Upper School Science

Science is at the same time a body of information and a way of looking at the world. It is imperative for graduates of Harpeth Hall to possess both an understanding of scientific processes and analytical abilities necessary to utilize these concepts. Our science students are well prepared for the next level in science whether future endeavors include a concentration in scientific arenas or extensive scientific literacy in an ever-increasing science and technology-based world. In biology, chemistry, and physics courses, students learn to interpret facts about our world in terms of basic principles. In order to develop the process of scientific thinking, laboratory experiments are an integral part of the curriculum, reflecting and reinforcing classroom experiences.


All students at Harpeth Hall are required to take one course in each discipline: biology, chemistry, and physics. Most students elect to take science classes beyond these basic requirements.



Full year, laboratory, one credit, Required for freshmen

Biology provides students with an introduction to the study of life. During the first semester, students investigate topics including biochemistry, cell structure, cell function, and molecular biology. In the second semester, the class focuses on genetics, evolution, and the diversity of life with special attention paid to highlighting human systems. The course emphasizes hands-on learning through extensive lab experiments. Biology provides students with a solid content-filled background enabling them to make sense of their surroundings and to provide them with skills necessary for upper level science classes and beyond.



Full year, laboratory, one credit (department approval required)

Honors Biology is a course of several major sub-disciplines of biology, such as genetics, cell biology, developmental systematics, behavior, immunology, and evolution. The course focuses on the molecular aspects of biology. Honors Biology incorporates many laboratory activities that further the understanding of related issues. 



Full year, laboratory, one credit, Prerequisites: Biology and Algebra I (department approval required)

Conceptual Physics is a laboratory-based course with more hands-on work, both in the laboratory and with computer simulations. This course is less dependent on math than either chemistry or physics. Problem solving is done largely through principles of physics and logical reasoning, and through experimentation, rather than through computation. Students explore topics in mechanics (forces, energy, motion), properties of matter (atoms, states of matter), heat and thermodynamics, sound and light, electricity and magnetism, atomic and nuclear physics.



Full year, laboratory, one credit, Prerequisites: Biology and Geometry, Co-requisite: Algebra II

Chemistry introduces the student to the world on an atomic level. This course is an introduction to Inorganic Chemistry. Topics include behavior of gases, solutions, acids and bases, chemical bonding, and balancing equations. Problems and laboratory experiences reinforce material presented in class.



Full year, laboratory, one credit, Prerequisites: Biology and Geometry, Co-requisite: Algebra II (department approval required)

Honors Chemistry is a survey course that introduces the advanced student to the world of chemistry. Students will learn all of the basic chemical principles and theories while being challenged with enhanced opportunities including special topics such as nanotechnology and outside reading in scientific journals. Honors Chemistry enables students to delve more deeply into certain topics while employing critical reading and writing skills. Topics covered include but are not limited to atomic theory, chemical reactions and equilibrium, stoichiometry, electronic structure, thermochemistry, and organic chemistry. Extensive laboratory experiences are integral to the course. 



Full year, laboratory, one credit, Prerequisites: Biology, Chemistry, Co-requisite: Precalculus or AP Statistics

Physics is a general course with topics including mechanics, acoustics, optics, electromagnetism, and modern physics. Laboratory experiences include demonstrations, common experiences, problem solving, and computer simulations. Students who take Conceptual Physics will not also take this physics course.



Full year, one credit, Open to juniors and seniors

This class offers the essential principles of human anatomy and physiology beyond those studied in biology. These include studies of the eleven body systems at the molecular, cellular, and macroscopic levels with lecture, group activities, and laboratory exercises that complement and support the overall concept of the human body as a structural and functional unit. In addition, this course will cover the anatomical and physiological implications when systems fail.



One semester, one-half credit, Open to juniors and seniors

This course offers a chance to explore the entire universe, from our own solar system to distant galaxies, and from the big bang to the future of our universe. Emphasis is placed on the concepts and processes which have led to our current understanding of the universe. Much of the course is hands on with a rich laboratory component (using simulations, online data, and building models). In this course, students deepen science skills through a wide variety of exciting topics such as observations of the night sky, the evolution of the Sun and other stars, exoplanets and the possibility for extraterrestrial life, Dark Matter and Dark Energy, and the origin of our Universe. The study of astronomy often provides as many questions as it does answers - encouraging exploration, critical thinking, and growth.



One semester, one half-credit, Open to juniors and seniors

Do you want to prevent humanity's march into the environmental abyss? Do you want to save the world? Then join us as we learn how natural systems function and the ways in which people mess things up. Students will study population, community, and ecosystem ecology, with an emphasis on the impacts that human activities have on ecological systems. Through readings, discussions, labs, and field studies students will understand and appreciate the importance of natural systems, and realize why it is necessary for society to operate in a sustainable manner.



One semester, one-half credit, Open to freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors, Co- or Prerequisites: Biology and Algebra I

In this course, students will begin their study of engineering through project-based curriculum designed to introduce the engineering profession, the different disciplines in engineering, and the design process and tools of the trade. Students will hone their skills in creative processes including technical problem-solving, engineering design, ethics, teamwork and communication. Students use team dynamics to solve a series of engaging and socially relevant design challenges where they will work creatively to apply STEM concepts.



Full year, laboratory, one credit, Open to juniors and seniors (application required)

The Honors STEM Research course formalizes the structures for students to do independent research over the course of an academic year and receive credit for that work. Accepted students are placed in research settings based on their particular interest and laboratory availability.  Research settings may include but are not limited to university laboratories and local corporate environments. Project work begins by early September and ends in May. The course requires on average 7 to 8 hours of project based work per week. Students are encouraged to present their scientific findings at regional science and engineering fairs in the spring, and all students submit a formal scientific manuscript in May. The application and teacher recommendation are due by February 8 to Dr. Valerie Guenst.



Full year, laboratory, one credit, Prerequisites: Biology, Chemistry, and Algebra II (department approval required)

AP Biology is a college level general biology course. Current research in biology is followed by supplementing the text with readings from scientific journals and by having occasional speakers. A number of advanced laboratory projects are included in the course. Students enrolled in the AP course take the Advanced Placement exam in Biology in May.



Full year, laboratory, one credit, Prerequisites: Biology, Chemistry, and Algebra II (department approval required)

AP Chemistry is a second year course using general principles in chemistry college text and includes extensive lab work. Some topics included in the course include solution chemistry, equilibrium, ionic reactions, acid base theory, thermo chemistry, organic chemistry, chemical bonding theories and quantum theory. Students enrolled in the AP course take the Advanced Placement exam in Chemistry in May.



Full year, laboratory, one credit, Prerequisites: Biology, Chemistry, and Algebra II (department approval required)

Students must have successfully completed Precalculus or be enrolled in it concurrently.

AP Physics 1 may be taken in lieu of Physics. AP Physics 1 is equivalent to a first-semester college course in algebra-based physics. The course covers Newtonian mechanics (including rotational dynamics and angular momentum); work, energy, and power; and mechanical waves and sound. It also introduces electric circuits. Students enrolled in the AP course take the Advanced Placement exam in Physics 1 in May. 



Full year, laboratory, one credit, Prerequisites: Biology, Chemistry, AP Physics I, and Algebra II (department approval required)

Students must have successfully completed Precalculus or be enrolled in it concurrently.

AP Physics II, collectively with AP Physics I, covers material typically encountered in a college physics course in the first and second semesters. Topics covered in this course include fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, electricity and magnetism, optics, and atomic and nuclear physics. Students enrolled in the AP course take the Advanced Placement exam in Physics II in May.

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