The science department believes that girls naturally wonder about themselves, the physical world, and their place within it. We also recognize the under-representation of women in many fields of science. Therefore, a primary goal of our program is to encourage girls' enthusiasm for science while providing the skills and content necessary for scientific literacy, an understanding of the scientific process, and a solid preparation for those wishing to continue with post-secondary work in the sciences.
Beginning in Lower School, students develop skills of observation, critical thinking, and experimentation. In Upper School, they continue to develop their advanced problem-solving skills while taking biology in Class V, chemistry in Class VI, and one semester of physics in Class VIII. Students with an interest in science are encouraged to take three or four years of science in Upper School.
Close observation of the environment is the underlying theme of the year. Natural ecosystems and how they function are focal points that are enhanced by field work. Students learn to recognize Massachusetts’ flora and fauna and become recorders of their environment, keeping a year-long journal. Topics of study include ecology, trees, marine organisms, water resources, insects and a unit on fast plants. Experiments and activities enhance the curriculum.
In Class II, students undertake a guided inquiry into the major systems of the human body. They hone their observation, data collection and evaluation skills, and expand their laboratory and microscope skills. They also explore cell structure and processes to understand the human body at a cellular and systemic level. Students develop engineering skills through various design challenges. An important component of the sixth grade year involves independent research and technological presentation of a human systems topic not otherwise covered in class.
Seventh-grade science is an inquiry-based course in which students investigate aspects of earth systems science. Through experimentation and modeling, students investigate broad topics in earth science including the earth’s interior and plate tectonics. Students problem solve, build understanding of concepts, and apply their knowledge to new situations. There is also a significant emphasis on geography skills and data analysis. An important component of the course is a long-term collaborative project focused on learning how different cultures around the world are affected by earthquakes. Students then use their knowledge of structural design techniques and the engineering design process to construct earthquake resistant buildings. Finally, students engage in an independent research project on volcanoes in which they create a digital blog.
Introductory physical science is a laboratory-based course in which students investigate the physical and chemical properties of matter. Additionally, the physics of forces, the fundamentals of atomic structure, and the science of climate change are introduced. Laboratory skills, problem solving during experiments, data collection and analysis, and writing laboratory reports are major goals of the course. Students use their understanding of properties of matter in a cooperative exercise in which they separate and analyze the composition of an unknown mixture. Students apply their knowledge of physics in an engineering design challenge in which they construct a car powered by a mousetrap. To culminate their laboratory experiences, students design and conduct an independent investigation and present their results in a scientific poster.
Topics include cell biology, evolution, ecology, genetics, and comparative plant and animal anatomy and physiology. Laboratory work is designed to build skills and to develop an understanding of the scientific process through experimental design and critical thinking. Students complete collaborative projects to investigate topics related to human evolution, contrasting racism in society with a scientific understanding of skin color and the overwhelming similarities shared by all humans. Students also design a long-term experiment on a biological topic of their choice. They conduct background research, perform experiments, analyze data, and present their findings in a scientific poster session.
This course provides an introduction to the major concepts of chemistry. Topics covered include atomic structure, the modern periodic table, chemical bonding, stoichiometry, states of matter, thermochemistry, equilibrium, acid/base chemistry, electrochemistry, and kinetics. Connections are made between the course material and real-world applications of chemical theory. Problem solving involves both qualitative and quantitative analyses and uses basic algebraic skills. Laboratory experiments and demonstrations illustrate the concepts and emphasize their applications to everyday life.
All students in Class VII are required to take the first semester of Physics or Honors Physics. A full year of physics is strongly recommended for all students.
*Class VIII students who were unable to complete their Class VII physics requirement, due to attendance at The Mountain School, City Term, The School for Ethics and Global Leadership, or School Year Abroad, are required to take the first semester of physics in Class VIII. In this case, physics may 31 satisfy the Class VIII quantitative requirement. Students will also be allowed to enroll in physics second semester for the weeks preceding their ILE.
