The required science classes are intentionally designed as a two-year sequence of study so students can build their expertise in critical inquiry and communicating the scientific process. These two years include physics, chemistry, and biology.
Beginning in the junior year, students can choose from an array of elective courses, including climate change, anatomy, geology, and kinesiology or further study in biology, chemistry and physics to satisfy the third year science requirement. Honors electives are also available.
Science I: Physics and Chemistry
Major topics include motion (description and causes), types and conservation of energy, chemical and physical properties of matter, structure of atoms and molecules, and periodic table trends.
Science II: Chemistry and Biology
Major topics include chemical reactions, intermolecular forces, biochemistry, cell biology, genetics, evolution, ecology, and climate change.
Astronomy B: The Universe Beyond our Solar System
In this semester-long course, after an initial investigation of our own star, the Sun, we will extend our study beyond the solar system, and probe the larger universe beyond our immediate neighborhood, using the recent advances in science and technology that have led to a rapid expansion of our understanding of the operation of the universe. Investigations of relativity, galaxies, supernovas, the life cycles of stars, black holes, dark matter and dark energy, and other recent discoveries in astronomy will extensively expand our appreciation of the marvels of the universe. Extensive use is made of audiovisual material in presenting the historical, scientific, and aesthetic aspects of the material covered.
This course engages in the study of structures, processes and interactions of a number of systems in humans. Systems of focus include the integumentary (skin) system, cardiovascular system, respiratory system, digestive system, endocrine system, excretory system and reproductive system. The course addresses the anatomical structure, the physiological function from a cellular to organ system level, and emphasizes the interconnected nature of these body systems. Communication, physiological function of major body processes and the anatomical structure of these systems will be discussed. This course includes dissection of mammalian systems to review major organs anatomical structures and their relationships with each other.
Energy and Climate Change
Climate change may be the most significant environmental threat facing Earth today, but it is also a fascinating and complex scientific phenomenon. In this class, we will explore the causes and effects of that phenomenon, as well as ways to mitigate its consequences. Students will develop understanding of Earth’s atmospheric systems and how those systems change in response to external stimuli. They will contextualize those changes by drawing comparisons to climatic conditions on Earth in previous geologic eras. In addition, students will identify activities that cause or contribute to those changes, and explain how to modify those activities to mitigate those impacts. The class covers a wide variety of topics, including the greenhouse effect, the geologic carbon cycle, tipping points and feedback loops, relationships between climate and weather, orbital mechanics, ocean acidification, America’s energy infrastructure, renewable energy technology, and nuclear power. This is a multidisciplinary science course, and students are expected to show mastery of relevant concepts drawn from physics, chemistry, biology, ecology, geology, and astronomy.
The principles of evolution undergird our understanding of biological diversity, adaptations, and the history of life on Earth. Indeed, biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky wrote, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” We first delve into the evolution of evolutionary thought in human history, including theorists who influenced Darwin and Wallace. We will utilize principles of microevolution to show mathematically that evolution has occurred by analyzing changes in allele frequencies in populations, and we will closely examine the agents of evolutionary change (of which natural selection is just one). We then scale-up these processes to examine long-term macroevolutionary patterns of speciation and extinction, using paleontological data to support our conclusions. Finally, we explore human evolution, discussing what our species has in common with our extant primate relatives and what makes us unique. The semester culminates in a laboratory exercise in which we extract and amplify our own DNA in order to elucidate patterns of human migration.
This lab intensive course investigates fundamental chemistry concepts through frequent experimentation. Emphasis is on experimental skills, collaboration, written and mathematical communication, critical inquiry, and problem solving. Topics covered include chemical bonding, reaction stoichiometry, solution chemistry, chemical equilibrium, acid-base chemistry, and oxidation/reduction. This course is a prerequisite for Honors Inorganic Chemistry.
Geology A: Plate Tectonics & Geologic Processes
This semester-long course focuses on physical geology. We broadly study the earth and its many landforms, how they have come to be the way they are now, and how geologic processes affect the ways that they continue to change. The theory of plate tectonics provides a useful framework in which to understand the connections between many of these worldwide processes. An appreciation of the expanse of geologic time is formed as we consider the extensive changes wrought by extremely slow processes. The understanding of the variety of landforms and processes is enhanced and extended through lab activities and extensive use of audiovisual material. The interesting and well-exposed geology of the NW provides excellent opportunities for field trips.
