Science Department

Four credits of science are required at St. Thomas. Incoming ninth graders take either a regular or advanced level of Biology. Depending on their performance as freshmen, some students may be required to take Physical Science as Sophomores. Upperclassmen are offered a great deal of flexibility in their scheduling and are encouraged to take either the advanced or regular level of Chemistry and Physics to complete their science requirement. Other offerings, though, include Environmental Science as well as one semester classes in Geology and Oceanography. Advanced Placement courses in Biology, Chemistry, and Physics are also open to qualified students.


ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE topics emphasized include (1) available energy sources and human patterns of energy consumption, (2) human influences on ecosystems, in particular, the exploitation of mineral resources and the use of land, soil, and water, (3) specific problems associated with air pollution, hazardous wastes, and solid waste disposal. Specifically addressed are such matters of concern as global warming, ozone depletion, acid rain, pesticide use, endangered species, and nuclear power. Throughout the course, interrelationships of natural processes, human social processes, and technology are stressed as they pertain to the formulation of environmental policies and decisions.

BIOLOGY involves a general study of life forms. The curriculum begins with the study of the cell and continues into the more complex processes and systems encountered in life forms. Ecological concepts and evolutionary thought are pursued to enhance the students' awareness of the dynamics of the living world around them. Laboratory work is performed to give the student a first-hand opportunity to better understand the subject matter.

ADVANCED BIOLOGY covers the content included in regular Biology in greater depth. Advanced Biology seeks to establish a strong foundation in science by emphasizing the scientific method and inquiry learning through quarterly projects. The course emphasizes themes intrinsic to all life: evolution, form fits function, unity in diversity, homeostasis, and adaptation. Quarter projects address the subject matter in unique ways that allow for cooperative learning and creativity. Many freshmen elect to take the SAT II in biology at the end of the course.

ADVANCED PLACEMENT (AP) BIOLOGY is the equivalent of an introductory college biology course. Students are admitted to the course by recommendation only and must have successfully completed Advanced Biology and Chemistry. The AP Biology course differs significantly from the first high school biology course in the depth of topics covered and the types of laboratories completed. Students are required to take the national AP exam in lieu of the final for the course. Pre-requisite: 86 Adv Biology or 93 Biology, 78 Adv Chemistry or 86 Chemistry, and recommendation.

HEALTH is a course that includes a vast array of topics centering on the development of the total social, physical, and mental health of the student. The objectives of this course are (1) to study how the body functions, and how to keep oneself healthy and disease-free, (2) to address and discuss differing moral issues such as teen pregnancy, alcohol use and abuse, drugs, sexual diseases, and AIDS, and (3) to increase one's awareness on how to prevent accidents and how to react to accidents through a knowledge of emergency first-aid, CPR, and rescue breathing. (One Semester)

CHEMISTRY is a general survey course designed to introduce the student to the basic fundamentals of inorganic chemistry. Topics covered include chemical formulas, chemical equations, the mole concept, energy changes, chemical bonding, kinetics, equilibrium, acids and bases, solutions, redox reactions, nuclear chemistry and electrochemistry. Laboratory work is an important part of the course. Pre-requisite: 83 Biology, 83 Math or 75-85 Adv Biology, 75-85 Adv Math.

ADVANCED CHEMISTRY is a course designed to interest and challenge the accelerated science student. The class goes into greater detail on the topics covered in the regular chemistry course and utilizes mathematical descriptions of chemical processes to a greater extent. Laboratory experiments are emphasized as a means of illustrating information presented in lecture. Pre-requisite: 86 Adv Biology, 86 Adv Math and taking Algebra II/Trig.

ADVANCED PLACEMENT (AP) CHEMISTRY is designed for the second year chemistry student who wishes to obtain college credit in chemistry. The class covers topics recommended by the College Board such as atomic and molecular theory, kinetics, complex equilibria and advanced laboratory techniques. Students are successfully prepared to complete the national AP exam in chemistry given in May. Pre-requisite: 90 Adv Chemistry and recommendation.

PHYSICS is offered as an elective. The course focuses on mechanics, sound, light, electricity, and magnetism. This is a survey course with emphasis on the practical aspects of physics as applied to everyday phenomena. Special hands-on topics include the physics of Pinewood Derby cars and home electrical wiring. Pre-requisite: 80 Science, 80 Math or 75-85 Adv Biology, 75-85 Adv Math or 83 Physical Science, 83 Math.

ADVANCED PLACEMENT (AP) PHYSICS I is the equivalent to a first semester college course in algebra-based physics. The course covers Newtonian mechanics, work, energy and power, mechanical waves and sound. It will also introduce electrical circuits. Students will take the national AP Physics I exam in May. Pre-requisite: 90 Adv. Chemistry or 87 in AP Chemistry and recommendation; 86 Math and had Alg II/Trig.

ADVANCED PLACEMENT (AP) PHYSICS II is the equivalent to a second semester college course in algebra-based physics. Topics include magnetism and electromagnetic induction; fluids, pressure and buoyancy; heat temperature and thermal physics; thermodynamics and ideal gas behavior; optics; nuclear physics and modern physics. Students will take the national AP Physics II exam in May. Pre-requisite: 85 AP Physics I and recommendation.

Anatomy and Physiology This two semester course will focus on the organ systems of the human body with an emphasis on both structure and function. Areas of emphasis will include but not be limited to energy needs of the human body; responses of the human body to internal and external forces; body processes that maintain homeostasis; electrical conduction processes and interactions; body transport systems; environmental factors that affect the human body; form fits function; reproduction and development; transplantation technology. Classroom study will be coupled with laboratory investigation.

OCEANOGRAPHY is intended to familiarize the students with the physical dynamics of the world’s oceans and the interaction of ocean waters with biota and the contiguous crust of the earth. Specific topics include (1) the physiographic and compositional features of the ocean floor and underlying crust, (2) the formation of ocean basins in relation to plate tectonics, (3) the origins of ocean circulation, (4) the formation and impact of waves, (5) the formation and impact of tides, (6) shoreline interactions of water, land and marine organisms, and (7) the biology and ecology of marine organisms in various ocean habitats. (One semester)

GEOLOGY is designed to familiarize the student with the many practical aspects of earth science, especially those facets of geology that affect our everyday lives and add to the enjoyment of our natural surroundings. These topics include (1) a hands-on approach to the study of common rocks, minerals, and fossils, (2) volcanoes and volcanic activity, (3) earthquakes and the earth's interior, (4) continental drift and plate tectonics, (5) the geology of hydrocarbons and the accumulation of energy resources, (6) principles of geologic time, age dating, correlation, and organic evolution, (7) the geology of such well-known features as the Grand Canyon. (One semester)

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