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Science Department

Philosophy

The Science Department at St. Benedict's Prep endeavors to nurture curiosity and understanding of our natural world. By helping students learn how to learn, we hope to provide the skills and mental framework they can use to seek reasonable and reliable knowledge, both now and after graduation. Improved skill in close-reading, hypothesis testing, data collection and analysis, and interpretation based on evidence are primary goals. Students are challenged to identify and evaluate patterns in data, ask questions, and design investigations in pursuit of answers to their questions. Understanding of complex topics is further enhanced through readings and more traditional learning and laboratory experiences. We strive to meet our students where they are and develop their own unique interests and abilities. Courses offered by the department will acknowledge and challenge each student's unique abilities and interests, to stimulate growth in his personal capabilities and future opportunities. No matter their future endeavors, our students learn to form and evaluate knowledge claims, requisite skills of both the scientific community and greater society at large.

Students at St. Benedict's take three laboratory science courses; we recommend four years of science enrollment, and the Department offers a variety of electives exploring physical sciences, biology and life sciences, atmospheric and environmental studies. Three of our departmental offerings are courses in the Project Acceleration program of Seton Hall University, eligible for potential college credit. Our students meet and interact with scientists from nearby biological, medical, and engineering laboratories and suppliers in the local area, and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programs held in various colleges, including Rutgers University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Science Department Courses

Physical Science

The course introduces the student to the fundamental concepts of physics and chemistry. Students will become familiar with the principles of how objects move and accelerate the effects of gravity and the production of energy. The different forms of energy, including thermal, electromagnetic and chemical energy, will be explored. The student will also learn the essential concepts of the structure of matter: atoms, compounds and mixtures. Chemical reactions and different types of bonds will be studied. The student will reinforce his knowledge of the scientific method, including the use of the metric system (SI) for measurements. The improvement of laboratory skills and the ability to interpret/analyze data will be an important focus in this course. Students will apply and improve their mathematics skills to learn how to solve science problems.

Life Science

The life sciences course will serve as a broad introduction to the mechanisms of living systems, beginning with the understanding of the cell and its structures. The student will learn about the organization of tissues, organs and organ systems. Students will also learn the fundamental properties of the different molecules that compose living tissues (water, carbohydrates, lipids and nucleic acids). Emphasis on the human body will be accompanied by an introduction to the composition and function of various plant structures. Classification of the different forms of living organisms will allow the student to appreciate the diversity of life. Students will study ecology and will learn about the roles of different organisms in ecosystems and the delicate balance that is achieved in these complex relationships.

Students will continue to improve their familiarity with the process of scientific investigation, specifically with how it applies to the study of living organisms. The student will reinforce his knowledge of the scientific method, including the use of the metric system (SI) for measurements. The improvement of laboratory skills and the ability to interpret/analyze data will be an important focus in this course. Students will apply and improve their mathematics skills to learn how to solve life science problems.

Earth Science

Earth science is a broad area of study. It combines aspects of astronomy, meteorology, the geosciences, and ecology to describe and understand the Earth and its many environments.

This course has three general objectives: 1) to increase student understanding of processes and interactions that define and shape the Earth; 2) to develop laboratory and field skills that will be useful in other science coursework at St. Benedict’s and beyond, and 3) to increase reading comprehension and technical writing abilities that are critical to communicating effectively in science.

Specific objectives for each student in this course include the ability to:

  1. Conduct scientific investigations with accuracy and precision, and to express findings clearly, in both written and oral presentations
  2. Describe theories of planetary and stellar evolution, and processes that contribute to the formation of the Earth over time
  3. Explain relationships among the Sun, Earth and Moon that regulate moon phases, eclipses, ocean tides, and the seasons
  4. Explain cyclical patterns that sustain life on earth, including water, carbon, and others
  5. Relate the theory of plate tectonics to processes in and on the Earth, including earthquakes, volcanoes, and landforms
  6. Classify rocks and minerals based on observable properties, processes of formation, and the cycling of earth materials
  7. Discuss responsibilities and issues related to managing Earth’s environment
  8. Converse within a scientific community using appropriate units of measure, correct terminology, and clear technical writing
  9. Comprehend different forms of scientific texts
  10. Work as a responsible member of a research team

Biology

This course introduces the student to basic biological principles necessary to understand biology. It begins with a study of the basic characteristics and organization of living things and lays the foundation in chemistry needed for an understanding of biological processes. From this background, the cell and its organization, behavior of chromosomes and foundation of genetic mechanisms, energetic relationships of photosynthetic and respiration, basic concepts of taxonomy and monerans, protista, fungi, lower plants and exposure to mammalian anatomy will be studied.

Chemistry

(Prerequisites: Algebra I)

This is a college preparatory course in which we explore God's creation through the discipline of chemistry. The emphasis will be hands-on learning, often doing experiments or participating in demonstrations to discover chemical principles for yourself. We will meet 5 times each week, usually with one session being a laboratory period. The course will emphasize structures and properties of matter and chemical reactions.

As much as possible, we will integrate technology into this Chemistry course. In the laboratory/classroom, you will have access to a laptop computer primarily to collect data using electronic sensors; you may also, when granted my permission, use the computers to conduct research, to write papers and reports and to take some electronic quizzes and tests.

Physics I

(Prerequisites: Geometry and Algebra II)

Students will study topics in kinematics in this course, including:

  • Motion in one and two dimensions.
  • Force.
  • Work and energy.
  • Momentum and collisions.
  • Rotational motion.
  • Fluid mechanics.

