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Science

Please use the chart above in conjunction with the specific course descriptions and prerequisites, and please note that the charts show typical pathways, but not every possible scenario for student progress through the curriculum.

ASL science students develop an understanding of the essential concepts of science as well as the scientific skills of questioning, analysis, reasoning, and oral and written communication. Through collaborative, inquiry-based class experiences, students demonstrate critical thinking and problem-solving skills, including the ability to evaluate evidence and sources of information. They reflect upon results and propose alternate approaches and solutions. All students are challenged by a science education that appeals to and nurtures a sense of curiosity, mental flexibility, skepticism and inquiry. Students investigate real-world issues and public policy. Scientific literacy enables them to critically evaluate issues as informed and active citizens. ASL science students understand the core ideas that form the foundation of science and engage in inquiry and the scientific process. They exhibit scientific habits of mind, understand the connection between science and global issues, and are prepared to participate as informed, active citizens in society. 

NGSS at ASL

ASL has adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) as the framework for our K-12 science curriculum. In the High School, we have two introductory courses, Science 9 and Science 10, designed around these standards. In Grades 11 and 12, students can choose between AP and non-AP electives guided by the same philosophy as the NGSS.

The standards that guide our curriculum:

The NGSS standards exist in three strands:

  • Science and Engineering Practices
  • Crosscutting Concepts
  • Disciplinary Core Ideas

Everything that a student does in science class—from regular classroom participation, to practice and sensemaking activities, to assessments—involves elements from all three strands.

Please see the NGSS guide to understanding the standards (PDF) and frequently asked questions (PDF) for more information.

Progressions within NGSS

Science and Engineering Practices

Science and Engineering Practices

The practices describe behaviors that scientists engage in as they investigate and build models and theories about the natural world, and the processes that engineers use as they design and create models and systems.

At ASL, students are consistently practicing and developing these behaviors at every stage of their learning. Over the course of a unit, students experience each of the science practices in the context of what they are studying. Learning these practices is as central to the study of science as the knowledge that science has obtained.

Practices for K-12 science classrooms

  • Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
  • Developing and using models
  • Planning and carrying out investigations
  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Using mathematics and computational thinking
  • Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
  • Engaging in argument from evidence
  • Obtaining, evaluating and communicating information

Crosscutting Concepts

Crosscutting Concepts

There are concepts that are broadly useful as tools of analysis in science, across all disciplines. Every scientist in every field uses them all the time. They are crucial aspects of the reasoning required to make sense of natural phenomena. Every natural phenomenon can be thought about, investigated, analyzed or evaluated in terms of these concepts. They are essential tools with which science students develop proficiency.

At ASL, students are asked to use these concepts in multiple ways. Sometimes, a student may be asked to use a particular tool when considering a phenomenon (such as “Use energy and matter to think about the flows into and out of a plant cell during photosynthesis”), or to evaluate which concepts are useful as analytical tools (such as “Which Crosscutting Concept is most helpful in analyzing the forces on an object and its resulting motion.”)

Crosscutting Concepts for K-12 science classrooms
  • Patterns
    Observed patterns in nature guide organization and classification and prompt questions about relationships and causes underlying them
  • Cause and effect
    Events have causes, sometimes simple, sometimes multifaceted. Deciphering causal relationships, and the mechanisms by which they are mediated, is a major activity of science and engineering.
  • Scale, proportion and quantity
    In considering phenomena, it is critical to recognize what is relevant at different size, time, and energy scales, and to recognize proportional relationships between different quantities as scales change.
  • Systems and system models
    A system is an organized group of related objects or components; models can be used for understanding and predicting the behavior of systems
  • Energy and matter
    Tracking energy and matter flows, into, out of, and within systems helps one understand their system’s behavior.
  • Structure and function
    The way an object is shaped or structured determines many of its properties and functions.
  • Stability and change
    For both designed and natural systems, conditions that affect stability and factors that control rates of change are critical elements to consider and understand.

matrix of crosscutting concepts in ngss

Disciplinary Core Ideas

Disciplinary Core Ideas

The National Research Council that developed the NGSS, identified the aspects of science that are most important to include in a comprehensive science education. Their criteria for determining those core ideas were:

  • Have broad importance across multiple sciences or engineering disciplines or be a key organizing concept of a single discipline;
  • Provide a key tool for understanding or investigating more complex ideas and solving problems;
  • Relate to the interests and life experiences of students or be connected to societal or personal concerns that require scientific or technological knowledge;
  • Be teachable and learnable over multiple grades at increasing levels of depth and sophistication.
Disciplinary Core Ideas for K-12 science classrooms
Physical sciences

PS1: Matter and its interactions
PS2: Motion and stability: forces and interactions
PS3: Energy
PS4: Waves and their applications in technologies for information transfer

