra II/Trigonometry)
ADVANCED PHYSICS 1: Mechanics
This course is an introduction to physics concepts in mechanics. Topics include, but are not limited to, motion and kinematics, forces and Newton’s Laws, momentum, and energy. Hands-on activities, textual descriptions, and mathematical reasoning will be used to deepen students’ understanding of physics theory and expand their laboratory skills. Algebra 2 and trigonometry skills will be used extensively through quantitatively analyzing problems and deriving formulas. Students will continue to develop skills to solve problems, make predictions, and use technical language to explain physical phenomena. This course is a prerequisite for Advanced Physics 2. (1/2 unit; fall; Grades 11 and 12; department approval required)
ADVANCED PHYSICS 2: Electricity, Magnetism and Waves
This course is a continuation of Advanced Physics 1 and builds on skills learned in the First Semester. Topics include circular motion, electricity, waves, and some modern physics. Hands-on activities, textual descriptions, and mathematical reasoning will be used to deepen students’ understanding of physics theory and expand their laboratory skills. Algebra 2 and trigonometry skills also will be used extensively through quantitatively analyzing problems and deriving formulas. Students will continue to develop skills to solve problems, make predictions, and use technical language to explain physical phenomena. Students who do well in Advanced Physics 1 and 2 will be prepared to take AP Physics 1 or an equivalent physics course in college. (1/2 unit; spring; Grades 11 and 12; department approval required)
AP PHYSICS 1
This is a broad, introductory-level course in physics for students who are ready to begin quantitative problem-solving in preparation for the algebra-based AP Physics-1 exam. The AP exam includes only mechanics and basic circuits, but this course will cover additional sub-topics of physics. Successful students will develop the ability to recall and use the laws and principles of physics to solve physical science problems at the algebraic level. A rigorous lab program makes use of modern laboratory equipment, allowing students to investigate physical phenomena, error analysis, and the preparation of formal lab reports. Completion of the AP Physics-1 Examination is a course requirement. (1 unit; Grades 10, 11, or 12; departmental approval required)
AP PHYSICS C: MECHANICS AND ELECTRICITY & MAGNETISM
This is an in-depth, second-year course in mechanics and electrodynamics. Students will continue to develop quantitative problem-solving skills in preparation for the AP-C Mechanics and AP-C Electricity and Magnetism Examinations. The course assumes familiarity with the concepts of Mechanics and E&M and focuses on advanced calculus-based problem solving and the further development of lab skills, including investigation of physical concepts, error analysis, laboratory design, and the preparation of formal lab reports. Completion of the AP-C Mechanics and AP-C Electricity and Magnetism examinations is a course requirement. (1 unit; Grades 11 or 12; departmental approval required)
AP ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE
AP Environmental Science is an interdisciplinary field that includes both social and scientific aspects of human impact on the world. The course is designed to be the equivalent of a one-semester, introductory college laboratory course in environmental science. The goal of the course is to provide students with the scientific principles required to understand the interrelationships of the natural world, to identify and analyze environmental problems, and to examine alternative solutions for resolving and/or preventing them. This class includes a laboratory and fieldwork component and culminates with the AP Exam in the Spring. (1 unit; Grades 11 and 12; prerequisites: Biology; departmental approval required)
ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE 1: Ecosystem Ecology
Environmental Science is an interdisciplinary field that includes both social and scientific aspects of human impact on the world. This course offers an introduction to ecological concepts, including environmental systems, biodiversity, global climates and biomes, evolution, agricultural practices, populations, and land use. This class includes a laboratory and fieldwork component, including field trips to local parks, farms, and nature centers. (1/2 unit; fall; Grades 11 and 12; prerequisites: Biology & Chemistry)
ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE 2: Global Change and Sustainability
In this course, we will explore human impact on the environment. Students will be provided with the scientific principles required to understand the interrelationships of the natural world, to identify and analyze environmental problems, and to examine solutions. Topics include pollution, waste management, renewable and nonrenewable energy, global climate change, human health risks, and the importance of a sustainable future. This class includes a laboratory and fieldwork component, including a project focused on the sustainability of the Rye Country Day School community. (1/2 unit; spring; Grades 11 and 12; prerequisites: Environmental Science 1)
