Science

It permeates every facet of our lives.

Far from an abstract collection of facts, science is way of seeing and understanding and appreciating the natural world. From the DNA twisting inside each cell to the cosmos pinwheeling overhead, science helps us understand our place in the order of things. Incoming third formers must take two years of laboratory science: physics, chemistry, biology, or advanced environmental science. Students must complete the equivalent of one full year of science during junior or senior year.

Advanced Biology

OFFERED: yearlong

This advanced college-level biology class is designed, organized, and taught so that students obtain a solid grasp of the fundamental factual and conceptual elements of biological science. The course has a valuable and demanding laboratory component in which the students will hone their investigative skills. Special emphasis will be placed on the practice of core scientific skills including collaborative, inquiry-based experimental design, quantitative data analysis and interpretation, written and graphic communication of scientific ideas, and the creation of models to explain biological processes. The course will cover more topics than the Honors Biology course and elucidate each topic in greater detail. Core units of study will explore foundational topics in cellular and molecular biology, genetics, and evolutionary biology. Following a set of core topics, the class will have a voice in selecting topics to cover in the latter portion of the course. Students should expect to work at a steady pace and be prepared to invest heavily in the course. Departmental approval required; open to juniors and seniors who have achieved a B or better in biology and chemistry courses, preferably at the Honors level.

Advanced Chemistry

OFFERED: yearlong

The Advanced Chemistry Course is designed to incorporate elements of a general chemistry course taken during the first year of college. Students will be introduced to topics covered in early college chemistry courses such as thermodynamics, equilibrium, kinetics, and electrochemistry. Students will have an opportunity to connect their chemical education to real-world phenomena and will be required to do research projects, presentations, and blog posts showing this connection. Problem solving skills will be taught both in an individual and collaborative setting. Students should expect a rapid pace of the class and be prepared to participate in class discussion and occasional lab work. Students looking to take this class must have a grasp of the principles introduced in general chemistry, be self-motivated, disciplined, be ready to think critically, and comfortable using technology. Departmental approval required; open to juniors and seniors who have excelled in an introductory chemistry course.

Advanced Environmental Science

OFFERED: yearlong

Using a hands-on approach to the study of the environment, Advanced Environmental Science involves the study of ecosystems and the organismal and abiotic interactions that define the natural world. Environmental science is an interdisciplinary endeavor—it pulls on ideas learned in the three core sciences—and often it incorporates economics, politics, psychology, statistics and ethics into the decision-making matrix. The course supports student inquiry and investigation by introducing the core principles of ecology and the research methodologies necessary to gather and analyze data critical to the understanding of natural and human-induced environmental problems. The lab component of the course will stress scientific writing and communication skills, and we will harness Pomfret School’s 500-acre campus and the natural settings within reach of the School as a living laboratory space. Topics we will investigate include sustainable development, resource use, ecology, climate science, and agriculture. As we will no longer be strictly following the College Board curriculum to prepare for the AP test, much of this class will be devoted towards allowing students to dive deep into these complicated issues and come to their own conclusions as to how they can solve some of the big problems facing their generation. Departmental approval required.

Advanced Physics

OFFERED: yearlong

This course uses calculus-based mathematical models to introduce the fundamental concepts that describe the physical world. Topics include units and measurement, vector operations, linear kinematics and dynamics, energy, power, momentum, rotational mechanics, periodic motion, and quantum and relativistic physics. Upon completion, students should be able to demonstrate an understanding of the principles involved and display analytical problem-solving ability for the topics covered. Students should expect rigorous mathematical interpretation with extensive use of the TI N-spire calculator and computer software. Laboratory experiments and computer-based simulations and tutorials enhance and consolidate the basic principles discussed in the theoretical section of the course. Departmental recommendation and approval is required. The course is open to students who have excelled in a Physics Honors course and who demonstrate the mathematical skills necessary to handle calculus-based material.

