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Course Catalog

Science

CSW’s Science Department introduces students to best practices of scientific study through hands-on experiences in laboratory-based classes, with regular opportunities for in-depth research projects. After completing required coursework in the 9th and 10th grade years, students are afforded curricular choice seen only at the college level, with program tracks in physics, biology, and chemistry that cover a diverse array of topics and material.
  • Anatomy and Physiology

    (10/11/12. Prerequisite: BioChemistry & BioConnections or departmental permission)  This upper-level biology class explores the complexity of human physiology. Students will be asked to use visual arts and graphic design skills to document many aspects of the mystery and wonder of the human body systems. The course will involve independent research on the systems of students’ choosing, using visual and creative ways to present the information they find. Students will research one of the body systems in its entirety or in detail. The systems to be considered are the nervous, the cardiovascular, the respiratory, the skeletal, the endocrine and muscle, or the digestive, reproductive, and lymphatic systems. Students are required to think independently and devise a final project of their own design that incorporates very clear scientific understanding of the body systems and their form and function.
     
  • Animal Behavior

    (11/12 Prerequisite: BioChemistry & BioConnections or departmental permission) Why do some animals live in groups, and others singly? Why are some animals monogamous while others have multiple mates? Who cares for the young? Why do birds sing and wolves howl? In this course, we will begin to answer these questions. We will read a text that provides an introduction to all areas of animal behavior, as well as selected articles. Our focus will be on social behaviors. Using films, we will observe the social behaviors of animals as diverse as termites and wolves. We will use fieldwork to study the role of society in the foraging behavior of honeybees. Students will be required to write a research paper on a topic of their choice.
  • Applied Anatomy in Motion (Science)

    (9-12) This course combines the structural dynamics of physiology and dance as a means to investigate how the two disciplines interact. By approaching movement from the perspectives of both science and dance, the student will examine how anatomy informs dance and how dance is an expression of human structures and systems.

    This course awards 1 Science or 1 Dance credit, selected by the student. 
  • Astronomy

    (10/11/12) In this introductory elective course, students will learn more about one of humanity’s oldest sciences. What began as simple observation of the night sky with the naked eye eventually burgeoned into a field that utilized complex technologies to better understand the universe in which we live. The structure of this class will mirror the historical development of astronomy, beginning close to Earth with the Moon and solar system, and progressing to more exotic structures such as galaxies, nebulae, dark matter, and dark energy. The course will also examine some of the equipment that humans have created in order to do this work, through the lens of basic optics and principles of radio telemetry.
  • BioChemistry: Foundations of Life

    (required 9th grade, or by placement) In this required course, students will learn the basic biochemistry that drives life. Content will focus on how atoms build the macromolecules that make up the cell, the nature of chemical reactions, and how specific reactions like photosynthesis and cellular respiration power life. Students will also study the structure of the cell and the function of the subcellular organelles. Statistical analysis will be introduced as a tool to draw conclusions from data. Students will demonstrate their learning through activities such as structured experiments, modeling, and other summative assessments in various forms. The course will provide students with content and skill foundations for their future work in biology.
  • BioConnections: Cells, Organisms, and Society

    (Required 9th grade, or by placement. Prerequisite: BioChemistry: Foundations of Life)

    (9) In this required course, students will examine the structures and processes of the cell and human body. The course will investigate body functions from the micro to the macro level, examining how the activity of genes leads to cell specialization in organs and body systems. Our major themes, sickle cell anemia and diabetes, will provide depth and context to our work, emphasizing connections between biology and issues of social justice and equity. Students will experience the process and practice of scientific research through an in‑depth, self-directed research project, which will culminate in a public poster symposium. Skills in dissection and microscopy will be a component of this course. Students will demonstrate their learning through activities such as structured experiments, modeling, a poster symposium, and other summative assessments in various forms. This course will expand on the content of BioChemistry to consider nested levels of organization and complexity in biology. Students will leave with the ability to anticipate the interplay between biology and the larger social context.

