Curriculum Detail

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Science

Woodberry Forest is a physics-first school, introducing its students to the science curriculum through a laboratory-intensive, conceptually-underpinned physics course for third formers. For students entering Woodberry in the third form year, the sequence of required courses is physics in the third form, chemistry in the fourth form, and biology in the fifth form. Those who enter in the 4th form take chemistry, then biology 5th form year if they haven’t already taken a high school laboratory-based biology course.

The science department believes not just in learning about science, but also in doing science.  Every course, at every level, spends at least a quarter of the class time, and usually much more than that, doing hands-on laboratory activities.  Students leave the general-level courses with an understanding of evidence-based scientific reasoning, as well as an understanding of how experimental evidence is gathered in each scientific discipline.  Advanced coursework is available in all areas.

  • Science_Conceptual Physics

    Conceptual Physics, a year-long course required of all third formers, emphasizes the principles of physics on a conceptual basis. The course begins with optics and waves and progresses through electric circuits before covering traditional mechanics topics. Students use the fundamental facts and equations of introductory physics as a vehicle for a thorough introduction to analytical thinking and creative problem-solving skills. Well over half of class time involves hands-on experimental work. Nightly problems require students to justify their answers with substantial verbal reasoning. Tests and exams questions are based on authentic items from New York Regents exams, adapted such that a calculator is not required, and adapted to require students to demonstrate their verbal as well as mathematical skills. It is expected that a successful Conceptual Physics student leaves with a solid understanding of qualitative mathematical approaches to problem-solving, including verbal justifications of answers; graphical analysis, both experimental and theoretical; order of magnitude estimation, including describing the physical meaning of numerical answers; and experimental verification and investigation of physical relationships. One honors section, selected by performance after the first several weeks in the fall term, follows the same AP syllabus as Honors Physics 1.
  • Science_Physics

    Physics, a year-long course required of all third formers, emphasizes the principles of physics on a conceptual basis. The course begins with optics and waves and progresses through electric circuits before covering traditional mechanics topics. Students use the fundamental facts and equations of introductory physics as a vehicle for a thorough introduction to analytical thinking and creative problem-solving skills. Well over half of class time involves hands-on experimental work. Nightly problems require students to justify their answers with substantial verbal reasoning. Tests and exams questions are based on authentic items from New York Regents exams, adapted such that a calculator is not required, and adapted to require students to demonstrate their verbal as well as mathematical skills. It is expected that a successful physics student leaves with a solid understanding of qualitative mathematical approaches to problem-solving, including verbal justifications of answers; graphical analysis, both experimental and theoretical; order of magnitude estimation, including describing the physical meaning of numerical answers; and experimental verification and investigation of physical relationships. 

    Those who do not enter in the 3rd form are encouraged to take physics in the 5th or 6th form year. Such students are offered a separate section of physics from the 3rd form. This section follows the same curriculum, but in a different order, and in a style optimized for  upperclassmen.  



  • Science_Honors Physics 1

    Honors physics 1 follows the course description for AP Physics 1: Algebra-Based provided by the College Board. This is an algebra-based, college-level survey course, covering important topics in classical mechanics. Students are expected to develop both a mathematical and conceptual understanding of the subject, with a substantial emphasis on the latter. The course is taught through the use of quantitative demonstrations and in-class laboratory exercises, paired with nightly assignments involving descriptive problem solving. Approximately half the course time is spent in hands-on experimental work in guided- and open- inquiry styles.  Tests and exams are in the style of the AP Physics 1 exam. Students are encouraged to take the AP Physics 1 exam in May.  

    One section of this course is exclusively for 3rd formers, who are selected based on a holistic evaluation of their transcript and readiness assessment.  Honors placement for upperformers is determined for returning students by their performance in their previous science course, and for new students by a holistic transcript evaluation.  Honors physics 1 is also available as a second-year physics course to any student who has already completed physics.

