Academics
Upper School | Grades 9—12
Curriculum

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Science

The Science Department's mission is to provide all students with a foundation of excellence in the study of science. Whether as scientists or as scientifically literate citizens, Sierra Canyon students explore scientific concepts, theories, and principles through investigations and experiments. They develop skills that enable them to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the nature of science. The department fosters a life-long love of learning, and all students are encouraged to develop an awareness of themselves and their interactions with the world around them.
 
Hands-on learning is at the heart of scientific instruction. The Science Department believes that successful scientific inquiry requires the integration of observational ability, quantitative skills, and analytical thinking. Therefore, in all courses, students are challenged to reason creatively and to think critically. Technology is also integrated into the curriculum in a variety of guises, all designed to place the tools for discovery directly into the hands of the students.

MIDDLE SCHOOL SCIENCE
The Middle School science program provides a firm foundation of scientific skills, methods, and knowledge. Both years feature integrated sciences, combining the major disciplines of the department – biology, chemistry, and physics. These courses prepare students for upper-level science in high school.

UPPER SCHOOL SCIENCE
All students are required to take Biology and Chemistry in high school, and may take the Honors level in either or both of these courses. From this foundation, students may choose upper-level courses and electives based upon their interests, mathematical achievement and departmental recommendation. Honors and Advanced Placement courses are offered across the science curriculum.
  • Integrated Science 7

    This course is an introduction to the biological and physical sciences which students will continue to explore well throughout their Upper School years.  Students review safety in the laboratory and build upon their scientific inquiry skills to explain the phenomenon of the natural world. The course includes units on atoms, cycling of matter, energy flow in an ecosystem, characteristics of living things, cell structure and function, classifying matter, the periodic table of elements and forces and motions.  Concepts are explored through various methods such as hands-on lab activities, individual and group projects, lab reports, and web-based activities.  
     
    A yearlong course
    Required in grade 7
  • Integrated Science 8

    This course builds upon the concepts introduced in 7thgrade Integrated Science with a stronger emphasis on laboratory skills and data analysis.  Lab journals are kept for the first semester of the year to help students incorporate both content material and scientific methodology in their learning.  The course includes units on measurements, experimental design, protein synthesis, cell processes, genetics, chemical bonds, chemical reactions, Newton’s Universal Law of Gravity, energy, magnetism, and electrical force.  Concepts are explored through various methods such as hands-on lab activities, individual and group projects, lab reports and web-based activities.  
     
    A yearlong course
    Required in grade 8
  • Biology

    In this introduction to the biological sciences, students gain an understanding that science is a human endeavor with social consequences. Students learn the structure and function of organisms at the molecular, cellular, and organismal level. Students first study biochemistry, energy, and cells. Then they investigate macromolecules, cell structure and function, photosynthesis, cellular respiration, mitosis and meiosis, genetics, and protein synthesis. Once this foundation is set, students explore evolution, animal and plant physiology, and ecology. Laboratory work and independent research assignments are an integral part of the course.

    yearlong course
  • Honors Biology

    This is a rigorous course that covers similar topics as Biology, but at an accelerated pace and in greater depth. In order to be eligible for this course, students must have excellent study skills and a high aptitude for math. In addition, it is expected that honors level students are independent learners who are prepared to take responsibility for their academic success. Students will engage the course concepts through a variety of means, such as readings, independent research, laboratory work, inquiry, and modeling activities. The abilities of synthesizing data, utilizing critical thinking strategies, and pursuing one's natural curiosity are important indicators of a student's success in this course.

    yearlong course
    Prerequisite:  Departmental approval required
  • Chemistry

    This course introduces students to the fundamental principles of chemistry. Students learn the skills necessary to understand and discuss issues influenced by chemical processes. Laboratory work is an integral part of the course. Students learn the techniques to accurately record and manipulate observations. The course includes units on atomic and molecular structure, chemical bonding, chemical thermodynamics, stoichiometry, gases, acids and bases, and types of chemical reactions.