    * This course awards credit towards the Social Justice graduation requirement
  • Biology of Cancer

    (11/12 Prerequisite: BioChemistry and BioConnections or departmental permission ) Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States and this disease affects many families. The profound impact of cancer on society has been the driving force behind major research advances and led to a better understanding of cell biology. Understanding the basic biology of cancer and its impact on the human body has led to more effective treatments, enhanced detection methods, and the development of prevention strategies. This course will provide an overview of the biology of cancer. The course will focus on the genetic and molecular basis of cancer. We will explore the role of mutations in cancer cells and how they lead to the deregulation of essential biological processes such as cell division, programmed cell death, and differentiation. We will also examine the interface of cancer and medicine. Classical treatment methods will be compared with newer treatment modalities, such as targeted therapies. The challenges associated with diagnosing cancers, preventing cancers, and curing cancers will also be discussed in light of current technological advances such as genomics and bio‑informatics.
  • Calculus-Based Physics

    (11/12 Prerequisite: Physics I: Mechanics with a B- or higher and completion or concurrent enrollment in Calculus A/B) An extension of Mechanics I, this course expands previously established models of kinematics, forces, and energy to explore the effects of changing variables and superposition. Our focus on understanding how the universe behaves through the lens of mathematics is accomplished by breaking phenomena down into smaller and simpler bits to discover the effects of those bits on a macroscopic scale. In doing so, we will no longer ignore air resistance and friction and instead investigate non-constant forces and objects with irregular mass distribution.
  • Chemical Applications in the Arts

    (10-12 Prerequisite: Completion of STEAM: Chemistry or permission from the department) The goal of this class is to examine the chemical and physical processes required in photography as a medium and learn to deploy these methods to produce captivating and meaningful visuals. We will study the underlying physics and chemistry of photography in a lab setting allowing students to engage with these techniques in a controlled environment prior to their own personal experimentation. Topics we will explore include: optics of camera lenses, the reagents and reactions involved in developing film, photograms, digital modeling and more! During this course, we will seek to answer the following questions: What processes are involved in the production of images and photographs?  How can we apply knowledge of chemistry and physics to further understand and manipulate these processes? How do photographs and images affect the scientific community? Are images, created for clarity in scientific publications, art?

    This course is open to students both who have and have not previously completed Chemistry 1.
  • Chemistry 1a

    (11/12 Prerequisite: completion of Algebra 2B and STEAM: Chemistry or permission from department) This three block course covers most of the topics found in a college-preparatory chemistry course, while some topics are covered in greater depth in Chemistry 2. The course will cover a broad array of topics including units on properties of matter, chemical reactions and stoichiometry, atomic theory, bonding, gases, reaction kinetics, chemical equilibrium, thermodynamics, and acids and bases. The course design provides ample space for laboratory work, as the observations of chemical phenomenon and the practice of experimentation are central to the class. We hope that students leave this course having mastered fundamental concepts of chemical change on the macroscopic and atomic scales, having acquired essential lab skills, and having developed critical thinking and problem solving skills. Experimental design and data analysis are emphasized, and lab reports will require the students to use spreadsheets and graphing programs. A standard scientific calculator is required.
  • Chemistry 2

    (11/12. Prerequisite : Chemistry 1 with a B- or above ) Chemistry 2 allows students to deepen their understanding of chemistry and its applications by building upon the topics of Chemistry 1 and exposing students to a wide range of topics that includes hybridization, molecular geometry, advanced thermodynamics, kinetics, and equilibrium chemistry. This course uses laboratory work to foster deductive reasoning, creativity and collaborative learning. The Chemistry 2 course is recommended for students who plan to take the SAT II test in Chemistry.
  • Electrochemistry and Battery Design

    (10–12; Prerequisite: Completion of STEAM: Chemistry and STEAM: Physics or permission from the department) Oxidation-Reduction reactions and electrochemistry are a very important field of applied chemistry. We will discuss some basic chemical principles and do a series of labs related to the topic. We will ultimately do research on the latest innovations in battery design and then design and build our own devices, considering power, battery life, and the potential for using sustainable materials. No previous chemistry required.
  • Environmental Chemistry

    (11/12 Prerequisite: Completion of STEAM:Chemistry or permission from the department) The environmental movement has brought widespread attention to the complex issues resulting from our increasing use of Earth’s finite resources. This course addresses environmental issues such as global warming, acid rain, rainforest depletion, water pollution, the ozone hole, alternative energy resources, and reusable/recyclable products. Students study the fundamental chemistry that accounts for the environmental phenomena shaping our ecosystems. Throughout the course, students are engaged in extensive fieldwork in which they observe first-hand our local environment and its ecological problems.

