Science Program Overview

Our Approach

Human beings have been struggling to understand the world around them since time immemorial. The discussion about time, space, matter, energy and life has engulfed some of the greatest minds of human history, from Democritus to Stephen Hawking. We believe that an appreciation for science, and the ability to engage in scientific practices, improve our ability to live lives of meaning.

High School Science Courses

CoursesRecommended GradeCreditDelivery FormatPrerequisites
Earth Science A90.5Live, Self-pacedNone
Earth Science B90.5Live, Self-pacedEarth Science A
Biology A100.5Live, Self-pacedHigh School Math 1A & 1B (Recommended)
Biology B100.5Live, Self-pacedBiology A
Chemistry A11, 120.5Live, Self-pacedHigh School Math 1A & 1B (Recommended)
Chemistry B11, 120.5Live, Self-pacedChemistry A
Physics A11, 120.5Live, Self-pacedHigh School Math 1A & 1B, High School Math 2A &
2B (Recommended)
Physics B11, 120.5Live, Self-pacedPhysics A
Astronomy A9-120.5Live, Self-pacedNone
Astronomy B9-120.5Live, Self-pacedAstronomy A

 

The goals of our science program are to help each student:

Within the first few hours of every course, or the first few minutes of each live class, every student will make conscious and subconscious decisions about the extent to which she should commit to the course, based on the amount of benefit she believes she will derive from the course or class session. Our goal is to design science courses and classes that speak right to students’ hearts and interests so they choose to commit 100% to learning science in our program.

We want our students to develop an understanding of science that does not dissolve with time. Students may lose details about specific processes or scientific formulas with time, but a student’s big-picture understanding about the purpose, texture, and general workings of science will not fade with time if ingrained deeply enough. Our program is designed to help students weave specific vocabulary and concepts they learn each day into the broader scientific tapestry so they develop a clear big-picture understanding they can carry with them throughout their lives.

We accomplish this goal by continually emphasizing what we call “Big Picture Concepts.” Big Picture concepts are scientific concepts that apply across all domains of science. They are therefore a way of linking different scientific domains. By consistently connecting specific topics into Big Picture concepts, we help students develop and enhance their Big Picture scientific understanding.

Big Picture concepts are recurring themes in all of the Williamsburg curriculum science courses. Specifically, we introduce these seven Big Picture concepts to students, and connect the topics in each of our science courses back into one or more of them.

  • Patterns, similarity and diversity
  • Cause and effect
  • Scale, proportion and quantity
  • Systems and system models
  • Energy and matter
  • Structure and function
  • Stability and change

Big Picture concepts provide students with a simple mental framework into which they can categorize new knowledge. By repetition, and observing each concept from different angles, students develop their own Big Picture understanding that will stay with them long after their last Leadership Academy of Nevada final exam.

Our Big Picture Concepts were inspired by the Next Generation Science Standards.

In Leadership Academy of Nevada science courses, students engage in projects and assignments that require them to demonstrate competency in the same types of practices used by professional scientists and engineers. When students engage in these practices and assignments and actually perform scientific and engineering investigations, it can pique their curiosity, capture their interest, and motivate them to be lifelong learners. They see for themselves that science is creative, and they begin to see how science can solve societal problems. From a very broad perspective, our projects and assignments require students to engage in two types of practices:

  1. Scientific practices that involve the formulation of a question that can be and is answered through investigation
  2. Engineering practices that involve the formulation of a problem that can be solved through design. These practices help students see the relevance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (the four STEM fields) to everyday life

More specifically, our projects and assignments revolve around eight types of practices that engage students in the same kinds of behaviors demonstrated by professional scientists and engineers. These are as follows:

  1. Questions: Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
  2. Models: Developing and using models
  3. Investigations: Planning and carrying out investigations
  4. Analysis: Analyzing and interpreting data
  5. Computations: Using mathematics and computational thinking
  6. Explanations: Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
  7. Argument: Engaging in argument from evidence
  8. Research & Communicate: Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

Our approach to scientific practices was informed by the Next Generation Science Standards.

We appreciate the fact that we have a limited amount of time with each student in our science courses, so we must be strategic about which concepts we choose to cover. Our goal is to choose those concepts which are most “core” to the discipline in question, and to the sciences in general.

To qualify as “core” in a Williamsburg curriculum course, an idea should meet at least two of these four criteria:

  • Have broad importance across multiple sciences or engineering disciplines or be a key organizing concept of a single discipline;
  • Provide a key tool for understanding or investigating more complex ideas and solving problems;
  • Relate to the interests and life experiences of students or be connected to societal or personal concerns that require scientific or technological knowledge; or
  • Be teachable and learnable over multiple grades at increasing levels of depth and sophistication

Our approach to “core ideas” was inspired by the Next Generation Science Standards.

 

How Our Science Courses Work

Our science courses employ several learning features designed to help students think and act like scientists:

Students attend live science classes twice weekly. In these class sessions, mentors teach students difficult science concepts and help them work challenging problems. In many live sessions, students and mentors engage in debates about controversial scientific topics, simulations, engaging colloquia based on classical science texts, group explorations, and high-energy presentations.

These live class sessions are designed to help students understand the how and why of scientific principles.

The WHY of Science

The HOW of Science

Why has this theory survived so far?

What steps do I follow to solve physical problems?

Who created this theory and why?

How do I apply these steps to solve real problems in everyday life?

Science isn’t just something our students learn–it’s something we do! Many of our live class sessions are dedicated to science labs, in which mentors and students perform engaging experiments together that require them to form hypotheses, test their hypotheses, analyze their data, form conclusions, and report on their findings. Mentors model scientific practices for students, who in turn demonstrate these same practices themselves when completing fun and challenging science projects and assignments.

Science courses that focus on knowledge alone give students an incorrect understanding of the role of scientific inquiry, and may leave them feeling that science is a body of disconnected facts. A primary goal of Leadership Academy of Nevada’s science program is to help student think and act like scientists and engineers. What a student knows when she has completed courses in our science program only measures part of our success; a more important measure of our success is whether the student knows how to apply what she has learned to move forward scientific understanding and engineering design.

Students in each science discipline complete a science project that spans the length of the entire year. During science labs, mentors model for students how to form hypotheses, test their hypotheses, analyze their data, form conclusions, and report on their findings. Students are then coached through the performance of these same practices as they complete each step in their on-going science project. Each step of the science project is strategically aligned to specific labs so that mentors have a chance to model specific scientific practices for students before students are expected to demonstrate those practices themselves.

In addition to the science projects, students complete “Big Picture Activities” such as creating concept maps, making models, creating presentations, and writing mini-essays. Students also complete practice problem sets, quizzes, participation evaluations, and engage in debates about controversial scientific topics. Some live class sessions are also dedicated to graded science colloquia in which students read an excerpt from a classical scientific tract or primary source and participate in a discussion about the reading.

Students engage in online learning sessions in our Learning Management System, which include engaging text, videos, interactive online simulations and readings, mentor-created videos, and more.

The Science Tutor Lab is a place where students can go to get live 1:1 help any school day. The lab is usually open each day. Official lab hours are posted on each course homepage.

Students can go to the Tutor Lab as often as they like, and there’s usually little or no wait. Our tutors are skilled, friendly, and helpful to students. Tutors don’t give students answers; instead, they ask questions that help students discover the answers on their own and become more independent.