Science Department Head Jim Karb recently described how Brearley teachers and students explore the biological, physical and earth sciences with an eye to medical, ethical and environmental applications. A question is posed, and students are challenged to solve it. The heart and soul of science teaching is lab work, Mr. Karb says. After running an experiment students collect and interpret data to arrive at a theory backed by evidence and analysis. The goal? Brearley graduates are scientifically literate and are able to apply their scientific knowledge and reasoning to any field or endeavor.
“With so many messages that girls are not good at or don’t like math or science,” Mr. Karb says, “we aim to show that through good teaching and a focus on students working together to solve scientific questions in the lab, our students can succeed in science at Brearley and beyond.”
From K to IV, students study full general science: biology, chemistry, physical and earth sciences as well as astronomy. Their first experiments start in Kindergarten with animals such as gerbils, snakes and crayfish. In Class V, robots and electricity are introduced, in the context of physics and chemistry. In Class VI, students study themselves, the human body, in great depth. Earth and physical sciences are further pursued in Classes VII and VIII, with Class VII studying density, heat and energy and applying them to weather systems, and Class VIII studying more in-depth chemistry, water, geology and plate tectonics. Scientific knowledge is applied to environmental issues. Class IX gets an introductory survey course in biology, and Class X the same in chemistry. Class XI focuses on advanced biology and chemistry, with the addition of physics, which requires solid grounding in calculus and trigonometry. Students can take a combination of any two of these three lab courses. An elective non-lab course in Environmental Sustainability is also available. Class XII students have the same choice of courses, but can also take advanced physics.
In all age groups, field trips supplement class and lab work, and an extremely valuable opportunity is offered to Upper School students through the Advanced Research Seminar. Speakers come from research institutions to discuss scientific articles they have authored. Students visit local labs. With guidance from teachers, students choose, design and perform cutting-edge experiments and learn advanced lab techniques. They are also encouraged to apply for research internships, which may open up the possibility of entering scientific competitions. A celebration of students’ research takes place at the annual Science Symposium at which Upper School students are invited to do poster presentations of their research.
Please watch this space for more about science at Brearley!