9th Grade: 4 weeks main lesson intensive; UC ‘a-g” approved course
Instructor: Mr. Dinan

This course provides students with a solid understanding of the foundational principles of Thermodynamics by focusing on phenomenon that can be perceived with their own bodily senses. The course includes observation of phenomena associated with heating, cooling, temperature, and phase changes. As such the course challenges the students to develop inquiring habits of mind and articulate and explore the questions that arise out of phenomenological observation. By using the scientific method, students learn how to plan and carry out investigations and then analyze and interpret the data they collect, using written and mathematical descriptions as appropriate.

Topic Areas:
  • Measurement – Metric Units
  • Buoyancy
  • Behavior of matter when heated
  • Thermal Conductivity
  • Temperature / Thermometers
  • Pressure / Air Pressure / Barometer
  • Ideal Gas Laws
  • Relationship of Work & Temperature
  • Specific Heat / Phase Changes
  • History of Thermodynamics


10th Grade: 4 weeks main lesson intensive; UC ‘a-g” approved course
Instructor: Mr. Dinan

This course introduces and works with the basic concepts of objects in motion, as well as developing a sense for the historical development of the subject from Aristotle to Galileo and Newton. Experiencing projectile motion phenomenologically and being able to solve projectile motion problems mathematically is a key focus of this course. Within this context students participate in analytic thought exercises and critiques from the ancient and modern perspectives. The course thereby challenges the students to inquire thoughtfully and articulate and explore questions that arise from observing objects in motion.

Topic Areas:
  • Vectors & Fundamental Quantities
  • Acceleration
  • Aristotle’s Laws of Motion
  • Galileo & Newton Challenges
  • Gravity
  • Bodies in Free Fall / Projectile Motion
  • History of Kinematics


10th Grade: 4 weeks main lesson intensive; UC ‘a-g” approved course
Instructor: Mrs. Gamboa

This course adds an understanding of forces to the understanding of motion that was developed in Kinematics through experiments and mathematical calculations. It also develops the students skills in data collection, analysis, and presentation using spreadsheets. That we can understand these ideas not just on a qualitative level but actually calculate the behavior of objects in various circumstances is a fundamentally special aspect of physics.

Topic Areas:
  • Connection to Kinematics
  • Newton’s First and Second Laws
  • Newton’s Law of Gravitation
  • Forces in Simple Situations
  • Forces in Complex Situations: Numerical Methods
  • Frames of Reference – Centrifugal Force
  • Newton’s Third Law – Collisions
  • Conservation of Energy – Elastic Collisions
  • History of Mechanics

Electricity & Magnetism

11th Grade: 4 weeks main lesson intensive; UC ‘a-g” approved course
Instructor: Dr. Russell

In this course students learn to distinguish clearly the concepts related to Electricity and Magnetism and developing clear conceptual understandings of this subject through laboratory experiments and demonstrations.  A key aspect of this course is touring a power plant to see the scale of machinery needed to supply electric power to a city.  The block culminates in students presenting research projects on topics of current interest and relevance, including the environmental and health effects of electric power generation technologies and wi-fi and cell phone radiation.

Topic Areas:
  • Charging objects via the triboelectric effect and induction
  • Conductors, insulators, and semi-conductors
  • Lightning and the invention of the lightning rod
  • DC circuits, both series and parallel
  • House wiring, electric power generation, and “the grid”
  • Magnetic fields and the right- and left-hand rules for motors and generators
  • Antennas and electromagnetic waves: ELF, RF, and microwave radiation

Optics & 20th Century Physics

12th Grade: 4 weeks main lesson intensive; UC ‘a-g” approved course
Instructor: Dr. Russell

In this course the students study their own visual experience of the phenomena that arise from the interaction of light and water in order to come to an understanding of the central concepts of geometric optics: reflection, refraction, and dispersion.   They also come to appreciate the complexity and active quality of human vision, and its application to the way we see and understand technology and art.  The course then delves into the great ideas of 20th century physics that relate to light—relativity and quantum physics—by exploring the deep philosophical questions of our human role in the world, including to what extent truth is absolute and to what extent it is relative to the individual’s point of view, and the role of the observer in creating reality.