    * This course awards credit towards the Social Justice graduation requirement
  • Ethics of Science

    (11/12 Completion of BioChemistry and BioConnections or permission from the department) In Ethics of Science, students will study, discuss, and analyze current ethical issues in science, such as stem cell research, human cloning, testing on human and animal subjects, genetic modification of agricultural crops and animals, military research, regulation of research, and ownership of intellectual property. Students will be expected to develop an understanding of the rationales behind multiple positions by reading background materials; discussing and debating issues in class; researching, writing, and presenting independent topics; watching relevant videos; and hearing speakers.

    *This course awards credit toward the social justice graduation requirement.
  • Genetic Engineering and Molecular Biology

    (11/12- Prerequisite: Completion of BioChemistry and BioConnections with a B- or above or permission from the department) The rapid progress of biotechnology is raising questions and controversy in the new millennium. Should we clone humans? What is stem cell research? Is there truth behind fears of bio-terrorism? Are we determined by our genes, and does that raise the specter of eugenics? What is the real story behind genetically engineered foods? In this fast-paced, challenging lab and lecture course, learn the science behind the headlines. Try your own hand at isolating DNA, genetic fingerprinting, virus antibody tests, and genetically engineering bacteria to glow in the dark.


  • Marine Biology

    (11/12 Prerequisite: Completion of BioChemistry and BioConnections or permission from the department. Must be taken concurrently with Marine Biology:Environmental Photo) The goal of this class is to give students a field research experience in which they come to understand how to work as a team to conduct experimental studies in marine science. Students will be off campus on Hurricane Island off the coast of Maine, where they will be involved in a variety of new and ongoing projects. They will study the structure of intertidal communities, develop hypotheses, and then implement a research study that will provide baseline data for future work in the area. The students will also study lobster biology and the historic management of the fishery so they can start to look critically at the current state of the Maine lobster industry. In the larval settlement project, students will study organisms that recruit on docks and in the intertidal of Penobscot Bay, and consider the role of invasive species and climate change in affecting biodiversity. Finally, they will learn about the efforts on Hurricane Island to design a sustainable campus and to reduce the carbon footprint. They will help monitor energy use and also learn about various innovative solutions to the problem of living “off the grid.” There is a charge for the off-campus portion of the course.
     
    As of 2022, students earn 2 Science and 1 Visual Arts credit for the Marine Biology experience. Students must taken Marine Biology alongside Marine Biology Environmental Photography.

    * This course awards credit towards the Social Justice graduation requirement
  • Meteorlogy

    (10-12) We will study the weather in this unique, one-mod, exploration of Meteorology. Weather impacts us all in large and small ways. It has shaped the course of history as well as your choice of attire. Our engagement with weather extends beyond the daily forecast:  As climate changes, the weather can alter and create shifts in the populations of flora and fauna around the planet. By examining research, reading articles, and venturing into the field, students will gain an understanding of the disparate forces influencing our weather. Meteorology will serve as a case study to guide in students in sharpening their scientific critical thinking and presentational skills.
  • Neotropics of Latin America (Off campus)

    (Prerequisites: Completion of Spanish 3A and permission of the department. This course can be equivalent to Spanish 3B. If students take this course instead of 3B, an elective course will be required to take upon return of the course.)
     
    Offered every other year, this trip is a cooperative effort between the Language and Science departments. Students travel to the neotropics of Latin America for a program of immersion in tropical ecosystems and in Spanish language and culture. In the science component, students travel to various tropical ecosystems and conduct field experiments and projects. The challenges of economic development, conservation and sustainable agriculture are examined in an interdisciplinary manner. The language program consists of homestays with local families, organized field trips, and everyday conversational Spanish. Students maintain both science and Spanish journals as they travel. The program starts with an intensive pre‑orientation week at CSW prior to departure. There is an extra charge for this course, which grants two lab science credits, one foreign language credit, one athletic credit, and one D-block credit.

