Science at Walker's

Science

Philosophy

Science at Walker'sAt Walker’s, students actively engage in science and learn the fundamental principles, as well as basic skills that extend across all of the science disciplines.

With this foundation, we foster inquiry-based discovery, research-oriented coursework, and student-driven learning about topics that interest our students and that are relevant to their lives. As science educators, we encourage our students to become independent thinkers and lifetime learners. We help them to develop the confidence to be able to solve unfamiliar problems by applying their underlying skills and knowledge, and the courage to be resilient as they work to design solutions to these problems.

We strive to make our classes comfortable places for girls to question and explore, and we work closely with each student to identify her strengths and challenges so that she can experience success and cultivate her own scientific potential. Students practice science skills, interweave topics, and apply critical-thinking skills to answer scientific questions through the development of well-designed experiments. Students collaborate with each other during lab and classroom activities and learn how to analyze data, and draw conclusions based on their observations and experimentation. Students also discover the importance of communicating their findings and they gain valuable presentation skills in the process.

In our science classes, we create a culture of curiosity and encourage students to question the natural world around them, to seek solutions that will make the world better, to be critical consumers of scientific information and recognize bias. We strive to nurture students who are not only future scientists, but also citizen scientists and informed future voters, mindful of the scientific issues that are locally and globally relevant.

Each student is required to take three years of science, which includes physics during ninth grade, chemistry during tenth grade, and biology during eleventh or twelfth grade. The concept of “physics first” provides students with a strong scientific foundation on which chemistry, biology, and all science electives are built. Most students at Walker’s go beyond the graduation requirement and take science courses all four years, with some even doubling up in science during eleventh and twelfth grades.

Faculty

Suzanne Piela

Suzanne Piela

Chair, Science Department and Science Teacher
B.S., University of Notre Dame
D.V.M., University of Minnesota
Melissa Bernardo

Melissa Bernardo

Science Teacher
B.A., Eastern Connecticut State University
Ph.D., Wesleyan University
Mary Beth Conley

Mary Beth Conley

Psychology Teacher, Academic Support Coordinator
B.A., Holy Cross College
M.A., Pepperdine University
Julie Greshin

Julie Greshin

Middle School Math/Science Teacher
B.S., Tufts University
M.S., Duke University
Emma Mitchell

Emma Mitchell

Physics Teacher
B.A., Vassar College
Ph.D., University of Virginia
Sandra Quinlan

Sandra Quinlan

Chemistry Teacher
B.A., SUNY
M.A., Syracuse University
Julia Sheldon

Julia Sheldon

Science Teacher
B.S., University of California at San Diego
M.S., Yale University
Ph.D., Yale University

Courses

Middle School Courses

Ecology

Required for Grade 6

How can we determine which clear liquid is water if we are not allowed to taste it? How can we design a healthy, satisfying meal plan for astronauts in space with limited room and an even more limited budget? How do we build the tallest, most stable structure with a limited amount of straws, tape and paperclips?

This project-based course encourages students to think creatively as they are presented with a variety of scientific problems to solve, none of which has just one solution. Students work collaboratively as they design and test their ideas, and then learn how to rethink their projects if and when they don’t succeed the first time. Along the way, we hope to ignite a love of science and a natural curiosity about the world around us.

Human Biology

Required for Grade 7

This course covers how the human body works from the cellular level to the body systems. It includes the scientific method, cell theory, cell reproduction, genetics and the human body systems. Our emphasis will be on how to be healthy and how the body keeps itself healthy. Lab work, dissections, study skills, and current events will be integral parts of the course.

Earth Science

Required for Grade 8

This course introduces many of the basic themes of the Earth Sciences, including both Geology and Astronomy. Students are given the chance to pursue their individual interests, as well, by means of independent projects assigned on various topics throughout the year.

Upper School Courses

Physics 9

Required for Grade 9
Credit: 1

The concepts and analytical techniques of physics underlie the major concepts of biology and chemistry, and a mastery of these physics concepts is a prerequisite for success in all scientific fields. Laboratory work and mathematical skills are given equal emphasis with conceptual understanding. Students will also be taught to solve quantitative problems and to collect, analyze, and present data in both written and oral form.

Honors Physics 9

Open to Grade 9
Prerequisite: Departmental approval and concurrent enrollment in Honors Geometry or a higher level math course
Credit: 1

This course covers the same content areas as Physics 9 but moves more rapidly and involves more in-depth mathematical analysis and problem solving.

Chemistry

Open to Grades: 10-12
Prerequisite: Algebra 1
Credit: 1

Chemistry is a laboratory-based course that encourages students to take their conceptual understanding of science and apply these principles to everyday phenomena. The course covers the scientific method, atomic theory, nuclear chemistry, chemical reactions, stoichiometry, aqueous chemistry, bonding, acid-base chemistry, organic chemistry and gas laws.

