Science Department

Canterbury's science curriculum provides students with a rich array of traditional, advanced, and elective courses in the physical and biological sciences. AP courses are offered in biology, chemistry and physics. The science faculty bring diverse backgrounds and advanced degrees to the classroom, and are passionate about engaging each student with inquiry-based labs and modern applications of science and technology. Using critical thinking skills and experiential learning, students collaborate in the design and interpretation of laboratory experiments.

Field trips are an essential part of the science curriculum. Recent field trips include an Environmental Science class trip to the Aspetuck River to collect data and an AP Biology trip to Long Island Sound. Active engagement with state-of-the-art technology prepares students for science courses in college. Electives to pique student interest range from a course on the Biology of the Brain to a course on the Science of West Africa, taught by a former Peace Corps volunteer. See the Academic Guide for more information on science courses.

DISCOVER

  • Investigate how different wave lengths of light affect growth and oxygen production in aquatic plants in biology.
  • Flame test various salts in chemistry to identify each compound's metal ion.
  • Identify unknowns in chemistry lab by testing and characterizing compounds.


COLLABORATE

  • Work in pairs to solve problems and present solutions to classmates in physics.
  • Create an instructional video tutorial with classmates in physics lab on the mechanical advantage of a system of pulleys.
  • Use an app to create an instructional tutorial for your classmates on drawing Lewis structures in chemistry.

EXPERIENCE

  • Collect specimens from the Aspetuck River as part of an environmental study for the State of Connecticut.
  • Join your AP Biology class on a field trip to Long Island Sound
  • Cultivate and examine bacteria in microbiology.
  • Extract and isolate caffeine from tea in introduction to organic chemistry.

Courses

BIOLOGY (LAB)*

This introductory laboratory course explores a molecular approach to the study of living systems by examining evolutionary development, genetic continuity, and biological and ecological diversity. Using actual data from laboratory evidence, the student develops analytic skills consistent with the biological themes of change, diversity, energy, homeostasis and scientific inquiry. In the lab students investigate the molecular and cellular structures of living organisms, proceeding to larger and more inclusive organizational levels. This course provides many of the primary skills and knowledge necessary for success in the study of subsequent science courses. Primarily for Third Formers.

HONORS BIOLOGY (LAB)*

This course includes an in-depth coverage of living systems with extensive laboratory experiences. Students develop analytic skills consistent with the biological themes of change, diversity, energy, homeostasis and scientific inquiry. Students must demonstrate excellent understanding of the molecular and cellular structures of living organisms. In the lab, students investigate the molecular and cellular structures of living organisms, proceeding to larger and more inclusive organizational levels. In inquiry-based laboratory experiments students learn to critically analyze and interpret data. Students are prepared to take the SAT subject test in biology at the end of the school year. Enrollment is determined by the department and the Donovan Center for Learning. Primarily for Third Formers.

ADVANCED PLACEMENT BIOLOGY (LAB)*

Students explore science as a process where new properties emerge at each level in the biological hierarchy. They explore how organisms interact with each other and with the physical environment, energy transfer and transformation, and the correlation of structure and function at all levels of biological organization. Studying cells as an organism’s basic unit, they proceed to studies of the heritable continuity of life in the form of DNA, the feedback mechanisms that regulate biological systems, and evolution as the overarching theme of biology. A strong emphasis on advanced laboratory analysis is critical for understanding the molecular and chemical functions of living organisms and systems. To enroll in this course students must have successfully completed honors biology and honors chemistry. Students enrolled in this course are required to take the AP Biology exam in May. For Fifth and Sixth Formers.

CHEMISTRY (LAB)*

This introductory laboratory course covers fundamental chemical concepts and helps students develop their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Students learn about matter, physical and chemical properties and changes, chemical composition and nomenclature, reactions and stoichiometry, energy, modern atomic theory and bonding, gases, liquids, solids, solutions, acids and bases, and equilibrium. The course may be blended and include interactive activities and assignments in both traditional and web-based formats. Students practice collaboration and problem solving in the laboratory as well as at the whiteboards. In weekly laboratories, students observe and explore chemical phenomena in inquiry-based labs. Students keep a laboratory notebook and learn to collect, analyze, interpret, and present experimental data. A balance of traditional low-tech equipment and state-of-the-art probeware is used. Minimum prerequisite: successful completion of one year of algebra is required. For Fourth and Fifth Formers.

HONORS CHEMISTRY (LAB)*

This in-depth laboratory course covers fundamental chemical concepts and helps students develop their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Students learn about matter, physical and chemical properties and changes, chemical composition and nomenclature, reactions and stoichiometry, energy, modern atomic theory and bonding, gases, liquids, solids, solutions, acids and bases, equilibrium, electrochemistry, and nuclear chemistry. The course is blended and includes interactive activities and assignments in both traditional and web-based formats. Students practice collaboration and problem solving in the laboratory as well as at the whiteboards. In weekly laboratories, students observe and explore chemical phenomena in inquiry-based labs. Students keep a laboratory notebook and learn to collect, analyze, interpret, and present experimental data. A balance of traditional low-tech equipment and state of the art probeware is used. Students are encouraged to take the SAT subject test in chemistry at the end of the school year. Department approval is required. For Fourth and Fifth Formers.

