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Noble and Greenough School is a rigorous academic community dedicated to inspiring leadership for the public good. Through mentoring relationships, we motivate students to achieve their highest potential and to lead lives characterized by service to others.

Science

Upper School Academics

Inquiry-based learning is stressed through formulation of thoughtful questions and hypotheses, experimental design, applications of technological tools for simulations, data collection and analysis, and evaluation of information with a healthy skepticism. Models are utilized throughout the curriculum, as students progress toward deeper comprehension of both the qualitative and quantitative aspects of natural phenomena.

In addition, our science program provides students with opportunities to understand the impact of science in a historical context and to build their understanding of the impact of science and technology on current societal issues. The two-year Upper School requirement provides a framework for understanding fundamental principles that govern biological, chemical, and physical systems and for developing connections among them. Students take Biology in Class IV followed by  Chemistry and/or Physics in Classes III-I.

• Click here for Course Sequence. 
 


 

Biology | Full Year
Full Credit
Open to: I, II, III, IV

In this course students are introduced to major unifying themes in biology, which focus on the relationships between structure, function, and the maintenance of homeostasis in living systems. Special emphasis is placed on helping students make connections between the complex nature of biological principles and their own lives though readings, an extensive laboratory curriculum, and discussion of current global and local issues. After a comprehensive study of the Charles River Watershed, students finish the first term by mastering the basic chemical and physical principles and relating those concepts to body systems. The second term is devoted to a continued systematic approach to human anatomy and physiology with the integration of evolution and more complex cellular processes. In addition to our well-equipped laboratory resources, the school's 187-acre campus is also used as an outdoor classroom. This course is not designed to prepare students for the SAT Subject Test in Biology.

Honors Biology | Full Year
Full Credit
Open to: I, II, III, IV
Prerequisites: Permission of the department

In this course students take a molecular approach when studying the relationships between structure, function, and the maintenance of homeostasis in ecological and biological systems. This honors course offers a similar beginning to that of Biology, but midway through the first term, the molecular basis for biological phenomena is heavily emphasized, and a more abstract, quantitative approach is used to discuss topics including cellular respiration, photosynthesis, and molecular biology. Students continue with a theorectical look at evolution and speciation and transition back to the human body for a comprehensive study of human anatomy and physiology during the second term. This course prepares students to take the SAT Subject Test in Biology, E or M version.

Chemistry | Full Year
Full Credit
Open to: I, II, III

Chemistry involves the study of matter, its properties, and the changes matter undergoes. The topics include atomic structure, chemical bonding, the Periodic Table, the mole concept, chemical reactions, kinetic-molecular theory, gas laws, thermochemistry, and acids and bases.

Strong emphasis is placed on interactive learning. Students are frequently engaged in lab work, occasionally using procedures of their own design. Demonstrations, analogies, and simulations are used to strengthen comprehension. This course is not designed to prepare students for the SAT Subject Test in Chemistry.

Honors Chemistry | Full Year
Full Credit
Open to: I, II, III
Prerequisites: Permission of the department

Honors Chemistry provides a rigorous introduction to matter, its properties, and physical and chemical change. Topics include measurement, atomic structure and chemical bonding, chemical reactions and stoichiometry, gases and condensed phases, reaction kinetics, chemical equilibrium, thermodynamics, acid-base reactions, electrochemistry, and nuclear chemistry. Students develop competence with experimental design, data analysis, and a wide range of laboratory techniques.  Students are expected to have strong algebraic skills. Students will tackle most of the topics in a quantitative manner. This course prepares students for the SAT Subject Test in Chemistry.

Physics | Full Year
Full Credit
Open to: I, II

Physics introduces students to the ideas of classical physics and builds connections between those ideas and the experiences of everyday life.  Topics covered include work and energy, oscillations and waves, sound and music, electrostatics and electrical circuits, one- and two-dimensional motion, and Newton’s Laws. Strong emphasis is placed on experimental design, data collection and analysis, and interpretation and communication of experimental outcomes.  Students also gain experience in problem solving and model building, deriving theoretical understanding from laboratory observations.  This course is not designed to prepare students for the SAT Subject Test in Physics.

 

 

Honors Physics | Full Year
Full Credit
Open to: I, II
Prerequisites: Permission of the department

Honors Physics provides a quantitative formulation of the fundamental laws of physics and their relation to physical phenomena, and it prepares students for university courses in science and engineering. The course covers the following topics: one- and two-dimensional motion, Newton's laws, the universal law of gravitation, work and energy, momentum conservation, electrostatics, electrical circuits, oscillations and waves. The course has a significant lab component with a strong focus on practical problem solving in the lab, using both empirical and theoretical methods. Emphasis is placed on experimental design, data collection and analysis, and interpretation and communication of experimental outcomes. This course prepares students for the SAT Subject Test in Physics.

