Upper School Courses

Upper School Science

Science is a process of questioning nature. Scientists and students of science make observations, analyze data, build theories and test hypotheses. The curriculum focuses on creating a healthy, skeptical attitude and fostering the joy of discovery. The guided-inquiry approach is used throughout the various courses. Independent study projects in the senior year are more inquiry­-oriented, thus patterning true scientific research.

Three years of science are required (Biology 1, Chemistry l and Physics 1) to provide students with relevant, first-hand experiences with phenomena using the processes of science and with inforniation about how major scientific concepts were developed. In addition, these courses will also aid the students in making thoughtful decisions about scientific-related issues later in life.

Advanced courses in biology, chemistry, physics, geology, astrophysics, environmental science, engineering and electronics/robotics enable students to increase their depth and breadth of scientific understanding of the world and universe around them. The advanced courses include more projects, experiments, field activities and research opportunities for the students. Advanced Biology, Advanced Chemistry, and Advanced Physics not only go into greater depth on major topics, but also venture out into more modern research findings. Some science courses may be taken concurrently (Chemistry 1 and Physics 1) with approval of the department and academic dean. Biology l and Chemistry l must be completed before enrolling in most of the advanced science electives. However, Physics l may be taken concurrently with Biology 11, Chemistry 11, Geology, Engineering, Environmental Science and Electronics/Robotics.

List of 13 items.

  • Advanced Biology II

    Advanced Biology II investigates biological principles in more depth and breadth than in the first year course. Inquiry is paramount, both in the laboratory and in classroom discussions. Experiments focus on both qualitative and quantitative aspects of organisms, cells, genetics, and metabolic processes. During the biochemistry unit for example, students will extract DNA, conduct electrophoretic analyses of the DNA, and study the transfer of bacterial plasmids. During dissection of animals, a comparative study of the various systems of organisms will be done to determine how each overcomes the challenges in their environments from an evolutionary framework. All major concepts of modern biology are discussed with an emphasis on the major themes of biology such as evolution, biodiversity, structure and function, and biochemistry. Connections are made throughout the course to the individual lives of the students by incorporating current events into our discussions. Investigations outside of the classroom setting include studies of the flora and fauna at St. Stephen's, a trip to observe a thoracic surgery at a local hospital, and a trip to view a surgical procedure at a nearby veterinary medicine clinic.
  • Advanced Chemistry II

    Advanced Chemistry II is an elective course designed to provide an in-depth study of concepts learned in Chemistry I. The course is taught as a first year college level course and students are challenged to learn material presented at a college course pace. Topics of study range from a review of the basic chemical systems to comprehensive units on thermodynamics, equilibrium, acid-base studies and electrochemistry, with an introductory investigation of basic organic chemistry. Students contemplating medical school, chemical engineering or other advance science degrees are encouraged to take this course. The course will cover most of topics on the SAT II test as well as the AP exam in chemistry. Extra preparation outside of class time will be required and guided study provided by the instructor. There is an intensive laboratory component to this course where an understanding of advanced laboratory instruments and analytical computations will be necessary. Self-guided procedures, identifying unknown compounds and detailed laboratory reports will all be part of the laboratory curriculum. A V- in Chemistry I will be required to take this course.
  • Advanced Physics II

    Advanced Physics II is a course designed to follow a first year college physics syllabus for science and engineering majors. While calculus is not required for this course, the ideas and strategies of calculus will be illustrated when solving certain problems. The course will be inquiry based with heavy emphasis on laboratory experimentation and analysis. The concepts covered will include but are not limited to linear and non-linear motion, rotational motion, Newton’s laws, conservation laws, fluid dynamics, thermodynamics, waves and optics, electricity and magnetism, special relativity, nuclear physics, and quantum mechanics.
    While this course is not a designated AP course, it will provide students with the majority of the AP Physics B coursework and fundamentals for the Physics C course. If a student desires to complete the AP or SAT II tests, they should be adequately prepared. However, as with any standardized test, extra time will be required and provided out side of class in conferences or group meetings.Prerequisites for this course include a V- grade in Physics I; strong mathematical experience; or consent of the instructor. A V- grade in precalculus or calculus taken concurrently is also recommended.
  • Astrophysics

    Physics principles related to the detailed study of our universe form the core of this investigation into the astronomical realm. Einstein’s relativity theory and several other major concepts, such as quantum theory, string theory, the Standard Model of Matter, time, UFO phenomena, optics and spectroscopy are investigated both in discussions, films, articles, and the laboratory when possible. Planetary and stellar astronomy are reviewed with emphasis on how we know, as well as what we know. The origin of the elements and life and the fate of the universe are discussed using current research articles. The students also engage in observation using St. Stephen’s 10-inch refractor and several smaller telescopes. Telescopic systems, mythologic legends of the constellations, and the fine art of stargazing round out this course. Students will also construct a simple Newtonian reflecting telescope use various woodworking tools and mirror sets.

