Natural Science - Year I

Chat times for 2017-2018
9-10:30am ET/6-7:30am PT

Dr. Christe Ann McMenomy

Scholars Online Natural Science - First Year for 2017-2018

Natural Science is an integrated two-year high school science course provides the background in earth, life, and physical sciences necessary for success in more intensive college-preparatory courses in biology, chemistry, and physics. We learn the basic principles underlying both physical and life sciences, and how they support specialized areas such as geology, meteorology, astronomy, oceanography, zoology and botany. The core concepts of modern science are presented in their social and historical context, rather than as abstract theories isolated from each other or their historical roots, so that students can see both how the methodology of scientific investigation both shapes and limits theory development, as well as how scientific theories are shaped by social and cultural concerns. Students develop skills to apply experimental methods to observation and mathematical methods to data analysis and presentation.

The first year course surveys scientific developments in the ancient world through the Scientific Revolution. Historical topics include

  • Conditions necessary for scientific endeavor by individuals and communities
  • The development of concepts of time, patterns, and periodicity
  • Babylonian, Egyptian, and Hellenist accomplishments in mathematics, especially geometry
  • Greek explanations of the composition of matter using earth, fire, water, and air
  • Aristoelian and Ptolemaic models of the geocentric solar system
  • Early classification of life forms
  • Archimedes and the development of machines
  • Roman engineering — roads, aquaducts, and city planning
  • Early Christian views of philosophy and science
  • Arab advances in astronomy, mathematics, and optics
  • The medieval cosmological worldview and controversies in the universities
  • Leonardo da Vinci, Andreas Vesalius, William Harvey and the origins of modern medicine
  • Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler, Galileo, and the acceptance of the heliocentric solar system
  • Galileo, Newton and the development of the Universal Law of Gravity

Scientific topics include

  • Scientific Methodology: techniques of observation, experimentation, collecting and interpreting data
  • Matter: mass, solids, liquids, and gases, atoms, molecules
  • Chemistry: solutions, acids, bases, metals, organic materials
  • Energy: motion, heat, light, chemical, and nuclear energy
  • Forces: gravity, electricity, magnetism, atomic bonding
  • Periodicity: waves, sound, and music
  • Life: common principles of cellular structure, and the use and production of energy
  • Life: diversity of forms in the five kingdoms
  • Life: animal and plant systems
  • Astronomy: the planets, comets and asteroids, the sun, other stars, galaxies
  • Earth Science: rocks, geological forces, erosion
  • Weather: currents in air and water, clouds and precipitation, fronts, climate

Meetings: The course will meet once a week for discussion of material drawn from primarily from extensive website reading on the historical background and substance of modern scientific theories. Exercises and lab assignments will help students learn the practical application of the ideas discussed in class.

We will approach this mass of material through directed web reading, our live chat discussions, and through lab experiences. As we learn about the formation of modern science, we will try to put our concept of science into perspective by addressing these questions:

  • What is science? How has our definition of science changed over time?
  • What is scientific methodology? How has this methodology developed?
  • How have past generations observed nature? How do we observe a natural object or event now?
  • How do scientists design and use instruments to discover more detailed information about nature?
  • How do we evaluate and organize our knowledge?
  • What are hypotheses, models, theories, and physical laws?
  • How do we test, accept, or disprove a theory?
  • How does the very act of organizing knowledge limit or enhance the way we think about nature and ourselves?
  • What are the ethical implications of scientific investigations?
  • What are the areas of conflict between current scientific theories and models, and the social, cultural, and religious concerns of the human community?
  • What are our responsibilities as stewards of the natural resources of Earth?

Students who satisfactorily complete the class will be prepared to continue high school level studies in astronomy, biology, chemistry, or physics.

Natural Science is designed to be an introductory course and assumes no specific science background. Simultaneous enrollment in, or completion of a general course in world history, is recommended but not required.

Required Texts:

Students will need to purchase How to Study Science, Edition 4, by Fred Drewes and Kristen L.D. Milligan [McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2003. ISBN 0-07-234693-0]. This is a very practical outline of essential study skills required for science (as well as other topics).

All other reading assignments are based on web-accessible materials. There are several reasons for this.

  • No current textbook covers all the topics from all the different angles that I want this course to cover. Some texts focus on physical science with inadequate coverage of life science topics, some focus on historical themes without clearly explaining the science invovled, and few include hands-on laboratory materials.
  • Students today need to learn how to use the web as a research tool, but they also need to learn how to evaluate what they read for factual accuracy, agenda bias, and pedagogical approach. Not all sources (whether text, web, movie, personal presentation or other media) presents information accurately. Every presentation, even where the author is scrupulous about factual matter and tries hard to present unbiased information, is biased by the simple limitation that finite information is restricted: the author must chose what to present, and what not to present. Exposing students to multiple sources helps them learn how to evaluate bias and transcend it to find the truth even in questionable sources. By guiding students through source materials and different perspectives on those materials, we give students the analytic tools they need to discern for themselves whether a source is worth pursuing further.
  • Finally, not all presentations are equally useful: different students learn different materials in different ways, and recognizing which presentation methods are most useful is a critical study skill, allowing students to identify and focus on materials presented so they learn best. Exposing students to the wealth of information and the wealth of presentation methods now available helps them develop skills in selecting and pursuing those information sources that best fit their needs.

For those of you who really want a textbook in hand, there are several book resourses for optional supplemental reading are listed on the Text page, but they all suffer the limitations I mention above. Optional websites for more detailed exploration of individual topics are also given in each unit.

Labs and Lab Equipment:

Students must have parental permission to perform labs in order to receive credit. The lab permission form and a list of required equipment and materials is available from the Lab Requirements page.

Need more information? Further details on this course are available at this site on course procedures and other frequently-asked questions.

Enrollment: To enroll in this course, or for further information on Scholars Online, please visit the Scholars Online Website.