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Science

College Prep’s curriculum provides a firm foundation, and an understanding of, the interrelationships among the different branches of science.
Science courses help students think logically and creatively, strengthen problem solving and observational skills, and hone analytical reasoning. The program emphasizes physical and biological environments, as well as the specific processes of, and approaches to, the different scientific subject areas. All core courses require extensive laboratory work. Students also become adept in the use of computers for data collection and analysis. 
 
Students are required to take three years of science classes, though many take more. Ninth graders take Physics, tenth graders take Chemistry, and eleventh graders take either Honors Biology or AP Biology. Juniors and seniors may continue their studies by taking AP Biology, AP Chemistry, AP Environmental Science, AP Physics, and other science electives such as Issues in Science, Astronomy, Oceanography, Marine Biology, and STEM Research.

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  • Physics (9th grade)

    Why does a star shine? How does a television work? How do we generate electricity? This course focuses on how the principles of physics work in the real world. Students learn to design experiments in order to get meaningful results that further their knowledge. Hands-on challenges give students practical experience in applying their understanding and improving their designs through multiple iterations. Classes are a mix of lecture, discussion, demonstration, small group work, and laboratory exploration. Physics lays the foundation for students to more thoroughly understand the concepts in the chemistry and biology classes that follow, and also prepares them to undertake AP Physics in the future.
  • Chemistry (10th grade)

    How we experience everything in the world—what we see, feel, and smell—is affected by microscopic particles and their interactions. Students approach and solve new problems using the fundamentals of chemistry and rely on careful and insightful application of logic to reveal why material behaves as it does. This course covers a wide range of topics, including: thermodynamics, to explain why some reactions happen while others do not; kinetics, to understand the role of catalysts to speed important reactions; quantum theory, to discover the special properties of water necessary for life; and organic chemistry, to study the biological molecules that are crucial for humans to exist. Chemistry fosters a sense of excitement for discovery, which is supported by frequent laboratory experiments, activities, and demonstrations. Students wishing to dive more deeply into chemistry have the opportunity to take AP Chemistry in either their junior or senior year. 
  • Honors Biology or AP Biology (11th grade)

    Honors Biology is an introduction to living systems. Topics include evolution and the origin of life, cells and cell processes (including photosynthesis and cellular respiration), and Mendelian and molecular genetics. There are numerous hands-on labs and activities including the cell organelle model project and the human genetics disorder project. Additional topics include plant evolution and an inquiry-based lab on stomatal density. Students participate in environmental service learning projects with Save the Bay and Presidio Trust during the ecology unit. The course concludes with the study of human anatomy and physiology, during which students work to solve real-world case study problems and complete the unit with a three-day pig dissection.

    AP Biology emphasizes laboratory investigations of the essential processes of living systems. Students manipulate the components of scientific experimental design and generate and analyze data sets. During the cellular metabolism lab, students test different sources of enzymes that might expedite the breakdown of cellulose. During the population genetics lab, students use the polymerase chain reaction to analyze the frequency of genetic markers in small groups and compare these data to the general population at large. Written lab reports illustrate both the power and limitations of laboratory activities to demonstrate natural phenomena. Non-lab days are filled with lectures, discussions, and projects designed to illuminate biology’s central principles of evolution, metabolism, communication, and interconnectedness. This course prepares students for the AP Biology Exam.
     

science electives for 2015-16

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  • AP Chemistry

    The equivalent of a first-year college general chemistry course, AP Chemistry goes into greater depth and detail of the material covered in tenth grade chemistry. The course emphasizes lab work as well as quantitative and qualitative applications. Topics include the structure and properties of matter, chemical reactions, thermodynamics, and equilibrium. Other disciplines—particularly biology and biochemistry—are integrated into class topics. Cooperative work skills, a willingness to ask questions, and a deep well of curiosity are valuable assets for every AP Chemistry student. This class prepares students for the AP Chemistry Exam. 
  • AP Environmental Science

