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Science

Use the chart above in conjunction with the specific course descriptions and prerequisites, and note that typical pathways are shown, but not every possible scenario for student progression 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 basic 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 exposes students to the perspectives by which each discipline views the field of science, allowing them to choose advanced courses with informed intent.

Science 10

1 credit; full year

The second year of a two-year integrated science program, this course investigates the development of life on Earth, and the interaction between the living world and its environment, including designing and engineering solutions for future problems like energy production and climate change. 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.

AP Biology

1 credit; full year
Prerequisite: Concurrent enrollment in Algebra II or higher, successful completion of Science 9 and Science 10, 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: Algebra II, successful completion of Science 9 and Science 10, 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: Successful completion of Science 9 and Science 10, 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, concurrent enrollment in Science 10 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 a calculus-based intensive study of two of the most basic themes useful for describing the classical world: mechanics, and electricity and magnetism. Calculus gives students the tools to extend their study of physics to describe complex systems from first principles, investigate complex and continuously changing systems, and provide more comprehensive analysis of experimental data. This class is useful for students interested in studying physics, engineering or related majors in college. Students take both AP Physics C exams: mechanics, and electricity and magnetism. 

Ecology: Environmental Studies

½ credit; semester I
Prerequisite: Successful completion of Science 9 and Science 10

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, successful completion of Science 9 and Science 10, 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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Topics in Biology: Evolutionary Biology

½ credit; semester I
Prerequisite: Successful completion of Science 9 and Science 10

This course deeply explores our current understanding of the theory of evolution by natural selection. The main topics are the evidence for evolution, the mechanism of evolutionary change, the ebb and flow of life’s diversity on our planet, and our place in this wondrous collection of living organisms. This seminar-style course involves group work, short projects and essays, where students share key readings, lectures, activities, videos and discussions. Students also explore the evolutionary topics they find most interesting and use current research in developing individual and group projects.

Topics in Biology: Molecular Genetics

½ credit; semester II
Prerequisite: Successful completion of Science 9 and Science 10

The double helix model of DNA was published almost 70 years ago, opening a new horizon for humanity to investigate. This course explores the knowledge and techniques that have been developed since the discovery of DNA’s double helix. Students extract their own DNA, cut DNA with restriction enzymes, create a genetic map of a bacterial plasmid, separate chromosome fragments using electrophoresis, and sequence a section of their own mitochondrial DNA. Students review current articles from the media to examine advances in DNA science and bioethical issues, and evaluate the overall impact of DNA science on society. Students write a research paper to explore advances in DNA science.

Topics in Chemistry: Modern Materials

½ credit; semester I
Prerequisite: Successful completion of Science 9 and Science 10

Ever wondered how different scents are produced or how medicines are synthesized? Perhaps you are more interested in food science? This course allows students to explore the design, engineering and application of chemical systems, building on the chemical fundamentals taught in Grades 9 and 10, such as reaction types, thermodynamics and reaction kinetics, with an additional focus on practical organic chemistry. The course provides an opportunity to have hands-on experience in the chemical synthesis of compounds, such as polymers, flavors and drugs. Use of practical analytical techniques enhances student understanding of the multistep processes required to create everyday materials. Student choice dictate some of the units of study. This course uses a non-quantitative approach. 

Topics in Chemistry: Synthesizing Our World

½ credit; semester II
Prerequisite: Successful completion of Science 9 and Science 10

Does chemistry get a bad press? The words chemical or synthetic are often viewed as unnatural, toxic or dangerous, but chemistry touches every part of our lives. This course starts with the foundations of the chemical industry born from the need for explosives in the First World War. We introduce the Haber process as a model of a chemical case study, and learn about stoichiometry, thermodynamics, kinetics and molecular structure, while considering economic, environmental and engineering implications. Further units follow where students use this study model to investigate, for example, the production of pharmaceuticals, food additives, polymers, and the dye industry. This course focuses on, and develops student understanding of, the atomic processes and mathematical principles of chemical reactions.

Topics in Physics: The Engineered World

½ credit; semester I
Prerequisite: Successful completion of Science 9 and Science 10

We spend almost all of our time indoors, in engineered environments, from home to school to transportation. These systems deliver and take away vast amounts information, keep us comfortable, and provide all of our needs, seemingly without effort. But how do all of these engineered systems actually work? From the perspective of common spaces in London (flats, homes, etc.), students explore the flux of the following:

  • energy (heating and cooling, gas and solar inputs, refrigeration and ovens)
  • matter (groceries and shampoo in, rubbish and recycling out)
  • water (plumbing: sinks, toilets, showers, drainage)
  • electricity (flow and control, power usage monitoring, household circuitry)
  • digital information (internet access, wifi and Bluetooth within the home)

Basic models of each system are created from observations and the underlying science behind many of these mechanisms is investigated. 

Topics in Physics: Simulation and Modeling

½ credit; semester II
Prerequisite: Successful completion of Science 9 and Science 10, and Intro to Programming

The most interesting and useful physical systems are often too complicated to solve directly with basic physical principles. Patterns of complex or chaotic motion, and systems with many interacting bodies, often rely on computational modelling and simulation in order to be solved. In this course, students work through examining and designing models and simulations for some classically intractable problems related to space travel and orbital motion, and thermodynamics. The course culminates in a simulation that provides a physical solution of the individual student’s choice and design.

Earth, Planets and Space Exploration

½ credit; semester II
Prerequisite: Successful completion of Science 9 and Science 10

In 1990, planetary scientist Carl Sagan took measurements of Earth from the Galileo spacecraft sent to investigate Jupiter and its moons. The measurements are the first experiments in the remote detection of life on a distant planet (Earth). As these measurements have been repeated, they have taught us about whether life on Earth could be detectable, the relationship between living things and our home planet, and what criteria we might look for to detect life elsewhere in the universe. The class explores remote detection of life in an attempt to learn more about ourselves, our home, and our future, through investigating planets, how they interact with life, and how likely we are to find life elsewhere in the universe. 

Astrophysics

½ credit; semester I
Prerequisite: Successful completion of Science 9 and Science 10

This course explores our cutting-edge understanding of the universe at the very smallest and largest scales. Five main topics are investigated: particle physics, introductory quantum mechanics, stars and their life cycles, special and general relativity, and the origin, evolution and fate of the universe. 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 gravitational waves, exoplanet detection, black holes, and the nature of dark matter.