Astronomy I: Solar System

OFFERED: fall term

This astronomy course is the first in a series of three, any of which can be taken individually. This term, the class will focus on a Universe-spanning "zoom out". You'll start at our home, Earth, and then zoom out through the Solar System, our Milky Way galaxy, and to the outer edges of the Universe. Along the way, you'll learn about the structure of objects in outer space, including planets, stars, nebulae, and galaxies. You'll participate in lab activities like walking out a scale model of the solar system on campus, but the major piece of the lab time will be spent at night. You'll use Pomfret's observatory to observe planets and stars, both through the eyepiece and digital cameras. In the end, you'll have a grand perspective on the Universe and our place in it.

Astronomy II: Deep Sky Objects

OFFERED: winter term

This astronomy course is the second in a series of three, any of which can be taken individually. This term, the class will investigate the beautiful and bizarre objects that exist in the Universe. If you've seen the amazing images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, you know how strange and mysterious these objects can look. In this course, you'll join in an examination of these nebulae, pulsars, globular clusters, black holes, supernovae, and other types of exotic objects. You'll learn about their origins, the ways that astronomers have decoded the light coming from them, and their importance in the continuing evolution of the Universe. During the day, you'll do lab activities using a computer-based virtual observatory, but the true highlight of the class will take place at night. You'll learn how to operate Pomfret's observatory to see these unusual objects firsthand through a variety of instruments. In the end, you'll have a clear picture of these 'stranger than fiction' components of the Universe and the science behind their beauty. Each astronomy elective is a distinct course and can be taken as a one-time experience or as a series of connected classes. Students currently enrolled in the Astronomy I elective will be given enrollment priority when new courses are selected each term.

Astronomy III: Cosmology

OFFERED: spring term

This astronomy course is the third in a series of three, any of which can be taken individually. This term, the class will look at the Universe as a whole, considering the long history of ideas and discoveries about it. You'll ask the biggest questions of all, like "Where did the Universe come from?", "How will it end?", and "Do aliens exist?" You'll be asked to participate in many lively discussions where you'll share your own views while learning about the history of science's understanding of the Universe. Movies, TV documentaries, and other multi-media presentations online will help jump start your inquiring mind, and you’ll work on lab activities that explore some of these big ideas. You’ll be asked to reflect on your personal beliefs, lean into the challenge of having them questioned, and politely consider other students’ points of view. In the end, you’ll have a great understanding of the Universe, its properties and origins, and the new problems that scientists face in our total comprehension of everything around us. Each astronomy elective is a distinct course and can be taken as a one-time experience or as a series of connected classes. Students currently enrolled in the Astronomy II elective will be given enrollment priority when new courses are selected each term. This course may satisfy a student's science or religion requirement.


Biology

OFFERED: yearlong

Biology is a year-long, skills-based course divided into three separate and distinct terms. In each term, students will investigate relevant and modern topics that drive our learning and permit skill development (technical writing, oral presentation, experimental design, collaboration, independent inquiry and research). Topics during each term will be driven by student interest and teacher expertise. Throughout the course, students will use inquiry-based experimental design to develop a deep understanding of both the scientific method and core themes in biology, including ecology, heredity and evolution. Students will engage in debates and discussions related to bioethical issues, and each will become a critical reader and consumer able to distinguish fact from fiction in the media. Past themes have included climate change and conservation biology, marine ecology and resource management, genetic technology and bioethics, food and public health, neuroscience, biological inquiry and extinction. This course is recommended for juniors and seniors who have taken a physical science (either Physics or Chemistry) and is not intended to prepare students for the SAT II in biology.


Chemistry

OFFERED: yearlong

Chemistry is an inquiry-based science course with an emphasis on student-designed laboratory investigations. Through a thematic approach that demonstrates relevant chemical applications, students recognize and understand the importance of chemistry, develop problem-solving strategies, and apply critical thinking skills. Throughout the course, students are challenged to design experiments to answer questions about chemistry. The course content is developed to answer specific questions about the theme for each unit, allowing students to answer questions and learn in the same manner as a scientist. This course is open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors.


