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Science

Through an exciting variety of classes and opportunities, the Science Department prepares students for college and life in a dynamic and rapidly changing world, grounding students in fundamental principles of scientific reasoning. We seek to produce graduates motivated to investigate and solve problems using creativity, logic, technology, and collaboration with a sense of and commitment to ethics and integrity.

Our science faculty emphasize science as a particular way of understanding the world. This way of knowing is based upon devising, testing, discarding, and revising hypotheses. To implement this strategy, students must apply a process of inquiry which relies on both logical reasoning and imaginative thinking. 

  • Logical thinking involves the application of a canon of facts and empirical observations to draw unbiased conclusions. 
  • Imaginative thinking involves using diverse perspectives, innovative experiments, and novel uses of technology to approach questions. 

The science curriculum is structured to achieve increasing levels of complexity as students move through the science curriculum in 6th grade -12th grade.
 

Middle School

Seattle Academy Middle School science classes emphasize hands-on experiments, interactive modeling, and project-based learning as students journey through science topics. Our Middle School science program emphasizes students' deeper understanding and intuition about science rather than rote memorization.

  • 6th Grade Physical Science navigates the world of matter, forces, and energy by viewing familiar objects through a scientific lens. Topics range from computer engineering to atomic theory, from hydroelectricity to the physics of food, and from plant biology to the Periodic Table. Emphasis is placed on creating and testing scientific questions, collecting and interpreting data, making and using models, and engaging in scientific discourse using evidence gathered in the lab.  
  • 7th Grade Earth and Space Science students explore space and Earth systems. With topics ranging from the Big Bang to modern feats of engineering, this course covers the relationship between the very large and very small scales of space and time. Students also learn about major physics topics as a framework for thinking about forces and motion.
  • 8th Grade Human Biology students examine four facets of the human experience through a scientific lens: anatomy, physiology, cultural anthropology, and health. We explore units on neuroscience, body systems, cellular respiration, and genetic information. Students read both popular writing and scientific literature related to current events in human medicine and the ethics of healthcare. The course culminates in a student-directed investigation into a topic connected to community public health and a school-wide symposium where students present and exchange their results and ideas.

Upper School

At Seattle Academy, we offer four years of core science on which all students can build through dynamic elective courses. These include: 

  • 9th Grade Scientific Investigations, a year-long project based class, emphasizes creative problem solving, experimental design, and data analysis while exploring three distinct topic areas. During fall trimester students study water and climate science, in the winter trimester engineering, and in the spring trimester a variety of topics from Physics.  
  • 10th Grade Chemistry is the study of matter, energy, and change. We examine atomic particles and the processes through which they are rearranged to construct substances of interest, examine how a subatomic model of different elements can explain their behavior in bonding, and use mathematical models to make predictions about how much energy can be generated or consumed in a chemical reaction. The course incorporates experiential learning where students generate and execute laboratory protocols, analyze resulting data, and draw conclusions about fundamental questions in chemistry.  
  • 11th Grade Biology, the final course in the required SAAS science foundation, is designed to give students a deep understanding of the scientific process and to prepare them to engage with science for the rest of their lives. Key to the course is the culminating spring term field ecology project, where students design and carry out independent investigations, write papers reporting and analyzing their results, and present research poster sessions. The skills taught in Biology are based on Science Department goals, and build toward the spring research project.
  • 12th Grade Physics seeks to explain all of the natural world through the application of logic, experiment, and mathematics. The focus of the class is on experiential learning, using curiosity to drive explorations of the physical world.  The course covers the essentials of classical mechanics at the college level: motion, momentum, forces, energy, work, power, circular motion, rotation, oscillation, waves, optics, gravitation, and special relativity. In every area we will develop physical intuition and reasoning about phenomena, new mathematical tools to describe those phenomena, and experimental techniques for probing the boundaries of our understanding.

In addition to the science courses outlined above, we offer a wide variety of single trimester and year-long elective classes in the Upper School across diverse fields of study. These electives highlight the strengths and experience of our diverse faculty while also engaging students in subjects they find engaging and interesting. In some cases, student interest in a particular subject resulted in the creation of a new elective class in that area. Many of these classes are open to 9th-12th graders.

