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What is the fate of our beaches - a truly transitional habitat? How do
tides, waves and ocean currents influence that shape of our beaches?
Who has the right to change the shape of our beaches? Scientists?
Politicians? Landowners? How will these changes influence the life on
the beach and the seafood many people love to eat? This PBAT course
will investigate sand, surf, and sea life, while bringing to light the
debate about beach restoration.

The topics for the course are;
• UNIT 1: What is a beach, how is it formed, and what influences it?

Significant Assignments: 

Concept maps are used to interpret information from four different science texts. Concept maps are widely used in research science to effectively illustrate and communicate scientific processes, ideas, and scientific models. Students we learn how to develop a successful concept map based on one of the natural influences that shape shorelines. The concept map practice will aid students in understanding the significance of the topic and its application in designing a successful lab investigation.

The end product of the first unit is a wall-sized mural composed of the 9 different group concept maps, which are, in turn, designed by 3 different students. Linking text between topics will encourage analysis of the information from the concept maps of others. A major component of this unit is peer evaluation and critique, where we often refer back to each others work as we strive to design more effective means of communicating the topic.

The second unit will focus on the specific characteristics of geographically isolated beach communities. Students will take on the task of reporting on the types of sand, slopes, structures, and life that occupy that land boundary.


Rock and mineral characteristics and composition are often used to characterize an abiotic environment. By examining types of minerals and the presence of those minerals in various types of rocks, we can better make predictions about the influence of that rock type on beach erosion. Rocks like sand stone and granite will result in different beach composition than rocks likes basalt and pumice.

In this first unit, it is important to evaluate skills of objective observation, such as measurement of length, volume, mass, and density, while also creating a forum for more subjective observations such as color, luster, and texture. Students will make predictions of the effect these characteristics will have on sand density, sand particle size, and ultimately sand displacement in water currents. Students will also predict the effect that specific beach structures will have on wave patterns and erosion by physically creating models of these structures on a beach and watching the effect of the waves on the shape of the structure.

The second unit will focus on the biotic characteristics of the beaches. Comparisons will be made between different beach structures, sand compositions and the links to the flora and fauna related to those habitats. Can we see distinct patterns between organisms and the geologic features at each habitat? Which of the geological characteristics have a more obvious influence on the life present?

Sample PBATs: 
How does particle size influence the erosion of beach sand?
Does sand density influence the erosion of beaches?
How does sand movement affect the interstitial beach community?
What are the alternatives to beach replenishment?
How is salinity influenced by rock composition?

Advanced Biology

In this yearlong Advanced Biology course, students will learn the foundations of biotechnology. The course begins with a review of cellular biology focusing on molecular genetics. Students will conduct experiments such as DNA extraction, DNA fingerprinting, bacterial transformation, DNA analysis using gene chip and mitochondrial DNA sequencing. Students will conduct background research for the labs by reading scientific articles and other primary and secondary sources.

Glencoe. (2009). Glencoe Science Biology Student Edition. New York: Glencoe.
Micklos, D. A. (2003). DNA Science: A First Course, Second Edition. Cold Spring Harbor: Cold Springs Harbor Laboratory Press.
Significant Activities or Projects: 

• DNA Extractions – Students learn techniques for extracting DNA from cheek cells, wheat germ, strawberries, and other organic substances.

• Bacterial Transformation – Students will genetically engineer the E.coli bacteria to uptake genes for antibiotic resistance and bioluminescence.

• Forensic DNA Profiling – Students will examine the variable tandem repeat polymorphism. They will amplify the polymorphic locus and use a DNA chip to determine their genotype. Students will also use population genetics to calculate the frequency of their genotype.

• Mitochondrial DNA Sequencing – Students will isolate, amplify, and sequence a small region of their mitochondrial DNA. They will then compare their sequence to their classmates (who are all recent immigrants from around the world).

Sample PBATs: 
Mitochondrial DNA Project: Students will conduct background research on the origin of modern humans, exploring both the Multi-Regional and Out of Africa theories. Students will use this information to form a hypothesis about which students in the class will be most closely related. They will then analyze their mitochondrial DNA sequences to determine if the data supports their hypothesis. Students will submit a written lab report and defend their results orally to a panel of students, teachers and external evaluators.