    *This course awards credit toward the social justice requirement. 
  • Nuclear Semiotics

    (11/12- Prerequisite: STEAM:Chemistry and STEAM:Physics or permission from the department) Highly radioactive nuclear materials are an accumulating component of our physical world. These materials will be actively decaying and affecting living things for thousands of years to come, possibly even millions of years. Nuclear semiotics is about the semantics of nuclear science to answer the question: how can humans of the 21st Century warn humans thousands of years from now about the location and nature of these materials? Though this question has been asked since the late 1980’s, by minds including Carl Sagan, there is no conclusive answer to this. Solving the nuclear semiotics  problem may involve combining knowledge of materials science, nuclear particle physics, linguistics, symbols and cryptography, artistic expression, data science, engineering, and sociology. This course seeks to explore the fusion of these concepts and develop ideas of how to answer the question: how do we warn our future selves about our current choices?
  • Physics 1: Mechanics

    (Prerequisite: A grade of B- or higher in Algebra 2)

    (11/12 Prerequisite: Completion of Algebra 2 with a B- or above, STEAM:Physics, or permission from the department) This course covers the material contained in the first half of a basic college-preparatory course: study of the natural laws relating space, time, matter, and energy. Topics include measurement, motion, forces, energy, momentum, and rotation. We want students to understand the behavior of matter, and to become aware of the importance of the physical laws of nature. The approach to the material is highly mathematical. Students will use spreadsheets and graphing programs to analyze laboratory data. Students with a strong interest in science should take some precalculus and chemistry before Physics 1.
  • Physics 2a: Harmonic Motion

    (11/12 Prerequisite: Physics 1:Mechanics or permission from department) This course examines periodic motion of all kinds, from bouncing springs to vibrating strings to resonating pipes. The underlying similarities in the cause and analysis of these motions will be addressed, and we will examine a variety of behaviors including reflection, refraction, diffraction, and interference. This information will be applied to a wide variety of situations including the behavior of musical instruments, acoustics, and earthquake and water waves.
  • Physics 2b: Electricity & Magnetism

    (11/12 Prerequisite: Physics 1:Mechanics or permission from department) Electricity is the basis of much of modern society, since it is easily transportable over long distances and can be made to do a wide variety of tasks including heating, lighting, computing, moving cars, creating sparks, etc. Magnetism, in comparison, seems like more of a curiosity. In this course, we will see how electricity and magnetism are just different manifestations of the same force, and how one can create the other. Our analysis of electricity will begin with point charges and their interactions and move on to circuits and their components (resistors, capacitors, etc). We will also discuss the transmission of electromagnetic energy in the form of waves (radio, visible light, etc).
  • Principles of Ecology

    (10,11,12 Prerequisite: Biochemistry and BioConnections or permission from the department) Ecology is a field of biology dedicated to the interactions that organisms have with each other and with the nonliving components of their environment.  The discipline of ecology helps to explain the abundance and distribution of organisms and issues of biodiversity and extinction and is grounded in evolutionary principles. In this course we will examine how ecological ideas play out in aquatic and terrestrial environments and students will develop skills in experimental design, data analysis and statistics, scientific literacy, and complex systems thinking. Students will also consider the impact of global climate change and other human impacts on the environment and they will have the opportunity to pursue an area of their own interest. 
  • STEAM: Chemistry

    [Prerequisite: Algebra I] In this single module class, students will explore the concept of energy and energy transformations and examine foundational concepts in chemistry. Through integrated design challenges students will explore molecular motion and thermodynamics. Students will learn to use the technological tools of programming and circuitry to collect data and craft solutions to real-life problems. Students will create, design, build, discover, and engage in hands-on projects that embrace learning through failure and iterative design. In addition to learning how to use technology, students will refine their collaboration and data management skills, which will prove useful in a myriad of contexts, including our upper-level science curriculum.  
  • STEAM: Physics

    [Prerequisite: Algebra I] In this single module class, students will explore the concept of energy and energy transformations and examine foundational concepts in physics. Topics will include kinematics, types of energy, and conservation of energy. Students will hone their observational and analytical skills and consider important real-world applications. They will have several quantitative and qualitative design challenges that incorporate concepts from 3D design, programming, circuitry, and may include projects such as Rube Goldberg machines and wind turbines that demonstrate principles of physics and illustrate energy transformation. These challenges will require the students to practice their collaboration and analytical skills and show that creativity is an essential part of doing science.
  • Studies of Flight

    (9-12) Studies of Flight examines aspects of flight through many lenses. What are the scientific principles underlying flight? How has the idea of flight been explored in art and literature? How has the ability to fly influenced history? Students will explore through hands-on labs, projects, readings, discussions and presentations. As a final project, students will delve deeply into an aspect of flight that intrigues them using the guiding themes of lift, weight, drag and thrust.
  • Twentieth-Century Physics