    yearlong course
    Prerequisite: Biology or Honors Biology
  • Honors Chemistry

    Honors Chemistry is an accelerated course that introduces students to the fundamental principles of chemistry while providing them with the concepts and skills necessary for advanced studies in chemistry and higher-level sciences. The coursework requires a stronger math foundation than the general course in chemistry.  The course emphasizes both a theoretical and an analytical approach to understanding the behavior of matter and energy. Students gain an understanding of chemical principles and theories based on experimental data and observations. The course includes many demonstrations and laboratory experiments, and the quantitative aspect of chemistry is thoroughly covered. The course includes units on chemical thermodynamics, stoichiometry, gases, acids and bases, atomic and molecular structure, and nuclear processes. Students planning to take AP Chemistry or AP Biology are strongly advised to take this course.

    yearlong course
    Prerequisite: Biology or Honors Biology; Departmental approval required
  • Physics

    In this course, students develop a conceptual understanding and appreciation of the fundamental principles of energy, matter, motion, and force while investigating their applications to the natural world. Topics include Newtonian mechanics, energy, fluids, waves, sound, and electromagnetism.  The mathematical rigors, equations and formulas of physics are de-emphasized so a strong conceptual foundation can be created. The goal of the course is to promote a deeper understanding of the laws of physics through diagrams, graphs, and projects while highlighting how physics connects us to the world in which we live. Laboratory work and demonstrations reinforce the concepts examined in lectures and reading.

    A yearlong course
    Prerequisites: Biology and Chemistry; concurrent enrollment in Algebra II or higher math
     
     
  • Honors Physics

    Honors Physics provides students with a more accelerated, in depth introduction to classical physics. With an emphasis on problem solving, the course develops the student's ability to analyze natural phenomena by applying physical principles to conceptual examples and mathematical relationships. The course emphasizes the understanding and application of concepts through demonstrations and laboratory experiments. Laboratory work is an integral part of the course. The course includes units on Newtonian mechanics, work, energy, power, mechanical waves and sound. Electric circuits will also be introduced.
      
    A yearlong course
    Prerequisites: Biology and Chemistry; concurrent enrollment in Pre-Calculus or higher math;
    Departmental approval required
     
     
     
  • AP Biology

    As the equivalent of an introductory college biology course, AP Biology is designed to prepare students for the Advanced Placement Examination. This course provides students with the conceptual framework, factual knowledge, and analytical skills necessary to understand and appreciate the field of modern biology. The course includes units on heredity, cells, ecology, structure and function of plants and animals, and the diversity of organisms. The course rewards those who can make connections between general concepts and specific details, and students learn topics at a rapid pace. Students are required to do extensive outside reading and must complete homework over summer, winter, and spring breaks.

    yearlong course
    Prerequisites: Biology Chemistry; concurrent enrollment in Honors Algebra II or higher math; Departmental approval required
  • AP Chemistry

    This intensive, fast-paced, college-level course prepares students for the Advanced Placement Chemistry Examination. The course is designed for the highly motivated student with a strong interest in and facility with chemistry and mathematics. Students must be able to work independently and be willing to commit significant time to the course, including substantial laboratory work. Many of the units from Honors Chemistry are again explored, but in much greater depth. These topics include modern atomic theory, molecular bonding and hybridization, stoichiometry, thermodynamics, kinetics, equilibrium, precipitation reactions, acid-base reactions, oxidation-reduction reactions, electrochemistry, and nuclear chemistry. Students must complete homework over summer, winter, and spring breaks.

    yearlong course
    Prerequisites: Biology Chemistry (Honors highly recommended); Departmental approval required
     
  • AP Physics I

    This course takes the Honors Physics curriculum and adds units on rotational dynamics, angular momentum, Universal gravitation and Kepler's laws, and simple harmonic motion.  Along with moving at a far more accelerated pace, students are required to use more rigorous math and reasoning skills throughout the curriculum.  Summer work and work over winter and spring vacation periods will be required of students to help prepare them for the AP exam in May.
     
