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Although the specific topics of science courses differ, they all have a common purpose: to prepare the student to think scientifically. The student’s understanding of nature and ability to handle the tools of science develop as the courses become increasingly sophisticated.

The Department maintains a very heavy emphasis on building student skills that enable the students to grow into more sophisticated thinkers. Classroom activities, labs, and tests are designed with components that require application of learned items in new situations and synthesis of knowledge with other concepts in addition to simple recall and comprehension exercises. The proportion of higher-level thinking exercises increases with grade level, as students build upon the foundations established in previous courses. This emphasis on the growth of critical thinking skills enables students to develop to their full potential and begin to become self-reliant learners.

• The Department places an emphasis on active learning by students, making students a partner in their own education. This is accomplished by conducting highly interactive classes where questions are encouraged, by using group response techniques (voting on questions, responding via whiteboards, writing answers to questions in notes, and frequently designing group/cooperative learning exercises). Labs are also, when possible, constructed so that students are able to participate in the design of the procedure (when safety concerns do not present an insurmountable barrier).

• All members of the Department are enthusiastic about science and science teaching, and that enthusiasm is visible to the students. It results in a positive feeling-tone in the classroom, the creation of “discovery” exercises where teachers aim to share the sense of awe and excitement that generated their own interest in science, and increased student motivation. The Department members exhibit a passion for excellence that is exemplified by an ongoing commitment to intellectual exploration and intellectual play, and, importantly, their students often adopt the behavior they model.

• All members of the Department go the extra mile in order to get to know each student, and often design approaches with a particular student’s learning style in mind, both in the classroom and in extra-help sessions.

• The Department has the knowledge and resources to make use of advanced technology, both instructional and scientific, in the classroom and the lab. CBL data collection, spreadsheet simulations and data regression, video capture, and specific high-tech equipment for labs are employed, often in ways that give students hands-on experience with sophisticated devices.

• The Department members model moral and ethical behavior in their classrooms and in other interactions with students, both in groups and individually. Ethical decisions and social responsibility are discussed in the appropriate context, with a particular emphasis on the necessity of scientific literacy in making these decisions in the modern technological world.

• In order to facilitate student development, the Department members maintain a free exchange of ideas and material from colleague to colleague. Teachers are friendly and professional in the way they behave with one another, and they take every opportunity to share resources and engage in intellectual dialogue. Teachers often attend each other’s classes (in full or in part) or just discuss the high and low points of each day in order to exchange ideas about presentation of subject material or teaching techniques. This leads to a Department that is aware of new strategies in their disciplines, and agile enough to adapt to change where it is perceived to be beneficial.

• Generally science courses meet four times per cycle. Three meetings are 90 minutes in length.

Science: general information

Science Courses