 

Anatomy and Physiology | Fall or Spring
Full Credit
Open to: I, II
Prerequisites: Biology or Honors Biology plus Chemistry or Honors Chemistry

The spectacular engineering of the human body intrigues us all, and this course examines both the structure as well as the function of that marvelous design. The sophistication and fine-tuned physiology of each system is studied, as well as how disease affects homeostasis or the balance of each system. Within each unit, the relevance of our studies to current health and wellness issues is emphasized through topics like sports medicine, computer analysis of diet and nutrition, skin cancer, tissue engineering, cardiovascular disease, concussions and second impact syndrome, Alzheimer's, and CPR and First Aid.  Laboratory-based learning is emphasized through work with microscopes, dissection, anatomical models, simulations, and our on-campus fitness center.

Marine Biology | Fall Only
Full Credit
Open to: I, II
Prerequisites: Biology or Honors Biology plus Chemistry or Honors Chemistry

In this course, students apply basic principles of biology and chemistry in an in-depth investigation of marine biology. The course begins with an introduction to the physical and chemical processes that dominate the marine environment, followed by an examination of marine invertebrates, fishes, and marine mammals. Students will explore several marine habitats, including the rocky coast, coral reefs, open ocean and deep sea environments. Special emphasis is placed on the physiological adaptations of marine organisms to each specific environment. Course work is augmented by computer-based class activities, dissections, identifying and pressing algae, and laboratory experiments. A study of environmental issues that affect marine ecosystems will also be included.

Neuroscience | Fall or Spring
Open to: I, II
Prerequisites: Biology or Honors Biology plus Chemistry or Honors Chemistry

More is known now about the brain than ever before. The recent explosion of the study of the brain has opened up a whole new world of investigation into both the structure and function of the brain. How is the brain able to execute such a variety of tasks at the same time? This course aims to answer this question by providing a comprehensive overview of the mammalian nervous system. Beginning with the function of nerve cells, this course will lead students on a journey and take a detailed look at how each of the neural systems sends and receives information to and from the brain. The course will conclude by focusing on larger topics in cognitive science and psychology such as motor function, speech, learning and memory, emotion, and diseases of the brain. Laboratory work will include dissection of animal brains, tissue staining, and other laboratory investigations.

 

Molecular Gastronomy | Spring Only
Full Credit
Open to: I, II
Prerequisites: Biology or Honors Biology plus Chemistry or Honors Chemistry

In this advanced chemistry course, students develop an enhanced understanding of their chemical world via food and its preparation. Specifically, students examine the biology of gustation and olfaction; the chemical origins of flavor and taste; the molecular structures and behaviors of the molecules in food; the physical and chemical transformations associated with cooking, including the role of energy in these processes; and the cutting-edge ingredients and technology now being utilized to convert food into edible art. Synthesis of chemical ideas and connections between theory and practical laboratory experience are emphasized.  Additionally, students learn to decode technical literature, analyze simple recipes, and construct their own unique culinary compositions.

 

Astronomy | Fall Only
Full Credit
Open to: I, II
Prerequisites: Chemistry and Algebra II

This class introduces students to the basic physics and chemistry that drive astronomical processes, and the observational techniques that astronomers use to gather data about the cosmos. Students explore planetary astronomy, stellar evolution, and cosmology. Emphasis is placed on reasoning from data. Historical astronomy is introduced as a means to build problem solving skills and an understanding of the bootstrapped character of much of our knowledge about the universe. In the process, students bump up against unsolved problems and current areas of active research in the field.


Not Offered in 2017-18

 

Robotics | Fall or Spring
Full Credit
Open to: I, II, III

The goal of this course is to teach students how to think and create like engineers. We begin the term by studying how to analyze problems in a logical manner and create algorithms that can solve these problems, including computer programming techniques in C++. Building upon this abstract foundation, students learn how to apply this mode of thinking to concrete situations involving circuits and sensors. The culminating project (a competition against other students in the class) places the student in the role of lead engineer. Students come up with an idea, develop algorithms, test their idea, and execute the design. Through extensive laboratory work, students utilize their computer-programming techniques and an understanding of electronic circuits to implement their engineering projects.

 

Advanced Projects in Physics | Fall and Spring
Full Credit
Open to: I (fall, spring or both semesters)
Prerequisites: Physics or Honors Physics

In the first semester, this course follows a two-track mode. During weekly lab periods, students work in teams on an engineering project, designing & building a massive Rube Goldberg-style kinetic sculpture. Daily classwork focuses on a curriculum built around electricity and magnetism, beginning with a review of electric fields and circuit concepts. Magnetic fields and Faraday’s law of magnetic induction are introduced. Students synthesize the electricity and magnetism concepts by measuring the magnetic field strength of the earth, by learning about the aurora borealis, and by understanding the electric power generation and distribution grid in Massachusetts. Finally, students examine how electricity and magnetism join together according to Maxwell’s equations to produce light. 