ADVANCED PLACEMENT CHEMISTRY (LAB)*

Students perform advanced chemical calculations (using data acquired) during laboratory experimentation. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills are developed as students learn about atomic theory and structure, chemical bonding, nuclear chemistry, gas laws, and kinetic-molecular theory, reaction types, stoichiometry, equilibrium, and thermochemistry. To enroll in this course students must have successfully completed Honors Chemistry and Algebra II. Students enrolled in this course are required to take the AP Chemistry exam in May. For Fifth and Sixth Formers.

PHYSICS (LAB)*

This is an introductory, laboratory-based course that emphasizes a conceptual understanding of physics. Topics covered include kinematics, Newtonian mechanics, momentum, collisions, energy, electricity and magnetism, heat, sound and light. Numerous real-world applications are explored so that students come away from the course understanding the rules of nature and how things work. In the laboratory, students observe and explore physical phenomena and ultimately design experiments in inquiry-based labs. Experimental design methods, laboratory data analysis techniques and error analysis are covered. A balance of traditional low-tech equipment and state-of-the-art probeware is used to appeal to a wide variety of learners. Minimum prerequisite: Algebra II, concurrently. For Fifth and Sixth Formers.

ADVANCED PLACEMENT PHYSICS 1 (LAB)*

In this college level course, topics are covered in-depth and the material is cumulative. In the first semester, students study kinematics, Newton’s laws, work, energy and power, as well as momentum and collisions. In the second semester they study circular motion and the universal law of gravitation, simple harmonic motion, introductory circuits, mechanical waves and sound. Additional topics may include optics, thermal physics and modern physics. Collaborative work is promoted in problem solving, laboratory experiments, and presentations. In the laboratory, students observe and explore physical phenomena and ultimately design experiments in inquiry-based labs. Experimental methods and techniques of data collection, interpretation and error analysis are covered. A balance of traditional low-tech equipment and state-of-the-art probeware is used. Students are required to take the AP Physics 1 test in May. Prerequisites: Honors Chemistry, Honors Pre-Calculus, concurrently. Department approval is required. For Fifth and Sixth Formers.

ADVANCED PLACEMENT PHYSICS C (LAB)*

In this college level course, topics are covered in-depth and the material is cumulative. In the first semester, students study kinematics, Newton’s laws, work, energy, and power, linear momentum and collisions, circular motion and rotations oscillations and the universal law of gravitation. In the second semester they study electrostatics, conductors and dielectrics, circuits, magnetic fields and electromagnetism. Introductory differential and integral calculus is used throughout the course. Collaborative work is promoted in problem solving. In the laboratory, students observe and explore physical phenomena and ultimately design experiments in inquiry-based labs. Experimental methods and techniques of data collection interpretation and error analysis are covered. A balance of traditional low-tech equipment and state-of-the-art probeware is used. Students are required to take the AP Physics C Mechanics test and the AP Physics C Electricity and Magnetism test in May. Minimum prerequisites: Honors Chemistry and Calculus, concurrently. Department approval is required. For Fifth and Sixth Formers.

ADVANCED PLACEMENT PSYCHOLOGY

The Advanced Placement Psychology course is designed to introduce students to the systematic and scientific study of the behavior and mental processes of human beings and other animals. Students are exposed to the psychological facts, principles, and phenomena associated with each of the major subfields within psychology. They also learn about the ethics and methods psychologists use in their science and practice. Students are required to take the AP Psychology exam in May.

ECOLOGY (LAB)* (FALL)

This semester lab course introduces basic concepts in the ecology of individual organisms, their populations, and the biological communities in which they live. Emphasis is on terrestrial plant and animal ecology. The historical, evolutionary, and ecological processes determining the distribution of ecosystems, habitats, and species are introduced. Theories of competition, predation, disease, and mutualism help explain the functioning of biological communities. For Third and Fourth Formers.

BIOME ECOLOGY (FALL)

The science of Biome Ecology classifies Earth’s terrestrial ecosystems into major ecological units that are correlated with regional climate types. The course begins with a basic overview of the principles of ecology. Students study Tropical Rainforests, Tropical Dry Forests, Tropical Savannas, Temperate Grasslands, Mediterranean Scrub Forests, Taiga, and Temperate Rain Forests, Deserts, Deciduous Forests, Tundra, and Rivers and Lakes. Students study the human impact on each of the ecosystems. Students must have successfully completed a course in introductory biology. For Fifth and Sixth Formers.