Computer Science

OFFERED: fall, winter and spring terms

In this course students explore the science involved in classical computing and the fundamental concepts of quantum computing. Students start the course by learning about the basics of electronics and quickly move to computer logic and programming. Students will use Arduino boards to demonstrate understanding of basic circuits and computer code. By the end of the course students will possess a broad understanding of the sciences behind computers, from power to pixel. Please note: Students will use their own Macbooks in this course, both in class and to complete homework assignments and projects.

Engineering a Controlled Env. II

OFFERED: fall term

This course, a part of The Helios Project, marks one of the greatest opportunities a student can have at a school – the chance to be a part of building a lasting structure on campus, a passive solar greenhouse that will become a part of the environmentally aware culture of the school. Students will spend the fall term assembling the greenhouse and its underground “ground to air heat transfer system” that will be used to help heat the greenhouse in the winter months. In the process, students will learn first-hand about how such a greenhouse functions to reduce energy consumption in cold months and about the materials and design aspects used to construct it and allow it function. The completion of the greenhouse will pave the way for students in subsequent terms to design and build the aquaponics systems and organic soil bed that will provide a platform for applied engineering and science class investigations as well as community outreach opportunities.

Engineering a Controlled Env. IIIA

OFFERED: winter term

This course, a part of The Helios Project, marks one of the greatest opportunities a student can have at a school – the chance to be a part of building lasting structures on campus, the aquaponics systems that will operate inside of the passive solar greenhouse. This greenhouse is destined to become a part of the environmentally aware culture of the school. Through this course students will learn about aquaponics system design, construction and operation and they will design and build the aquaponic systems that will be used in the greenhouse to grow vegetables and raise fish for the Pomfret School community and for families reliant on a local food bank. The completion of the aquaponics systems will pave the way for students in subsequent terms to engage in applied engineering and science class investigations as well as community outreach endeavors.

Engineering a Controlled Env. IIIB

OFFERED: spring term

Aquaponics is a methodology for raising both fish and growing plants for food. The principle dates back as far as the Aztecs, but recent growing interest in this methodology by commercial growers, organic gardeners and survivalists alike arises from its practicality as a sustainable, low cost method of producing vegetables and a high protein source in a confined area. In this term long, project-based elective class, students will research, design, and build an aquaponic system, focusing primarily on the deep water culture (DWC) beds. This broad question will drive our inquiry and work: What is the best way to design and build three identical small-scale, aquaponic systems for Pomfret School’s greenhouse that will suit the school's needs enumerated by students in the Fall 2015 Greenhouse Design course? Students involved in this course will collaborate to understand the project's constraints and “the client’s” needs, research options for a viable aquaponic design, then work to design, purchase materials, and construct the deep water culture beds of systems. If time allows, radial flow filters will be designed and built as well as any remaining gravel beds.


Engineering: Engineer Your World

OFFERED: yearlong

Engineer Your World engages learners in authentic experiences that inspire and teach the habits of mind of an engineer. Engineers identify problems, research approaches and design functional solutions—skills relevant and necessary for all members of modern society. Students in this yearlong elective will build durable problem-solving skills and explore the engineering cycle through a series of collaborative, student-directed projects. Cross discipline concepts (design and invention, mathematics and science, elegance and functionality) are employed to successfully model and construct earthquake-proof buildings, design weather balloons with recoverable camera platforms, and craft small- and large-scale vehicle prototypes. These challenges (and many others!) are socially relevant; they foster collaboration and hone communication and presentation skills; and they demand and build in students the capacity for creative problem solving and critical analysis. Engineering is an accessible, exciting, and relevant field that empowers students to become resilient and empathic problem solvers ready for 21st century challenges. Open to juniors and seniors who have completed the 2-year core lab science requirement and are enrolled in Integrated Mathematics III or beyond.

Forensic Science - Trace Evidence

OFFERED: spring term

Forensic Science combines the lessons learned from physics, chemistry and biology to investigate a wide variety of crime scenes, harnessing scientific analysis to support the work of the legal system. Students will learn the history and developments in forensic science and how to apply forensic techniques appropriately to solve crime scenes. The class is rich in investigation, application, analysis and evaluation. Students are introduced to simulations of crime scenes for forensic photography, processing and collection of forensic evidence, and will analyze a range of different types of evidence, such as forensic toxicology, glass evidence, tire impressions, and forensic entomology in the laboratory. This course is open to students who have successfully completed Biology core courses.

