• Mobile Menu
Course Offerings


College Prep’s science curriculum gives students a firm foundation in science and an understanding of the interrelationships among the different branches of science.
Students gain greater knowledge of their physical and biological environments, as well as the specific processes of and approaches to the different scientific subject areas. In addition to covering content knowledge, science courses help students to think logically and creatively. Science courses also strengthen problem solving and observational skills, as well as analytical reasoning. All core courses require extensive laboratory work wherein students become adept in their use of computers for data collection and analysis. 

In order to graduate, 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 Chemistry, AP Biology, AP Physics, or other science electives. In recent years these electives have included Issues in Science, Astronomy, Animal Behavior, Oceanography, Marine Biology, and STEM Research.

List of 3 items.

  • 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 lectures, discussions, demonstrations, small group work, and laboratory explorations. Physics lays the foundation students need 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. Armed with knowledge of the fundamentals of chemistry, students can approach and solve new problems, which rely on careful and insightful application of logic to reveal why material behaves as it does. The course spans a wide gamut of chemistry, from using thermodynamics to explain why some reactions happen while others do not; using kinetics to understand the role of catalysts to speed important reactions; using quantum theory to discover the special properties of water necessary for life; and using organic chemistry to appreciate 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 either as juniors or seniors. 
  • Biology or AP Biology (11th grade)

    Honors Biology is an introduction to living systems. First semester topics include evolution and the origin of life, cells and cell processes (including photosynthesis and cellular respiration), and Mendelian and molecular genetics. Other topics highlighted include the cell organelle model project and the human genetics disorder project. The second semester begins with 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 an ecology unit. The course concludes with a focus on 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 learn to manipulate the components of scientific experimental design and to generate and analyze data sets. For example, as students learn about cellular metabolism, they test different sources of enzymes that might expedite the breakdown of cellulose; during their study of population genetics, 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.
     is a lab-based class that involves data collection and analysis. Highlights include bio-prospecting to study enzymatic breakdown of cellulose, examining variables that affect cell respiration in crickets, inserting genes into bacterial cells, identifying the human Alu insertion using PCR, detecting genetically modified foods using PCR, and investigating the mammalian dive reflex. Experimental labs are inquiry-based and involve formulating hypotheses, manipulating variables, and gathering, tabulating, and graphically displaying data. Students perform laboratory investigations collaboratively and write formal lab reports following scientific journal format. This class prepares students for the AP Biology Exam.

science electives for 2015-16

List of 7 items.

  • AP Chemistry

    The equivalent of a first-year college general chemistry course, AP Chemistry enhances the material covered in tenth grade chemistry by going into greater depth and detail. 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 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? AP Physics focuses on classical mechanics and electromagnetism in preparation for the AP Physics C Exam. 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. 
  • Oceanography

    Want to know more about the oceans? 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, and primary productivity. Special attention is paid to pollution of the world’s oceans. The course integrates various sciences (chemistry, earth science, and physics) and includes field trips to Ocean Beach, Linda Mar and/or Moss Beach. Students taking Oceanography in the fall are given priority enrollment for Marine Biology in the spring.
  • 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 seminar. This discussion-based class focuses on the most current ethical dilemmas in science. Readings come from journals, newspapers, and books, and 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? Find sea otters adorable? 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 amazing 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, including overfishing and habitat degradation are also studied. Possible outings include field trips to Linda Mar, Arrowhead Marsh, Moss Beach tide-pools, and Steinhart Aquarium. Students who have completed Oceanography in the fall are given priority enrollment for Marine Biology in the spring. 
  • Animal Behavior

    Do animals behave altruistically? Why is monogamy so unusual in the animal world? How do animals communicate? How do they learn? Does human behavior parallel that of other animals? Through readings, discussion, lecture, and periodic film clips, students explore answers to these questions and more. This course covers aspects of the evolution and diversity of behavior, animal communication, social behavior, mating systems, and predator-prey interactions. 
  • 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. The STEM program is designed for independent and self-motivated students who are interested in getting hands-on research experience in a broad array of STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). This 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. 


List of 10 members.

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.