Wastewater Mitigation

 

 

Our 10th grade chemistry Wastewater Mitigation Project emphasizes acid and base chemistry in a historical case study of industrial wastewater emissions into the Duwamish river in previously segregated Seattle. The project challenges students to use calculations and laboratory explorations to solve a complex problem with important environmental justice ramifications.

 

Photo of Seattle Academy Middle School students in a science lab conducting an experiment

Process

Emulate the methods used to conduct science in the global community, including close collaboration, individual research, and active peer review

Photo of Seattle Academy Upper School students in the Chemistry Lab

Collaboration

Work with peers, faculty, and others to achieve ends which incorporate diverse perspectives.

Problem Solving

Tackle open-ended problems with confidence and invention.

Photo of Seattle Academy Upper School Science Student Public Speaking

Communication

Share research and results effectively to peers, faculty, parents, and community members.

Photo of Seattle Academy Upper School student presenting at the annual bio poster display

Originality

Express learning in creative formulations original to the student, while properly crediting the work of others.

Photo of Seattle Academy Middle School Science student presenting with laptop

Technology

Use a variety of existing and emerging technologies for data collection, analysis, and presentation. 

Photo of Seattle Academy  Upper School Student in Biology Lab

Technique

Apply lab and field techniques to answer questions in novel ways.

Photo of Seattle Academy Robotics students

Scientific Community

See themselves as active community members and global citizens with a responsibility to apply their knowledge and make connections through projects, field trips, and clubs.

Middle School Science at SAAS FAQ

Do you teach computer science in the science curriculum?

Computational thinking/AI is an essential skill all scientists and engineers use. Solving problems, using mathematics, and applying quantitative skills to data analysis are all practiced in science classes. In addition to our science curriculum, students take exciting Computational Thinking/AI courses in 6th and 8th grades and in the Upper School. 

What lab skills are practiced in SAAS science classes?

We are fortunate to have state-of-the-art equipment for exploration of a variety of topics. Students at each grade level practice lab skills ranging from measuring liquid volume to using high-quality microscopic equipment in the context of an engaging, content-rich curriculum appropriate to their age level.

If my child did not have science in elementary school, will they be ready for middle school science at SAAS?

Students matriculate to SAAS from a wide variety of backgrounds. We do our best to meet each student at the level when they enter, using differentiation and universal design to think carefully about addressing all experiences in the classroom.

What options are there for advanced students?

Many students who love science are eager for more challenge. While there are many ways of providing this, all provide structure for students to grow and to pursue personal interests without adding “busy work.” We intentionally do not track middle school science because we believe any student is able to stretch and enrich their learning through challenge assignments should they so choose.

Why do you teach what you teach?

The SAAS Middle School science faculty want to provide students with essential scientific skills in the context of content that will serve them throughout their high school careers and their future lives as scientific citizens. We balance what interests students with the necessary exposure to a wide variety of topics in a challenging and engaging format.

Upper School Science at SAAS FAQ

I’ve already taken (insert subject matter here) in Middle School, do I need to take it again? I’ve taken high school level classes already, can I just skip 9th grade science?

In short, we’ve designed our classes, and especially our 9th grade Scientific Investigations class, to engage our students and to meet their needs in a variety of areas.  Not only do we believe that the content (climate and water science, engineering, and physics) is important, the structure of the class and nature of the projects develops additional science and social skills.

Are science electives available to all high school students or just upper classmen?

Many of our science elective classes are open to 9th and 10th grade students although some have prerequisites. One of our goals as a department is to build enthusiasm among all students for science and to engage and challenge students in a variety of different subject areas. Elective science classes allow us to achieve that goal.

Do you offer honors or AP classes?

We do not offer AP classes at Seattle Academy, but we do offer honors classes beginning in the 11th grade year. This is communicated to colleges which appreciate this choice. We offer both standard and honors college preparatory Biology classes. Advanced Chemistry is a year-long, honors level elective class. All Physics classes, both algebra- and calculus-based, are considered honors classes.