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, 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 I.
  • 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. Normally taken by fifth formers who came arrived at Woodberry as fourth or fifth formers with a biology credit. No prerequisite.
  • Science_Honors Physics 1

    Honors physics 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. Students are encouraged to take the AP Physics 1 exam in May. The third form honors section is essentially the same course as honors physics, and it provides the same preparation for 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. In addition to their work in preparation for the tournament, students in the fall begin to work on personalized research projects. After the tournament the class shifts to full-time student projects, under the extensive mentorship, guidance and structure of the course instructors, who are experienced research physicists. The structure is designed to be able to pair well with seniors looking to undertake Senior Distinction projects. Students in the course will be called upon repeatedly to develop and present their work in different formats. They will be evaluated on the quality of this work, as well as on their engagement and contributions to the work of the class and team as a whole. They are expected to be self-motivated to take ownership of their project, and to develop their role in the research team to the fullest extent of your ability. Enrollment by invitation only. 
  • 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; honors placement is determined by performance in conceptual physics for returning students and by previous coursework and admissions data 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 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 prerequisite, 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 prerequisite, 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. Prerequisite: for those in honors biology, an A on the final exam, which consists of a project related to environmental science; for those in a general biology course, an A for the year in that course; for those in general physics, an A for the year in that course OR an A for the year in their first biology course; for the few others not covered above, permission from the department chair.
     
  • 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
     
  • 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_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. 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. No prerequisite.
     
  • Science_Honors Research Biology

    This course will explore, using an inquiry-based approach, modern methods in molecular biology. By taking advantage of genetic engineering, tissue extraction and sampling, DNA sequencing technologies, bacterial culture and cell culture techniques, we will investigate complex biological questions that have relevance to science and medicine. The work done in this class will be largely student-driven and assessments will include, in large part, research projects and presentations. Enrollment by invitation only.

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
  • Curtis Phillips

    Academic Dean
    (540) 672-6077
    Slippery Rock University - BS
    2010
    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.