    A yearlong course
    Prerequisites: Biology and Chemistry; concurrent enrollment in Pre-Calculus or higher math; Departmental approval required
    Open to grades 11 and 12
  • AP Physics II

    This course is the equivalent to a second-semester college course in algebra-based physics. Students will be prepared to take the Advanced Placement Physics II Exam. The approach to this course is analytical and intensive, and it is designed for the self-motivated student with advanced skills and a commitment to scientific study. It is expected that students enrolled in this course have a strong foundation in Newtonian mechanics (including rotational dynamics and angular momentum) and electric circuits.  The course covers fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, electricity and magnetism, optics, and atomic and nuclear physics.

    yearlong course
    Prerequisites: Biology, Chemistry and Honors Physics or AP Physics I; Departmental approval required
     
  • AP Physics C

    In this intensive, rigorous, calculus-based course, students explore Newtonian mechanics and electromagnetism in depth to prepare for the Advanced Placement Physics C Examination. This course is geared for the serious, highly motivated science student who has a strong foundation in physics and mathematics. In this course, students focus on advanced problem solving and analysis. The first half of the year is devoted to mechanics, including the study of vectors, kinematics, particle dynamics, work and energy, impulse and momentum, rotation, gravitation, planetary motion, and oscillations. The second half of the year focuses on electricity and magnetism, including the study of electric charge, Gauss' Law, electric field and potential, capacitors and dielectrics, electric current, magnetic fields, Ampere's Law, electromagnetic induction, and electrical resonance. Laboratory work with advanced data collection and analysis is an integral component of the course. Students must complete homework over summer, winter, and spring breaks.

    yearlong course
    Prerequisites: Biology and Chemistry; Honors Physics or AP Physics I; completion of AP Calculus AB; Departmental approval required
  • AP Environmental Science

    Through an intensive, interdisciplinary curriculum, students prepare for the Advanced Placement Examination in Environmental Science. Incorporating both physical and biological sciences, the course provides students with the scientific principles, concepts, and methodologies required to understand the interrelationships of the natural world and to analyze both natural and human-made environmental problems. Students apply basic ecological principles, data collection, and research methods to questions concerning the impact of human intervention and disturbance. The course includes units on ecosystems and the impact of humans on natural systems, population issues, land and water use, energy resources and consumption, pollution, and global change. Laboratory work, including the collection and analysis of data by statistical, chemical, and observational means, is an integral part of the course.

    year long course
    Prerequisites: Biology and Chemistry; Departmental approval required
  • Physiology

    This is laboratory course covers the essential principles of human anatomy and physiology. It integrates the study of organ systems (skeletal, muscular, digestive, respiratory, circulatory, reproductive, nervous, endocrine, and excretory), the cellular and biochemical functioning of these systems, and the mechanisms of homeostasis. Special topics include the human response to exercise, energy metabolism, and nutritional needs, sports medicine, and the biomechanical components of human movement. Laboratory activities and research projects will be integrated throughout the year.

    yearlong course
    Prerequisites: Biology and Chemistry
  • Forensic Science *

    Forensic science is a one-semester science elective.  The course involves hands-on and inquiry laboratory investigations which apply many disciplines of scientific study such as biology, anatomy, chemistry, and physics.  Students will use their knowledge in these fields to model crime scene investigation.  Techniques covered include forensic anthropology, ballistics, blood analysis, hair and fibers, latent fingerprints, forensic chemistry, toxicology and DNA analysis. Each unit of study will have various assessments requiring writing, research, well-executed lab protocol, and presentation skills. The course culminates in a final project showcasing the forensic techniques learned during the semester in the form of an individual digital poster on a specific forensic technique, and a self-authored Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) report covering the basics of CSI techniques.

    A one-semester course offered both semesters; may not be repeated
    Open to grades 10 - 12
  • Oceanography *

    This course surveys the principles of geology, chemistry, physics, and biology of the Earth's oceans. Students will begin with exploring the formation of the ocean basins and chemical properties of seawater. The course will then delve into the movement of water, from wave formation to large scale ocean circulation. Students will learn about a wide variety of marine ecosystems, including coral reef, estuaries, kelp forests, and hydrothermal vents. Current environmental issues, such as global warming, overfishing, coral-bleaching, and invasive species, will be discussed.
     
    A one-semester or yearlong course
    Open to grades 11 – 12
    Prerequisites: Biology and Chemistry
  • Astronomy *

    Astronomy is a one-semester elective designed for the student who wants to investigate the inner workings of the universe. This inquiry and project-based course will cover the historical development of astronomy, use computer simulations and modeling, and ponder the many questions about the night sky that have intrigued mankind for millennia.  Topics may include orientation of the night sky, the sun and other stars, comets and asteroids, possible life on other planets, space exploration, robotics, space vehicles, et al.  