> They will learn to use appropriate instruments to carry out physical measurements, develop critical thinking and problem solving skills, apply principals of Physics in other areas of science and acquire a positive attitude towards physics and science in general.

Physics II: Electronics & Magnetism

(Prerequisites: Physics I, Geometry and Algebra II)

Students will study topics in thermodynamics, sound, light, electricity and magnetism in this course, including:

  • Heat and thermodynamic processes.
  • Vibrations and waves.
  • Behavior of light.
  • Electric forces and fields.
  • Circuits and their components.
  • Magnetism.
  • Electrical inductance.

These advanced topics in physics will allow students to use mathematical principles to solve problems ranging from electronic circuitry design to the reflection and refraction of light.

Anatomy & Physiology

(Prerequisites: Biology)

Do you ever wonder how your body ticks? Anatomy/Physiology is a study of the structure and function of the human body. This course is designed to provide an overview of the biological world in which we live. Both macro- and micro-systems will be studied, along with the connections and relationships among the various parts of an organism. We will take real world situations and apply them to the readings, research and lab activities to get a better understanding of how our body works.

Meteorology

(Prerequisites: Earth Science, Algebra I)

This course will focus on basic atmospheric properties and composition, weather systems and associated processes, forecasting and large and small scale atmospheric dynamics (how the atmosphere moves around). At the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Describe the properties of Earth's atmosphere.
  • Evaluate the behavior of radiation as it interacts with air and water.
  • Examine the role of water in energy transfer, clouds and precipitation processes.
  • Estimate atmospheric motion through pressure and force relationships.
  • Describe global and local wind systems.
  • Explain the development of cyclones in terms of fronts and air masses.
  • Solve forecasting problems using meteorological theory, maps and computer models.

Biochemistry

(Prerequisites: Biology and Chemistry I)

Diseases of the human body are compelling starting points for learning about the biological molecules and functional pathways that make up the human body. Students will learn about the structures of human cells, tissues and organs by considering the atoms and macromolecules which are important in these structures and how diseases are related to biochemical malfunctions. At the beginning of each module, a specific human disease will be described in a case study. The "problem" of how to diagnose and treat the disease will be the motivation for the student to learn more about how normal human biomolecules function correctly and how the disease may have affected that normal function. The course will correlate human diseases with the relevant molecular biology and biochemistry needed to understand the diagnosis and treatment of those diseases. The core concepts of biochemistry will be considered during this learning process: cell ultrastructure; function of water; carbohydrate chemistry; amino acids and peptides; protein and protein supramolecular structure; lipids, membranes, transport and signaling; nucleic acids; enzyme structure, function and kinetics; metabolism; nucleic acids; gene expression.

Developmental Biology

This course will introduce you to the complexities of your conception. It will start with the microscopic, the exploration of meiosis for gamete formation. Then we dive into the world of genetics and discuss how the genes you inherit regulate your development and make you the person you are today. We will investigate the development of a fetus during its nine months and through the use of simulations we will try and create the experience for you. Laboratory experiments and research projects will be used in order to fully grasp key topics in developmental biology: genetic diseases, blood typing, crossing over, punnett squares, etc.

Astronomy

Astronomy can be defined in many different ways. Some describe it as a study of matter and objects which are outside of Earth's atmosphere, for example stars, asteroids and comets. Others describe astronomy as a science that is dedicated to studying both the nature and motion of celestial bodies; such as stars, galaxies and planets. For us; astronomy is the study of everything in the universe. By studying the cosmos beyond our own planet, we can understand where we came from, where we are going and how physics works under conditions which are impossible to recreate on Earth. In astronomy, the universe is our laboratory!

Natural Disasters

(Prerequisite: Earth Science)

This course will focus on natural disasters: tornadoes; hurricanes; volcanoes; earthquakes; tsunami; and meteorites. We will:

  • Observe the physical features of each phenomenon.
  • Identify conditions that are favorable for the development of different types of natural disasters.
  • Create and analyze maps, models and data charts of actual events.
  • Discuss the anatomy and chronology of each natural disaster.
  • Explain how natural disasters are actually beneficial to the planet and a normal part of its existence.
  • Explore the process of psychological and emergency response to natural disaster.
  • Evaluate the natural disaster risks we face here in New Jersey.

The Secret Lives of Birds

THE SECRET LIVES OF BIRDS:

This course will focus on how our fine, feathered friends behave when we are watching, and also when we are not. We will:
  • explore the mechanics of flight, including the anatomical structures that make bird flight possible (dissection included);
  • study “birds du jour” to discover the diversity of bird life right in northern New Jersey (and, in many cases, right at St. Benedict’s Prep);
  • examine mating and nesting behavior as they relate to a bird’s habitat;
  • determine the role of theft in a bird’s survival strategy;
  • describe the many ways in which birds use aggressive or sneaky behaviors to ensure their success;
  • evaluate the changes that occur in bird anatomy and behavior in response to environmental forces; and
  • answer the question “Is having a bird brain really an insult?”

History of Science

This course will provide you with a brief history of human scientific inquiry. As with any other field, the only way to truly understand where we are in science today is to look at what happened in the past. The history of science can teach us many lessons about how science should and should not be practiced. It can also help us understand the direction in which science is heading today. In the end, then, no one should undertake a serious study of science without first taking a look at its history. We will:

  • READ short biographies of important scientists and understand the historical background that existed during the time of their scientific work.
  • RELATE various scientific discoveries to work that others had performed in the past.
  • ANALYZE the relationships between philosophies, historical background and personalities and their effect on scientific inquiry.
  • SYNTHESIZE timelines that show connections between the political, cultural and scientific activities that existed during important periods in the world's history.