SCIENCE OF WEST AFRICA (SPRING)

In this course students study the sub-Saharan region of Africa. Through investigations of the impact of biology, ecology, and geography the students learn about the complex struggles people face in their struggle to become a modern global society. Students study biomes and resources to better understand the ecological issues of concern in West Africa. Students learn about the life-threatening impacts of human disease, desertification, and population pressures. Also included in the course studies are examinations of the relationship of geographical and ecological issues to political trends and events such as colonialism, civil wars, slavery (past and present), and genocide. For Fifth & Sixth Formers.

ANIMAL ANATOMY (LAB)* (FALL OR SPRING)

Students in this course study the anatomy of a diverse selection of animal life. They learn the homologous and analogous structures and functions found in invertebrates and vertebrates. Students investigate structures at the cellular level through microscopes; the study of larger animals involves the dissection of preserved specimens. The course will also include how today’s newer classification system reflects a more phylogenetic arrangement and more consistent evolutionary relationships. Prerequisite: Biology. For Fourth and Fifth Formers.

ENGINEERING FUNDAMENTALS (FALL OR SPRING)

This course encourages students to pursue engineering questions and technological solutions that emphasize research and problem solving using mathematical and scientific concepts. Students achieve a more advanced level of skill in engineering design by learning how to conceptualize a problem, develop possible solutions, design and build prototypes or models, and make modifications if necessary. Students will explore engineering design, construction technologies, energy and power technologies including fluid systems, thermal systems, electrical systems, and communication and manufacturing technologies. For Fifth and Sixth Formers.

ASTRONOMY

This semester course is an introduction to the mysteries of the heavens. Readings in the course explore modern theories of cosmology and the efforts of 20th century astronomers to explore and explain the universe. This course begins with a brief overview of the fundamental physics principles that are central to an understanding of astronomy: forces and motions, the nature of gravity, and light and optics. We continue with an examination of our sun and solar system and move on to a more general study of stellar evolution and galaxy formation. Next, we explore a wide range of exotic astronomical phenomena that the heavens hold--quasars, pulsars, black holes, and supernova--as fascinating as they are bizarre. The study of these objects leads into a discussion of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. Finally, we consider the possibility of extraterrestrial life and ponder the question: “Are we alone?” For Fifth and Sixth Formers.

FORENSIC SCIENCE (FALL OR SPRING)

This semester course introduces students to the principles and practices found in the field of forensic science, which draws from the biological and physical sciences. The course begins by examining the theories and concepts necessary to effectively examine, analyze, and reconstruct a major crime scene. Specifically, the legal issues related to the search and seizure of physical evidence, crime scene documentation techniques, and basic crime scene reconstruction methods will be studied. Students will also study trace evidence and how it is analyzed, compared, interpreted, and used in criminal investigations. Types of trace evidence to be discussed will include glass, paint, hair, fiber, and fingerprints. Case studies of actual crimes and trials will be discussed to illustrate how the science and techniques may be used in the real world. For Fifth and Sixth Formers.

ANATOMY AND INJURY (LAB) (FALL OR SPRING)

Anatomy and Injury instructs the student in the basic structural and functional anatomy of the human body as it relates to the injuries typically treated by a certified athletic trainer. This course is recommended for those interested in majoring in athletic training at the college level. In addition to class instruction and homework assignments, students must complete required observation hours in the training room where they make basic evaluations of injured fellow students. For Fifth and Sixth Formers.

ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE (LAB)* (SPRING)

Using the Canterbury environs as a case study, students explore forest, field, and pond ecosystems, pollution of air, water and soil, toxic waste, carbon footprints, population growth, and environmental activism. Primary reading sources include the Internet, newspapers, and scholarly journal. Students conduct laboratory studies of water quality and the dominant populations of living organisms on the East Aspetuck River in New Milford. In conjunction with the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, students collect chemical and biological data and analyze it to determine levels of water quality. For Third and Fourth Formers. 

MARINE SCIENCE (SPRING)

Students study the diversity of marine organisms, from the smallest plankton to the largest whales. Investigations of the major marine environments focus on the complexity of living systems and the resulting interactions between organisms. Students learn that global weather patterns, currents, and tides are crucial to marine life. Lecture presentations, interactive discussions, multimedia materials, and laboratory studies are used to stimulate interest and to promote academic success. The class takes a full-day field trip to the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, CT. The day includes a research trip or excursion on Long Island Sound. Students must have successfully completed an introductory biology course to enroll in this class. For Fifth & Sixth Formers

WATER, ENERGY & CLIMATE (SPRING)

This course examines three major environmental issues facing our planet: freshwater quality, energy resources, and climate change. Ways of combating and improving these issues are addressed as well. Lecture presentations, interactive discussions, and multi-media materials are used to stimulate interest in the studies and to promote academic success. Two full-day trips give students actual hands-on experience. For Fifth & Sixth Formers.

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