Natural Science Electives
The intent of this course is to discover a research project over the course of a semester for eventual entry in the Intel Talent Search and/or other competitions. Students will be asked to consider aspects of numerous areas of science, drawing on their own personal interests to find key questions that could only be answered through experimental research. Students will be responsible for weekly review of the science literature, presenting their findings informally in class, and conducting an original research project. The course will culminate with a review paper that summarizes their findings in a specific research area. (1/2 unit; Grades 9, 10, 11, 12; department approval is required)
SPECIAL TOPICS IN PHYSICS - YPT
This course is for students involved in The Young Physicists Tournament. The projects fully explore both theory and experiment and include a detailed analysis of experimental uncertainty and error. Students who are new to physics are welcome in this course; they will focus on the experiment and the various steps of data analysis that may include data collection, image and video analysis, and data manipulation in Excel and/or Matlab. Experienced physics students will take part in the lab work as well as developing the theoretical side of the problems. For sophomore students who are interested in YPT, they are encouraged to take Engineering and Design in the second semester to assist the YPT team with experimental design. (1/2 unit; pass/fail; fall and spring; grades 11 and 12; prerequisite: must be currently enrolled in a Physics class or have previously taken a Physics class)
Semester-Long Electives (offerings vary by semester)
This semester-long course will examine the how and why questions of animal behavior. Classical behavioral experiments will be studied. Students will replicate some of these experiments in addition to generating hypotheses and designing their own experiments.
Students will learn the basic techniques of behavioral scientists. These techniques will help students understand the underlying basis, evolution, and adaptive responses of behavior patterns. (1/2 unit; Grades 10, 11, 12; department approval required)
ANATOMY AND PHYSIOLOGY
This course will provide a foundation in learning about the anatomy (structure) and physiology (function) of the human body using a variety of resources including but certainly not limited to the text, the internet, videos, and peers, all under the guidance of the instructor. This course is designed for the highly motivated student who is willing to learn complex processes in detail. There will be a heavy emphasis on how and why our bodies work doing everyday activities, sports, dance, and nothing at all…is it ever doing nothing at all? (1/2 unit; Grades 10, 11, 12; department approval required)
This semester-long course is designed to take an in-depth look at the universe and its processes. Astronomical techniques, the solar system, stars, and the distant universe will be described. The physical concepts underlying these phenomena are also presented. Students will discover through hands-on exploration by recreating astronomical experiments of the past and infusing it with data from our night sky. (1/2 unit; Grades 10, 11 and 12; department approval required)
Have you ever wondered how biologists were able to sequence the human genome, create accurate models of the brain, or model biological systems? Would you love to better understand how biologists use big data and programming to solve human problems? Then, this course is for you! Students will be taught the power of pairing computational thinking with answering biological questions. Students will use the programming language Python to implement, test, and debug algorithms for solving simple problems. For example, students will use programming to analyze and compare DNA sequences from different species, and to discover variability within the genome. This course will provide appropriate challenge for both the experienced and the novice programmer. (1/2 unit; fall; grades 9, 10, 11, 12; prerequisite: B+ or better in Biology or B in Honors Biology)
ENGINEERING & DESIGN
Want to solve real life problems? Enjoy designing and making? This course will introduce students to various fields of engineering through interdisciplinary problem solving and the completion of student-designed projects. Engineers apply the principles of design, mathematics, science, and computer science to solve real-world problems. Students will plan, design, build, analyze, and stress test a variety of projects of their own designs. Have an interest in designing buildings, ships, or bridges? How about rockets, cars, or playground equipment? Robots, alarms, or digital maps? Renewable energy technologies? If so, Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, Computer, or Chemical Engineering may be in your future! Students will complete several such projects, including a capstone design. (1/2 unit; grades 10, 11, 12; no prerequisite)