Honors Chemistry

Open to Grades: 10-12
Prerequisite: Honors Physics 9 and concurrent enrollment in Honors Algebra 2 or department approval
Credit: 1

The Honors Chemistry course covers the same content as the regular Chemistry course but is faster paced and requires greater depth of analysis. This is a rigorous course with high expectations for student effort and commitment.

Advanced Chemistry

Open to Grades 11-12
Prerequisite: Completion of Honors Chemistry and department approval
Credit: 1

This course is the equivalent of a college-level introductory course in chemistry. This course emphasizes the advanced topics of equilibrium, kinetics and thermodynamics. This course is offered every other year (not offered in 2018-2019).

Engineering

Open to Grades 10 – 12
Prerequisite: Department approval
Credit: .5

This is a semester-long course for students who have demonstrated passion for overcoming challenges in innovative ways. Through this 100% hands-on, project-based course, students will immerse themselves in the process of engineering – defining a problem and identifying its constraints, brainstorming solutions, creating and evaluating a prototype, iterating to improve their prototype, and communicating their solution. Students will develop confidence and fluidity in this process over the course of the semester. The challenges encountered in this course will focus on different types of engineering, possibly including mechanical, electrical, civil, and environmental engineering. Students will develop skills in group collaboration and will be encouraged to make use of all of their available tools and resources. Students will be evaluated based on in-class engagement, fulfillment of project components, documentation of their unique engineering process, written reflections, and analysis of work.

Biology

Open to Grades 11-12
Prerequisites: Chemistry
Credit: 1

This first-year course surveys the field of biology from biochemistry, cells and genetics to evolution, microbiology, plants and animals. Many of the most important topics in biology rely heavily on an understanding of the fundamental concepts from physics and chemistry. Generous amounts of laboratory work allow students to work independently. Through fieldwork, they will become familiar with the woodlands and ponds that surround the School and will come to appreciate the diversity of life that exists in our community. They will learn to collect and analyze samples, use microscopes, conduct experiments, and do research.

Honors Biology

Open to Grades 11-12
Prerequisites: Chemistry and department approval
Credit: 1

The Honors Biology course proceeds at a faster pace than the regular Biology course, and requires students to integrate multiple chapters at one time in their analysis of the material. Laboratory work is more demanding and allows students to have more independence concerning laboratory design.

Advanced Biology

Open to Grades 11-12
Prerequisites: Completion of Biology and Chemistry and departmental approval
Credit: 1

Exceptional students may be allowed to enroll in this course as their biology course, which is the equivalent of a college-level introductory biology course. Topics covered in depth include biochemistry, cells, heredity, evolution, organisms and populations. The course is demanding, moves quickly, and requires a great deal of independent work outside of class.

Honors Biochemistry: From Microbes to Molecules

Open to Grades 11-12
Prerequisites: completion of Chemistry and Biology and department approval
(Possible concurrent enrollment with Honors or Advanced Biology)
Credit: 1

This course will be run in partnership with the Tiny Earth Network (TEN), an innovative program that encourages students to pursue careers in science while addressing a worldwide health threat – the diminishing supply of effective antibiotics. It centers around an introductory biochemistry course in which students conduct original hands-on field and laboratory research in the hunt for new antibiotics. Through a series of student-driven experiments, students will collect soil samples, isolate diverse bacteria, test their bacteria against clinically-relevant microorganisms, and characterize those showing inhibitory activity. This is particularly relevant since over two thirds of antibiotics originate from soil bacteria or fungi. SWI’s approach provides a unique platform to crowdsource medical breakthroughs by tapping into the intellectual power of many people concurrently addressing a global challenge and advances promising candidates into the drug development pipeline.

Physics 11-12

Open to Grades 11-12
Credit: 1

Physics 11-12 is designed for students who enter Walker's after ninth grade and who have not yet taken Physics. This course examines everyday phenomena such as motion, wave phenomena, and electricity and magnetism. The goal is to apply fundamental principles to understanding common occurrences and devices. There is an equal emphasis on understanding concepts and solving quantitative problems. Students learn to rely on analysis rather than memory. Laboratory work and lab reports are two very important parts of this course, and includes emphasis on clear thinking and concise writing. The mathematical analysis of data and error is explored in depth. This is a hands-on, laboratory-based course.