    Prerequisites: Chemistry I and Physics I.
  • Biology I

    Students use the tools of scientists to answer scientific problems. These tools range from laboratory apparatus and cooperative learning to research using published works and computers. The problems students solve address local or global situations that are relevant to their daily lives. Students learn and discuss ecology, diversity of life, matter and energy, reproduction, cells, genetics, evolution, and human anatomy. These topics help provide an overall understanding of the role of Homo sapiens in the ecosystem.
  • Chemistry I

    Chemistry is an experimental science. In this course, students continually experiment and seek answers to questions raised by chemical phenomena. Student data are used in post-laboratory discussion to develop the fundamental concepts of chemistry and demonstrate how these concepts link together. Using a guided-inquiry approach, students explore chemistryand assemble their own lab book throughout the year based on experiments, discussions, films, and problem sets. Historical perspectives and practical examples of how chemistry affects daily life are also presented to highlight the human aspects of chemistry and science.
  • Electronics and Robotics

    This project-based course introduces students to electronics and robotics. Using a multidisciplinary approach, the course includes elements of science, engineering, art, programming, and design. Students will learn the core scientific theory behind electronics and robotics and then apply this knowledge through engineering design, coding, and building. Students will explore cutting edge applications in robotics while also probing the ethics of human-robot interaction.

    This is a full credit Upper School course within the Science Department. It must be taken concurrently with or after Physics 1.
  • Environmental Science

    Students will develop a solid base in ecological systems by expanding on knowledge acquired in Biology I. Students will then analyze environmental issues to understand their scientific underpinnings, to evaluate the relative risks to earth associated with these problems and to examine alternative solutions for resolving and/or preventing them. Much emphasis will be put on understanding what questions environmental scientists ask and how scientific data is interpreted. Issues to be studied will include human population growth, biodiversity, invasive and endangered species, water and air pollution, agriculture, toxicology, energy and waste. The course will include field and lab work as well as lecture and discussion. Homework will consist of readings from the textbook and outside sources, answering questions, lab reports, and a final research project. Prerequisites: Biology I, Chemistry I, and Physics I. Physics I may be taken concurrently with department permission.
  • Geology

    This advanced science elective is the equivalent of two college level geology courses, physical and historical geology. The students begin with an intensive investigation of the basic processes and materials of the earth. Extensive laboratory work is done with mineral and rock identification, both in the macroscopic and microscopic realms, along with both topographic and geologic map analysis. Heavy emphasis is placed on the theory of plate tectonics, its origins and significance as a unifying theme for the earth sciences. Earthquakes, volcanoes, the interior of the earth, ice ages, caves, and the development of our present surface features will also be studied. The evolution of the earth and life on it constitutes the second major part of this course. Identification of fossils and the deciphering of past environments from the rock record allow the students the ability to gain first hand experience with interpreting the earth’s history. A major geologic mapping project, along with several field trips to near and distant localities will permit students to gain an understanding of geologic field work. Historical vignettes of several of the famous founders of geology and paleontology will also be studied; along with the role geologic phenomena have played in the history of humankind. In addition, students will work with lapidary tools to create polished stones and bolo ties.
  • Maker Studio: Design and Innovation in the Public Interest

    This course is an introduction to the design process and human-centered design methodologies. Students will learn design processes and tools and then apply them in the real world. Throughout the course, students will work together to research and identify a design challenge, the prototype and test solutions. As part of the design process, students will explore rapid prototyping techniques in order to quickly test and gain feedback on proposed designs. This course focuses on both learning and applying design techniques as well as practicing collaboration skills through group work and understanding the art of critique through giving and receiving constructive criticism.
    Prerequisite: None.
  • Physics I

    Physics I  gives students the opportunity to discover many of the natural laws which govern the behavior of our universe. The course uses a guided-inquiry  approach that enables students to observe phenomena in a laboratory setting. Students identify and learn major physical principles through active investigation and discussions. Introductions to classical Newtonian mechanics, optics, sound, waves, electrostatics and circuits will provide students with an exciting, engaging and broad background in the discipline.
  • Principles of Engineering

    This project-based elective course exposes students to a wide range of engineering fields and skills through a series of intensive, hands-on projects.  Students will develop critical thinking and problem solving skills by designing and building solutions to real world engineering problems.  The fields of engineering addressed will include, but are not limited to, mechanical, civil, architectural. earthquake, environmental, aerospace, chemical, and biomechanical.  Skills learned include 3D design and printing, coding, and augmented reality programming.  Short field trips and guest speakers add to students' depth of understanding of engineering fields. 
  • Projects in Science and Technology

    This project-based course guides a student through the planning, design, execution, and publication of her or his own science-oriented research project or application. Projects often fall into, but are not limited to, one of three categories: building one’s own research instrument and conducting research with it, using extant instrumentation to conduct a long term data-driven research project, or building an invention for use within a science or technological construct.

    This is a full credit course, and class size is limited to 10 students. Students must apply to take this course. There are no prerequisites, but preference is given to students having taken Electronics and Robotics
Address: 6500 St. Stephen's Dr., Austin, TX 78746
Phone: (512) 327-1213