Topic Areas:
  • Visual Perception: How we create a 3D visual experience of the world
  • Anatomy of the Eye
  • The Geometry of Reflection
  • Refraction as the “Lifting Effect”; the Refractive Index
  • Total Internal Reflection, Fiber Optics, and Snell’s Window
  • Lenses and simple applications
  • Prisms and Dispersion
  • Rainbow geometry
  • Diffraction and applications
  • Wave optics
  • Light understood as an electromagnetic wave
  • The luminiferous ether and the idea of the “fabric of space”
  • Einstein, Special Relativity, and General Relativity
  • Wave/particle duality and the double-slit diffraction experiment
  • Quantum Physics: Bohr, Heisenberg, and the Copenhagen interpretation
  • The EPR Paradox, the Bell Theorem, Non-locality and Quantum Entanglement
  • Philosophical and ethical implications
  • Practical applications of quantum physics: how a LASER works

College Preparatory Physics (elective)

11th Grade: Year-long skills track; UC ‘a-g” approved course
Instructor: Dr. Russell

This year long science skills course focuses on extending the conceptual and experimental knowledge and skills learned in physics main lessons and connecting them to the mathematical skills needed to thrive in any college science course, major, or industry.

Topic Areas:
  • Mechanics
  • Review of Newton’s Laws
  • Vectors
  • Circular Motion
  • Projectile Motion
  • Rotational Motion and Centripetal Forces
  • Kinetic Energy, Potential Energy, and Mechanical Energy
  • Collisions and Momentum
  • Electricity & Magnetism
  • Coulomb’s law
  • Circuit analysis
  • Acoustic Physics (as time and interest permits)


Chemistry Organic Chemistry
9th Grade: 4 weeks main lesson intensive; UC ‘a-g” approved course
Instructor: Ms. Ribeiro

The course introduces foundational chemistry concepts, basic science skills, and fundamental laboratory skills and safety, focusing on standard units of measurement and associated conversions, observational skills, data recording, analysis, and laboratory report writing through classroom demonstrations and hands-on experiments. Using a phenomenological approach, the course focuses on developing scientific concepts out of careful observation and logical thinking. In this way the properties and phases of matter, properties and interactions of acids and bases, behavior and properties of gases, and basic principles of organic chemistry are studied.

Topic Areas:
  • Lab Safety
  • Standard Units of Measurement
  • Scientific Communication and the Scientific Method
  • States of Matter
  • Polymers
  • Properties of Gases
  • Chemical Reaction Types
  • Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • Alcohols and Esters
  • History of Chemistry

Inorganic Chemistry

10th Grade: 4 weeks main lesson intensive; UC ‘a-g” approved course
Instructor: Ms. Ribeiro

This course examines chemical bonds, conservation of mass, stoichiometry, and chemical solutions by exploring the properties of chemical bonds, developing mathematical skills applied to the law of conservation of mass and stoichiometry, and practicing the mixing of precisely measured chemical solutions through dilution. A lab based course, the progressive sequence of experiments builds skills in using the scientific method to develop a hypothesis, observe properties and reactions of different substances, record data, and complete a laboratory report describing the student’s observations and interpretations.

Topic Areas:
  • Review of lab safety
  • Covalent, Metallic, and Ionic Bonds
  • Electrostatic Attraction and Intermolecular Forces
  • Electronegativity and Ionization Relative to Bond Formation
  • Van der Waals Forces
  • Law of Conservation of Mass and Balanced Equations
  • Balanced Equations and Percent Yield
  • Solutes and Solvents
  • History of Chemistry

Chemical Elements

11th Grade: 4 weeks main lesson intensive; UC ‘a-g” approved course
Instructor: Ms. Ribeiro

This elemental chemistry course explores atomic and molecular structure, periodic trends, and reaction rates. The course takes a phenomenological approach by which students come to understand the periodic table through hands on experiences as they observe and describe reaction rates both in natural and mathematical language.