Honors Physics 11-12

Open to Grades 11-12
Prerequisites: Chemistry, Honors Math placement and department approval
Credit: 1

This course is designed for students who enter Walker's after ninth grade and who have not yet taken Physics. Honors Physics explores the fundamental concepts of physics. This course emphasizes understanding the basic forces and phenomena of the physical world and applying that understanding to practical situations. Students will learn to rely on analysis rather than memory. The course is more in-depth and proceeds at a faster pace than the regular Physics course. Laboratory work and lab reports are two very important parts of this course, with an emphasis on clear thinking and concise writing. The mathematical analysis of data and error is explored in depth. This is a hands-on, laboratory-based course. This course is offered every other year (not offered in 2018-2019).

Advanced Physics

Open to Grades: 11-12
Prerequisites: Completion of a year-long physics course and department approval
Credit: 1

Advanced Physics is a second-year physics course that addresses topics normally covered in an introductory college physics course. Major topics may include kinematics, dynamics, energy, wave phenomena, electricity, and magnetism. The course uses mathematical concepts from algebra and geometry. The course is rigorous, mathematical, and fast paced, and assumes the student is comfortable with all aspects of mathematical problem solving.

Advanced Psychology

Open to Grades 11-12 (Open to juniors by department approval)
Prerequisites: Completion of Biology and recommendation of the Science Department
Credit: 1

Advanced Psychology is a rigorous senior science elective designed to encourage students to think critically, synthesize current research, and develop a deep understanding of the scientific study of behavior and mental processes. Topics will include: history and approaches; research methodology and statistics; biological bases of behavior; behavior genetics; sensation and perception; states of consciousness; theories of learning; memory; cognition; language development; motivation emotion and stress; life-span development; theories of personality; intelligence and individual differences; abnormal psychology; treatment of psychological disorders; and social psychology. Students will conduct an in-depth literature review to be presented at the end of the school year.

Astronomy

Open to Grades: 11-12
Credit: 1
Exceptional sophomores may be allowed to enroll in this class concurrently with Honors Chemistry.

Astronomy is a year-long course that explores the origin, structure, evolution, and fate of the universe and the objects in it. Topics will include the solar system and other planetary systems, gravity and orbits, the structure and evolution of stars, galaxies and their creation, and black holes and supernovae. Students will also learn about the basics of Einstein's theories of special and general relativity, current questions about the mysterious presence of dark matter and dark energy, and the search for habitable planets and extraterrestrial life. We will also discuss the history of human knowledge of our place in the universe, including the astronomy of the ancient Greeks, Kepler, Newton, Hubble, and modern astronomical techniques and space missions. The course will include observations using Ethel Walker's van Gemeren Observatory. Some physics is included in the course, but concurrent enrollment in Physics is acceptable. This course is offered every other year (not offered in 2018-2019).

Human Anatomy and Physiology

Open to Grades 11-12
Prerequisites: Current enrollment in or completion of biology
Credit: 1

The Human Anatomy and Physiology class is a year-long course covering all 12 of the human body systems. Each body system will be studied on the basis of structure, function, and disorders. Class assessments will include homework, tests, projects, and labs. Students will also be introduced to medical journals, current event articles, and guest speakers. Labs will include microbiology, pathology, hematology, and nonhuman dissection. This course is offered every other year (not offered in 2018-2019).

Equine Science

Open to Grades 11-12
Prerequisites: Current enrollment in or completion of biology
Credit: 1

This course will introduce students to the many aspects of equine science and medicine. Students will acquire a general foundation of equine anatomy and physiology as well as an understanding of equine general care, nutrition, common diseases, and sports medicine through lectures, laboratories, and extensive case studies. Students will have hands-on laboratories at Walker’s barn as well as classroom-based laboratories.

Tropical Ecology

Open to Grades 11-12
Credit: 1

Tropical ecosystems contain some of the most diverse habitats on the planet. These systems are both unique and fragile compared to temperate systems, and are threatened by climate change and human activities. This course is designed to provide students with a general understanding of tropical ecology and conservation and to enhance student research skills. Students will be responsible for weekly readings, leading class discussions, presentations and various writing assignments, including a research proposal required for the field aspect of the course.

News and Photos

Middle School Science Classes Take Their Learning Outdoors

Julie Greshin's Earth Science classes headed out into the woods to test their knowledge of the rocks types they had just learned in the classroom. Ecology students enjoyed the chance to study the ecological principles they are learning about in the classroom by heading into Walker's Woods.

Connected Through Science: Walker's and The Jackson Laboratory

When Isabelle Chen, a senior at The Ethel Walker School in Simsbury, Conn., met Ann Bresnahan '69 during a science alumnae panel discussion at Bresnahan's 50-year high school reunion, the two knew that they shared a passion for science. But they had no idea that they also shared a special connection with The Jackson Laboratory (JAX).