The mission of the Science Department at Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School is to help students develop the skills and knowledge to deeply explore scientific questions.

Students learn to make detailed observations, design and perform experiments, analyze data and communicate their results. They develop an understanding of basic principles of physical and life sciences and learn how data are collected, visualized and interpreted. They learn how to state a claim and provide evidence and reasoning to justify the claim. Finally, they illustrate the creative nature of scientific thought.

Course Offerings

Biology 9

This course follows a sequential, molecular-evolutionary approach to the investigation of living things in order to provide an introductory overview of major concepts in biology. Students take an in-depth look at cells as the basic unit of life, focusing on the details of cellular structures and functions. They apply their grasp of such critical processes as mitosis, meiosis and protein synthesis to explore the principles of genetics. An appreciation for the diversity of life is developed through examination of the historic and modern views of evolutionary theory. Students study ecological interactions among autotrophic and heterotrophic organisms in a unit on ecology. Human anatomy and physiology are explored to the appropriate level including examination of the digestive, respiratory, circulatory, reproductive and immune systems. Students engage in numerous laboratory investigations that provide valuable curricular connections and continue to develop their science writing and discussion skills.

Chemistry 10

This course introduces students to the major topics in chemistry and requires the ability to perceive abstract and quantitative relationships. The following topics are covered: atomic structure, names and formulas of compounds, mole and chemical equations, heat of reaction, the states of matter, the arrangement of electrons in atoms, the periodic table and chemical periodicity, bonding, solutions, kinetics, chemical equilibrium, acids/bases and electrochemistry. This introductory class is also a laboratory course. Lab sessions allow the students to gain experience in handling equipment, gathering data, making specific observations and drawing logical conclusions. Some experiments provide the student with opportunities for self-discovery, while others provide reinforcement. Students continue their lab writing and presentation skills throughout the year.

Chemistry: Structures and Reactions

In this introductory chemistry course, the basic concepts of chemistry are covered along with atomic bonding, types of chemical reactions and quantities. In addition, a review of important biochemistry concepts such as organic compounds and protein synthesis will be undertaken. At the end of this course, students can choose to take physics or other science electives. 

Honors Chemistry

This rigorous honors course introduces students to the major topics in chemistry and develops skills for comprehensive and creative scientific analysis. Topics are covered in great depth, both in terms of abstract conceptual investigation and challenging computational problem solving. The following topics are covered: matter and change, scientific measurement, atomic structure, electrons in atoms, the periodic table, ionic and metallic bonding, covalent bonding, chemical names and formulas, chemical reactions, chemical quantities, stoichiometry, solutions, thermodynamics, kinetics and acid­/base chemistry. This course has a laboratory session once a cycle where students gain experience in handling equipment, gathering data, making specific observations and drawing logical conclusions. Students are required to design and execute their own experiments and are responsible for adapting laboratory protocol under a variety of conditions. 

Grade 11 & 12 Physics

This is an algebra-­based introduction to classical mechanics, the study of motion and its causes. Topics include kinematics, Newton’s laws of motion, projectile motion, circular motion, gravity and orbits, rotational motion, momentum and energy. Conceptual understanding and analytical thinking are stressed in both the approach to the material, as well as the extensive hands­-on laboratory work. Students design and conduct experiments, analyze empirical data and formulate arguments based on it. In addition, they construct quantitative and qualitative explanations using physical laws and principles. Students learn how the discipline of physics describes the world around them and will develop their reasoning abilities.

Honors Modern Physics

This is an algebra­-based course on mostly modern physics. Topics include electrostatics, electrodynamics (moving charges, circuits), magnetism, electromagnetic waves, wave motion, special relativity, basic quantum physics (wave/­particle duality, superposition, Heisenberg uncertainty principle, key experiments, connections to chemistry, historical development and applications) and particle physics (discoveries of fundamental particles and their properties and the Standard Model). Emphasis is on conceptual understanding rather than mathematical rigor. This course is only offered to students who have previously taken a one year physics course.

Honors Physics/AP Physics I

This is an algebra-­based physics course that covers many of the same topics as Physics but at a slightly faster pace and, consequently covers the addition of simple harmonic motion, waves, electrostatics and circuits. This course culminates in the AP Physics 1 exam. 

