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 classes beyond this basic requirement. The science department provides three sequences for the fulfillment of this requirement.

  • Students who take Algebra I in the freshman year follow a sequence of Biology, Conceptual Physics, and Chemistry. Senior year options include Ecology, Environmental Science, Introduction to Engineering, Anatomy and Physiology, Astronomy, STEM Honors Research, or Advanced Placement (AP) courses with instructor approval.
  • Students taking Geometry as freshmen may take Biology, Chemistry, and Physics with senior options of Ecology, Environmental Science, Introduction to Engineering, Anatomy and Physiology, Astronomy, STEM Honors Research or any of the three Advanced Placement courses with instructor approval.
  • Students taking Geometry as freshmen may elect, with instructor approval, to take Biology and Chemistry followed in the junior year by AP Biology, AP Chemistry, or AP Physics I. Students who take AP Biology or AP Chemistry prior to taking Physics have selected the AP sequence and are encouraged to take AP Physics I.

Each student will merit full science department consideration and recommendation for every year following freshman year. Course recommendations will be discussed with each student by her current teacher to ensure that her needs and interests are individually considered and fulfilled.

BIOLOGY
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.

HONORS BIOLOGY
Full year, laboratory, one credit, Prerequisites: 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. 

CONCEPTUAL PHYSICS
Full year, laboratory, one credit, Prerequisite: Algebra I; department approval required
Conceptual Physics is a laboratory-based course with much more hands-on work, both in the laboratory and with computer simulations. This course is less dependent on math than either the chemistry or physics courses. 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.

CHEMISTRY
Full year, laboratory, one credit, 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.

HONORS CHEMISTRY
Full year, laboratory, one credit, 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 journals. Honors Chemistry enables students to delve more deeply into certain topics while employing critical reading and writing skills. Topics covered will 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. 

PHYSICS
Full year, laboratory, one credit , Prerequisite: Chemistry
Students must have successfully completed Precalculus or AP Statistics or be enrolled in either of these courses concurrently with Physics

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 take this physics course.

ANATOMY AND PHYSIOLOGY
Full year, one credit, Open to juniors and seniors
This class will offer the essential principles of human anatomy and physiology beyond those studied in the first year of 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.

ASTRONOMY
One semester, one-half credit, Open to sophomores, 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.

ECOLOGY
Fall semester, one-half credit, Open to juniors and seniors
This course will explore the fundamental principles and patterns behind how living organisms interact with their environment. These include patterns of competition, cooperation, and adaptation in nature, as well as succession both in water and on land. Field studies, critical thinking exercises and a consideration of "philosophy of nature" will form an integral part of the course.

ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE
Spring semester, one-half credit, Open to juniors and seniors
This course will use the prerequisite biological and physical science courses as a basis for investigating contemporary environmental problems. Topics for study will be both local and global, ranging from problems on the Harpeth Hall campus to those in the rainforest. Investigations will use literary research as well as work in the laboratory and field research to enable students to identify problems and to propose solutions.

INTRODUCTION TO ENGINEERING
One semester, one-half credit, Open to sophomores, juniors and seniors, 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 will use team dynamics to solve a series of engaging and socially relevant design challenges where they will work creatively to apply STEM concepts. This is a semester course, available in both the fall and the spring.

HONORS STEM RESEARCH
Full year, laboratory, one credit, Open to juniors and seniors, Prerequisites: application required
The STEM Research course formalizes the structures for an interested student to do research in a university setting over the course of an academic year and receive academic credit for that work.  The course will begin in August of the following school year with a “Research Boot Camp” to introduce girls not only to some of the academic skills needed for research (computer programming and statistics) but also to set the expectations for working in a university research laboratory aiming for potential co-authorship of scientific manuscripts. Girls will begin their research placements on or near October 1 and continue through the Harpeth Hall academic year.  

AP BIOLOGY
Full year, laboratory, one credit, Prerequisites: Biology and Chemistry; 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 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.

AP CHEMISTRY 
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, chemical bonding theories and quantum theory. Students enrolled in the AP course take the Advanced Placement exam in Chemistry in May.

AP PHYSICS I
Full year, laboratory, one credit, Prerequisites: Biology, Chemistry, and Algebra II.
Students must have successfully completed Precalculus or be enrolled in it concurrently; department approval required

AP Physics I 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. 

AP PHYSICS II
Full year, laboratory, one credit, Prerequisites: Biology, Chemistry, AP Physics I, and Algebra II.
Students must have successfully completed Precalculus or be enrolled in it concurrently; department approval required

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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