An exceptional boarding school community for boys in grades nine through twelve.
Guide to the Academic Curriculum

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Science

Woodberry Forest is a “physics-first” school, introducing its students to the science curriculum through conceptual physics, a required course for third formers.  For students entering Woodberry in the third form year, the normal sequence of courses is to take Conceptual Physics in the third form, Chemistry in the fourth form, and Biology in the fifth form — which completes the required sequence.
 
Boys who come to Woodberry in their fourth-form year, having taken biology in a previous school, will normally take chemistry as fourth formers, and then choose Physics or Honors Physics 1 as fifth formers.
The courses are described below, grouped by subject area:  all physics courses, followed by all chemistry courses, followed by all biology courses, followed by other elective courses.
  • Science_Conceptual Physics

    Conceptual Physics, the year-long, third-form science course, 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.
    Approximately 50 percent 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.
  • Science_Physics

    Physics is a year-long course appropriate for upper-form students with a background in algebra and lab sciences. The course approaches the same topics covered in the third-form Conceptual Physics course, with more emphasis on working qualitatively with physical concepts. The course begins with a study of mechanics, including kinematics, Newton’s laws, and the conservations of energy and momentum. Later topics include circuits, waves, and optics.
    Students spend a significant amount of class time doing hands-on experimentation, developing an understanding of how to use experimentation to make or verify physical predictions. Other time is spent learning and discussing physics principles, and practicing their application in problem-solving and justification. Homework consists of readings and problem sets, with an emphasis on logical, verbal reasoning. Tests and exams are based on New York Regents exam questions.
    It is expected that a successful student in General Physics leaves with a solid understanding of qualitative and quantitative mathematical approaches to problem-solving, including logical justifications of answers; experimental and theoretical graphical analysis; order of magnitude estimation, including describing the physical meaning of numerical answers; and experimental verification and investigation of physical relationships.
  • 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 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.  In weekly extended laboratory sessions, students design experiments to investigate the principles discussed throughout the course.
    Tests and exams are in the style of the AP Physics 1 exam.  All students are required to take the AP Physics 1 exam in May.  Honors Physics 1 is taught to three constituencies of students who may opt in: any twelfth grader who is interested, eleventh graders who have completed a high school biology course or who are taking biology concurrently; and ninth graders, a set of who are selected by the department during the first marking period.  The ninth-grade section covers the identical material at the same college level; however, ninth-grade students are not required to take the AP exam.
  • Science_Honors Research Physics and Physics C

    From September until February, students research four problems in preparation for the US Invitational Young Physicist Tournament (USIYPT).  Faculty and students together investigate these open-ended, college-level projects.  A solid grasp of theory and intricate, involved experimental work is required.  The trimester exam is a five-to-ten-minute talk based on the research project.  As the tournament approaches, students are trained to conduct a “physics fight,” a ritualized debate over the merits of a solution.  Four members of the class are selected to be representatives of Woodberry Forest at the USIYPT.
    Throughout the year students prepare for the AP Physics C – Mechanics or AP Physics C – Electricity & Magnetism exam, using the course description provided by the College Board.  Calculus-based mechanics or E&M is covered through nightly problem-solving as well as in-class review, demonstration, and discussion. Students are expected to develop both a mathematical and conceptual understanding of the subject so as to perform well on the May AP exam.  The physics faculty will in the spring select approximately eight students, including mostly rising seniors but also some rising juniors, to audition for Research Physics. The invitations are issued based on performance in previous science courses, and based on the skills and background knowledge each student could bring to the competitive physics team at the tournament.  The audition consists of a preliminary investigation into one of the USIYPT problems in the last weeks of May, followed by a presentation to the faculty during exam period.  Students must be invited to and pass the audition in order to take the course.
  • Science_Honors Physics: Biomechanics of the Human Body

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    This Honors-level course is generally taken by juniors or seniors who have completed their biology requirement, or who are taking biology concurrently. Virtually all of this course is spent in the laboratory where students conduct involved experiments, leading to truly independent investigations by course’s end.  Laboratory topics go beyond the standard AP-style curriculum into biomechanics, sports physics, and topics appropriate for Science Olympiad or Virginia Junior Academy of Science projects.  Evaluation is via the instructor’s observation of laboratory work, as well as through frequent student presentations of student work.  The ability to not only do experimental work but also to communicate the results of such work is emphasized.  Admission to the course is by invitation of the instructor only; invitations are issued based on performance in previous science courses, and based on the skills and background knowledge each student could bring to the graduate-school-style laboratory atmosphere.
  • Science_Chemistry


    Chemistry builds on the basic laws of energy and matter covered in Conceptual Physics and introduces the student to the 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 direct hands-on study of matter and its changes.
  • Science_Honors Chemistry

    Like regular Chemistry, Honors Chemistry builds on the basic laws of energy and matter covered in Conceptual Physics and 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, though it is also available as a second-year chemistry course to any student who has already completed Chemistry.
  • Science_Biology a Cellular Approach