Topic Areas:
  • Review of lab safety
  • Periodic Trends
  • Metals, Non-Metals, & Metalloids
  • Alkali Metals
  • Ionization Energy, Electronegativity, Reactivity, & Atomic Radii
  • Alkaline Earth Metals
  • Electron Shells & Configuration
  • Lewis Dot Structure & the Bohr Model
  • Spectral Lines
  • Reaction Rates
  • History of Elemental Chemistry

Atomic Chemistry

12th Grade: 4 weeks main lesson intensive; UC ‘a-g” approved course
Instructor: Mr. Dinan

This atomic chemistry course explores the subjects of chemical equilibrium, chemical thermodynamics, and nuclear processes. The course takes a phenomenological approach, providing the opportunity to work in a truly scientific manner of discovering chemical and physical properties, characteristics, and behaviors in the laboratory through hands-on experience and observation. In addition to lecture and lab work, students select of topic of interest and produce a research paper in scientific style and format.

Topic Areas:
  • Review of lab safety
  • LeChatelier’s Principle & Chemical Equilibrium
  • Kinetic Energy, Endothermic, & Exothermic Reactions
  • Hess’s Law & Specific Heat
  • Gibbs Free Energy
  • Isotopes & Radioactive Decay
  • History of Atomic Chemistry

College Preparatory Chemistry (elective)

12th Grade: Year-long skills track; UC ‘a-g” approved course
Instructor: Ms. Ribeiro

This year long science skills course focuses on subtopics in chemistry through a study of environmental, freshwater and ocean chemistry. Beginning with the field of environmental science and policy, the course explore topics of global water resources and use, physical and chemical properties of soil and soil dynamics, land and water use, air and water pollution, and the associated political remediation and reduction laws and strategies. The course next examines the physical and chemical components of the ocean systems in order to gain an understanding as to how they affect the flora and fauna present in the oceans and their habitats. Students explore the characteristics, anatomy and physiology, and chemical and physical environmental conditions required for the existence of marine life and how changes in chemical composition of the ocean due to global warming and water pollution contribute to loss of biodiversity and mass extinction.

Topic Areas:
  • Environmental & Freshwater Chemistry
  • Review of nomenclature, measurement, standard measurements, chemical bonds & safety protocols
  • Introduction to Environmental science
  • Stoichiometry
  • Molarity, Molality, and Concentration
  • Fresh Water Chemistry and Contamination
  • Soil Chemistry and Pollution
  • Acid Rain
  • Environmental awareness research project
  • Ocean Chemistry
  • Introduction to Oceanography
  • Structure of the Ocean Basins
  • Chemistry of Marine Sediments
  • Chemical Properties of Seawater
  • Marine Communities
  • Biogeochemical Cycles
  • Ocean Chemistry & Climate Change
  • Related historical & political topics


Anatomy & Physiology

9th Grade: 4 weeks main lesson intensive; UC ‘a-g” approved course
Instructor: Dr. Russell

The first course in the physiology sequence examines the digestive, excretory, sensory, nervous, skeletal, muscular, integumentary, circulatory, and respiratory systems of the human body, with a particular focus on how the activities chosen by the individual affect the health and development of these systems.

Topic Areas:
  • Digestive & Excretory Systems and diet; function of liver and kidneys, blood sugar response to various foods, basic nutrition
  • The Nervous System: structure and plasticity
  • Skeletal System and remodeling of bone
  • Muscular system and the response to exercise
  • Integumentary System: the skin’s protective and sensory functions
  • Circulatory & Respiratory Systems: response to changing activities
  • Sensory systems: hearing, smell, touch, and taste (sight is in Optics in 12th grade)

Physiology: Embryology

10th Grade: 4 weeks main lesson intensive; UC ‘a-g” approved course
Instructor: Dr. Russell

The second course in physiology focuses on the processes involved in immunity, response to drugs, endocrine function, sexuality, reproduction, and embryology. Important aspects of relationships and emotional health are touched upon in their relation to sexuality and addictive behaviors.