Physics 1 (Fall Semester)
This course offers a standard mechanics syllabus including motion, forces, energy, momentum, circular motion, and gravitation. Although development of mathematical skills is an important part of the course, this course strongly emphasizes a conceptual, hands-on approach as well as the application of physical principles to everyday experience. Extensive use is made of laboratory experiments and demonstrations.
Physics 2 (Spring Semester)
Second semester physics covers the study of waves, sound and music, electricity, magnetism, optics, and, if time permits, modern physics. An emphasis is placed on inquiry-based laboratory investigations that culminate in an independently designed experiment. Prerequisite: Physics 1.
Honors Physics 1 (Fall Semester)
This course offers a standard mechanics syllabus including one- and two-dimensional motion, forces, energy, momentum and impulse, circular motion, and gravitation. The approach is both mathematical and conceptual; it emphasizes the connection of ideas to everyday life and stresses the development of problem-solving strategies in quantitative applications. Laboratory experiments supplement the class work. Open to students by department decision.
Honors Physics 2 (Spring Semester)
Marine Biology (Fall Semester)
Students explore topics related to the most dominant feature on planet earth, the ocean. This course will focus on research related to the diversity of marine life and marine ecosystems, as well as the impact that humans have on the marine environment. Topics to be studied include bioluminescence, deep sea biology, climate change, and ocean pollution. Marine organisms are studied in the context of their ecosystems including rocky intertidal, estuaries, coral reefs, and deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Exploration through laboratory activities with living organisms and field work is a major component of this course. Students collaborate to design and implement independent experiments on a topic of their choice. Open to students in Class VII. Interested Class VIII students should speak with the Science Department Head. This course does not satisfy the science requirement. (.5 credits)
Engineering Design I (Fall and Spring Semesters)
Students will collaborate to engage the principles and methods of engineering design in a variety of projects that emphasize mechanical structures and electronic circuitry, while introducing embedded electronics and programming. They will also learn methods of fabrication with various materials. Design tasks involve constructing and optimizing special-purpose machines or devices in a cycle of prototyping, construction, and evaluation. The course projects revolve around a new central topic each year. Open to students in Class VII. Interested Class VIII students should speak with the Science Department Head. This course does not satisfy the science requirement. This course meets at the same time as Engineering Design II. (.5 credits)
Class VIII Electives
In Class VIII, students who are interested in science are encouraged to study an additional Advanced Placement course or elective; however, there is no Class VIII science requirement.
Astronomy (Fall Semester)
Where do we fit in? Why does the sun shine? How did the universe come to be, and what is its ultimate fate? Students will begin an exploration of these questions with the study of celestial astronomy, understanding how our perceived place in the universe evolved throughout history. Students will then explore the tumultuous lives and spectacular deaths of stars of all types and sizes, which give rise to supernovae and even the very stuff of which life on Earth is made. Finally, students will study the
universe’s earliest moments and speculate about its ultimate fate. A conceptual approach is emphasized throughout this course, but students will also build a solid quantitative understanding of the subject by
drawing upon prior knowledge of physics and chemistry. Optional observing nights will be scheduled throughout the semester. Prerequisite: Physics 1 or Honors Physics 1, or departmental permission. This
course satisfies the Class VIII Quantitative Requirement. (.5 credits)
Engineering Design II (Fall & Spring Semesters)
An extension of Engineering Design I, this course emphasizes the integration of hardware and software to further student experience with programming, microcontrollers, electronic circuitry, sensors, motors,
and methods of prototype fabrication. Assignments result in the construction of intelligent machines to address practical, scientific, and social challenges. Each year, the course revolves around a new central
topic. The world is subtly teeming with such machines, and it is the goal of this course to empower students with the methods for understanding and shaping such a world. Prerequisite: Engineering Design I. This course meets at the same time as Engineering Design I. (.5 credits)
Advanced Placement (AP) courses are offered for students who wish to extend their knowledge of the foundational sciences. Students should indicate their course preference at the time of course selection,
and a final decision on placement will be made by the department. In order to receive AP course credit, students are required to take the AP Exam, which is administered by the College Board in May. A full year of physics is recommended for all students who wish to take an AP course. While the department generally discourages students from enrolling in two AP science courses simultaneously, some students choose to sign up for multiple AP sciences. Interested students should speak with the Science Department Head.