  • Science_Honors Physics 2

    Honors physics 2 follows the course description for AP Physics 2: Algebra-Based provided by the College Board. This is an algebra-based, college-level survey course, covering topics beyond mechanics: waves, optics, electricity, magnetism, fluids, thermodynamics, and atomic physics. Students are expected to develop both a mathematical and conceptual understanding of the subject, with a substantial emphasis on the latter. The course is taught through the use of quantitative demonstrations and in-class laboratory exercises, paired with nightly assignments involving descriptive problem solving. At least one-quarter of the course time is spent in hands-on experimental work in guided- and open- inquiry styles.  Tests and exams are in the style of the AP Physics 2 exam. Students are required to take the AP Physics 2 exam in May.  

    Successful completion of honors physics 1 is required for placement into honors physics 2.  This means earning a 3 or better on the AP Physics 1 exam; or, for those who took an honors physics equivalent course elsewhere, passing a rigorous placement test similar to the AP Physics 1 exam.



  • Science_Chemistry

    Chemistry introduces the student to a broad spectrum of chemical interactions and concepts. A development of the fundamental principles of chemistry, as well as their applications, is presented. Chemical nomenclature, stoichiometry, atomic structure, bonding theories, thermochemistry, periodic properties, solution calculations, gas laws, and the properties of solids and liquids are among the topics discussed. Regular inquiry-style laboratory investigations involve hands-on study of matter and its changes.
  • Science_Honors Chemistry

    Like general chemistry, honors chemistry introduces the student to the broad spectrum of chemical interactions and concepts. The course places a heavier emphasis than the regular course on analytical thinking skills and problem-solving techniques. Top students in the class are encouraged (though not required) to take the AP Chemistry exam. Topics covered in honors chemistry include classification of matter, chemical nomenclature, reactions in solution, oxidation and reduction, atomic and molecular structure, gas laws, properties of solutions, chemical kinetics, thermodynamics, acids and bases, and chemical equilibrium. All of the topics are approached with the goal of conceptual understanding through the particulate model of matter, with the ability to recognize and work with quantitative relationships adding more depth to that understanding. Regular laboratory exercises give students a chance to discover relationships in a hands-on environment and to apply their classroom knowledge in chemical investigations. Honors chemistry is primarily taken by the most advanced fourth-form science students; honors placement is determined by performance in physics for returning students and by a holistic transcript evaluation for new fourth formers. Honors chemistry is also available as a second-year chemistry course to any student who has already completed chemistry.



  • Science_Biology

    Biology is an introductory laboratory course which presents topics of basic biology.  This survey course covers the ecological biology of plants and animals, evolution and speciation, and the interrelationships between organisms and their environment; it further includes the cellular biology topics of biochemistry, cell structure and function, and molecular genetics. Though all sections hold about ¾ of the course in common, each teacher spends ¼ of the course covering topics and laboratory investigations in an area of their personal interest, sometimes including deeper investigations into environmental ecology, forensic biology, anatomy, or marine biology.  A minimum of one quarter of the class time is spent conducting laboratory investigations and related class activities. Topics are often presented within the context of how this study of life relates to technology and society. Reading and discussion of the class text along with current scientific literature is an integral part of the course. Biology (or honors biology) is a required course for all 5th formers, unless they have already taken a laboratory-based biology course during high school. 
  • Science_Honors Biology

    The honors biology course offers students a more in-depth study of biological science, with considerable emphasis on molecular and cellular biology, biochemical pathways, genetics, and evolution. The course follows the Advanced Placement biology curriculum framework, emphasizing the four “big ideas” of biology and the core concepts students should master. Lab work and the process of science is an integral part of the course and will include, but not be limited to, the “seven science practices” as outlined in the Advanced Placement biology curriculum framework. Students in this course are expected to take the Advanced Placement biology examination.  Honors biology is primarily taken by the most advanced 5th form science students; honors placement is determined by performance in chemistry for returning students, and by a holistic transcript evaluation for new 5th formers. Honors biology is also available as a second-year biology course to any student who has already completed chemistry.