Science Electives

About our Electives program: A hallmark of Columbia Prep is the value placed on individual students and their interests. Beginning in the ninth grade, the curriculum offer many electives in art, music, theater, technology and physical education. As the students progress through high school, they are given increasing autonomy to choose their courses and, by the time they reach their junior and senior years, they are creating their entire academic programs in all subjects — English, history, math, science, world language and all other elective courses. Harnessing and building upon their passions within the context of the courses results in interested, successful, and independent graduates who are ready for the next educational step in their lives. The elective system allows for flexibility in course offerings, so no two academic years are identical. Tenth graders, with the permission of their Dean, can choose a science elective in addition to their tenth grade science requirement.

Science Electives: Recent and current science electives include:

Honors Physics I and II
Engineering Physics
Organic Chemistry
Environmental Science
Human Anatomy and Physiology
Advanced Science Research

Advanced Science Research

Advanced Science Research (ASR) offers the student a chance to complete original research projects on a topic of choice in the areas of physical science (chemistry, physics, engineering, earth and space sciences), life science (biology, medicine and health,  and environmental science), mathematics and computers, or social science (psychology and anthropology). This is a challenging course designed to inculcate a strong foundation in personal responsibility, self­-reliance, creative problem solving and advanced interpersonal communication skills. ASR is a three­-year commitment for rising sophomores.

AP Environmental Science

The AP Environmental Science course is designed to be the equivalent of a one semester, introductory college course in environmental science. Environmental science is an interdisciplinary science, meaning it incorporates the fields of biology, geology, physics and chemistry in one field of study. AP Environmental Science focuses on the interaction between the living and non­living aspects of the environment. This is a rigorous laboratory science course that stresses scientific principles and analysis, while also emphasizing environmental issues from sociological and economic perspectives. The goal of the AP Environmental Science course is to provide students with the scientific principles, concepts and methodologies required to understand the interrelationships of the natural world, to identify and analyze environmental problems both natural and human-made, to evaluate the relative risks associated with these problems and to examine alternative solutions for resolving and/or preventing them. 

AP Biology

 The AP Biology course is designed to enable students to develop advanced inquiry and reasoning skills, such as designing a plan for collecting data, analyzing data, applying mathematical routines and connecting concepts in and across domains. This AP Biology course is equivalent to a two­-semester college introductory biology course. The course is structured around four big ideas. First, evolution, including the process of evolution as it drives the diversity and unity of life; second, cellular processes, energy and communication—how biological systems utilize free energy and molecular building blocks to grow, reproduce and maintain dynamic homeostasis; third, genetics and information transfer, where living systems store, retrieve, transmit and respond to information essential to life processes; and fourth, interactions of biological systems and their complex properties.

AP Chemistry

 This AP Chemistry course is designed to be the equivalent of the general chemistry course usually taken during the first year of college. For some students, this course enables them to undertake, as college freshmen, second­-year work in the chemistry sequence in college or to register for courses in other fields where general chemistry is a prerequisite. Students should attain a depth of understanding of the fundamentals of chemistry and reasonable competence in dealing with chemical problems. The course will also allow students to develop their ability to think clearly and to express their ideas, orally and in writing, with clarity and logic. Furthermore, the laboratory work will be equivalent to a first­-year college chemistry course and will require a higher degree of technique, analysis and accuracy than what is expected of first-­year high school chemistry students. 

Advanced Physics: Electricity & Magnetism/AP Physics C E&M

This is a calculus-­based course in which students will study electrostatics (Coulomb’s Law and Gauss’s Law), electrodynamics, DC circuits (capacitors, inductors and resistors), magnetism (Biot-­Savart Law and Ampere’s Law), Maxwell’s equations and other topics, including relativistic electrodynamics and vector calculus. Rigorous mathematical justification will be a priority. Students will regularly prepare and present formal problem solutions and review presentations and will design labs. This course culminates in the AP Physics C E&M exam. 

Advanced Physics: Mechanics/AP Physics C Mechanics

This is a calculus-­based course in which students will study kinematics, dynamics, momentum, energy, rotational motion, rotational dynamics, simple harmonic motion and gravity. Rigorous mathematical justification will be a priority. Students will regularly prepare and present formal problem solutions and review presentations and will design labs. This course culminates in the AP Physics C Mechanics exam.