Science Courses


BIOLOGY (REGULAR AND ADVANCED)

This survey of biology includes investigations of the campus and mountain ecosystems, cell structure and function, genetics, evolution and human anatomy and physiology. In addition to classroom presentations, demonstrations and laboratory experiments, students carry out research on a study plot in the forest on the slopes of Mt. Everett.

 

CHEMISTRY (REGULAR AND ADVANCED)

Topics covered in the course include chemical formulas and equations, physical states of matter, solutions and suspensions, carbon and its compounds, chemical reactions, the periodic chart, and nuclear reactions. Laboratory exercises cover stoichiometry, measurement, empirical formulas, chemical reactions, heats of reaction, quantitative studies of reactions, gas laws, molecular reactions, rates, acid-base reactions, electrochemical cells, oxidation-reduction reactions, and qualitative chemistry.

Prerequisite: Algebra I

 

PHYSICS (REGULAR AND ADVANCED)

Physics is designed for the student who desires a deeper understanding of the physical world. Topics include linear mechanics, heat, light, sound, electro-magnetism and selected concepts of twentieth-century physics. Because the course applies mathematics to physical systems, students should have an adequate background in mathematics.

Prerequisite: Algebra II (may be taken concurrently)

 

ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE

The scientific concepts learned in this course provide the student with the principles required to understand the relationships in the natural world and the environmental problems facing the biosphere. The course includes a strong laboratory component allowing students to learn through hands-on observation. Much of the laboratory work involves PowerPoint presentations and the use of modern scientific technologies such as GIS (Geographical Information Systems) and GPS (Global Positioning System) to show students how ecologists gather and utilize information.

Prerequisite: Two core laboratory courses

 

SUSTAINABLE RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

(SEMESTER 1 AND/OR 2)
Students in this course are committed to making Berkshire School more environmentally sustainable. Students work directly with the day-to-day operations of the physical plant to support effective and ethical decision making in sustainability and to develop steps towards implementing the school’s sustainability plan. Success is monitored through an ongoing emissions inventory, waste and water management databases, and life cycle analysis. Students develop and construct major research projects, write position papers, and make formal presentations to different constituencies of the Berkshire community.
Prerequisite: Two core laboratory courses

 

ASTRONOMY

(SEMESTER 1 AND/OR 2)
Students in the first semester of Astronomy focus on the Solar System. They first consider the historical development of our modern picture of the Solar System and then consider the individual pieces of it: planets and their satellites, the asteroids, and comets. Students in the second semester broaden their perspective beyond our Solar System and study the universe as a whole. Stars, galaxies, and cosmologies are investigated. Current hot topics such as the big bang theory, black holes, and dark matter are discussed and debated.
Prerequisite: Two core laboratory courses

 

AVIATION SCIENCE

(SEMESTER 2)
This course prepares students to pass the FAA Ground School Certification Exam, an initial requirement for earning a pilot’s license. Students in the course sit for the 100-question multiple-choice examination in late May in hopes of earning certification. The course focuses on the study of aerodynamics, meteorology, navigation, radio communication, and instrumentation as they all relate to flying an airplane. Students use in-class flight simulators to gain experience with the controls and instruments used in flying. In addition to the academic work for the course, each student completes 6-10 hours of flight training with flying instructors at the Great Barrington Airport.
Prerequisite: Two core laboratory courses

 

PSYCHOLOGY

(SEMESTER 1 and/OR 2)
In first semester Psychology, students explore topics in neuroscience, child development, sensation, and perception. By semester’s end, students recognize the parts of the brain associated with everyday functions such as eating and sleeping, and understand why children cannot lie or recognize race and gender until a certain age. Students also examine illusions and discuss theories on how we see color and experience pain. In second semester Psychology, students study topics in learning, memory, personality, social and abnormal psychology. Students engage with famous psychologists such as Pavlov and Skinner, look into the controversial studies of Zimbarbo and Milgram, and explore the ideas of Freud and Jung. Throughout the semester, students consider how advertisers use the information psychologists have discovered to sell products and analyze the effectiveness of eyewitness testimonies. Students conclude the semester by working to understand the cause of disorders such as schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorder.

