Challenging girls to become women of 
intellect, character, innovation, action, and faith

Science

Upper School girls in science lab working with test tubesThe science program is based on the philosophy that guided inquiry is important to understanding scientific phenomena, including how biological, chemical, and physical interactions contribute to our daily lives. Stimulating class discussion and hands-on experimentation help students develop skills to connect scientific principles, collaborate with peers, process and evaluate scientific information, draw conclusions, and communicate their work orally and in writing. Emphasis is placed on data collection and interpretation, critical thinking, inductive and deductive reasoning, problem solving, and the use of evidence to support claims. 

Annually, Girls in Grades 7 and 8, and Upper School students participating in Independent Research, present their projects to a group of judges at the Science and Engineering Fair.

Middle School

Middle School courses explore topics in ecology, earth science, astronomy, life science, physical science, and engineering.

Science 5 - Ecology and the Environment

Students investigate the world that we live in through a series of interactive activities, multimedia sources, classroom discussions and tidepooling activities at the Halibut State Park fieldtrip, learning about both terrestrial and aquatic biomes and our own impact on the environment. They examine various interactions between organisms, environmental issues, and special properties of water. Students are encouraged to observe, question, think about interrelationships among topics, and learn from their experiences. Through guided practice, students begin to hone their time management, organizational, study and critical thinking skills.

Science 6 - Geology, Meteorology, and Astronomy

Through a series of laboratory activities, multimedia sources, classroom discussions and astronomical activities at the Christa McAuliffe Center fieldtrip, students begin to uncover some of the great mysteries of our universe. They journey from the interior of the Earth into the atmosphere and beyond to learn about space, plate tectonics and weather. Students are encouraged to question, think thoroughly, extrapolate from their own experiences, and clearly articulate their ideas in both the written and spoken word. They also practice making direct and indirect observations, looking for patterns in and connections among their data, and crafting persuasive arguments.

Science 7 - Life Science

This course is designed to give students an overview of the natural sciences and prepare students for Biology 9. The first semester begins with a discussion of what science and the scientific method of discovery are. This leads to the discovery of what makes something living or non-living and students will learn about the differences among plant, animal, and bacterial cells. The course then moves to the Linnaean system of classification of living things, and a study of the Domains and Kingdoms. During a study of the Plant Kingdom, students will dissect a flower to study its reproductive system. The course then progresses to the study of viruses, bacteria, and infectious diseases, along with human anatomy. Class time will consist of lectures, group discussion, dissections and other small group work.

Skills that will be emphasized in class include organization, learning how to use a microscope, handling dissection equipment, learning how to write using scientific language, and creating an independent research project for our Science Fair using the scientific method. At times during the course of the year, students will design their own laboratory experiments in groups.

Science 8 - Physical Science

This course introduces students to the fundamental principles of physics and chemistry and prepares them for the study of science at the Upper School level. Girls learn about the engineering design process and apply knowledge gained through readings, class discussions, and demonstrations to solve real-life engineering problems. Students use an inquiry-based approach to formulate questions, design experiments, and make predictions about physics and chemistry phenomena. They build, test, and modify a prototype as part of an independent engineering project, which they exhibit our Science Fair. Topics covered in the course include motion, forces, energy, work and machines, matter, and elements and the periodic table.

Upper School

In the Upper School, the Science Department offers an array of courses: biology, chemistry, physics, environmental science, and anatomy and physiology. Many of these courses are offered at the standard, honors, and Advanced Placement levels. Students also have the opportunity to enroll in Independent Research to pursue scientific research and present their projects at science fairs and competitions.

Introduction to Engineering: Level 1

In this Level 1 course, students learn scientific principles through an engineering lens. The course begins by exploring what engineering is and, through activities, what the engineering design process entails. Next comes the study of the HTML language and the creation of personal websites that help students understand the idea of logic and syntax in computer languages. Website creation is followed by a unit introducing electrical engineering. The science behind electricity and circuits is studied and then electrical systems are designed using components, such as LEDs, buttons, etc., and Arduino boards coded in the C language. The second semester begins with a unit introducing mechanical engineering. Reverse engineering, the AutoCAD software, and the laser cutter machine are explored by creating 2D and 3D models. Each unit features hands-on activities while focusing on the development of analytical reasoning, scientific inquiry, and problem-solving skills. Engaging discussions and other activities are also be important parts of our exploration of engineering and physics. The year concludes with a final project that incorporates topics learned throughout the year to solve a problem based on each student’s own interests. This course is the first level of a two-year engineering program.

