An understanding of science is an essential component of modernity.
Science is both an activity for generating knowledge about the natural world and a set of ideas – the mental models of chemists, physicists and biologists – about the origin and content of that world and the interactions that take place in it. While only a small number of individuals will become professional scientists, all our lives are being transformed by technology, the application of these ideas. Challenging ethical issues arise with each new scientific discovery, and changing scientific ideas shape and reshape our thinking about who we are. In order to participate in this discourse, and be critical about what is claimed in the name of science, we must have some direct experience of scientific activity, and a familiarity with the major scientific ideas that this activity has produced.
To this end, the UNIS science program seeks to establish a climate of learning in which students feel that asking questions and evaluating the answers to those questions is the legitimate business of science. Students learn that only ideas that can be tested experimentally are scientific ideas, and that science proceeds by making predictions based on these ideas and testing them. The program is designed to excite students about the possibilities of knowledge so that their early curiosity about the natural world remains unbounded, to develop in students the practice of critical thinking and logical argument, and to encourage, recognize and value creativity in finding solutions to scientific and technological problems.
This is a vertically integrated program of study from Junior A to Tutorial Four in which ideas build on each other towards an increasingly sophisticated understanding of current scientific models. At every level the program provides students with a rich hands-on experience of laboratory work during which they become familiar with a range of laboratory equipment and experimental techniques. Students are given opportunities to plan as well as carry out laboratory investigations. They learn the different ways in which data can be processed so as to yield its significance. They learn to be at ease speaking the language of science and employing its writing conventions.
Throughout the program, there is a deliberate attempt to engage students at every level with the ethical and social implications of scientific ideas and the technology based on them. Students also learn that science is an international enterprise that observes no frontiers; scientists build their ideas upon the ideas of other scientists, both men and women, representing every country and every continent.
Science in the Junior School is a shared responsibility between the home-room teacher and a science specialist. Students spend a period of time each week in a laboratory setting and continue their science work in their home-rooms with their home-room teachers.
In the Middle School, science is taught as a single subject and all science classes are taught by science teachers in science laboratories. The exception is Middle One in Manhattan where science is taught partially in a laboratory and partially in home-rooms. The Manhattan Middle One science teachers are all math/science specialists and Middle One students learn both math and science with the same teacher.
Full details of the Middle School science program are available on the UNIScienceNET web site.
In the Tutorial School, rather than science being taught as a single subject, it is now divided into biology, physics and chemistry, taught by different teachers. Courses are more formal and rigorous, and there is greater emphasis on the hierarchical structure of knowledge within each science subject. The duration of courses grows from one semester in Tutorial One to two years in the IB courses in Tutorial Three and Tutorial Four. Laboratory work is central to the program in each science subject, and students assume increasing responsibility for designing and carrying out experiments to test their own ideas.
In Tutorial One, all students are required to take three science subjects: Biology, Chemistry and Physics. In Tutorial Two, students have a choice of taking any two science subjects out of the three offered: Biology, Chemistry or Physics. In Tutorial Three, the International Baccalaureate science subjects, Biology, Physics and Chemistry, are offered as two-year courses at either the Higher or Standard levels. One-year non-IB courses are also offered in Environmental Investigations and in Neuroscience Investigations.
In order to graduate, students must complete four science courses during the four years of the Tutorial School. For this purpose, Biology, Chemistry and Physics in Tutorial One count as a single course, even though they are taught as separate subjects by different teachers. The two science subjects selected in Tutorial Two count as two courses. Students therefore must complete one additional science course during the two years of Tutorial Three and Tutorial Four. However, many students choose to do two different two-year courses in parallel during Tutorial Three and Four.
Full details of the Tutorial House science program are available on the UNIScienceNET web site.