Science & Engineering
Laurel’s Upper School science curriculum is designed to challenge each girl and encourage her individual growth. Thus the department offers an array of academic opportunities ranging from laboratory techniques in modern biology to theoretical methods in physics; from general-interest electives to AP preparation in four different disciplines. Laurel Upper School students are required to complete three years of science, including courses in biology (usually taken in Ninth Grade) and chemistry (usually taken in Tenth Grade); four years are recommended.
Core course offerings are divided between two parallel tracks: college preparatory and honors. The college preparatory track offers comprehensive foundational preparation for success in college-level biology, chemistry and physics. Honors courses offer college-level study; these courses generally proceed at a faster rate, require greater mathematical dexterity and are more open-ended than their college prep counterparts. All courses in the science curriculum require students to work independently on problem-solving assessments and collaboratively on lab reports.
AP courses are designed to model as closely as possible the corresponding educational experiences at the university level, both in content and in organizational expectations. Thus they are offered as a second year experience. AP courses in Chemistry and Physics are offered every year.
From recent discoveries in the area of human evolution to the geometric growth of understanding at the molecular level, it is impossible to keep up with all the advances in life sciences today. The Biology course provides a framework -- using the concepts of evolution by natural selection and thermodynamics -- that allows each student to identify patterns and make predictions about events in the natural world. An important component of the course is a comprehensive study of evolutionary theory at all levels. Laboratory experiences range from field studies of local ecology on the Butler Campus to restriction enzyme digests for DNA fingerprinting and other applications of biotechnology.
The Honors Biology course uses critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, analytical discussion, collaboration and inquiry to support students’ exploration of the living world. Evolution and the flow of matter and energy in living systems provide a framework that students use to understand course concepts. Girls investigate how and why life changes over time, interactions in ecosystems, the roles of biological molecules in organisms, the nature of the cell, ways that organisms obtain and use energy, genetics, biotechnology and human physiology. Inquiry takes many forms in the classroom, including developing questions to investigate in the laboratory, collecting and sharing field data at our Butler Campus, analyzing accounts of scientific research, discussing case studies, dissecting organisms and hosting classroom debates about bioethics and genetic engineering. Assessments give girls the opportunity to apply their understanding both qualitatively and quantitatively.
Prerequisite: completion of Algebra I and recommendation of the department or successful completion of a placement test
AP Biology is a challenging course, equivalent to a two-semester college introductory biology course. Throughout the year, girls focus on four core ideas that are central to biology and the enduring, conceptual understandings and content that supports them. Girls spend less time on factual recall and more time on inquiry-based learning of essential concepts, which helps them to develop the reasoning skills necessary to engage in the practices of science explored in the course. With more than 25% of class time devoted to hands-on laboratory work, girls develop advanced inquiry and reasoning skills, like designing a plan for collecting data, analyzing data, applying mathematical routines and connecting concepts in and across domains. Students are expected to sit for the AP Biology examination.
Prerequisite: completion of a course in Chemistry and recommendation of the department
*NOTE: this course will only run with sufficient enrollment. If this course does not run, students who signed up for it will be encouraged to take another advanced science course or AP Environmental Science
This focused introduction to the behavior of atoms, molecules and ions allows students to gain a broad understanding of the principles governing chemical interactions. Students are encouraged to connect and apply the microscopic subject matter to their own macroscopic world. Subjects explored include the breadth of chemistry including stoichiometry, atomic structure, periodicity, thermochemistry and chemical interactions. Both in the classroom and in the laboratory students explore the ways in which chemistry can impact and affect their daily lives. Students gain the ability to safely work with a variety of chemicals and conduct quantitative analysis including titration and gravimetric methods.
Prerequisite: completion of a biology course and Algebra I
This accelerated course for highly motivated students covers the topics of the Chemistry course in a comprehensive manner and with greater depth and breadth. Concepts such as the quantum-mechanical model, bonding, thermodynamics and equilibrium are covered in significant detail. Students perform extensive laboratory work with the emphasis on experiential learning, collaboration and the application of chemistry to the modern world. Each unit of study also incorporates specific content and skills that pertain to real world applications. Outstanding personal initiative and organizational skill are expected from students enrolling in Honors Chemistry.
Prerequisite: completion of a biology course and concurrent or prior enrollment in Algebra II and recommendation of the department
AP Chemistry is structured around the six big ideas articulated in the AP Chemistry curriculum framework provided by the College Board, with special emphasis on the seven science practices, which capture important aspects of the work in which scientists engage. Learning objectives combine content with experiential learning and critical thinking skills. The primary approach employed is Guided Inquiry, through which students are encouraged to formulate their own scientific questions and to develop and test potential solutions, resulting in deep and enduring understanding of chemical principles.