Introduction to Engineering: Level 2

Engineering utilizes the principles of mathematics and science to come up with practical solutions to problems that better the world in some way. Building off the first-level course, the Level 2 curriculum provides students with a more in-depth view of engineering so that they may become broadly educated across engineering disciplines. The branches of mechanical, civil, environmental, chemical, aeronautical, and biomedical engineering are explored. Instruction aims to convey the excitement and possibilities of the profession. Engineering is based in applied science. Skills will be attained not only through discussion but also through design, construction, analysis, and testing of solutions to engineering problems. There are cumulative projects at the end of each semester. Successful completion of Introduction to Engineering: Level 1 is a prerequisite for this course.

Biology

In Biology, the study of life, we explore the diverse characteristics of living things, beginning with the tiny atoms and molecules that comprise living organisms and extending to the complexity of functioning of entire organisms and systems. This course is designed to deepen students’ knowledge of the fundamental concepts of biology as well as to develop skills in laboratory techniques, data collection and analysis, experimental design and control, and scientific writing. Topics include the structure of cells and cell energetics, the evolution and diversity of life, the role of DNA and RNA in cell function, the fundamentals of genetics and heredity, and the application of these areas in current research.

Advanced Placement Biology

AP Biology is a rigorous, fast-paced, and comprehensive study of the life sciences designed to be the equivalent of a two semester introductory course for science majors. This course utilizes a model of instruction, which challenges students to apply content knowledge to advanced inquiry and reasoning skills. An emphasis is placed on drawing connections between scientific concepts and the larger themes that govern living organisms. These themes include science as a process, energy transfer, regulation, continuity and change, the relationship between structure and function, evolution, interdependence in nature, and science, technology and society. The course is structured to provide opportunities for students to develop their skills in science writing. The laboratory program challenges students to think analytically and to develop their ability to interpret data. This course will prepare students to take the AP Biology exam.

Chemistry

This course utilizes the principles of chemistry to help explain the physical world. Students study the basic principles of matter including measurements, atomic theory, bonding, chemical reactions, stoichiometry, acids and bases, solutions, and thermochemistry. Logical reasoning, scientific inquiry, and problem-solving skills are emphasized. The laboratory program challenges students to think analytically, make observations, draw logical conclusions, and communicate in writing. Technology is incorporated throughout the year through virtual laboratories, topic presentations, and a project involving the animation of a chemical reaction.

Honors Chemistry

Honors Chemistry is a challenging course that provides a study of the fundamental principles of structure, behavior, and change of matter. Pacing is rigorous and strong mathematical skills are required. The course aims to develop student skills in critical thinking, inductive and deductive reasoning, scientific inquiry, problem solving, and precision in the use of evidence to support claims. The class uses a guided questioning approach to learning and construction of information. The laboratory program challenges students to think critically, design and carry out experiments, collect and evaluate data, draw conclusions, and communicate in scientific writing. Learning through the use of technology is employed in many ways. In particular, students apply on-line technology to create independent animations of chemical reactions, and use data collection probes and software in laboratory investigations.

Advanced Placement Chemistry

This course is a study of the properties of matter and principles governing chemical reactions, commonly covered in a first-year college course in general chemistry. In line with the College Board’s new curriculum framework, this course explores key topics of chemistry in depth. It promotes students’ mastery of the quantitative aspects of chemistry by enhancing their qualitative understanding and visualization of the particulate nature of matter. Students are encouraged to test, evaluate, and refine explanations and predictions of natural phenomena through science practices. These practices include generating representations and models, engaging in guided inquiry in the laboratory, developing strategies for collecting data, and making connections across concepts and domains. Pacing is vigorous and strong mathematical skills are required. Students are prepared to take the AP Chemistry Examination.

Physics

Students explore the fundamental nature of the physical universe through practical examples. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills are developed and employed as students use concepts such as motion, forces, and energy to understand the workings of the world around them. Students explore the process of scientific inquiry by observing phenomena, generating questions, designing and carrying out experiments, and analyzing data. Vernier sensors and software are used to record data and analyze relationships and patterns during lab activities. Topics covered in the course include Experimental Design, Motion, Forces & Newton’s Laws, Energy & Work, Momentum, and Waves & Sound.