Kinesiology is the study of human mechanics, motion, and the interaction of body systems to create the complex motions that you have seen in everything from sports to day to day walks down the street. In this class, students will investigate and learn about the components of the body structures (cells and tissues) and will focus on the major systems that relate to human motion (skeletal system, and muscle systems, and basic nerve function). Students will identify all the bones and bone features in the human body as well as major muscle group origin, insertion, and actions. Students will learn about major types of motion and practice describing how motions occur in various activities and sports. This class is designed for students with an interest in anatomy and physiology and will involve dissection of mammalian analogs to study biological systems to reinforce content knowledge of structures.
How does a single neuron work? How do collections of neurons cooperate with each other? How does an entire nervous system function to sense and interact within an environment? In this class, we study the molecular and cellular processes that underlie sensation and perception. Then, by exploring the basic structure and function of nervous systems across a wide range of organisms, we will find patterns in how an organism’s sensory and perception abilities are determined by specific features of its nervous system. Finally, we will examine complex behaviors as emergent properties of these neurobiological systems.
Pathogens and Parasites
What makes the virus responsible for COVID-19 so effective? Why are some bacteria good for us while some are pathogenic? How do our bodies fight infection? This course investigates disease prevention, transmission, diagnosis, and treatment. We will learn about pathogenic bacteria, fungi, and viruses. We will explore how organisms protect against disease and how they recover from infection. We will then apply these scientific principles to the historical and social impact of global disease epidemiology.
Physics A: Mechanics
This one semester course investigates the physics of motion: how and why things move. This course expands considerably and in greater depth many topics introduced in Science I. Kinematics and Newton’s Laws of Motion (Dynamics) are the main focus. Motion in one dimension will lead to projectiles moving in two dimensions and objects moving in circular motion. Energy transformations and conservation of momentum will also be studied. This study of mechanics concludes with an investigation of simple machines. This algebra-level course includes extensive hands-on lab work.
Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism
This algebra-level, one-semester course begins with an investigation into electric fields and currents. We investigate circuit components, such as resistors and capacitors, and assemble a variety of circuits. Modern electronics are mostly digital. We’ll learn about logic circuits and build a simple binary calculator. The interaction of magnets and charged particles is very important to modern technology, and we will spend quite a bit of time in discussion, demonstration, and experimentation gaining a firm understanding of this critical concept.
Honors Inorganic Chemistry
This lab intensive course provides an in-depth look at many chemical concepts introduced in previous courses, as well as explorations of new ideas. Emphasis is on experimental skills, collaboration, written and mathematical communication, critical inquiry, and in-depth problem solving. Topics will include those encountered in a typical college general chemistry class including: molecular structures and bonding theories, properties of solutions, aqueous equilibria, acid/ base chemistry, kinetics, thermodynamics, electrochemistry, nuclear chemistry, and environmental/energy chemistry.
Honors Molecular Biology and Genetics
This course studies biological structures and functions at the level of molecules, cells, and multicellular organisms, including humans. Topics include: the chemical basis of life, structure and function of genes, prokaryotic and eukaryotic gene regulation, genetic editing, and inherited disease. We will frequently read peer-reviewed journal articles and will use these as a vehicle for examining the original data from historically groundbreaking experiments. This course integrates literature research, writing skills, and critical thinking and laboratory work to build experimental design, detailed observation, accurate recording, data interpretation, and analysis skills.
Honors Physics with Calculus
This course explores further topics in physics using methods of calculus and other specialized and advanced applications of mathematics, which are presented in class. These topics include kinematics, dynamics, rotation, equilibrium, gravitation, fluids, Gauss’ Law, electric potential, capacitance, Kirchoff’s equations, Ampere’s Law, and Lenz’ Law. The year wraps up with a consideration of the theory of special relativity.
Honors Science Research
This course explores science by providing support in the development, implementation and presentation of independent research projects. Students engage in discourse related to the nature of scientific research through extensive review of current primary literature. Students develop a research question to investigate over the year on a topic of interest. Students design and implement experiments to test their questions using a variety of tools and techniques. Data is then analyzed to effectively interpret the material and share that with peers. Students in this course are expected to present their work at the Northwest Science Expo for feedback from scientists. Students then write a journal style paper of their project for submission.
Science Teaching Assistant
Teaching assistants are vital contributors to our science classes. TAs attend class each day and work directly with students. TAs assist in running labs and/or design challenges and help students to better understand the material. As the year progresses, TAs may be involved in planning and teaching the class.