Topic Areas:
  • Immune system and the body’s multi-level response to disease
  • Endocrine system and hormones
  • Drugs and addictive substances and behaviors
  • Human sexuality and reproduction
  • Embryology and birth


10th Grade: Semester-long skills track; pending UC ‘a-g” approved course
Instructor: Dr. Russell

The course extends the discussions of relationships and emotional health, in support of wise decision-making related to human sexuality, addictive substances and behaviors. It dovetails and supports the more physiological discussions in the 10th grade physiology and health main lesson.

Topic Areas:
  • Stages of relationships
  • “Love languages” — different ways we communicate care and support in relationships
  • Gender and sexual orientation
  • Human sexuality, sexually transmitted infections, birth control, and consent
  • Negotiation: Healthy decision-making in the context of relationships and groups
  • Emotional health: using emotions as accurate signals to patterns in situations, the effect of “self talk,” different responses to emotions (including expression, suppression, etc.) and their varying effectiveness, connection to of emotions to physiology and addictive behaviors.
  • Healthy alternatives to addictive substances and behaviors

Zoology & Evolution

11th Grade: 4 weeks main lesson intensive; UC ‘a-g” approved course
Instructor: Mrs. Gamboa

The two-part course begins with an examination of the range of animal life on our planet, followed by an introduction to the principles of ecology. Students thereby develop an understanding of and appreciation for the complex interrelatedness of the mineral, plant, animal and human realms of nature. The course also examines the origins, history and accomplishments of the contemporary environmental movement, nationally and globally.

Topic Areas:
  • The Biosphere
  • Kingdoms of Nature
  • Ecosystems, Communities & Populations
  • Humans in the Biosphere
  • Viruses & Prokaryotes
  • Protists & Fungi
  • Food Chains and Food Webs
  • Ecosystem research project
  • Social & political issues of ecology
  • Lab & field safety

Earth Sciences


9th Grade: 4 weeks main lesson intensive; UC ‘a-g” approved course
Instructor: Ms. Ribeiro

This course introduces students to the principles of earth science: the geologic process and geologic structures, rock and mineral types, potential natural hazards, and related industrial resources, as well as how to read topographic and geologic maps. Through a combination of lectures, group discussions, laboratory experiments and exercises, and field experiences students develop observation, thinking and writing skills.

Topic Areas:
  • Plate Tectonics & the Origin of Magma
  • Mineral Identification, Properties & Uses
  • Igneous, Sedimentary, Metamorphic Rocks: their Processes, & Environments
  • Dating of Rocks, Fossils, and Geologic Events
  • Geologic Structures, Maps, and Block Diagrams
  • Groundwater Processes, Resources, and Risks
  • Coastal Processes, Landforms, and Hazards
  • Stream Processes, Landscapes, & Mass Wastage
  • Volcanic, Flood & Earthquake Hazards
  • Geologic map reading
  • Lab & field safety


10th Grade: 4 weeks main lesson intensive; UC ‘a-g” approved course
Instructor: Ms. Ribeiro

This course provides a phenomenological overview of the earth’s climate system and cycles by examining the major atmospheric and oceanographic features and force, their interdependence and interaction, and how physical and chemical factors, natural and human, effect changes within them. In addition the course provides an overview of the history of changes in the planet’s climate from the remotest past to the present, thereby developing an understanding for the current social and political issues regarding planetary and regional climate change.

Topic Areas:
  • The Atmosphere
  • Wind Circulation & Ocean Currents
  • Plate Tectonics and Climate
  • Controls on Climate
  • Climate Classification
  • Northern & Southern Hemisphere Climate Patterns
  • Climate Change and Variability
  • Climate Change, Paleoclimatology, & Mass Extinctions
  • Anthropogenic Climate Change Theory
  • Lab & field safety
Photo: John Lichtwardt