Da Vinci Art and Science

This course has students look at Leonardo da Vinci from the perspective of art and science. Students will take two classes; each cycle will focus on a different aspect of da Vinci’s life and work. The cycles will be divided into one of Leonardo’s four treatises with the exception of one cycle in the science course that will focus on the elements. The treatises are Anatomy, Painting, Mechanics/physics and Architecture.

The classes will meet together when projects and trips require the extra time. This course will be full of projects, experiments and trips to relevant places.

The Way Things Work by David MacCauley
Leonardo’s Horse Inc.
Leonardo’s notebooks
The Unknown Leonardo
National Geographic, September 1977
Media Used: 
Slides, digital photos, smartboard
Plaster, brushes, pigments, eggs, pens and India ink, mirrors, paper, pencils, scratchboards, assorted building materials.
Significant Assignments: 

Drawings, paintings, notebooks

Drawing gadget anatomy

Bridge building

Significant Activities or Projects: 

Image recognition test

Use of elements, principles, and art criticism used in class discussions

Mechanics - group projects/ build a DaVinci machine or some other simple machine that works

Sample PBATs: 
The assignments and projects listed above may lead to a PBAT. The student chooses area of special interest to pursue.


Students in this class will review the basic principles of toxic risk and how they apply to setting water standards, determining environmental hazards and using bioassays to test the toxicity of different substances.

We will be performing weekly experiments, watching related movies, discussing ideas in class and presenting our results regularly. You must participate and take notes (when appropriate).

Each week we will be discussing specific readings on the topics below:
The Dose Makes the Poison
Area Tap Water Has Traces of Medicines
Ecological Risks
Using Bioassays for Environmental Research
Media Used: 
Various films directly related to the topics students will be researching.
Significant Assignments: 

Writing up lab reports and experiments.

Significant Activities or Projects: 

Students will design and conduct an original experiment on a topic of interest to them and related to the focus of this course. They will collect data, analyze the data, use Excel to communicate data and present it to the class as a PowerPoint presentation.

Sample PBATs: 
How toxic is the water we drink?
What impact does pollution have in the short/long term?

Active Chemistry

This is a course where students will discover a few of the many ways that Chemistry is involved in our daily lives. They will be introduced to the basics of Chemistry and have the chance to improve their laboratory skills. Major areas of investigation throughout this year-long course involve a study of elements and the subatomic particles that make them up, reactions, stoichiometry, thermochemistry, kinetics, acid/base chemistry, and an introduction to many cutting edge advances within the scientific community.

"Active Chemistry"
Various scientific research articles from newspapers and scientific journals
Significant Activities or Projects: 

Periodic Table game project allows the students to use the knowledge they have gained about the periodic table, its organization, and history to create a game that will explain aspects of the periodic table to others.

In the Cooking Chemistry projects students will write their own recipe and point out various places in that recipe where Chemistry is involved. Students will explain the process of producing the heat needed to cook their meal as well as the changes that are going on to their food as it is heated and cooked. Students will also focus on current research in the area to identify possible health benefits or risks associated with eating components of that meal.

Students will also complete a Rube Goldberg project where they will plan a Rube Goldberg apparatus. To successfully complete this project students will have to bring in their knowledge of molecules, bonding, balancing chemical equations, stoichiometry, and basic electronics.


Students will initiate an original science experiment, building on the topics covered in the course.

Sample PBATs: 
What is the best method to eliminate oral bacteria?
What areas in the classroom are the most germ ridden?
What is the effect of varying concentrations of acid rain on plant growth?
What type of pain reliever is dissolved quickest in the body?


This is a course where students explore the concepts of Evolution, include genetics and heredity, natural selection and extinction. Students tie these ideas to an investigation of an organ system in three different organisms and compare and contrast the systems in order to draw conclusions about Evolution.

excerpts from: The New York Times Science Section
Charles Darwin. On the Origin of Species
Media Used: 
Virtual Pig Dissection Simulator articles, interactive activities, and videos
Significant Assignments: 

Students will complete a dissection of a fetal pig. Before beginning this dissection students will research a specific organ system. They will be asked to research this system first in a human, then an organism of their choosing.

