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 conceptual elements of biological science. The course has a valuable and demanding laboratory component in which students hone investigative skills. Special emphasis is placed on the practice of core scientific skills including collaborative, inquiry-based experimental design, quantitative data analysis and interpretation through inferential statistics, written and graphic communication of scientific ideas, and the creation of models to explain biological processes. Students will design cell sampling methods using a microscope to investigate the ripening pattern of a banana, and evaluate their results using T tests and linear regression analysis. Once shown the spectrophotometric method for measuring enzyme reactions rates, or the rate of photosynthesis in leaves using leaf discs, students work in teams to design, conduct and analyze the results of controlled experiments, presenting their findings in a college-level undergraduate research symposium and poster session. Collaborative investigations at year’s end will examine evolution by artificial selection, Mendelian genetic inheritance combined with the impact of environmental factors on gene expression, and the role of environmental molecules impacting gene expression in transformed bacterial cells. The year will culminate in the creation of a movie to show the cellular processes involved in the growth and development of a germinating seed. For this class, departmental approval is required; it is 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: Earth to the Milky Way's Edge

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: Nebulae, Galaxies, and Astrophotography

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: Our Universe and the Human Worldview

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. 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, food and public health, evolution and extinction, and neuroscience. 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: 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: Biological Evidence - Crimes, Mysteries, and Genocide

OFFERED: WINTER term

This course will utilize biological evidence in forensic science and the methods of archaeology to discover and analyze various simulated crime scenes around campus. The focus of the course is on hands-on activities, both outside the classroom and inside the lab. The students will learn how to analyze a range of different types of evidence such as serologic evidence, DNA profiling, and blood spatter in the laboratory. Accounts of forensic work in Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, Guatemala and the Italian Alps will highlight how forensic anthropologists have solved mysteries as well as helped convict the perpetrators of genocide. An understanding of the genetic differences in population groups and between the sexes will add context to the investigation of biological evidence. The students will use evidence and deductive reasoning to reconstruct the scenarios of various crime scenes. This course is open to students who have successfully completed Biology core courses.

Forensic Science: Trace Evidence and Disasters

OFFERED: Spring term

This course will utilize trace evidence in forensic science and the methods of archaeology to discover and analyze a simulated disaster site. The focus of the course is on hands-on activities, both on site and inside the lab. Students will learn how to analyze in the laboratory a range of different types of forensic evidence, such as forensic toxicology information, glass evidence, arson residue, and forensic entomology. Students are introduced to the history and methods of disaster archaeology. Case studies include The Station night club in Providence and a ship wreck in Bermuda. The students will use evidence and deductive reasoning to determine what happened at the disaster site. This course is open to students who have successfully completed Biology core courses.


Forensic Science: Bones - Digging for Crime

OFFERED: FALL term

This course will utilize both forensic science and 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 the grave and analyze the evidence using established forensic science methods. Fingerprinting, hair analysis, impressions evidence, and handwriting analysis (among others) are highlighted in this course. The students will also learn how to “read” bones and be able to determine sex, age, ancestry, time of death, health, and manner of death of a victim. The students will use evidence and deductive reasoning to determine the biological and demographic information of victims and track down the perpetrator of the crime.

Honors Biology

OFFERED: yearlong

Honors Biology is a fast-paced and demanding course that instills in students an appreciation for the living world and its complexity through direct experiences. It is designed to prepare students to take Advanced Biology or a another rigorous, college-level biology course. A bioassessment study runs through the fall. To evaluate the quality of a local river, students collect, identify and evaluate the significance of a sampled community of riffle dwelling benthic macroinvertebrates. In the process, with evolution by natural selection as the underlying principle, students develop an understanding of community and population ecology, and the importance of biodiversity. Making the invisible visible and tangible is the theme running through the next season of biology where we dive into the essential elements of living organisms, cellular biochemistry and structure, to provide a foundation for understanding higher levels of biological organization. Insights are achieved by modeling complex cellular processes and learning how to design and conduct controlled experiments involving enzymes and the metabolic processes of respiration and photosynthesis. Finally, the nature of inheritance and the role of DNA in controlling cell functions and organismal traits begins the final stage of the course. The class culminates with the dissection of a fetal pig to study the structure, function, and interactions between human digestive, circulatory and respiratory systems.

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.

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.

Engineering: Science By Design

OFFERED: YEARLONG

Science By Design is a cornerstone course that links the core disciplines of Physics, Chemistry, and Biology and exposes Form III students to a progressive and integrated model of science. Students will develop foundational skills by exploring design and engineering problems through a scientific lens. Through stewardship of the community garden, sugaring of our maple trees, designing shades to reduce nighttime light pollution, exploring renewable energy on campus, and designing an artificial kidney, students in the course will be develop real solutions to real issues, both on campus and beyond. Students will learn and master the skills needed to tackle a new age of science, where problem solving and collaboration are key. This project based, skills driven course is a requirement of all incoming Form III students.

Designing Remotely Controlled Vehicles

OFFERED: WINTER

This introductory course is appropriate for students who have no prior science, microcontroller and/or programming experience. Students will learn to use a microcontroller to collect data from various sensors that measure different aspects of the physical universe, and use actuators, such as motors and lights, to manipulate the physical environment. Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to digitally collect data, program processors to analyze that data, and remotely move vehicles. With luck and new found skills, students may participate in a number of fun competitions to earn prestige for themselves and the School!

Sustainable Engineering: Aquaponics

OFFERED: YEARLONG

Aquaponics is a methodology for raising fish and growing plants for food within a single, reciculating system. The principle dates back as far as the Aztecs, but 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 food source in a confined area and in locales where fresh produce is hard to come by. In this term long, project-based elective class, students will research, design, and build an aquaponic system: media beds, deep water culture troughs, radial flow filters, and the plumbing connections with their associated fish tank. This broad question will drive our inquiry and work: What is the best way to design and build a small-scale, aquaponic system for Pomfret School’s greenhouse that will suit the School's needs? Students involved in this course will collaborate to understand the project's constraints and “the client’s” needs, research options for viable aquaponic designs, then work to design, purchase materials, and construct the system components. This course is taught using the “one-room schoolhouse model,” where students with different levels of experience work and learn together while tackling a common project. Students complete outside assignments commensurate with their personal experience level in the course - thus, students can take the class for one, two, or several terms and grow their understanding and expertise through every term.

Meet the Science Department

Joshua Lake

Joshua Lake

Science Department Head

Betty Bloch

Science Teacher
Micaela Dangelo

Micaela Dangelo

Science Teacher
Brian Geyer

Brian Geyer

Science Teacher

RJ Labeef

Math and Chemistry Teacher
William Martin

William Martin

Science Teacher
Annie O'Sullivan

Annie O'Sullivan

Science Teacher
Timothy Rose

Timothy Rose

Science Teacher
Derek Segesdy

Derek Segesdy

Science Teacher