Prerequisite: completion of a chemistry course and recommendation of the department
Students learn physics in the manner that Newton and Galileo learned physics: through observation and modeling. Modeling is a framework for teaching physics that encourages students to question their understanding of the nature of motion and to build new models of understanding. Students are required to develop their own experiments, with guidance, to come to a definition of the nature of physical motion phenomena. Students develop models for motion, forces, energy and momentum in addition to developing proficiency in problem solving and graphical and analytical techniques.
Prerequisites: completion of a courses in chemistry and Algebra II and concurrent enrollment in a subsequent math course
This accelerated first-year course in physics is intended for students considering scientific studies in college. Students develop graphical and mathematical models for motion, forces, energy, electricity and optics in the same manner as their scientific forebearers. The class works collaboratively while actively taking part in the scientific process, and students are responsible for presenting and defending their findings to one another. Through this experience, students learn to design experiments, to account for and minimize uncertainty and to interpret data. Outstanding personal initiative and organizational skill are expected from students enrolling in Honors Physics.
Prerequisite: completion of a course in chemistry, prior or concurrent enrollment in Honors Precalculus or College Preparatory Calculus, and recommendation of the department
AP Physics C (Mechanics)
AP Physics is the equivalent of a college-level preparation in calculus-based Newtonian mechanics. As a second-year course in physics, this class builds upon students’ experimental and critical thinking skills while greatly expanding their exposure to the mathematical analysis of physical phenomena. The laboratory experience requires students to develop and design experimental procedures to investigate the natural world. Additional topics in modern physics (special relativity, particle physics and/or quantum physics) are examined as time allows.
Prerequisite: completion of a physics course, prior or concurrent enrollment in AP Calculus, and recommendation of the department
Computer Science and Technology
The ubiquity of computers and technology cannot be overstated. Apps schedule our appointments, manage our finances and connect us with friends. Electronics have been integrated into our cars, our phones and, soon, our clothing. Students will gain an introduction to these two fields by exploring both software and hardware. Students will learn the fundamentals of programming via Python and introductory electronics through hands-on work. Projects explore codes and ciphers, sound-sensing circuits, interactive fiction and data analysis. This year-long course is intended for students interested in using computer programming and electronics in their further studies in engineering, science or mathematics.
Principles of Engineering
Engineers are designers of the modern world; the technological works they create drive society forward. In this class, students learn and practice the engineering design process used by professional engineers. Through active problem solving in the context of specific case studies, this year-long course addresses concepts and skills relevant to a career in engineering. Students experience the key phases of engineering design and learn to view design as an iterative process. Students receive an orientation to the various disciplines within engineering and practice problem-solving skills. Specific case study topics include structural integrity and bridge building, 3D modeling and cost analysis.
Topics for the second semester of study include engineering ethics, heat transfer and home heating, energy transmission and alternative energy research with specific case studies where students build solar cars and DC motors. A culminating capstone project asks students to apply much of what they have learned in the course.
Earth Science and Field Studies (first semester, .5 credit)
Ancient oceans and massive glaciers carved the land we live and learn on, and the resources these events yielded are an economic boon to our region. Students will study the deep history of the northeast Ohio region and the geologic forces that shaped it. We will investigate the formation of the Marcellus Shale, sources of ground water, the coasts of Lake Erie, the rivers of the region and the environmental impacts our use of resources has. Students will engage in first hand observations in the field to understand much of these impacts. Therefore, the class has a significant field studies requirement that will take students away from school, including at least one multi-day trip. Students registering for this course are obligating themselves to the field studies component.
Astronomy (second semester, .5 credit)
Astronomy challenges girls to use their senses, their brains and a few instruments to learn about the universe and their place within it. Girls study astronomy’s rich history and its impact on various cultures, examining the ways technological advances have impacted our understanding of the solar system, the birth and fate of stars and the formation and evolution of the universe. Students interpret data and images from NASA missions and do their own investigation: modeling the motions of celestial objects, exploring the nature of light and atoms and examining the impact of meteorites. Students research how new telescopes and instruments help us to answer fundamental questions about the universe, including star types and life cycles, neutron stars, pulsars, quasars, dark matter, black hole formation and theories of the origin of the universe.
Prerequisites: completion of courses in biology and chemistry
AP Environmental Science
Environmental Science provides girls with the scientific principles, concepts and methods to understand the interrelationships of the natural world and to identify, analyze and potentially solve or prevent environmental problems. Interdisciplinary and with an emphasis on quantitative reasoning and data interpretation, this course challenges girls to develop their understanding of the process of science, the energy conversions that underlie ecological processes, the interconnectedness of Earth’s systems, mankind’s role in altering the environment, the socio-cultural context of environmental problems and the importance of developing sustainable practices.
Prerequisite: completion of a course in biology and a course in chemistry and recommendation of the department
*NOTE: this course will only run at Laurel School with sufficient enrollment. If sufficient enrollment is not met, students will be able to take the OSH AP Environmental Science course