  • Science_Human Anatomy & Physiology

    This class is an introductory course to the structure of the human body and the functions of human cells and organ systems.  Emphasis is placed throughout the course on homeostasis — how the body’s different systems work together for the overall organism. In addition to the typical topics found in the different body systems — skeletal, muscular, integumentary, nervous, digestive, endocrine, circulatory, lymphatic, respiratory, urinary, and reproductive — we also cover topics such as nutrition, metabolism, and embryonic development. Laboratory activities, including both hands-on dissection of preserved specimens and virtual human cadaver dissection, reinforce major concepts. No prerequisite
     
  • Environmental Science: The Woodberry Environment

    This is a course in environmental science designed to take advantage of the school’s vast and varied ecosystems. Students will discover and investigate the ecosystems on our 1200-acre campus. Most of the experimental work in the course will be spent outdoors investigating the interactions of organisms and our environment. 

    [We do not offer an honors section of environmental science.  Those students who have deep interest in exploring the natural environment of Woodberry and the world should consider interviewing for Science Thesis Seminar.]




  • Science_Engineering Design

    This project-driven class will challenge students to solve problems across the fields of mechanical, electrical, computer, and biomedical engineering. From designing buildings to constructing medical devices, students will gain hands-on experience while working as a team to meet project goals. The course instructors bring substantial engineering and project development experience to the creation of some new projects each year. Students are evaluated by the success of their projects, and by the process they undertake in developing those projects. Prerequisite: permission of the instructor.
  • Science_Honors Science Thesis Seminar

    Science Thesis Seminar is an immersive, intensive dive into scientific disciplines and experiences beyond the scope of typical advanced-level high school courses. Participants are chosen based on their demonstrated interest in scientific pursuit and desire to continue their science education. In each half of the school year, students are assigned to do small-group undergraduate-level research projects or advanced coursework in an area of a faculty member’s interest. It is expected that one of these projects - the thesis project - will be evaluated externally by subject matter experts, in a manner similar to a scientific conference, thesis defense, or comprehensive examination. Successful completion of the external evaluation would earn the student “distinction in science.”

Our Faculty

  • Photo of Greg Jacobs
    Greg Jacobs
    Science
    Chair
    (540) 672-3900
    Haverford College - BS
    Northwestern University - MS
    2000
    Bio
  • Photo of Lewis  Affronti
    Lewis Affronti
    Science
    (540) 672-3900 ext. 5006
    Sewanee: The University of the South - BS
    University of Virginia - MEd
    2013
    Bio
  • Photo of Eric Hicks
    Eric Hicks
    Science
    Science
    (540) 672-3900 ext. 5013
    College of Wooster - BA
    Wesleyan University - MALS
    2021
    Bio
  • Photo of Renee Hicks
    Renee Hicks
    Science
    Science
    (540) 672-3900 ext. 5300
    George Washington University - BA
    Wesleyan University - MALS
    2021
    Bio
  • Photo of Whitney  Lane
    Dr. Whitney Lane
    Science
    Purdue University-Fort Wayne - BS
    University of Pittsburgh - PhD
    2018
    Bio
  • Photo of Abbie Mills
    Abbie Mills
    Science
    Rice University - BS
    2016
    Bio
  • Photo of Len Mills
    Len Mills
    Science
    Head Varsity Soccer Coach
    (540)672-3900 Ext. 8648
    Denison University - BS
    2011
    Bio
  • Photo of Curtis  Phillips
    Curtis Phillips
    Science
    Head Varsity Track Coach
    (540) 672-3900 Ext. 5209
    Slippery Rock University - BS
    2010
    Bio
  • Photo of Jim Reid
    Jim Reid
    Science, Outdoor Education
    Albion College - BA
    Duke University - MAT
    1975
    Bio
  • Photo of Alexander  Tisch
    Alexander Tisch
    Science
    (540) 672-3900 ext. 5257
    Colby College - BA
    Montana State University - M.S.
    2010
    Bio
  • Photo of Paul Vickers
    Paul Vickers
    Science, Outdoor Education
    Vanderbilt University - BS
    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute - MS
    1993
    Bio
Woodberry Forest admits students of any race, color, sexual orientation, disability, religious belief, and national or ethnic origin to all of the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sexual orientation, disability, religious belief, or national or ethnic origin in the administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic or other school-administered programs. The school is authorized under federal law to enroll nonimmigrant students.