Forensic Science and Archaeology

OFFERED: fall term

This course will utilize both forensic science and the methods of archaeology to discover and analyze a crime scene. The focus of the course is on hands-on activities both outside at an archaeological dig and inside the lab. The students will first learn how to approach a suspected crime scene. We will gather the evidence through the use of archaeological techniques to dig up a grave and analyze the evidence using established forensic science methods. Fingerprinting, hair analysis, and impressions evidence are highlighted in this course. The students will use the evidence results and deductive reasoning to determine the victim and perpetrator of the crime. We will then read a real life example of how a forensic anthropologist's findings helped convict perpetrators of genocide in Rwanda. This course is open to juniors and seniors or by departmental approval.


Forensic Science-Biological Evidence

OFFERED: winter term

Forensic Science combines the lessons learned from physics, chemistry and biology to investigate a wide variety of crime scenes, harnessing scientific analysis to support the work of the legal system. Students will learn the history and developments in forensic science and how to apply forensic techniques appropriately to solve crime scenes. The class is rich in investigation, application, analysis and evaluation. Students are introduced to simulations of crime scenes for forensic photography, processing and collection of forensic evidence, and will analyze a range of different types of evidence, such as serology, DNA profiling, blood spatter, and human remains and death in the laboratory. This course is open to students who have successfully completed Biology core courses.

Honors Biology

OFFERED: yearlong

Biology Honors is a fast-paced and demanding course that helps to instill in students an appreciation for the living world and its complexity through the study of ecological relationships, biochemistry, cellular function/composition, organismal biology, genetics, molecular biology and gene expression, and evolution. This course follows the Biology curriculum articulated above, but it presents more in-depth material and approaches the concepts and both laboratory and field investigations in a more rigorous manner. Biology Honors is designed to support students who are interested in advanced biological study, including in preparation for Advanced Biology. Departmental approval required; open to juniors and seniors who have excelled in an introductory chemistry course.

Honors Chemistry

OFFERED: yearlong

Chemistry Honors is a fast-paced general chemistry course designed to provide students with the conceptual framework, analytical tools, and research skills necessary for a comprehensive understanding of inorganic chemistry. Students engage and explore the fundamental concepts of chemistry, gather and process information in the laboratory setting, and build a robust understanding supported by personal discovery. Students are tasked to document their emerging understanding, infer relationships, make predictions, generate procedures, conduct research, write with authority, and ask the probing questions that lead to a deep understanding of the material and its application. Students will be given the opportunity to design and implement their own chemical research and discover first-hand the properties of matter and the nature of science. The pace will be rapid and students will be expected to actively use math as a tool to arrive at valid conclusions and quantitative answers. Designed to prepare students for advanced work in biology and chemistry, this course is also excellent preparation for the SAT II subject test in Chemistry. Departmental approval required; open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

Honors Physics

OFFERED: yearlong

Physics Honors is designed to equip mathematically able students with a clear understanding of how the Universe operates. The curriculum is well matched for V and VI Form students concurrently enrolled in Geometry Honors or higher. In this course, students will learn and discover some of the basic truths about nature, discovering how to employ observational techniques, experimental design, and data analysis to the task of generating mathematical relationships and uncovering physical laws. Topics are similar to those covered in Physics, but extend to more difficult and mathematically rigorous concepts, including periodic motion, two dimensional kinematics, universal gravitation, work, power, special and general relativity, and particle physics. The course also focuses on the history of science, describing how fundamental laws and relationships were discovered, how they affected the scientific community, and what impact they had on society as a whole. Extensive laboratory work is to be expected, as is a rapid pace. A term-long group project, designed to reinforce many of the practical applications discovered over the course of the year, will cap the class, further strengthening each student’s research, design, and communication skills. Departmental approval required; open to sophomores, juniors and seniors enrolled in an upper level math course.


