Academics
Academic Departments

Science Department

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.
  • Biology

    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.
  • Honors Biology

    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.
  • AP Biology

    Prerequisites: (summer work required)
    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.
  • Chemistry

    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.
  • Honors Chemistry

    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.
  • AP Chemistry

    Prerequisites:  (summer work required)
    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.
  • Physics

    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.
  • AP Physics

    Prerequisites: (summer work required)
    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.
  • Environmental Studies: Water In Science, Policy, And Ethics (S)

    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.
  • AP Environmental Science

    Prerequisites:  (summer work required)
    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.
  • Science-Math Advanced Consortium

    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.
  • Introduction to Sports Medicine (S)

    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.

Department Staff

  • Chad Hanning

    Margaret T. Bourne Chair of Science/Teacher/Director of Community Life/ Coach, Golf
    434-385-3814
    Ohio University - B.S.
    New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary - M.Div
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  • Jacob Barton

    Environmental Science & Anatomy Teacher/ Sustainability Coordinator/ Coach, Girls Soccer
    434-385-3672
    Harvard University - B.A.
    Read Bio
  • Larissa Knebel

    Biology Teacher/ Teams Leader, Quiz Bowl/ Global Trip Organizer
    434-385-3839
    Lenoir-Rhyne University - B.S.
    Western Carolina University - M.S.
    North Carolina State University - Ph.D.
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  • Rachel Pollock

    Physics & Chemistry Teacher/ Robotics
    434-385-3640
    Southwestern College - B.A.
    University of Maine - Ph.D.
  • Caitlin Unterman

    Biology & Chemistry Teacher/Coach, Robotics, Girls Lacrosse
    434-385-3674
    Randolph College - B.A.
    Randolph College - M.A.
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  • Marcia Yochum

    Dean of Students/Physics Teacher/ Coach, Cross Country
    434-385-3671
    College of Charleston - B.S.
    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - M.S.
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A College Preparatory, Independent Boarding and Day School for Students in Grades 9-12
400 VES Road, Lynchburg, VA 24503 • 434.385.3600