    A one-semester course offered both semesters; may not be repeated
    Open to grades 10 - 12 


     
  • Biotechnology *

    This elective course is designed for highly motivated students interested in biology and may be taken concurrently with or as preparation for Advanced Placement Biology. This course will cover all relevant background information on each laboratory technique and therefore will be an excellent review of biology and chemistry. Students will engage in numerous multi-day experiments, including polymerase chain reaction, gel electrophoresis, protein purification, and bacterial cloning. Experiments will be designed to explore relatable topics, such as the presence of genetic modified organisms in everyday foods.
     
    A one-semester course
    Open to grades 11 – 12
    Prerequisites: Honors Biology and Honors Chemistry, or departmental approval
  • Introduction to Engineering *

    This one-semester science elective is designed to introduce students to the field of engineering and its many applications with respect to solving real-world problems.  The course will challenge students to think critically while problem solving and using various technologies. Topics may include mechanical, electrical, aerospace, materials and civil engineering.  Students will be responsible for research, design, development, construction and presentation of several personal and group projects throughout the semester.

    one-semester course offered both semesters; may not be repeated
    Open to grades 10 - 12 
  • Honors Engineering

    This intensive, project-based course is designed for the highly motivated, self-disciplined science student who wants to be challenged to apply all of their science education to solve engineering problems.  The course requires a strong command of all basic scientific principles as well as higher order mathematical abilities and logic.  Critical thinking and initiative drive the class and the daily mantra is, “figure it out.”   Students are responsible for a major personal project in the first semester.  Placement into this course is competitive and students are nominated by the Science Department faculty to submit a proposal for consideration.

    yearlong course
    Prerequisites: Honors or AP Physics; Departmental approval required based upon submitted project proposal
    Open to grade 12
  • Science Research Methods A *

    The Science Research Program is a unique opportunity for students to experience the rigor and rewards of authentic scientific research while still in high school. In the first course, Methods A, individual consultations with science department faculty introduce students to the fundamentals of scientific research.  Here, students learn to generate research questions, conduct literature reviews via scientific online databases, and read articles in peer reviewed journals. The final product of Methods A is either a research proposal, review paper, or presentation. To be enrolled in Methods B, the student must find placement in a research lab at a local university or the private sector during the summer before the course is taken.  Methods B requires the student to enter the Regeneron Science Search, Siemens Science Competition, or similar program.  Methods A and B are repeatable for as long as appropriate for the research undertaken or to explore new research questions. 
     
    A one-semester course; Department approval required based upon submitted research proposal
    Open to grades 10 - 12
  • Science Research Methods B *

    The Science Research Program is a unique opportunity for students to experience the rigor and rewards of authentic scientific research while still in high school. In the first course, Methods A, individual consultations with science department faculty introduce students to the fundamentals of scientific research.  Here, students learn to generate research questions, conduct literature reviews via scientific online databases, and read articles in peer reviewed journals. The final product of Methods A is either a research proposal, review paper, or presentation. To be enrolled in Methods B, the student must find placement in a research lab at a local university or the private sector during the summer before the course is taken.  Methods B requires the student to enter the Regeneron Science Search, Siemens Science Competition, or similar program.  Methods A and B are repeatable for as long as appropriate for the research undertaken or to explore new research questions. 
     
    A one-semester course; Department approval required based upon submitted research proposal
    Open to grades 10 - 12

Faculty

Lower School: 11052 Independence Avenue
Middle and Upper School: 20801 Rinaldi Street
Chatsworth, CA 91311  | 818.882.8121
Sierra Canyon School is a private, independent, non-sectarian, co-educational, college preparatory school for students in grades Pre-Kindergarten through 12 located in Chatsworth, California. The highly cosmopolitan campus community is reflective of the Greater Los Angeles area and the world at large. Students are empowered to realize their greatest creative, ethical, intellectual and physical promise through small class sizes, a diverse student-teacher culture and a family-like environment.