From this research students will be asked to come up with their own original question about the system they choose. They will then examine this system in the fetal pig during the dissection as well as collect the information necessary to answer their question. Once they have completed their dissection they will analyze their system in the three organisms and complete a laboratory report and research paper focused on an original and testable hypothesis that they have formulated based on the three systems.

Significant Activities or Projects: 

Create a travel map and drawings representing the locations Darwin traveled and his observations during his trip to the Galapagos Islands after reading excerpts from his book.
Create tables and charts of the different phenotypes of classmates.
Translate sample DNA bases into amino acid sequences.
Identify different types of mutations and their causes.
Draw and track the process of DNA replication.
Calculate probabilities of genotypic trait inheritance using Punnet Squares.
Students calculate probabilities of phenotypic trait inheritance using Punnet Squares.
Create an organism using sample alleles, genes, and chromosomes that represent phenotypic traits.
Read and analyze NYT science articles then formulate critical thinking and opinion questions for classmates to answer.
Research the structure, function, processes and disorders of an organ system in the human body.
Research the structure, function, processes and disorders of an organ system in an organism of the student’s choosing.
Formulate a testable question to focus and drive a dissection of a fetal pig.
Dissect a fetal pig focusing on a specific organ system.
Record qualitative and quantitative observations.
Write a formal lab report.
Compare and contrast structural and functional aspects of organ systems in three different organisms.
Revise drafts scientific papers.
Connect evolutionary relationships to observed similarities and differences in organism organ systems.

Sample PBATs: 
Which Digestive System is the Most Effective? Comparing the Fetal Pig, the Human and a Cow. Students must defend their analysis using data and evidence they have gained through labs, experiments, and research.


(Topics Covered)
Uncertainty in Measurement
Accuracy and Precision
Significant Digits
Operations using significant digits
Scientific Notation
Density – for Solids and Liquids
Hands-on Activities
Density of Cylinders of Equal Volume
Density of Cylinders of Equal Mass
Density of Water
Mass versus Weight
Force and Weight
Motion: Distance, Velocity, and Acceleration
Pressure Applications
Comparing Pressures
Pressure Graphs
Water/Liquid Pressure
Air and Atmospheric Pressure
Buoyancy and Newton’s Law of Interaction

Cunningham, J. & Herr, N. (1994). Hands-on physics activities with real-life applications. San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass.
Hewitt, P. G. (1997). Conceptual physics: Third edition. Menlo Park, California: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.
Significant Assignments: 

Experiments to investigate what happens weight of an object under water
Experiments to investigate weight of a floating object

For the above, students calculated the densities of various objects using valid measurements, made and analyzed graphs, and studied the relationships between different variables. They also did varied problems to apply what they had learned.

Students further investigated the relationship between mass, volume, and density through graphs. They calculated slopes and wrote linear equations.

Significant Activities or Projects: 

Experiments to test how hulls of different shapes move on water, relationship between mass and speed, relationship between mass and acceleration, relationship between force and speed, relationship between force and acceleration.

Sample PBATs: 
Design and construct boats to achieve certain purposes (e.g., speed boat, cruise ship, barge, fishing boat, canoe, etc.)
Design experiments to test if the boats achieve their purpose.

Environmental Chemistry

The one semester course examines the following questions:
* What is energy and what forms can it take?
* What is biofuel and how is it produced?
* How does the Law of Conservation of Mass apply to biofuel production and use?
* How will the use of ethanol and other biofuels affect our lives?

"Gassing Up Without Air Pollution" by Kathryn Parent -National Chemical Week
"Turning Whole Plants in Fuel"-Scientific American
"Food Choices, Food Crisis and Finger Pointing" by Andrew Martin--NY Times
"Farming for Fuel" by Allie Johnson-Popular Science
"Is America Headed for a Food Shortage" by Dawn Stauer
"Is Renewable Fuel a Waste of Energy" by Rena Marie Pacella
"Biofuel Won't Save Us" bt Marty Jerome
"Matter and Change"-Glencoe Science
Significant Assignments: 

Why is ethanol a compound?
Must considerformula for ethanol, some form of representation of ethanol, and basic atomic structure (protons, electrons and neutrons)

What are reactants? What are products? What do the kinds of numbers in a chemical equation mean?