Life sciences

LS1: From molecules to organisms: structures and processes
LS2: Ecosystems: interactions, energy and dynamics
LS3: Heredity: inheritance and variation of traits
LS4: Biological evolution: unity and diversity

Earth and space sciences

ESS1: Earth’s place in the universe
ESS2: Earth’s systems
ESS3: Earth and human activity

Engineering, Technology and Applications of Science

ETS1: Engineering design
ETS2: Links among engineering, technology, science and society

Science 9

1 credit; full year

The most interesting scientific questions are the simplest, and require all disciplines of science to address. What is the universe made of? How did life begin on Earth? How will we engineer solutions to the challenges of the present and future? The first year of a two-year integrated science program, this course investigates the origin of the universe and the Earth, the chemical and physical processes that make life possible, and the interaction between the living world and its environment. Student work focuses on asking questions, gathering evidence, reasoning and communicating findings—the core work of doing science.

The curriculum encompasses all three dimensions of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS); students meet the performance expectations with an emphasis on science and engineering practices and the cross-cutting concepts common to all scientific disciplines. Completion of this two-year course sequence will expose students to the perspectives by which each discipline views the field of science, allowing them to choose advanced courses with informed intent.

View the Science 9 curriculum outline.

Science 10

1 credit; full year

The most interesting scientific questions are the simplest, and require all disciplines of science to address. What is the universe made of? How did life begin on Earth? How will we engineer solutions to the challenges of the present and future? The second year of a two-year integrated science program, this course investigates the origin of the universe and the Earth, the chemical and physical processes that make life possible, and the interaction between the living world and its environment. Student work focuses on asking questions, gathering evidence, reasoning, and communicating their findings—the core work of doing science.

The curriculum encompasses all three dimensions of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS); students meet the performance expectations with an emphasis on science and engineering practices and the cross-cutting concepts common to all scientific disciplines. Completion of this two-year course sequence exposes students to the perspectives by which each discipline views the field of science, allowing them to choose advanced courses with informed intent.

View the Science 10 curriculum outline.

Physics

1 credit; full year
Prerequisite: Biology, Chemistry and concurrent enrollment in Algebra II Foundations or higher

In this course, students reason based on data, investigation and experimentation. Students discover and develop fundamental principles from their own reasoning, resulting in physical understanding, predictions and explanations. Using these few scientific principles and integrating ideas further provide students with opportunities to solve increasingly complex problems. Among the phenomena investigated are moving objects, energy changes, behavior of waves, and interpreting our bias and sensory perception.

AP Biology

1 credit; full year
Prerequisite: Biology, Chemistry and concurrent enrollment in Algebra II or higher, and departmental recommendation

This university-level survey course investigates in greater depth topics introduced in the introductory biology courses, as well as new topics, including molecular, cellular, organismal and population biology. The course involves laboratory work, lectures and independent study. Students take the AP Biology exam.

AP Chemistry

1 credit; full year
Prerequisite: Chemistry, Algebra II and departmental recommendation

This university-level course delves more deeply into topics studied in the previous chemistry courses and emphasizes theoretical aspects of chemistry such as the structure of matter, kinetic theory of matter, chemical equilibria, chemical kinetics and basic concepts of thermodynamics. Students utilize advanced problem-solving skills to apply concepts to the interpretation of complex chemical phenomena. Proper record keeping of quantitative and qualitative lab work is emphasized. Students take the AP Chemistry exam.

AP Environmental Science

1 credit; full year
Prerequisite: Biology, Chemistry and departmental recommendation

This university-level survey course allows students to better understand the impact of the human population on the Earth's environment from a scientific perspective and to conceive of sustainable solutions to the global challenges we face today. Students investigate environmental issues through labs, fieldwork, discussions, projects and field trips. Topics include ecology, biodiversity, soil, water, the atmosphere, population growth, pollution, food supplies, energy, ozone depletion and climate change. Students take the Advanced Placement Environmental Science exam.

AP Physics 1

1 credit; full year
Prerequisite: Concurrent enrollment in Algebra II/Trig or Precalculus with Analysis or higher, and departmental recommendation

AP Physics 1 is an introductory physics course offered at the university level, and is the first year of the AP physics program. Topics covered include classical physics such as kinematics, dynamics, rotational motion, electric and gravitational fields, waves and oscillations, and circuits. Students are encouraged to develop analytical skills through laboratory investigation, problem solving, and conceptual explanations, and in the interpretation of various physical phenomena. Students take the AP Physics 1 exam. After completion of AP Physics 1, students have the option to continue on to AP Physics 2 or AP Physics C.

AP Physics 2

1 credit; full year
Prerequisite: AP Physics 1, concurrent enrollment in Precalculus with Analysis or higher

AP Physics 2 is an option for a second year of AP physics. The course builds on the basic topics covered in AP Physics 1, and adds additional topics in classical physics such as thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, optics and electromagnetism, and is an introduction to modern and nuclear physics. Students continue to develop their quantitative problem-solving and conceptual analytical skills, and practice more sophisticated laboratory and data analysis techniques. At the end of the year, students take the AP Physics 2 exam.