    This course provides students with the scientific principles, concepts, and methodologies required to understand the interrelationships of the natural world, to identify and analyze environmental problems, and to examine alternative solutions for resolving or preventing such problems. Environmental science is interdisciplinary, incorporating elements of biology, chemistry, sociology, geology, and design. It focuses on how the ecological relationships between organisms and their environments are influenced by environmental change. Topics covered include the impact of culture and governmental policies on human population growth, how industrial and corporate agriculture affect human and environmental health, and the latest innovations in city design and sustainability.
  • AP Physics

    Which will win in a downhill race: a bowling ball or a doughnut? Why is a car the safest place to be in a lightning strike? How fast do you need to go to escape from the Earth’s gravitational pull? Students take observations about the world and use them to build abstract models that allow them to predict sophisticated behavior. The concepts of the derivative and the anti-derivative are used from the very beginning of the course. AP Physics focuses on classical mechanics and electromagnetism in preparation for the AP Physics C Exam.
  • Astronomy

    This mind-expanding course investigates the universe, starting with the solar system (including planets, comets, and asteroids) and the birth, evolution, and death of stars. Topics include supernovas, neutron stars, pulsars, and black holes (including what would happen if you fell into one). Einstein’s theories of relativity, essential for the conception of time and space, are covered in depth, which leads to a discussion of time travel and its paradoxes. The course also covers cosmology, how the universe was created, its current state, and ultimately how it will end (if it will at all). Other highlights include space travel, life on other planets, and dark matter.
  • Issues in Science

    How should we decide who will get a heart transplant? Is assisted suicide ethical in cases of grave illness? Should the courts be allowed to order conjoined twins separated? Should parents be allowed to withhold medical treatment from children on religious grounds? Should we clone humans? These are the sorts of questions addressed in this discussion-based seminar, which focuses on the most current ethical dilemmas in science. Readings come from journals, newspapers, and books. Written projects include a class newsletter and an individual journal. Occasional guest speakers contribute their points of view to class discussions.
  • Marine Biology

    Fascinated by sharks? Ever wonder what’s going on in tide pools? Through a combination of lectures, videos, dissections, and field trips, students develop an appreciation for the marine environment and the adaptations and strategies it takes to survive in and under the water. Topics include oceanic plankton, the deep sea (including hydrothermal vent communities), oceanic nekton (including sharks, fish, reptiles and mammals), the intertidal community (including marine invertebrates), the sub-tidal environment (including kelp and marine algae), and coastal wetlands. Humans’ impact on the oceans is also studied, including overfishing and habitat degradation. Possible outings include field trips to Linda Mar, Arrowhead Marsh, Moss Beach tide-pools, and Steinhart Aquarium.
  • Oceanography

    Why is seawater salty? How do waves form? What’s under those waves? Oceanography explores the history of marine research, plate tectonics, the ocean floor, the chemistry and characteristics of seawater, marine sediments, ocean currents, waves and tides, primary productivity, and the pollution of the world’s oceans. This course integrates various sciences (chemistry, earth science, and physics) and includes field trips to Ocean Beach, Linda Mar, and/or Moss Beach.
  • Applied Studies STEM Research Program

    So you understand acids and bases, but you want to know how scientists use pH to optimize biofuel production. Or perhaps you know that we have sequenced the entire human genome, but you want to know how it can be analyzed to reveal a possible cure for cancer. College Prep’s STEM program is designed for students interested in getting hands-on research experience in a broad array of STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). The course begins with a spring semester seminar (STEM Research Part I) that provides students with the foundational scientific knowledge and analytical skills needed for a summer internship. During discussion-based classes, students learn how to read primary scientific literature, analyze and critique raw data, and work as a productive member of a research group. The core of the program takes place during the summer, when students are matched with research mentors at institutions throughout the Bay Area for full-time, six-week internships. In the fall, the program concludes with a semester-long seminar (STEM Research Part II) that guides students through the process of preparing a poster about their summer research as well as designing and delivering a formal scientific talk.

Science

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The College Preparatory School

mens conscia recti

a mind aware of what is right
Photo Credit: Dan Battle, Mark Compton, Bosky Frederick, Polly Lockman, Richard Wheeler, and Jonathan Zucker.