Topics in biology are studied at a level equivalent to a college introductory class. Material covered includes biochemistry, cell biology, genetics, evolution, ecology, and plant and animal physiology. The laboratory component is an integral part of this course. Students are responsible for some topics not covered in class in their preparation for the AP Examination in Biology. Open to students by department approval. All AP courses are yearlong 1 credit courses.
This course covers trends in the periodic table, structure and states of matter, reactivity, stoichiometry, thermochemistry and thermodynamics, kinetics and equilibrium, acid/base reactions, redox reactions,
and introductory organic chemistry. Advanced problem-solving strategies are emphasized. Techniquesfor writing laboratory reports on quantitative data are also addressed. Students are expected to attain a depth of understanding of the fundamentals of chemistry that will prepare them for the AP Examination in Chemistry. Open to students by department approval. This course satisfies the Class VIII Quantitative
AP Environmental Science
This course emphasizes interdisciplinary approaches to understanding the environmental systems and problems of our planet. Biology, chemistry, physics and earth science each play a role, as do the economic and social dimensions of environmental problems and potential solutions. Concepts including climate change, biodiversity, pollution and human population growth are introduced through lectures, readings, and independent research. Through laboratory activities, field work, and case studies, students gather data, analyze environmental problems, and evaluate potential solutions. Students are expected to develop an integrative understanding of the environment by practicing interdisciplinary thinking in preparation for the AP Examination in Environmental Science. Open to students by department approval.
AP Physics C Mechanics/Electricity and Magnetism
This course emulates a first-year, calculus-based college physics course and includes directed and independent laboratory investigation. The first semester covers classical mechanics, and the second semester covers electromagnetism. This course will prepare students to take both the Mechanics as well as the Electricity and Magnetism AP Physics C Examinations. Prerequisite: Honors Physics 1 & 2. Corequisite:
AB or BC Calculus. Open to students by department approval. This course satisfies the Class VIII Quantitative Requirement.
STEMinar: Explorations in Current Research and Innovation
This is a half-credit course that meets for 2x60 and 1x75 minute periods per week; it is open to students in Class VII. It can be taken on top of a full course load. This course explores the world-class scientific research occurring all around Winsor and allows students to connect with a diverse array of scientists in wide-ranging fields such as quantum physics,
neuroscience, and nuclear engineering. Guest speakers and lab visits introduce the varied approaches and uniting principles of different STEM fields and offer windows into different ways of “being a scientist.” To complement this overview of scientific diversity, individual interests in particular research areas are pursued through interviews with and presentations on the work of local scientists. In-class
discussions are an opportunity to reflect on each encounter and to examine the interdisciplinary connections and contrasts between fields. Open to students in Class VII. This course is Pass/Fail and does not satisfy the science requirement. (.25 credits)
Independent Research in Science
This is a half-credit course. Enrollment in this class requires the submission and approval of a research proposal (see requirements below) by the instructor and Science Department Head. This course allows students (independently or in small groups) to pursue a research area of their choice on campus. Students should expect to spend 3-4 hours per cycle, including a regularly scheduled meeting with their science instructor as well as significant independent work. Student work includes
reviewing scientific literature, developing and troubleshooting experimental design, collecting data, and analyzing results. Students will present their findings at the end of the semester by writing an abstract and presenting a poster or oral presentation. Supervised laboratory schedules for data collection will be determined on a case-by-case basis by the instructor. Enrollment is limited and at the discretion of the instructor as well as the Science Department Head. Students interested in proposing an independent research project in science should speak with the Science Department Head. Open to students in Classes
VI, VII, and VIII. This course does not satisfy the science requirement. (.25 credits)