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Earth Systems Science

Our four-year science sequence is designed to give our students a foundation in understanding the Earth’s systems through an integrated study of traditional science disciplines.


Earth Systems Science is an integrated and interdisciplinary approach to learning about the world around us. The Earth System approach focuses on the Earth as a set of components connected through the movement of matter and energy. Students learn this through study of Earth’s subsystems and how they are inextricably linked through biogeochemical cycles. An Earth system approach fosters spatial and systems thinking in students, as well as other higher-order thinking skills.

Given the concerns that humans are impacting the Earth’s climate and life support system, a broader concept of Earth as a system is emerging, including societal dimensions and the recognition that humanity is playing an ever-increasing role in global change. The Earth system is represented by a set of interacting spheres of influences and processes including the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, lithosphere, cryosphere, anthroposphere, and exosphere. Thus, Earth system science embraces chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics and technology to transcend disciplinary boundaries to treat the Earth as an integrated system to understand the past, current and future states of the Earth. Earth system science provides the physical basis for understanding the world in which we live and upon which humankind seeks to achieve sustainability.

The learning approach generates student interest and excitement by using student prior knowledge and experience as a starting point for instruction. We start with forcing factors or changes in conditions in a specific sphere of the Earth system and trace the effects of that change to other components of the system. Another unique dimension of our science curriculum will be its integration with agricultural studies and our Farm-to-School Meals Program.

Earth Systems Science I

This is the introductory course in our 4-year science sequence. In this course science is introduced as an integrated and interdisciplinary process of learning about the world around us. Throughout the year, students learn both the process skills necessary for understanding how science is actually done (analysis, inquiry, and design), and the content necessary for understanding how Earth’s life support system works. In this first year, students begin their study by focusing primarily on what they can see and experience first hand. The course begins with a place-based study of local natural systems and how these have impacted and been impacted by humans. This will then naturally lead us into developing a model of the Earth system that includes the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, lithosphere, cryosphere, anthroposphere, and exosphere. With a firm understanding of the sub-systems interconnections, we will be able to use a problem-based approach to exploring and learning about the system dynamics. This class will fully integrate indoor and outdoor activities, observations, field trips, and experiments to fulfill the NYS Regents laboratory requirements. At the end of the year, students will take the NYS Regents exam in Earth Science.

The following 11th and 12th grade courses are currently under construction, but here's a preview of what to expect for the upperclassmen science core:

Contemporary Science and Technology I

This 11th grade course will explore technology systems and manufacturing processes, and  will address the social and political consequences of technological change. At the end of the course, students will engage in a capstone technology project through which they will demonstrate mastery of content and skills covered in the course. Topics in physics and engineering will be covered including measurement, straight-line motion, forces, dynamics, momentum, projectile, circular & rotary motion, engines and waves. The course will also include a unit on electrical theory and the basic principles and theories of digital circuits.

Contemporary Science and Technology II

This course will include the application of biology, chemistry, physics, and environmental, life and Earth sciences in such areas as energy, heat, sustainable technology, material properties and scientific inquiry. The course will have a laboratory as well as a classroom component. The course is divided into several units. At the end of each unit, students will be required to submit an exhibition portfolio that demonstrates mastery of relevant standards. Unit 1 will focus on biotechnology, including a review of molecular biology, and the study of its applications in biotechnology and impact on society, industry, modern medicine and environment. Unit 2, the Cycles of Nature, will include elements of biology, chemistry and Earth science, and will be taught through an integrated, project-based approach that will focus on biogeochemical cycling of elements throughout the environment and the role of biological and chemical reactions in nature. Unit 3, Energy, will introduce topics from physics and chemistry including light, heat, electricity, magnetism, chemical energy and energy transformations. These topics will be integrated with the theme of sustainable energy systems. Course assessment will include a project relevant to students’ senior team capstone projects.

For a more in-depth look into these courses, click on the PDF documents below.