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 second year course surveys scientific developments from the seventeenth century to the current day. Historical topics include
- Lavoisier, Dalton, and early atomic models of matter used to explain chemical reactions
- The discovery of the elements and Mendelyeev's development of the periodic table
- Sten, Werner, early geology and theories of the age and formation of the earth
- Wegner and the theory of continental drift
- Lamarck, Cuvier, Dalton, and the development of theories of evolution
- Mendel and the beginning of genetics
- Watt, Carnot, Joule, Helmholtz, and the beginnings of thermodynamics
- Young's diffraction experiments and the wave nature of light
- Franklin, Volt, Ampere and electricity
- Faraday, Maxwell, and electromagnetic fields
- The Curies, Thomson, Rutherford, Bohr, and the breakdown of the atom
- Planck and Einstein: Quantum mechanics and relativity
- The origin of information science and computing technology
- Audobon, Muir, Carson, and the origins of ecology
- Calvin, Krebs and the energy of biology: photosynthesis and cellular respiration
- Crick and Watson: the discovery of DNA
- The new solar system: space telescopes and planetary expeditions
- Annie Cannon and Edwin Hubble: the classification of stars and galaxies
- Hawking and Penrose: the origins of the universe
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, tectonics
- 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. Natural Science I is recommended but not required for enrollment in Natural Science II.
Browser Recommendation: I strongly that you use FireFox to attend class and use the Moodle, and avoid Chrome and Microsoft Edge, since Google and Microsoft chose not to implement the MathML standard in their browsers. We depend heavily on this math formatting tool in chat. Addtionally, the Moodle is optimized for FireFox; some features are available in FireFox and not in other browsers.
All 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:
Labs are optional. Students completing eighteen labs will receive lab credit. 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.
© 2005 - 2018 This course is offered through Scholars Online, a non-profit organization supporting classical Christian education through online courses. Permission to copy course content (lessons and labs) for personal study is granted to students currently or formerly enrolled in the course through Scholars Online. Reproduction for any other purpose, without the express written consent of the author, is prohibited.