    Biology — a Cellular Approach is designed for students who have particularly enjoyed their study of chemistry and are interested in the study of life with a focus on the processes that are occurring within the living cell.  This is an introductory laboratory course which presents topics of basic biology with an emphasis on biochemistry, cell structure and function, and molecular genetics.   A minimum of one quarter of the class time will spent conducting laboratory investigations and related class activities.   This survey course also covers the biology of plants and animals, evolution and speciation, and the interrelationships of between organisms and with their environment; it holds about three-quarters of material in common with Biology — an Ecological Approach.  Emphasis in this course is on the major themes and cellular processes of life, and subject matter is 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. The course is open to fifth- and sixth-form students who have completed physics and chemistry.   Though it is not a required pre-requisite, Biology — a Cellular Approach is an appropriate lead-in for students interested in taking either Anatomy and Physiology or Honors Biology in their senior year.
  • Science_Biology an Ecological Approach

    Biology — an Ecological Approach is designed for students interested in the study of life with a focus on the environment and how organisms interact.  This introductory laboratory course presents topics of basic biology with an emphasis on biological communities, energy flow, populations, and ecosystems.   A minimum of one-quarter of the class time will be spent conducting laboratory investigations, much of which will include field work making full use of Woodberry Forest’s natural environment.  This survey course also covers the requirement for life, basic cell structures and functions, the biology of plants and animals, genetics, evolution, and speciation; it holds about three-quarters of material in common with Biology — an Ecological Approach.  Emphasis in this course is on the major themes of life and principles of ecology, and subject matter is presented within the context of how this study of life relates to technology and society. Reading and discussion of our class text, along with current scientific literature, is an integral part of the course. This course is open to fifth- and sixth-form students who have completed physics and chemistry.  Though not a required pre-requisite, Biology — an Ecological Approach is an appropriate lead-in for students interested in taking Honors Environmental Science their senior year.
  • 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.   All students in this course are required to take the Advanced Placement biology examination.
  • Science_Honors Environmental Science

    Honors Environmental Science is a year-long course designed to be the equivalent of an introductory college course in environmental science, including both laboratory and field investigation.

    This is an interdisciplinary course that integrates material from both the natural and social sciences, with the intent of exploring natural interrelationships and analyzing societal problems from an ecological perspective. Understanding the causes of environmental problems and finding their possible solutions are stressed.  Emphasis is placed on the scientific principles, concepts, and methodologies required to understand the interrelationships of the natural world. By identifying and analyzing environmental problems and evaluating the risks associated with these problems, students are able to examine alternative solutions for resolving and/or preventing the root causes of the problem. 

    This is a laboratory-intensive course.  A lab notebook with lab data, procedure, and conclusions is required and graded periodically. Students learn to develop scientific methodology.  They are at first guided along this path, then increasingly work on their own as they become more proficient.  Labs at the end of the school year are almost all student-developed. Our campus allows for many field labs, as well as traditional indoor wet and dry labs.
    Short-term projects and presentations over specific environmental issues are assigned over the course of the school year.  Students are required to research their project, write a report on it, and present their findings and conclusions to the class in a short PowerPoint or similar presentation.

    Students are encouraged but not required to take the AP environmental science exam.
  • Science_Honors Molecular Biology

    The laboratory-centered, trimester science course introduces students to the key instruments, molecular tools, and procedure of recombinant DNA technology and molecular biology.  Considerable emphasis is placed on the structure and function of proteins and DNA.  Students conduct restriction digest of DNA, separate the DNA fragments by gel electrophoresis, transform E. coli bacteria to produce a green fluorescent protein, and isolate this molecule using column chromatography.  Students also perform polymerase chain reactions, work with monoclonal antibodies, and study the factors affecting enzymatic reactions. Offered in the Winter
  • 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.
  • 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  labs for the course will be spent outdoors investigating the interactions of organisms and our environment.  This course shares topics and material with the Honors Environmental science class, but it will focus more on our campus and require less background reading.
    Prerequisite: biology of any sort at any level

  • Science_Introduction to Engineering

    This project-driven class will challenge students to work as thinkers and problem solvers 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.
    Prerequisite “B-“ or better in most recent math and science course.

Faculty

  • Greg Jacobs

    Chair
    (540) 672-3900
    Haverford College - BS
    Northwestern University - MS
    2000
    Bio
  • Lewis Affronti

    (540) 672-3900 ext. 5006
    Sewanee: The University of the South - BS
    2013
    Bio
  • Erik Born

    (540) 672-6181 ext. 8658
    Bates College - BS
    2010
    Bio
  • Daquan Daly

    (540) 672-6181 ext. 8623
    Williams College - BA
    2016
    Bio
  • Gregory Guldin

    (540) 672-3900 ext. 5300
    Dickinson College - BS
    2009
    Bio
  • Colin Manning

    College of William and Mary - BS
    2013
    Bio
  • Len Mills

    (540)672-6181 Ext. 8648
    Denison University - BS
    2011
    Bio
  • Jim Reid

    Albion College - BA
    Duke University - MAT
    1975
    Bio
  • Alexander Tisch

    (540) 672-3900 ext. 5257
    Colby College - BA
    2010
    Bio
  • Paul Vickers

    Vanderbilt University - BS
    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute - MS
    1993
    Bio

Woodberry Forest School

Woodberry Forest, VA 22989   Phone: 540-672-3900
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.