Science is everywhere. Our students begin with this simple notion and they develop a deep understanding of the principles and rules that govern the universe. A Physics class discusses the energy of a falling leaf, which converts from potential to kinetic, but also creates friction and heat as it presses on air molecules and the air presses back. While hiking through the back campus, an Environmental Science class observes a leaf decaying on the forest floor and discusses how nutrients and matter are recycled in the biosphere. As the students return from their hike, the Biology teacher strolls by, points to a caterpillar munching on a leaf and reminds the students that macromolecules from food are recycled into all body structures. The students remember their lesson from Chemistry—that we balance a chemistry equation because matter is never created or destroyed, merely recycled into another form. Thus the fundamental systems that guide our universe build upon each other and are reinforced at every turn.
Our Science department fosters curiosity about the world and creates students able to succeed in future scientific study. Through discussions, active discovery, experiments and group projects, we encourage our students to think, take intellectual risks and try, even if the outcome leads them to revise their understanding. Our students learn to work together, respect each other’s ideas and talents, and celebrate the camaraderie and success that comes with like minds involved in critical thinking and problem solving.
Most students begin with the study of Biology in the freshman year and advance to Chemistry or Physics as their mathematical proficiency increases. After the first two years of study, their interest and skills guide them as they explore the wide range of science courses offered.
Prerequisites: None. Open to all who have not already taken Biology, mainly students in grades 9 and 10.
In Biology, students explore the fundamental structures of life, beginning with the principles that control atoms and molecules and building upon those principles as they journey through cells, genetics, the evolution of living organisms and culminating with the complexity of the human body. In the lab, students improve their observation skills and learn to use the scientific method to analyze complex natural systems and a variety of organisms. Students improve study habits and develop the critical thinking skills necessary to grasp intricate biological concepts.
Prerequisites: Algebra I and success in previous science courses
Honors Biology is an introduction to the study of living things and their interdependence with other organisms and their environment. Upon completion of this course, students should have gained an understanding of basic biological concepts. Topics to be covered include biochemistry, cells, metabolism, genetics, evolution, nucleic acid synthesis and function, and plant biology. Regular work in the laboratory, along with analysis of results and formal presentation of findings, will be an important component of this course.
1. Support of the department and recommendation of the current science teacher 2. Completion of both regular/Honors Biology and regular/ Honors Chemistry with an average of 88 or better on each 3. PSAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score of 530 or better (or an equivalent score on the SAT, Pre-ACT or ACT) 4. Score > 3 on previous AP exams taken
Students are guided through an exploration of the recurring themes of biological processes in the equivalent of a college introductory Biology course. By making connections among biological principles, complex topics are simplified. For instance, the large area of respiratory surfaces serves the same function as the highly convoluted inner mitochondrial membrane—more space to do cellular work. Students also are required to put their knowledge into practice through review and discussion of current scientific findings. Learning is reinforced with demonstrations, animations, simulations and labs. Topics covered include biochemistry, cell structure and function, energetics, heredity, molecular genetics, DNA technology, evolutionary biology, diversity of life, human biology, plant biology and ecology.
Prerequisite: Successful completion of Biology. Open to all grade levels, mainly students in grades 10 and 11.
Students studying chemistry examine the makeup of all atomic and molecular forms of matter and the laws that guide matter’s interactions. This allows students to understand some of nature’s seemingly magical transformations, like the fact that two caustic and volatile substances such as chlorine and sodium combine to form a fundamental requirement for human life—salt. To build on these fundamental principles, students develop mathematical tools that allow them to predict how matter will behave. Through strengthening their mathematical skills, students gain confidence in their ability to grasp complex chemical concepts. In the lab, students practice the principles of scientific research as they conduct various experiments, collect data, and report their findings.
Prerequisite: Completion of Biology (90% or better) or Honors Biology (85% or better)
In Honors Chemistry, students examine the makeup of all atomic, elemental, and molecular forms of matter and the laws that guide matter’s interactions. They develop an understanding of atomic structure and the elemental properties that arise from that structure, recognizing the patterns and distinctions between materials. Understanding fundamental principles of the universe like the electric force between charges and conservation of matter, honors students learn to predict the outcome of complex chemical reactions. Students also calculate the required amounts of reactants and the expected amounts of products using stoichiometry. In the lab, students use various methods to analyze compounds. Additionally, students will create their own hypotheses and will design experiments to test these predictions, and will refine their understanding of results through data analysis.