Modern Technology

OFFERED: winter term

Are you a technology junkie? Do you crave each new gadget the day it is announced? We are tech-dependent and highly adapted users of technology, but how do these modern marvels work, and what science principles are at the heart of blue-tooth devices and electronic ink? Have you ever wondered why the next generation of iPads seems to come out before you can even get used to using the old one? Why are Blu-Ray discs so much superior to regular DVDs? How does a 3D television really work? Modern Technology is a term science elective that looks to answer all of these questions (and more) by exploring the basic science behind the coolest and newest gadgets out there. In this discussion-based class, you will learn about the inner-workings of the electronic systems that you use on a daily basis while examining the technology that will soon be at your fingertips. Prerequisite: a yearlong physics course

Physics

OFFERED: yearlong

This is not the physics class that your parents dreaded when they were in school. In this introductory course students will learn how physics is used to explain, predict, and affect the nature of the world around them. We will explore the laws of motion and dynamics from basic principles and develop a mathematical model that will be applied through projects and design challenges as we move through the year. Explorations into computer programming, engineering and design, sustainable technologies, and the crossover between science and art will bring our mathematical models to life. Students will learn to use Mathematica and other powerful software tools to collect and analyze data the way real scientists do. Students will learn the basic principles of laboratory design, data collection, and analysis as well as advanced explorations into modern data collection using digital software and slow motion cameras. Topics to be covered during the year will include the study of motion, forces, energy, and electricity. This course is open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors who have yet to enter Pre-calculus.

Physics - Third Form

OFFERED: yearlong

This introductory physics course is available for incoming third form students. They will participate in a new process to learn key knowledge content, including kinematics, waves, sound, light, forces, and electricity. The content will provide the context for learning and practicing 21st century skills, including the use of the powerful Mathematica programming platform. Students will learn modern data collection techniques in a large variety of hands on lab experiences, including physical measurements of the real world, high speed camera footage, and activity-specific probes. They'll use computer tools to visualize and analyze the data to draw meaningful conclusions about distances, speeds, frequencies, and physical constants. Mathematical and scientific skills are interwoven into the activities, including the use of units, dimensional analysis, scientific notation, and solving equations. The ultimate goal of the freshmen-only course is to develop a mindset of scientific curiosity, rigor, and excitement in order to prepare them for the next several years of the science sequence.


Sustainable Campus Energies

OFFERED: spring term

Sustainable practices are balanced approaches that do not deplete natural resources. The total amount of energy we use, the sources of energy we choose to tap, and how that energy is harnessed and distributed are important components of sustainable energy practice. Sustainable Campus Energies examines the technologies being implemented as Pomfret School undergoes major changes to its physical infrastructure and energy systems. The School has the ability to generate its diesel fuel from biological sources and to generate its electricity and heat from natural gas. This course will explore sources of oil for conversion to diesel, the chemistry required to achieve that conversion, and the practicality of engaging in such an endeavor. As the school switches from oil to natural gas, the class will examine the chemistry, physics, and economic factors driving that switch. We will delve into other technologies under consideration for use by the School, including solar, wind, and geothermal. At the forefront of each class will be the idea that student-generated ideas can help Pomfret School to run more efficiently and achieve a smaller carbon footprint.




Meet the Science Department

Micaela Dangelo

Micaela Dangelo

Chemistry & Forensics Teacher

Katy Field

Brian Geyer

Brian Geyer

Physics & Chemistry Teacher
Donald Gibbs III

Donald Gibbs III

Director of Studies and Institutional Assessment
Joshua Lake

Joshua Lake

Science Department Chair, Director Olmsted Observatory
William Martin

William Martin

Biology & Chemistry Teacher
Annie O'Sullivan

Annie O'Sullivan

Biology/Science Teacher
Timothy Rose

Timothy Rose

Chemistry/Math Teacher
Mary Screen

Mary Screen

Science Teacher
Derek Segesdy

Derek Segesdy

Science Teacher



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