Science is one of humankind’s most ambitious attempts to explore and experience the beauties and mysteries of the universe. The focus of scientific explorations, their methods of inquiry, and the intriguing stories behind the scientists’ journeys of discovery are woven into DRBU’s Natural Science strand. Through reading primary sources and replicating classical experiments, students are introduced to the revolutionary and paradigm-changing discoveries that chronicle the history of science and fundamentally alter the way we view ourselves and the world, both in the past and present.

The curriculum approaches the scientific discipline from three perspectives: science as a method of inquiry, the scientific practitioner, and the complex relationship between science and the larger cultural milieu from which it grows. Emphasis centers on investigating how scientific principles were first developed and continue to evolve over time. Through laboratory work, students learn to tease out underlying assumptions and hypotheses as they devise and carry out experiments. Analyzing their experimental data, students evaluate the validity of supporting evidence before arriving at their conclusion.

The curriculum is also designed for students to gain a direct understanding and appreciation of what it means to practice science from a scientist’s perspective—his or her inspiration, struggles, uncertainties, and creative and intellectual journey. Furthermore, the class will consider how the scientific community does not exist in isolation but is constantly subjected to and shaped by the influences and pressures of the current time.

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.

Albert Einstein

The Natural Science strand begins with an exploration of the nature of life and living things. What is life? How are living organisms varied? How do we study such variations? What are the interactions between living things and their environment? The laboratory focuses on developing careful observation of living things with our unaided eyes as well as through a microscope. Students learn important skills in observation, data recording, interpretation, and classification. Laboratory work is accompanied by reading the works of important biological scientists, such as Aristotle, Goethe, Harvey, Schwann, Mendel, Hardy, Lamarck, and Darwin. We then turn our attention to the nature of nonliving things. In search of the fundamental laws governing the material basis of our physical world, the class follows the explorations of great scientists in asking, “What is matter?” and “What is the world made of?” Key topics include measurements, weight, equilibrium of gases, pressure, temperature, and atomic theory. The laboratory focuses on the problem of measurement and the use of instrumentation, prompting students to examine the various lenses through which science looks at nature. Students begin their readings with Aristotle, Archimedes, Pascal, Torricelli, and Boyle and move on to the writings of Lavoisier and Bacon.

The remainder of the year is devoted to topics in physics, focusing on the study of motion, gravitation, optics, electricity and magnetism, and relativity. The mathematization of physical phenomena and the mathematical tools used in physics are examined. Whenever possible, laboratory work is designed to allow students to reproduce classical experiments working under conditions close to the original experimental setting. Laboratory work is accompanied by readings selected from the works of Galileo, Newton, Descartes, Franklyn, Coulomb, Volta, and Ampere.

The senior year concludes with revolutionary discoveries of modern science, specifically in the areas of quantum mechanics, genetics, and molecular biology. Readings include primary works by physicists Einstein, Schrödinger, Heisenberg, and Feynman and biologists Watson and Crick. The natural science strand culminates by exploring the relationships among science, society, and the environment. Here particular emphasis is placed on the question: what responsibilities do people have to each other and to the environment as they participate in this interconnected web of life?

Selected Readings from Natural Science

Aristotle, Parts of Animals, Physics
Archimedes, On the Equilibrium of Planes, On Floating Bodies
Pascal, On the Equilibrium of Liquids, on the Weight of the Mass of the Air
Antoine Lavoisier, Elements of Chemistry
Darwin, The Origin of Species
Galileo, Two New Sciences
Newton, Opticks, Philosophy of Nature
Descartes, Principles of Philosophy
Albert Einstein, Relativity
Selected Works by Goethe, Schwann, Lamarck, Torricelli, Boyle, Bacon, Schrödinger, Heisenberg, Feynman, Watson, Crick