Science Program Overview

Our Approach

Humans have been trying to understand how we fit into our world since there have been humans. From Democritus to Hawking, we’ve explored time, space, matter, energy and life in every manner conceivable. This exploration ultimately adds to the meaning of our lives.

This effort seems to be inherent in our natures. Learning Academy students are no different. Therefore, we help them learn to appreciate science and how to engage in scientific pursuits.

Our science programs are designed to speak to students’ interests so they will commit one hundred percent to learning science. Specifically, we help our students:

  • see the relevance of science in their lives and future
  • gain a “big-picture” conceptualization of science
  • become competent in performing basic experiments using scientific methods

Students may forget details about processes or formulas over time. But a student’s understanding about the purpose and general workings of science will not fade if ingrained deeply enough. In the first few moments of a class or course, students will make decisions about their interest in science. They will consciously or unconsciously measure the benefits they will receive by studying a given topic.

Consequently, our mentors help students weave scientific concepts and language into their lives in a relevant way. This method helps them develop a big-picture understanding of science they can carry with them into the future.

 

Big Picture Concepts apply to and link all domains of science. By consistently connecting topics into Big Picture Concepts, we help students develop and enhance their scientific understanding.

We introduce seven Big Picture Concepts in our science courses.

  • Patterns: Things similar and things diverse
  • Actions: Cause and effect
  • Measurements: Proportion, scale, and quantity
  • Systems: Connections and modeling
  • Forces: Matter and energy
  • Structure: Form and function
  • Homeostasis: Stability and change

Big Picture concepts give students a mental framework into which they can fit new information. By observing each concept from different angles, students develop their own Big Picture understandings. These frameworks will stay with them long after their last Leadership Academy final exam.

In our science courses, students complete assignments and projects that require them to demonstrate competency in scientific and engineering practices. They see for themselves that science is creative. They begin to learn how science can solve social and environmental problems.

Broadly speaking, our projects require students to engage in two types of practices:

  • Experimental methods that require a question to be asked and answered through investigation.
  • Engineering practices that require a problem to be expressed and solved through design.

These methods help students see the relevance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics to everyday life. When students perform hands-on scientific and engineering investigations, they get curious, interested, and excited about lifelong learning.

Our assignments and projects pivot on eight scientific and engineering practices:

  • Questions: Asking scientific questions and defining engineering problems
  • Models: Developing and using models
  • Investigations: Planning and carrying out investigations
  • Analysis: Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Computations: Using mathematics and computational thinking
  • Explanations: Constructing scientific explanations and designing engineering solutions
  • Logic: Engaging in logical reasoning and argument from evidence
  • Research and Communication: Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

 

We have a limited amount of time with each student in our science courses. So we select and teach the core concepts of a given discipline. To qualify as “core” in a Williamsburg course, an idea must meet at least two of four criteria:

  1. Have broad relevance across multiple sciences or engineering disciplines or be a key concept of a single discipline
  2. Provide a key tool for understanding or investigating complex ideas or problems
  3. Relate to student interests and experiences or relate to social or personal concerns that require scientific or technological knowledge
  4. Be learnable over multiple grades at increasing levels of depth and sophistication

 

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-pacedAlgebra 1A & 1B (Recommended)
Biology B100.5Live, Self-pacedBiology A
Chemistry A11, 120.5Live, Self-pacedAlgebra 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) - We recommend Pre-Calculus A as a corequisite, meaning that students take Pre-Calculus A at the same time as Physics A.
Physics B11, 120.5Live, Self-pacedPhysics A - We recommend Pre-Calculus B as a co-requisite, meaning that students take Pre-Calculus B at the same time as Physics B.
Astronomy A9-120.5Live, Self-pacedNone
Astronomy B9-120.5Live, Self-pacedAstronomy A

How Our Science Courses Work

Our science courses employ several learning methods that help students think and act like scientists. These include

  • Live science classes and labs
  • Fun and challenging projects and assignments
  • Engaging science lessons with readings, videos, games, and simulations

 

Live science classes are held twice a week. In class, mentors teach students scientific concepts and help them work out challenging problems. Students and mentors may engage in debates about controversial scientific topics, participate in simulations, discuss classical science texts, share in group explorations, and conduct and observe high-energy presentations.

Live class sessions are designed to help students understand

  • The how and why of scientific principles
  • Who created a theory
  • Why a theory was created
  • Why a theory has survived so far
  • What steps to follow to solve physical, real-life problems

Science isn’t just something our students learn. It’s something they do! Live class sessions are often dedicated to science labs. In labs, mentors model scientific practices for students. In turn, students demonstrate these same practices as they complete fun and challenging science projects. These assignments require them to:

  • Form and test hypotheses
  • Analyze their data
  • Draw conclusions
  • Report on their findings

 

Science courses that focus on knowledge alone give students an incorrect understanding of scientific inquiry. Those courses may leave them feeling that science is a body of disconnected facts.

At Leadership Academy, we teach students to think and act like scientists and engineers. The knowledge students gain in our science program represents only part of our goal. It is more important that students can apply what they have learned to advance their understanding of science and engineering.

During science labs, mentors model scientific methods. Then they coach students through performing these methods during a year-long science project. Each step of the project is aligned to specific labs so that mentors can model specific scientific practices. Then the students demonstrate those practices themselves.

Science students also engage in Big Picture Activities. These include creating concept maps, building models, crafting presentations, and writing mini-essays. Students also complete practice problem sets, quizzes, and participation evaluations. They may engage in debates about controversial scientific topics. In some live classes, students read an excerpt from a classical scientific tract or primary information source, then discuss the reading. Students can also go to our learning management system to read texts, watch videos, and do interactive online simulations.

Engaging science lessons with readings, videos, games, and simulations

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.

Students can get live one-to-one help every school day at the Science Tutor Lab. 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. Tutors guide students to answers with questions that help them discover the answers for themselves.