Powerpoint: on Combustion
Write the balanced equation for combustion; represent molecules in combustion
Compare and contrast ethanol to gasoline and their effect on the environment.
Explain the greenhouse effect and represent the molecules in global warming
Represent the molecules involved in global warming and whether combustion significantly affect global warming

Describe other significant chemical reactions that have a significant effect on environmental concerns (e.g., photosynthesis, fermentation).

Describe the controversy surrounding use of corn-based ethanol and explain the arguments on each sides. Use convincing evidence and data to examine each side of the argument. Defend the position you take in this controversy.


Individual research project with arguments for and against ethanol use for fuel purposes.
This is in preparation for the final PBAT presentation

Sample PBATs: 
How Does Chemistry Help Us Understand Debates About Renewable Energy?

The Brain in Mind

The Brain in Mind is a science class that attempts to build a coherent model of the mind. It begins back in ancient Greece with philosophical texts from Aristotle and Socrates and ends with the study of current hybrid sciences, which use arguments from evolutionary psychology to explain the human mind.

De Anima – Aristotle
The Republic – Plato
Discourse on the Method for Conducting One’s Reason Well and for Seeking the Truth in the Sciences – Rene Descartes
Enquiries Concerning The Human Understanding and Concerning The Principles of Morals – David Hume
On the Origin of Species – Charles Darwin
Zoological Philosophy. An Exposition with Regard to the Natural History of Animals - J.B. Lamarck
The Brain in Mind Course Study Guide
Various relevant NY Times articles
Significant Assignments: 

-Responses/Criticisms to philosophical prompts.
-Completing your own personal Brain Codex with all major areas and functions of the brain
-Distinguishing between Causation and Non-causation
-Detailed description of an action potential

Significant Activities or Projects: 

-Creating your personal Brain Codex
-Conducting your own psychology experiment (PBAT project)


Students are required to thoroughly research their psychology topic of choice before conducting experiments. The research must have been from reputable sources and in sufficient quantity (4 pages) before their project could continue.

Sample PBATs: 
A 10 page (minimum) research paper, detailing a student-conducted psychology experiment. Topics typically range from the origin of fear to the science of love. The paper includes all necessary components of a modern science research paper (abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, literature citations). This paper includes information gained throughout the year and the experiment is conducted in light of the various methods studied in class. The culmination of this project is a videotaped 20 minute presentation of the project to the class.

Science of DaVinci

Leonardo Da Vinci exemplified the Renaissance Man. He was an "anatomist, botanist, geometer, physicist, architect, mechanical engineer, hydraulic engineer, civil engineer and even aeronautical engineer. Oh, and he also painted a little. Much of his success was due to his incredible skills of observation and his devotion to collecting and analyzing data. In a time when many scientists tried to "see" what they had been told was true, he found truth in what he actually saw.

Excerpts from Gelb, M. (2000) How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci? Bantam Books
Excerpts from Anderson, M. (2006) Amazing Leonardo da Vinci Inventions You Can Build Yourself. Nomad Press
Excerpts from MacCurdy, E. (ed) (2003) The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci. Konecky, William S. Associates, Inc.
Excerpts from Zitzewitz, P (2001) Physics : Principles and Problems. McGraw-Hill
Media Used: 
DVD - Genius - Leonardo Da Vinci
Nasa - Shape Effects on Drag (
Significant Assignments: 

Three laboratory reports. The experiments all come from a subject suggested by Leonardo's work. The first on a full-class parachute project. The second on a small-group assignment on the development of, science behind, and testing of water shoes. The third laboratory report based on an individual project of the student's choosing.

Significant Activities or Projects: 

Visits to the New York Hall of Science to the "Invention at Play: The Hall Explores the Playful Side of Invention and the Inventive Side of Play" exhibit.


The whole class studied force and drag created by air resistance in order to make predictions about the fall of the parachutes. We went on to look at floating and buoyancy. For the final project, the topics covered have been more varied. Students have looked at people's responses to rectangles drawn using the golden ratio, how blue shading affects the perception of depth, the effect of shape on acoustics, mirror-writing and mirror-reading, as well as more motion-based topics involving trebuchets and crossbows.

Sample PBATs: 
How does the ratio between the sides of a parachute with a rectangular profile affect the time and drift of its fall?
How does the level of blue in an image affect the perception of depth?
How does the type of scoop affect a trebuchet?
How does the stopping point of the arm affect a trebuchet?
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