    (10/11/12, Prerequisite: STEAM: Chemistry or permission from the department) Students need not have taken Physics 1 or 2 to enroll in this course. This class will venture to the extremes of the universe, beyond the scope of human experience, to explore physical phenomena that many people may never have thought possible. Starting with quantum mechanics, we will explore the land of the tiny, where a particle may be everywhere and nowhere at once. We will then travel to the land of the fast, where the speed of light is king, and where relativity suggests that a meter and a second are actually the same thing. We shall then confront a central problem in modern physics: the incompatibility of quantum mechanics and relativity. And from there, we will dive into the abyss of cutting-edge physics and try to answer questions such as: why are there only three spatial dimensions? What would it mean if there were two time dimensions? Why does time appear to flow? And when and how will it switch direction? And finally, what are the implications of modern physics for free will and religion?

  • Water: The Science and Story of Water Around the World

    How have water and humanity intersected around the world? How do we tell stories about water? Using an interdisciplinary and place-based lens, this double block integrated course will explore and document the science and ethics behind water scarcity and access, the chemistry and ecology of water systems, and the role water plays in the literature of populations around the world. Students will explore using primary documents, experiential hands-on activities, field trips, and documentaries. Students will also study water rights, investigative journalism related to water access, and literary representations and celebrations of water as a key resource. The course will start locally, broadening to a national and then international scope. The course will culminate in a final independent project that will employ both writing skills and research skills, and will present on their findings to their peers at CSW. This course will confer 1 Science and 1 English credit upon completion.

    Note: Students who previously completed the single-block version of this course should not sign up for this course as experience may be redundant.

    * This course awards credit towards the Social Justice graduation requirement
  • Who Are We: Mapping the History and Science of Populations

    (11/12. This course awards either 1 History or 1 Science credit as specified by the student. Prerequisite: BioChemistry or Bioconnections, or permission from science department.) “Where are you from?”, “Where are you really from?” Have you ever had a conversation start with these two questions? To many, these sound all too familiar. Google the second question and you get 13,290,000,000 results. That is an impressive number for a simple feeler sent out to figure out who you are. If you have ever been stumped by these queries and not known how to respond or experienced an awkward silence because of it,  “Who Are You?” will give you the knowledge that lets you stump those who ask these questions.  The Science and History departments are collaborating on a course that unearths the ancient DNA of human beings and tracks their movements around the globe. The purpose: to discover who we are and where we are really from; to discover the scientific and historical origins of homo sapiens, and to dispel the superficial divide created by race. The purpose further is to show how genetics, competing groups of early humans, and the environment have influenced us more than we think. 

    * This course awards credit towards the Social Justice graduation requirement 
     

Department Faculty

  • Photo of Kevin Smith
    Kevin Smith
    Science Department Chair and Wilderness Trip Guide
    781-398-8338
    Bowdoin College - B.A.
    2013
    Bio
  • Photo of Claire Bunn
    Claire Bunn '16
    Chaperone
    Williams College
    2024
  • Photo of Maureen Courtney
    Maureen Courtney
    Science Faculty
    781-398-8374
    2023
  • Photo of Elizabeth Knight
    Elizabeth Knight
    Science Faculty
    781-642-8639
    Reed College - BA
    2022
    Bio
  • Photo of Meredith Mikell
    Meredith Mikell
    Science Faculty and Residential Faculty
    781-642-8683
    Eckerd College - BS
    Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University - MS
    Wilmington University - Doctor of Education (EdD) IN PROGRESS
    2022
    Bio
  • Photo of Liz Nee
    Liz Nee
    Mathematics Faculty and Science Faculty
    781-398-8336
    Cornell University - B.A.
    Cornell University - M.A.T.
    1999
    Bio
  • Photo of Eline Rosenthal
    Eline Rosenthal
    Science Faculty and Residential Faculty
    781-398-8320
    Oberlin College - BA
    2020
    Bio

The Cambridge School of Weston is a progressive high school for day and boarding students in grades 9–12 and PG. CSW's mission is to provide a progressive education that emphasizes deep learning, meaningful relationships, and a dynamic program that inspires students to discover who they are and what their contribution is to their school, their community and the world.