In the second semester, the focus shifts to basic electronics, beginning with a discovery-oriented introduction to characteristics of various circuit elements: switching devices, variable resistors, capacitors, diodes and transistors. The unit is complemented by design, assembly and testing of a handful of circuits with practical uses (i.e., light-, motion-, and sound-activated alarm-type circuits). During the spring term, students work in teams on independent projects. In this unit, most students organize themselves around studying natural or contrived phenomena using high-speed video and/or stop-action photography. 

Advanced Placement (AP) Biology | Full Year
Full Credit
Open to: I, II
Prerequisites: Permission of the department and Biology or Honors Biology plus Chemistry or Honors Chemistry

A thorough and intensive study of the subject of biology, this course covers the material on the AP exam syllabus and is considered the equivalent of a first-year, college-level course. Labs in biotechnology, outside reading, and computer-based learning provide a challenging menu for the student interested in the subject of biology. This course prepares students to take the AP Biology exam in May.

Advanced Placement (AP) Environmental Science | Full Year
Full Credit
Open to: I, II
Prerequisites: Permission of the department and Biology or Honors Biology plus Chemistry or Honors Chemistry

AP Environmental Science focuses on the interrelationships between humans and complex natural systems as they pertain to environmental sustainability. Our work focuses on both global and local ecology and associated environmental issues related to ecological footprints. Emphasis is placed on the critical importance of systems-based thinking through frequent analysis of case studies. Specific topics addressed include ecosystem dynamics, energy, water, soil, atmosphere, populations, biodiversity, climate change, waste stream, composting, food production, and environmental ethics. Students will engage in related laboratory and project work throughout the course, as well as local off-campus field trips. This rigorous course prepares students to take the AP Environmental Science exam. 

 

 

Advanced Placement (AP) Chemistry | Full Year
Full Credit
Open to: I, II
Prerequisites: Permission of the department and Honors Chemistry plus Honors Physics (may be concurrent)

This course assumes a strong grasp of introductory chemistry; a background in physics is helpful. Many familiar chemical concepts are investigated in more detail and several new topics such as thermodynamics and electrochemistry are introduced. There is one eighty-minute laboratory per week; lab work in this course is more extensive and complex, and involves greater use of instrumentation such as visible spectrophotometers; more emphasis is placed on accurate quantitative results than in first-year chemistry.  This course prepares students for the AP Chemistry exam.

 

Advanced Placement (AP) Physics | Full Year
Full Credit
Open to: I
Prerequisites: Permission of the department and Honors Physics plus AB or BC Calculus (may be concurrent)

This course provides an introduction to classical mechanics and electromagnetism with the use of calculus, which must be taken concurrently with or prior to this course. The laboratory component of the class builds on skills developed in previous physics classes and stresses experimental design and error analysis. Selected advanced topics will be introduced during the spring term. In previous years these have included: hovercraft projects, special relativity, chaos, cosmology, and the place of physics in 19th century intellectual history. This course prepares students for the two exams: AP Physics C: Mechanics, and AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biochemistry Research | Fall Only
Full Credit
Open to: I, II
Prerequisites: Permission of the department and Honors Chemistry or AP Chemistry

This advanced course offers students the opportunity to study Nature's chemical artistry beyond the confines of a regular classroom environment. In the first portion of the course, students work to develop molecular-level understanding of biological systems and master an arsenal of techniques for probing these systems, including gel electrophoresis, chromatography, spectroscopy, and molecular modeling. In the second portion of the course, students design and conduct original research on self-selected biochemical problems. Independent work is communicated through a final poster presentation.

Note: In the event that the course is oversubscribed, priority will go to students who have taken Honors Physics.

Electronics Design and Engineering | Spring Only
Full Credit
Open to: I, II
Prerequisites: Permission of the department and Robotics or Computer Programming Course

This advanced course teaches students how to use flourishing technologies, such as Computer-Aided Design (CAD), 3-D Printing, GPS, 3-D accelerometers, and sensors, to design and create sophisticated solutions to real-world problems. It is especially suited for students interested in engineering who have already taken Robotics, or have prior programming experience. Through a number of projects, students will expand their existing skills in computer design, programming, embedded chip analysis and coding, and the engineering design process. In the second half of the semester, students work together to initiate and complete significant research projects. Self-motivation and an eagerness to solve problems will be important for success in this course.

Independent Project in Science | Fall or Spring
Open to: I, II
Prerequisites: Permission of the department

Independent projects are offered to students who wish to delve more deeply into a particular science topic. Projects must be completed within the academic year, but can involve research in the Nobles science labs as well as work away from the school.  The course is offered as a tutorial and requires approval of both the instructor and the department.  Past projects have included a fibroblast tissue culture, Charles River water monitoring and analysis, high-speed photography, sports medicine, construction of a Tesla coil, and genetics research with zebrafish.

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