ENGINEERING & ROBOTICS
This course will introduce students to the process of designing, constructing and programming robots. Students will learn principles of electrical and mechanical engineering, including building and programming sensors and motors. Students will have hands-on experience constructing their own robot either individually and in teams. Throughout the course students will compete in robotics challenges. Students in this course may attend the VEX Robotics Competitions with the Robotics Club. (1/2 unit; spring; grades 10, 11, 12; no prerequisite)
In today's world, Forensic Science has become a familiar household science being showcased in the news, films, and television shows, such as C.S.I., Forensic Files, and The New Detectives. Forensic Science consists of the application of different scientific techniques in collecting and analyzing physical evidence for use in court and solving crimes. This course offers the students a real opportunity to see and put these skills into practice. The students study the basic principles of Biology, Physics, Chemistry, and Geology, which are useful for determining the value of crime scene and related evidence. Trace evidence, such as hair, fiber, blood, ink, paint, soil, and glass samples will be examined in the laboratory. Individual identifying techniques, such as DNA analysis, fingerprinting, jigsaw matches, and impressions analysis will be studied. Throughout the semester, famous cases, such as the O.J. Simpson Case, John Wayne Gacy, Jack the Ripper, Son of Sam, and many others will be covered. Students will put their gained knowledge to use by attempting to solve "mock crime scenes." Towards the end of the semester, the students will prepare presentations on specific crime cases. (1/2 unit; Grades 10, 11,12)
FRONTIERS IN STEM
In the lifetime of your parents, the fields of science, engineering and technology have advanced more than all the previous history of humankind. New discoveries are made on a daily basis allowing new frontiers in STEM to be explored. In this class, we will discuss cutting edge technology and recent discoveries in science. In addition, we will explore new research in areas such as genetic engineering, nanotechnology, stem-cell research, latest discoveries in astronomy and more. This course will include a lab component with students participating in labs to learn fundamental techniques that have allowed researchers to make key discoveries such as CRISPR. (1/2 unit: Grades 10, 11, 12)
This semester-long course is designed to be a thorough study of the Earth and its processes. These include but are not limited to geologic history, rock and mineral identification and classification, volcanoes, earthquakes, plate tectonics, weathering, and erosion. Students will also be briefly exposed to the topics of meteorology, oceanography, and astronomy as they relate to geology. This is a conceptual course, so homework and unit tests will be based around specific readings; however, there are some algebraic relationships we will explore. This is not a laboratory intensive class, but a few laboratory experiments will be conducted. (1/2 unit; Grades 11, 12; prerequisite: Algebra 2, Chemistry; department approval required)
This course is an introduction to organisms and habitats within marine environments, with a particular emphasis on the Long Island Sound estuary. Through classroom, laboratory, and field experiences, we will develop an understanding of major marine ecosystems and examine specific interactions and relationships between marine organisms that exist in those environments. Fieldwork will include excursions to different Long Island Sound environments as well as visits to local aquariums. Scientists conducting research in marine ecology/biology will be invited to share their experiences with the class, and woven into our work will be an examination of the impact of humans on the health of marine ecosystems. Students will also have the opportunity to explore an aspect of marine ecology that is of personal interest. (1/2 unit; grades 10, 11, or 12)
THE SCIENCE & SUSTAINABILITY OF FOOD
This course investigates the science and sustainability of food through readings, cooking labs, conversations with farmers and other food producers, work in our campus gardens, and field trips to local farms. Students will investigate how we can act as citizens to support a healthier food system. Topics include farm ecology and foraging, food access and social justice, urban agriculture, genetic modification, food and cultural identity, the science of junk food, and food preservation. The course culminates with a final project in which students will create a Mindful Meal for their peers. (1/2 unit; Grades 11 and 12)