Science

The Science Department aims to produce students who are knowledgeable in the areas of physics, chemistry, and biology. Our teachers emphasize an active form of inquiry because we believe our students are best served in and through an experiential manner of learning.

The curriculum employs the use of demonstrations, labs, projects, and exercises designed to generate discussion, discovery, and cooperative problem-solving skills. The department helps to form analytical, creative, and critical thinkers who are prepared not just for college but also for life.

The curriculum employs the use of demonstrations, labs, projects, and exercises designed to generate discussion, discovery, and cooperative problem-solving skills. The department helps to form analytical, creative, and critical thinkers who are prepared not just for college but also for life.


Conceptual Physics

This freshman-level course is intended to introduce students to the principles of physics and to foster enthusiasm and confidence in science. Much of the material forms an important base of knowledge for further study of topics in modern chemistry and biology. The course emphasizes problem solving, critical thinking, and the application of theories to varied real-world situations. Topics include the full range of those found in a more traditional physics course, but they are treated conceptually in plain English rather than in mathematical language. The emphasis is on comprehension rather than computation, and equations are given as guides to thinking rather than as recipes for computing. Hands-on laboratory activities and engineering projects allow students to solidify their understanding of theories and laws and to develop skills in data collection, interpretation, and experimental design. Students use computer simulations to reinforce their understanding and to investigate more complex situations.

Chemistry

This course introduces students to the properties and behavior of matter and is designed to reinforce the concepts mastered in Conceptual Physics and to prepare students for the molecular foundations of biology. The class takes a broad, conceptual approach and introduces students to the material world through an extensive array of lecture-based discussions, demonstrations, projects, and laboratory explorations. In order to achieve a more complete presentation of the theoretical side of chemistry, this course de-emphasizes the mathematical aspects of chemistry. It is a laboratory-based science class, so students learn to work safely and confidently in a lab setting by completing weekly lab assignments.

Chemistry Honors

Students taking this course have demonstrated an aptitude for science and mathematics during their freshman-level courses. Chemistry Honors features a faster pace, covers more material, and takes a more quantitative approach. The goal of the course is to develop a strong foundation in chemistry so students can successfully undertake advanced studies in chemistry, biology, and physics.

Advanced Placement Chemistry

The goal of this course is to prepare students for the rigor of the Advanced Placement examination while further exposing them to the field of chemistry. AP Chemistry covers all major areas of chemistry, including the structure and states of matter, chemical bonding and reactions, kinetics, thermodynamics, descriptive chemistry, and essential laboratory practices. This course builds on the knowledge and understanding a student acquires in first-year chemistry while exploring topics in greater descriptive, theoretical, and quantitative depth.

Biology

Emphasis in this course is on the process of science rather than its product. Many different approaches to the material support students in this process of inquiry and discovery. Students learn science by being scientists. They are asked to search for applications and to bring the science they encounter outside of school into the classroom. Biology is correlated with history, the arts, literature, and other sciences in a holistic approach, and contemporary social issues are addressed. Biology centers on the major unifying themes: evolution, genetic continuity, structure and function, diversity and unity, and regulation. During the first semester, the students study molecular biology. Topics include organic molecules, cells, energy in living systems, and genetics. Evolution bridges the gap to a more organismic approach in the second semester. Major phyla are covered, but the emphasis is on higher plants and animals. The students study human biology in depth and end the year with a look at ecology.

Biology Honors

Students taking Biology Honors have demonstrated an aptitude for science during their first two years at Santa Catalina. In comparison to standard biology, Biology Honors features a faster pace, covers more material, and explores biology in greater depth. The goal of the course is for the students to develop a strong foundation in biology so they can successfully undertake more advanced studies in this subject.

Advanced Placement Biology

Throughout this course, students discover that science is as much a way of thinking and viewing the world as it is a body of knowledge. In laboratory sessions, they are encouraged to develop their own lines of inquiry and to design experiments. Students learn new laboratory skills and master some that have already been introduced. They are made aware of the investigative applications that they carry out. This course centers on the major unifying themes of biology: evolution, genetic continuity, structure and function, diversity and unity, and regulation. Building on the ideas introduced in previous science courses, the class makes connections between the natural world and the laws of the physical world. During the first semester, the emphasis is on molecular biology: biological molecules, energy production and use, the life processes of the cell, and genetics. The first semester ends with an in-depth study of evolution and the mathematical laws that govern it. The second semester surveys the diversity of life forms, with particular attention on the human body systems, and explores how organisms interact with each other and with their environment.