1. Support of the department and recommendation of the current science teacher 2. Completion of a previous chemistry course, earning 90 or better in Chemistry or 85 or better in Honors Chemistry 3. Completion of Honors Algebra II/Trigonometry with an average of 85 or better 4. PSAT Math score of 550 or better (or an equivalent score on the Pre-ACT, SAT or ACT) 5. Score > 3 on previous AP exams taken
Advanced Placement Chemistry covers many topics from previous studies in greater detail and new subjects are explored. Particular attention is placed on predicting if a reaction will happen and why some reactions, like rusting, are terribly slow, while other reactions, like the explosion of dynamite, are incredibly fast. Problem-solving skills will develop significantly as students answer complex and multi-layered problems. Laboratory experiments require students to master lab techniques and to properly use various pieces of lab equipment. Students will be challenged to empirically analyze the results and explain sources of error in experiments. The work and level of thinking required in AP Chemistry are equivalent to that required in a college-level class.
Prerequsite: Algebra II. Open to students in grades 10 through 12.
In Physics, students explore the fundamental laws of the universe. They refine their algebraic abilities as they learn problem-solving techniques that apply to many scenarios and translate to many others, including a water balloon launched out of a slingshot, a rollercoaster rounding a loop, a sound wave striking the eardrum, a beam of light bouncing through fiber optic cable, a light bulb in an electric circuit and an electromagnetic motor. Toward the end of the year, students research the physics involved in any topic they choose and present their findings to the class. Students develop self-confidence in their ability to effectively retain challenging material, and they strengthen critical thinking skills through engaging classroom discussion and challenging self-directed laboratories.
1. Support of the department and the recommendation of the current science teacher 2. Completion of Honors Algebra II/Trigonometry or Honors Math Analysis with an average grade of 85 or better and/or Algebra II/Trigonometry or Math Analysis with an average of 90 or better 3. Completion of Physics or Honors Chemistry with an average grade of 90 or better 4. PSAT math score of 550 or better (or an equivalent score on the PLAN, SAT or ACT) 5. Score > 3 on previous AP exams taken
Meet all criteria—Approved Meet 3 of 4/5 criteria—Approval Likely Meet 2 of 4/5 criteria—Approval Unlikely Meet < 2 of 4/5 criteria—Not Approved
AP Physics stretches students to become self-directed learners by reinforcing skills to think critically, analyze situations and make informed connections. Students refine their ability to understand the effect a variable has on any system, conceptually and mathematically. They master fundamental principles and problem-solving techniques that, when applied appropriately, help them solve any physical problem. Whether designing and building a soda can barge, determining the coefficient of friction for a material or predicting the motion of a charged particle in a magnetic field, students expand their abilities in creative problem-solving and experimental design as they explore the first semester of introductory algebra-based, college- level Physics.
Prerequisites: Open to students in grades 11 and 12.
This course is designed to give students an opportunity to investigate water as both Earth’s most precious resource and it’s most life-sustaining natural force. Through the semester, we’ll study the scientific concepts governing water in three forms: freshwater, saltwater, and ice. With this foundation, we’ll begin to develop students’ basic policy- analysis and policy-making skills as they relate to global water issues (access and availability, sanitation, ice melt, sea level rise, etc.). As a class, we’ll spend significant time working with water quality testing, dam building, and the physics of glaciers. Students will finish the term with the skills and knowledge needed to understand and interpret the ethical dimensions of complex water-related problems as they relate to human and other biological life.
1. Support of the department and recommendation of the current science teacher 2. Completion of Algebra II 3. Completion of Biology and Chemistry with grades of 90 or better (Honors Biology and Honors Chemistry with grades of 85 or better) 4. PSAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score of 550 or better (or an equivalent score on the Pre-ACT, SAT or ACT) 5. Score > 3 on previous AP exams taken
This course is designed to give students a diverse view of how our natural world affects us as individuals, as a species and all organisms as a planetary whole. The interconnection of organisms, environments and the systems of each are central to our understanding of how to best live within the natural world, not control it. We will cover many diverse topics ranging from the scientific, at a micro and macro scale, to data gathering and analysis, to US and world government policies and our own morality, role and responsibilities as inhabitants of this planet.
Prerequisite: Open to a limited number of seniors who have completed and excelled in at least one AP Science and/or AP Mathematics course. Tests scores (standardized and AP), grades, interview, essay, teacher recommendations and transcript rigor are all factors in the application process.
A year-long academic offering for students as a core academic class in either Mathematics or Science that seeks to provide rigorous interdisciplinary study in a collaborative and project-based setting, this class quickly becomes a student- driven format with significant critical thinking applied throughout the course.
