This class begins with analytical geometry, looking at the Cartesian coordinate system, linear equations, and calculations of slope, midpoint, and distance. Students learn the basics of Euclidean geometry including point, line, ray, plane, and polygons. Working with polygons, students explore triangles. At the end of the year, students study circles and figures in three dimensions.
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This class explores chemical processes, especially those involving salts, acids, and bases in relation to our senses of taste and touch. By dissolving various salts in water with varying temperatures, the class investigates the properties of solutions. They use microscopes to compare and contrast various forms of substances, including crystals formed out of solution via precipitation and/or evaporation. The class studies the formation of acids and bases either as complementary pairs arising out of heating a salt or out of oxidation of a pure substance. The electrolysis of water and conductivity measurements help introduce concepts involving the structure of chemical compounds and clarify further the meaning of “pH”. Final experiments involve “displacement” reactions, with application to launching a projectile and the study of sodium metal.
This class builds on the concepts related to circles and basic trigonometric ratios by introducing the unit circle, reciprocal trigonometric ratios, and inverse trigonometric functions. Students study algebra topics including domain and range, linear equations, and functions. Students learn about systems of equations and how to solve them using a variety of methods (graphing, substitution, and elimination). Students also study quadratic functions, including creation (multiplying binomials), factoring, graphing, solving, and determining the equation from a graph. Finally, students learn about exponential equations, logarithms, and imaginary numbers.
Thermal physics addresses concepts of heat and cold. Through historical investigation, experimentation, and observation, students experience, characterize, and conceptualize the following: the expansion and contraction of solids, liquids, and gases; the three methods of heat energy transfer; the ideal gas law; Lord Kelvin's hypothesis of an absolute coldest temperature; phase diagrams; and the special thermal properties of water. Students learn the story of the development of precise thermometry and calibrate their own thermometers. Finally, students learn about technologies that use the laws of thermodynamics, including the thermostat, the four-stroke combustion engine, the steam engine, and the Stirling engine.
In this class, students work with and catalogue observations of celestial movements, recognizing and identifying patterns and rhythms that occur in the sky. They track the positions of planets, moons, and stars and make conclusions about their movements. Students use astronomical tools (a clinometer and a compass) to locate objects in the night sky. They measure celestial distances and review various methods ranging from early Greek to modern day techniques. The class also calculates the distance from the Earth to the Moon, planetary distances to the Sun, and the distances to stars. There is an evening field trip to the Dearborn Observatory.
In this class, the first goal is further understanding of atomic theory and molecular structure. Students study Brownian motion, which through Einstein’s analysis, contributed to the acceptance of atomic and kinetic theories in the twentieth century. The class looks at specific ways of classifying structure, including a discussion of isomers. Experiments explore the effects of chirality on physical properties and on chemoreception. A thorough description of protein structure follows; the class learns to check for the presence of proteins. Later, the class focus shifts to the discovery of DNA and its significance in genetics. We describe its structure and extract DNA from our own cheek cells. Students discuss the human genome project and the process of sequencing the base pairs in DNA. There is a field trip to the bionanotechnology lab at Northwestern University.
This class covers the chemistry of elements: what is an element, what elements are commonly found in the human body, the important non-metals, the alkali and alkaline earth metals, the halogens, and some other metals and semi-metals. Students look at various properties of the elements: elemental masses, the valences of the elements in making compounds, and constant and multiple proportions in reactions. They study the structure of the periodic table and how its structure relates to chemical and physical properties. Experiments familiarize students with basic chemical reactions including combustion and metal replacement.
This class aims to advance a student’s competency in algebra and to introduce the student to other related mathematical topics. Students work in the following mathematical areas: real numbers and linear equations, lines and functions, systems of linear equations, quadratic functions, rational expressions, conic sections, and trigonometry. Other topics, such as logarithmic and exponential functions, are covered as time permits.
This class challenges students to consider the importance of science and technology as factors of change in the modern world. The class explores optics as a means of demonstrating the evolution of physical theories, taking up experimental work in the field of optics and physical colors, in which through modern mathematical models, we compare the understanding of color phenomena with the analysis of experimental results. The class also takes up questions that relate historically to the development of physics in the 20th century and their present impact, discussing current issues such as the energy crisis, alternative energy sources, and related technology. There is a field trip to Fermilab, one of the world’s prominent particle physics labs.
This class considers chemical aspects of major life processes that occur in plants, animals, and human beings. The goal of the class is to discover something about the chemistry of life. What chemical transformations can we attribute to life? The class focuses on developing skills and background in chemistry and provides opportunities to explore experimental methods. Subsequently, students observe or execute experiments that demonstrate aspects of important life-related processes. The class examines the nature of gases, our dependence on fossil fuels, photosynthesis and respiration, and fermentation and distillation.
This course builds on Algebra II topics by deepening the understanding of polynomials, polynomial operations, and functions. Students focus on practical applications of concepts such as logarithmic/exponential expressions, systems of equations, and trigonometric functions. Students explore these topics through real-world examples that vary from finance, to geology, to biology and others.