Environmental Science

This course covers the material contained within a semester-long college course and integrates extensive readings, discussions, qualitative and quantitative laboratory experiments, field trips, environmental monitoring, and numerical simulations. Emphasis is placed on understanding the science behind the complex interactions among people, animals, plants, and the physical environment. The course covers topics such as environmental economics, energy resources, ecology, population studies, climate, geology and oils, agriculture, water, mineral resources, climate change, toxicology, risk assessment, pollution, hazardous waste, and biodiversity.

Marine Science

An overview of oceanography and marine biology, this course emphasizes the interactions between the living and nonliving parts of the sea. It covers topics such as marine geology, marine chemistry, waves and tides, marine invertebrates, fish, marine mammals, and marine ecology. Frequent field trips to local near-shore habitats, along with research projects and demonstrations, are integral parts of the course. Some of the goals are to instill a sense of wonder and curiosity about the ocean and to expand understanding of its role in climate regulation, biochemical recycling, and human extraction of food and mineral resources.

Marine Ecology Research 1

This course is part of a three-year series for students interested in undertaking independent research. The first year of the Marine Ecology Research Program is designed to give motivated students a personal experience of the scientific process through the exploration of dynamic marine environments. The goal is to give students the conceptual and technical skills needed to undertake independent research in marine science-related fields in the following year. The course begins with a focus on the practice and fundamentals of science including observational methods, qualitative and quantitative data collection, hypothesis generation, data synthesis and evaluation, descriptive and inferential statistics, and scientific communication and critique. Specific concepts of marine ecology are discussed, including interactions between organisms and the physical environment, focused on the intertidal community. Students learn biological concepts, including food webs, phylogeny, niche space, biodiversity and energetics, and work with the essential environmental parameters that influence the biology, such as temperature, salinity, solar inputs, and wave force. In doing this, they learn basic techniques of the field, including field sampling using transects and quadrats, digital data acquisition, and the use of remote sensing databases, and participate in a long-term baseline study of the changing coastline of central California. The course concludes with the design, execution, and presentation of a project to investigate an interaction between the physical and biological world along the Monterey shoreline. Upon completion of this course, the student will have experienced a broad overview of the major principles of ecology, and may transition to more advanced science courses and independent research.

Marine Ecology Research 2 Honors

The Marine Ecology Research 2 Honors course is the second year of the Marine Ecology Research Program. It is part of a three-year series for students interested in undertaking independent research. The class is designed to give motivated students a personal experience of the scientific process through the pursuit of a guided independent research project. The goal is to give students a first experience of independent research in marine science-related fields, beginning with the development of a scientific question embodied in a research proposal. Research builds on the practice and fundamentals of science, including observational methods, qualitative and quantitative data collection, hypothesis generation, data synthesis and evaluation, descriptive and inferential statistics, and scientific communication and critique. Special attention is paid to literature review and background work, both to support and frame the student’s project, and to increase familiarity with norms of technical communication. Students are encouraged, but not required, to seek collaborations with local research institutions, and pursue their work in an internship setting. This course requires students to be highly self-motivated and professional in setting goals and honoring time commitments, as most of the research itself will likely be executed outside of class hours. Upon completion of this course, the student will have executed a piece of research that will be the focus of independent work done during the senior year.

Physics with Trigonometry

This course is structured around the "big ideas" of physics, which encompass core scientific principles, theories, and processes of the discipline. The course framework allows students to make connections across domains through a broader way of thinking about the physical world, cutting across the traditional physics principles, supported by enduring understandings and core concepts. Students develop scientific critical thinking and reasoning skills through inquiry-based learning and explore topics such as Newtonian mechanics (including rotational motion); work, energy, and power; mechanical waves and sound; and introductory, simple circuits.

Physics with Calculus

This course is designed for students who plan to major in the physical sciences or engineering in college. Students in the course have successfully completed a calculus class because calculus methods are used wherever appropriate in formulating physical principles and in applying them to physical problems. Strong emphasis is placed on solving a variety of challenging problems. The course focuses equally on Newtonian mechanics (including rotational motion); work, energy, and power; mechanical waves and sound; and introductory, simple circuits.

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