The Upper School science program builds upon the foundation provided in the Lower and Middle Schools. The Upper School student has gained competence in the use of the basic tools of science and is able to employ a variety of scientific methods to answer questions about events in the world around him. Experimental skills developed prior to Form III are used extensively in laboratory investigations. Data analysis skills are expanded in the Upper School to exploit statistical analysis strategies, such as functional regressions and standard deviations. Practical applications of science, such as environmental sustainability, bioethics, engineering projects, and alternative fuels, are explored in every course. Following completion of the Upper School science requirement, students should be able to organize and master a large amount of information. They should be able to pose questions as the basis for an investigation, carry out an experiment to con rm or refute their hypothesis, and write a report that presents their findings and suggests avenues for future experimentation and research.
Browning’s membership in the Black Rock Forest Consortium provides an excellent resource for science studies as well as opportunities for interdisciplinary work.
This required Form III laboratory science course is a survey of molecular biology, patterns of inheritance, human genetics and evolution, concluding with a rigorous analysis of invertebrate and vertebrate organisms. Laboratory investigations are used as critical learning tools. The year concludes with an individualized science investigation at Black Rock Forest, which serves as an excellent laboratory for students to examine data and make sound inferences. Text: Miller and Levine, Biology.
Chemistry IV is an experimental science course providing a robust foundation for the subsequent Advanced Chemistry course. It covers atomic structure and bonding, properties of matter, solutions and solubility, chemical equilibrium, thermodynamics, acids and bases, ionic equilibrium, and organic chemistry. It emphasizes a strong integration of algebraic problem solving skills. Text: Buthelezi, et al., Chemistry.
Chemistry V is an introductory course in Chemistry providing a conceptual framework on
atomic structure, chemical reactions, thermochemistry, acids and bases, chemical equilibrium and electrochemistry. Laboratory experiments would be integrated through the course with a strong emphasis on different methods of analysis and basic laboratory skills. Text: Buthelezi, et al., Chemistry.
Physics IV is a survey course, presenting a mathematical and conceptual framework on mechanics, energy and heat, electricity, magnetism and light. The course emphasizes a solid understanding of the concepts involved in each topic, reinforcement in algebraic problem solving skills, and regular experimentation. Text: Zitzewitz, “Physics: Principles and Problems”
This Form V and VI course is frequently taken as the third laboratory science course for students who want a strong science background. Like the Physics IV course, this is a survey course covering mechanics, Newton’s laws, momentum and energy, thermodynamics, waves, optics, electricity and magnetism using algebra and trigonometry on a regular basis. A strong experimental component weaves through the entire course. Text: Zitzewitz, “Physics: Principles and Problems”
Science, Technology, and Society
Focusing on one or more topics, this course for students in Form V and VI examines the complex interaction between science and society. Recent topics have included: Politics, Education, and the Media; Technology in the U.S. West; and Communications Technologies and the Nature of Complex Systems. Texts and readings vary depending on the topic.
This college-level course extends the conceptual foundation provided in the introductory course. Advanced chemistry presents more sophisticated analytical laboratory methods as well as delving more deeply into atomic theory, chemical and molecular bonding, states of matter, chemical reactions, thermodynamics, and nuclear chemistry. Outstanding performance in Chemistry IV or V is a prerequisite. Text: Chang, Chemistry.
This advanced course extends the depth of mechanics topics studied in introductory courses an broadens the perspective with additional topics selected from thermodynamics, special relativity, and optics. Calculus tools are used periodically and are reviewed as needed. Outstanding performance in Physics IV or V or Advanced Chemistry is a prerequisite, and Calculus is a corequisite. Text: Tipler, Physics: “For Scientists and Engineers 6e”
Independent Study in Science
Working with an internal or external mentor a student may select an area of science specialization (such as engineering or biomedical research), explore it in depth and conduct independent research. This course often entails independent completion of on-line courses offered by colleges, such as M.I.T. or Stanford University. Approval for an independent study is contingent on student course load, avail- ability of mentors, and demonstrated strength and interest in science.
Forms V and VI Trimester Elective Track
The following semester Science elective courses are offered to students in Forms V and VI. This is a full year sequence, earning full credit. Students must take one course each semester.
Individual Science Research
Every scientific discovery is rooted in carefully performed research. In this course we will learn about the nature of the process of scientific research, starting with an observation that generates a question. The intent of this course is to stimulate students who are eager to begin the process of their own rigorous scientific investigations. Each student will learn how to read and interpret scientific papers in the literature review stage by examining papers from paradigm-shifting discoveries. Guest scientists will present their own areas of research. In the culmination of the course every student will develop a research proposal of his own incorporating an experimental design in an area of his personal interest.
Sustainable design is the philosophy of designing physical objects, the built environment, and services to comply with the principles of social, economic, and ecological sustainability. This course aims to address the complexity of the environmental and related social issues such as habitat degradation, overexploitation, hunger, housing, and others plaguing our planet through discussions, research, and design projects. As a group students will build and maintain an alternative agriculture system, identify sustainability issues within our community and produce a product or proposal to resolve or mitigate the issue.
Classes will include case-study discussions, laboratory investigations, eld trips to Central Park, urban gardens, guest speakers and/or visits to the American Museum of Natural History.
Biotechnology: From Food to Forensics
Biotechnology is technology that seeks to manipulate biological processes to develop methods, products, and procedures to improve our society. Biotechnology is used to create and preserve everyday food products, genetically modify plants and microbes, and provide evidence in criminal investigations (Forensic Science). This course will study a variety of techniques and methods used in biotechnology. Students will investigate and test how biotechnology can be used to investigate components of crime scenes, increase production of food products, manipulate the DNA of organisms, and explore pertinent microbiological laboratory techniques such as bacterial transformation, DNA isolation, and gel electrophoresis.
Astronomy: Our Place in the Universe
Humans have yearned to understand our place in the universe for millennia. This course presents the foundations of astronomy, building outward from our home Solar System to an under- standing of our typical spiral galaxy, the Milky Way, our Local Group of galaxies, and to the larger structure of the universe. Contemporary discoveries of astronomy which have energized the eld and excited the broader scientific community will also be examined, including the accelerating expansion of the universe, the existence of Dark Energy and Dark Matter, Einsteinian spatial dragging by gravity, gravitational lensing, and the bountiful discovery of new extra-solar planets which supports the premise that life could exist on Earth-like planets. There will be an observational component to this course, both in terms of telescope viewing and visits to the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History.