AP Physics C

1 credit; full year
Prerequisite: AP Physics 1 and concurrent enrollment in AP Calculus AB or AP Calculus BC, and departmental recommendation

This university-level course is calculus-based introductory physics, designed for students interested in studying physics, engineering or related majors in college. There are two major areas of emphasis: mechanics, and electricity and magnetism. Students take the AP Physics C exam.

Anatomy & Physiology: Fitness & Exercise

½ credit; Semester I
Prerequisite: Biology and Chemistry

This course includes a study of the structures and functions of five major systems of the human body: muscular, skeletal, cardiac, respiratory and digestive. These systems are those we actively care for when we exercise and look after our bodies. Physical fitness serves as the theme demonstrating the interdependence of these systems. In addition, the causes, symptoms and treatments of disorders that affect these systems are investigated. Laboratory-based activities, dissections, independent research projects, supplementary readings and in-class presentations are emphasized.

Anatomy & Physiology: Regulation & Homeostasis

½ credit; Semester II
Prerequisite: Biology and Chemistry

This course includes a study of structures and functions of the major systems of the human body (integumentary, nervous, endocrine, immune, urinary and reproductive) involved with regulation and coordination. These systems function to maintain a balance within the human body as the conditions of our external and internal environments change. The causes, symptoms and treatments of disorders that affect these systems are investigated to enhance understanding of human homeostatic mechanisms. Laboratory-based activities, dissections, independent research projects, supplementary readings and in-class presentations are emphasized.

Astronomy

½ credit; Semester I
Prerequisite: Biology, Chemistry and Algebra II or concurrent enrollment

This course presents an in-depth survey of modern astronomy and the historical development of our scientific understanding of the universe. Five main topics are explored: general astronomy, the solar system, space exploration, the stars and stellar evolution, and galaxies and cosmology. The course is seminar-style and project based. Students share key lectures, labs, field trips and discussions, but are encouraged to explore the topics they find most interesting through individual research projects. Examples might include building a simple telescope, planning a manned Mars mission or the search for extraterrestrial life. Nighttime observation sessions may be offered, using the school's telescope.

Dynamic Earth

½ credit; Semester II
Prerequisite: Biology, Chemistry and Algebra II or concurrent enrollment

This course provides an advanced study of the planet Earth, as a dynamic body with many interacting parts and a long and exciting history. There are four main topics: geology, meteorology, oceanography and global ecology. The course is seminar-style and project based. Students share key lectures, labs, computer simulations and discussions; other topics are explored in depth through individual research projects. Topics might include the effect of volcanoes on the history of life and civilization, the causes of the ice ages, predicting earthquakes, life in the ocean depths, or the mechanism and consequences of climate change.

Ecology: Environmental Studies

½ credit; Semester I
Prerequisite: Biology and Chemistry

In this course, students study and seek solutions to the environmental problems confronting human existence on this planet. The course examines the subject matter using an interdisciplinary approach. Students investigate environmental issues through current events, nature journals, science argument essays, debates and group projects. Ecology: Environmental Studies and Ecology: Expeditions are designed as a two-semester experience.

Ecology: Expeditions

½ credit; Semester II
Prerequisite: Ecology: Environmental Studies, and approval of the instructor

Building on Ecology: Environmental Studies and using an expedition to a remote wilderness area as its focus, Ecology Expeditions provides students the opportunity to experience nature the way humans have for all but the last 10,000 years of our evolutionary history. In addition to studying the environments to be visited, students also examine humanity's ancestral relationship with the Earth and how this has changed over time. The course-required expedition takes place the week before and during Spring Break.

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Not offered in 2018-19

Evolutionary Biology

½ credit; Semester I
Prerequisite: Biology and Chemistry

This course is an advanced exploration of the theory of evolution. The main topics are evidence for evolution, natural selection (how evolution works), the diversity of life on our planet, and primate evolution. This course is seminar-style; group work, short projects and essays constitute the major assessments. Students share key readings, lectures, activities, videos and discussions. Students also explore the evolutionary topics they find most interesting using current research to create individual and group projects.

Genetics

½ credit; Semester II
Prerequisite: Biology and Chemistry

Students learn both the concepts and techniques behind the major genetic discoveries since Watson and Crick developed the double helix model for DNA. Laboratory investigations are a significant component of this course; some of the exercises are extracting their own DNA, cutting DNA with restriction enzymes, creating a genetic map of a bacterial plasmid, becoming experts in electrophoresis, and sequencing a section of (their own) mitochondrial DNA. Students review current articles from the media to examine advances in DNA science, bioethical issues and evaluate the overall impact of DNA science on society. Students write a research paper to explore advances in DNA science.