First semester topics include Team Building, Effective Collaboration, Learning Styles, Analysis, Methodology, Innovation and Design Thinking as well as day-long mini projects and three team-based collaborative projects with presentations. Second semester is designed around a thesis project that is significant in scale, interdisciplinary in nature, and collaborative in format. Teams work toward creating a significant document and large-scale presentation that will be delivered to both small and large panels. Teams build a website to track and display their project and a physical design model or equivalent display (ex., a piece of music, a computer program, etc.) depending on each individual project’s aim and components. Clearly defined individual roles will be identified in all facets of the project, while ensuring a collaborative approach among the team throughout the venture.
Prerequisites: None. Open to students in all grade levels.
The purpose of this course is to provide the student with a basic knowledge of athletic training. This course is not intended to be “all inclusive,” rather a course directed at the practical aspects of taking care of oneself. The course is designed to help students understand what their bodies are telling them when they participate in athletics. The techniques included in this course—particularly the taping, wrapping and rehabilitative exercises—are designed to expose students to the skills of athletic injury prevention.
Margaret T. Bourne Chair of Science/Teacher/Director of Community Life/ Coach, Golf
Ohio University - B.S. New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary - M.Div
Chad Hanning joined the VES community in the fall of 2000. A native of Columbus, Ohio, Chad graduated from Ohio University with a BS in Biochemistry. He went on to get his Masters of Divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Here at VES Mr. Hanning teaches honors and AP chemistry, is the Director of Community life and the head of the advisory program. Mr. Hanning lives on campus with his wife and three children and is a dorm parent on Randolph.
Jake graduated from Harvard University in May 2017 with a degree in Environmental Science and Public Policy, and a secondary field in English. While attending Harvard, Jake worked as a peer advisor to freshman and was a member of a steering committee to develop Harvard’s First-Year Outdoor Leadership program. He organized sustainability initiatives with dorms and hosted nearly a dozen campus-wide sustainability campaigns. Jake also worked as a co-host to create a live storytelling venue—“The Sloth”—for members of the Harvard community. Jake grew up on the campus of Holderness School in New Hampshire, where he was a member of the varsity soccer and cross country ski team and became the first day student elected as their school president. For the last two summers Jake has led adolescents on outdoor experiential learning expeditions to the Colorado Rockies and the backwoods of Alaska. Jake will teach Environmental Science, co-teach Human Anatomy and Physiology, and coordinate our school’s sustainability program.
Biology Teacher/ Teams Leader, Quiz Bowl/ Global Trip Organizer
Lenoir-Rhyne University - B.S. Western Carolina University - M.S. North Carolina State University - Ph.D.
Larissa Knebel joined the VES community in the fall of 2006. A native of Abingdon, Virginia, Larissa graduated from Lenoir-Rhyne College. After graduation she continued her education earning her M.S. from Western Carolina University and her Ph.D. from North Carolina State University.
Dr. Knebel teaches Biology and AP Biology and is the Quiz Bowl coach. She is part of the Wyatt Duty team and lives on campus with her husband Jason who teaches English here at VES and their three sons.
Physics & Chemistry Teacher/ Robotics
Southwestern College - B.A. University of Maine - Ph.D.
Caitlin Unterman teaches Biology and Chemistry, supports the Robotics team, serves as an assistant coach for JV girls lacrosse and is on the campus duty team. She is a graduate of Randolph College, earning a B.A. in Biology and an M.A. in Teaching. In her six years of experience teaching 7th and 8th grade science at Forest Middle School, Caitlin won numerous awards for teaching, including being named teacher of the year by Lynchburg Living magazine; and formed a partnership with NASA to provide a personalized STEM-centered elective to her former school's science curriculum. In her spare time, Caitlin runs a riding program, CULU Equestrian Training.
Dean of Students/Physics Teacher/ Coach, Cross Country
College of Charleston - B.S. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - M.S.
Marcia Yochum began her VES career in the fall of 2003. A native of Charleston, South Carolina, Mrs. Yochum earned her BS degree from the College of Charleston and her MS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Mrs. Yochum teaches Physics and Ap physics and is also the Dean of Students. Mrs. Yochum is also the advisor to our award winning robotics team and a dorm parent on Perkins. Prior to working at VES Mrs. Yochum was an Engineer at NASA and also worked at Ericsson and Lucent Technologies.
A College Preparatory, Independent Boarding and Day School for Students in Grades 9-12 400 VES Road, Lynchburg, VA 24503 • 434.385.3600