Honors Physics

Students with strong mathematical skills explore the fundamental nature of the physical universe through practical examples and laboratory experience. Pacing is rapid and coverage is in more depth than in Physics. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills are developed and emphasized as students explore the concepts of motion, forces and energy as they relate to the workings of the world around them. Vernier sensors and software are often used in lab activities to record data and to enhance the analysis of relationships and patterns. Topics covered in the course include Kinematics, Newton’s Laws of Motion, Circular Motion, Energy, Work, Power, Momentum, Torque, and Fluid Mechanics.

Advanced Placement Physics 1

AP Physics 1 is a study of motion, waves, and circuitry commonly covered in a first-year college Physics course. The course is non-calculus based with an emphasis on the utilization of algebra, geometry, and trigonometry to solve problems. Hands-on student-designed experimentation is an important component of the course and encourages the development of deeper understanding. Emphasis is placed on scientific argumentation as students make and defend predictions using physics principles and experimental evidence. Topics include kinematics, Newton’s Laws, work, energy, momentum, rotation, gravitation, oscillation, waves, charge, and circuitry.

Advanced Placement Physics C - Mechanics

This course is equivalent to a first-year, calculus-based college Physics course in mechanics. This rigorous course requires student to improve their problem-solving skills by applying their knowledge of physics principles to real-world situations. Hands-on labs and demonstrations are important components of the course and help promote a deeper understanding of the concepts covered. Topics include kinematics, projectile motion, Newton’s Laws, work, energy, momentum, rotational motion, angular momentum, gravitation, and oscillation. Prior knowledge in calculus is a pre-requisite to this course.

Environmental Science

Environmental Science focuses on the relationships among living things and the Earth. Students are introduced to the concepts of ecosystems, natural cycles, resource allocation and usage, and human impact on natural systems. They explore these concepts through case studies, laboratory investigations, fieldwork, and projects. They are encouraged to explore and propose solutions for environmental issues in their home community, their state, their country, and around the world.

Advanced Placement Environmental Science

Advanced Placement Environmental Science is equivalent to a first-year college course in Environmental Science. Students focus on the interconnectedness of living things and the Earth. Students are introduced to the concepts of ecosystems, natural cycles, resource allocation and usage, and human impact on natural systems. They explore these concepts through case studies, laboratory investigations, fieldwork, and projects. They are encouraged to explore and propose solutions for environmental issues in their home community, their state, their country, and around the world. The course prepares students for the Advanced Placement Exam.

Anatomy and Physiology

Anatomy is the study of the structure and shape of the body, its constituent parts, and how these parts are related to one another; physiology is the study of how our anatomy functions. In this course, we will explore the human body beginning with small-scale structures (cells, tissues, organs) and build up to organ systems and whole organisms to consider in the structure of the human body. Organ systems that are covered include the integumentary, musculoskeletal, neurological, endocrine, reproductive, cardiovascular, lymphatic, respiratory, gastrointestinal, and renal areas. Pathophysiological states are examined with respect to homeostasis of body system. Health issues that result from malfunctions in the organ systems, along with the pharmaceutical or surgical interventions used to treat them, are also explored. Successful completion of Biology and Chemistry are prerequisites for this course.

Independent Research in Science

This elective course is open to students in all grades who wish to pursue independent laboratory research under the guidance of a science faculty mentor. Students are required to propose a topic, research the proposal, design and execute the experiment, and use statistical tests to analyze data and draw conclusions. Depending on the design of the project, the experimental phase may occur at home, at school, or at a scientific research institute outside of the school community. Students enrolled in Independent Research in Science will present the results of their work at formal scientific forums, including the annual Newton Country Day Science Fair, the Massachusetts State Science and Engineering Fair, and the New England Junior Science and Humanities Symposium.

Through this course, students will improve and expand their skills in planning and conducting research projects, collecting and analyzing data, engaging in scientific writing and public speaking. This course requires a significant time commitment by the student both during and outside of school hours. The ability to work independently and strong organizational and time-management skills are necessary for success in this course.