 

ADVANCED TOPICS: BIOLOGY

(SEMESTER 1 AND/OR 2)
This course is designed to give students extensive experience with experimental and research methods used in several different disciplines within the biological sciences.  The course includes presentation of background material through readings and class discussion and long-term experimental projects on various aspects of the topics. The first semester of the course focuses on aspects of genetics and biotechnology and the second semester focuses on ecological principles, populations and community structure.
Prerequisite: Biology and Chemistry

ADVANCED TOPICS: RENEWABLE ENERGY (S2)

In this experimentally-based course, students learn the laws of thermodynamics and investigate their application to the design and functioning of solar PV and solar thermal, wind and biomass systems. The course includes both laboratory and field experimentation and the analysis of data from the school’s solar field and Dashboard. Readings will be drawn from a variety of sources including scientific journals, magazines, and US Department of Energy publications. Course writings include reading-based questions and formal laboratory reports.
Prerequisites: completion of two years of laboratory science and completion of, or concurrent enrollment in, Algebra II or permission of the department.

 


 

ADVANCED MATH/SCIENCE RESEARCH

This yearlong course offers students seeking an independent laboratory experience an opportunity to design and execute an original research project of their choice in the biological, physical, or social sciences. Each student works in collaboration with a faculty mentor and a professional research scientist in a format determined by the student, the mentor, and the instructor. Students are required to work two weeks during the summer preceding their enrollment in the class. Students write a critical review paper and a research paper, both in scientific journal format, and present the results of their year’s research to members of the department and others in the Berkshire community. Enrollment in the class is limited. A TI-89 graphing calculator is required.
Prerequisite: Two core laboratory courses, Precalculus, and permission of the Department

 

ADVANCED PLACEMENT BIOLOGY

Designed for second-year biology students with a strong interest in biological science, this college-level offering prepares students to succeed on the Advanced Placement exam in Biology. Topics covered include biochemistry, cell structure and function, genetics, botany, evolution, ethology, ecology, and human physiology and anatomy. To afford extra time to meet AP curriculum requirements and to prepare for the examination, the class also meets one night each week.
Prerequisite: Biology, Chemistry and permission of the Department


ADVANCED PLACEMENT CHEMISTRY

This course prepares students to succeed on the Advanced Placement exam in Chemistry. Topics covered are the same as in the introductory course, but the approach is more formal and in greater detail. Strong performances in previous math and science courses are essential for success. Laboratory exercises are modeled on those designed for college freshmen; the mathematical skill level is appropriate for engineering and physical science majors. Topics include stoichiometry, acid-base equilibria, spectroscopy, and redox equilibria. A premium is placed on accuracy, precision and reproducibility in measurement and data analysis as such emphasis is essential for a heightened level of quantitative chemical analysis.
Prerequisite: Two core laboratory courses (one must be Chemistry), Precalculus (may be taken concurrently) and permission of the Department

 

ADVANCED PLACEMENT PHYSICS C: MECHANICS

This course is a preparation for the C-level Advanced Placement exam in Physics. The course offers a broad foundation in physics and is designed for those with interest in majoring in the physical sciences or engineering. Classical mechanics (kinematics through rotational motion and oscillations) are covered. Time permitting, electricity and magnetism are also studied.
Prerequisite: Two core laboratory courses (one must be Physics), Calculus and permission of the Department

 

ADVANCED PLACEMENT ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE

This year-long course is the equivalent of a one-semester, introductory college course in environmental science and prepares students for the Advanced Placement exam in Environmental Science. Students undertake a more advanced study of topics in ecology and environmental science by exploring the scientific principles, concepts, and methodologies required to understand the relationships of the natural world. The course includes a strong laboratory and field investigation component, allowing students to understand the environment through firsthand observation. Topics include ecosystem concepts, the biosphere, the atmosphere, human population dynamics, air, water and soil pollution, global climate changes, soil science, and choices for the future.
Prerequisite: Two core laboratory courses (one must be Chemistry) and permission of the Department

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