Science Education at Watershed

Understanding how science is done, and what it can and cannot do, are vital steps in becoming an informed and productive citizen in today’s world. Watershed science teachers work to help students experience science as a way to access an endlessly rich and exciting perspective on the universe and its phenomena. We feel that a sound and broad science education is essential for every student at Watershed, no matter what they choose to study in the future, and encourage everyone to take as many science courses as possible before graduation. Although we are a small school with limited resources, we’ve been quite successful in designing challenging and interesting courses.

Seminars in Science

Occasionally we offer a lunchtime seminar course. Several years ago we offered Cosmology. It was quite popular, and we will offer these as students request them.

It is a privilege to be present at the intellectual awakening of a child, to see it happen and be a part of shaping it.  So, I don't have to be just a science teacher at Watershed; I can be a mentor and a helper to young people during the time of their greatest growth.  -Pete Kalajian, Observation and Physics

There are probably fewer than ten high schools in the state of Maine doing the kind of advanced genetic testing we are doing in Biology at Watershed- and I am including AP classes.  Phil Gerard, Biology

Science

Introduction to Scientific Observing

 

Introduction to Scientific Observing

 


Course Description:


Using the medium of meteorology, this course exposes students to the methods of observation and recording to gain an understanding of a natural system. Students measure meteorological parameters thrice daily and construct graphs of their data. Using their own data, students determine correlations between parameters to recognize patterns and to predict future weather. Students also prepare and present  a “TED” talk on a meteorology subject. In the second half of the term, students work to expand their understanding of how to gather, organize, and display physical data. Students get familiar with spreadsheets and the LoggerPro software. They also learn how to do elementary mathematical modeling of data as well as basic descriptive statistics and simple statistical tests for correlation.


Course Materials:


3-ring binder with several tabs.


Foundational Skills addressed:


3. Numeracy


  1. Create and Interpret Graphs


Students will graph their daily weather data in a variety of ways including scatter plots, histograms, and time series graphs


5. Scientific Thinking and Process


Observing qualities and measuring quantities, sorting and classifying asking questions and defining problems communicating findings using argument from evidence.


Students observe weather parameters 3 times per day for more than a month. They ask questions in their weather journal daily pertaining to their observations. They make a set of correlations between weather parameters that help them to make predictions. The correlations are arrived at after looking at their data. In the second part of the semester, students will design and carry out an individual astronomical observing project, and that will entail plenty of scientific thinking, as well as practicing the scientific process in a very real and uncontrived way.


8. Information gathering and analysis  (Research)


Information research using internet or library sources: primary sources, databases, maps, journals, websites


Students prepare a 5 minute presentation on a weather topic of their choice that requires extensive internet research. They will also do research in support of their astronomy observing project.


9. Digital tool use and literacy


  1. spreadsheets

  2. graphing

  3. cloud-based documents, group editing


Effectively find, use, summarize, evaluate, create, and communicate information using computer hardware, software, the Internet, and handheld devices.


Students use LoggerPro and google sheets to plot, model and share data.

Conceptual Physics

 

Conceptual Physics


Course Description:


This class is devoted to developing a deep understanding of elementary concepts in physics using inquiry-based methods. Specifically, this semester we  will cover Newtonian equations of motion, and Newton’s laws as well as dimensional analysis, unit conversion, and basic algebra review. Emphasis is placed on empirical study of kinematics using video analysis of motion and LEGO Mindstorm robots, as well as derivation of the basic equations governing force, and acceleration.


Course Materials:


3-ring binder with several tabs. Laptop computer. Internet resources.


Foundational Skills addressed:


3. Numeracy


Create and Interpret Graphs


We will be making many graphs and also interpreting them. In fact, the nature of inquiry requires graphing and modeling of data in various ways. Students will make prediction graphs, and then compare them to data graphs in a variety of inquiries during the year


5. Scientific Thinking and Process  


observing qualities and measuring quantities, sorting and classifying asking questions and defining problems communicating findings using argument from evidence.


Throughout the year, we measure, plot and analyze data from inquiry. The students are expected to make specific and measurable hypotheses, measure and analyze data to test their hypotheses, and make claims in writing based on the data that they have collected and analyzed. Students will be expected to write a major paper suitable for publication in a scientific journal to support their science fair project.


8. Information gathering and analysis  (Research)


information research using internet or library sources: primary sources, databases, maps, journals, websites.


As part of research for their science fair project, the students will be required to research and write about similar research on their science fair project topic.

9. Digital tool use and literacy:


Effectively find, use, summarize, evaluate, create, and communicate information using computer hardware, software, the Internet, and handheld devices.


  1. spreadsheets

  2. graphing

  3. cloud-based documents, group editing


Students use spreadsheets to plot and analyze the data from each inquiry, they also use google docs to collaborate on written inquiry reports. Students are expected to plot data from their inquiries using both Logger Pro and Google spreadsheets, depending on the case.



 

Chemistry

 

Course Description:


The basic goals of the fall semester Watershed chemistry program are to:

  • help students develop an understanding of fundamental basic concepts in chemistry (bonding, periodicity, atomic structure, stoichiometry),

  • recognize the relevance and practical applications of chemistry,

  • and practice and develop rational scientific problem solving skills including lab technique and experimental design.


Course Materials:


When we do use a text we will use Chemistry in Context published by the American Chemical Society, which presents chemistry on a “need to know basis” through the context of social, political, economic, and ethical issues. We will also be making use Inquiry Chemistry (Vernier Instruments), The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements (Sam Kean), Uncle Tungsten (Oliver Sax), the Concord Consortium website, and many other related websites including the chemistry pages of Wikipedia.


Foundational Skills addressed:


5. Scientific Thinking and Process


  1. observe and measure using a variety of lab tools and metrics

  2. use spreadsheets for data collection and analysis

  3. analyze and present data

  4. design, carry out, and refine an experiment

  5. communicate information through presentations


We will practice these skills through the process of inquiry-based investigation and follow-up “lab talks” with guided student feedback on presentations and discussion.

Biology

Course Description

 

Watershed’s Honors Biology is intended for competent and motivated 11th and 12th grade high school students. Our focus this fall has been to carefully examine and integrate several essential concepts in biology: biochemistry; cells; osmosis and diffusion; energy, enzymes and metabolic pathways; photosynthesis and cell respiration; DNA structure, protein synthesis, mutation; cell cycle, mitosis and meiosis; Mendelian and non-Mendelian inheritance; biotechnology and DNA research techniques.

Biology classes January 10th through February 5th  focussed on (anonymous) student DNA samples:  DNA extraction and purification; PCR for the ACE and the ACTN3 genes;  gel electrophoresis;  preparation of samples for gene sequencing; and analysis of sequence data. In addition to the lab work, discussions centered on understanding the various processes and intermediate results, as well as on associated bioethics.


February 8th through March 11th we’ve focussed on the complex, interconnected details associated with the theory of evolution. Students read Neil Shubin’s book, Your Inner Fish, and responded in writing to chapter-by-chapter reading questions. During class time we learned about radio-isotope dating;  completed a variety of investigations using field data from studies on lizards, mice, and human skin color;  and carried out other exercises connected with population genetics, selection, and evolution. We also looked into using statistics to help us understand what the  data are telling us!As a wrap-up, students completed a “major concept paper” as a way to display their understanding of the topic.