Course Descriptions

Graduation requirement: Three years (30 units)

The scope and sequence of the science program is as follows:

9th Grade:    Biology

10th Grade: Conceptual Physics, Chemistry

11th Grade: Chemistry, AP Biology, Physiology, Forensic Science and Sports Medicine

12th Grade: AP Biology, AP Physics, Physics, Physiology, Forensic Science and Sports Medicine

Student placement in the upper division sequence is based upon testing results and grades.


This laboratory science course covers the important aspects of biology related to plants and animals  and shows their relationship to humanity. The course will conclude with the study of human anatomy and the various systems, including how humanity affects the environment.  A practical application approach characterizes this course: students are introduced to the technique of laboratory investigation as a vital source of learning.


Prerequisite:   Grade 10, 11, 12.  Grade of B- or higher in Biology. Students should be concurrently enrolled in Algebra 3-4 (or higher math) OR have earned an A- or higher in both semesters of Algebra 1-2.  Students not meeting these course prerequisites are encouraged to take a readiness test administered by the department.

This standard college preparatory chemistry course is designed for students with average to above-average skills in mathematics and scientific reasoning.  It is suited to the needs of students who intend to pursue their study of chemistry at the college or university level.  The course format will include lecture, discussion, extensive problem-solving, and a full range of laboratory work.


Prerequisite:   Grade 11, 12. Grade of C or higher in Biology; Chemistry is strongly recommended as prerequisite.

This course will cover in detail all the systems of the human body: the cellular system, the musculoskeletal system, the circulatory system, the nervous system, the excretory system, the digestive system, the endocrine system, and the respiratory system.  The format will include lecture, discussion, and a full range of laboratory assignments.


Prerequisite:  Grade 10: Grade of C or higher in Biology and Algebra 1-2

This course offers the subject matter of a traditional physics course with a qualitative approach to problem-solving.  The format includes lecture/discussion, problem solving and experimentation.  There are projects which demonstrate students’ mastery of course materials.  General areas of study will include mechanics, motion, astronomy, heat, light, sound, magnetism and electricity.


Prerequisite:  Grade 11, 12. Grade of B or higher in Chemistry and grade of B- or higher in Algebra-Trigonometry 3-4 Honors or A- or higher in Algebra 3-4.

This course is designed for students with a strong foundation in mathematics and the physical sciences.  The format will include lecture, discussion, problem-solving, and laboratory work.  Quantitative skills learned  in second year algebra/trigonometry and chemistry will be employed in the problem solving concepts covered.  General areas of study will include concepts of mechanics, motion, astronomy, heat, light, sound, magnetism, and electricity.

AP Physics B (P)

Prerequisite: Grade 11, 12. Grade of B or higher in Intro to Calculus or grade of A- or higher in Algebra 3-4 (H).  Physics or Conceptual Physics is strongly recommended.

This course is designed to offer students with advanced mathematical achievement an opportunity to further develop selected topics from the Physics 1-2 curriculum. Above-average proficiency in geometry and intermediate algebra will be assumed, as well as previous or concurrent exposure to vector algebra, trigonometry, and elementary calculus. Course topics will be selected from Newtonian dynamics, wave motion, electricity-magnetism, optics, and thermodynamics. In-class work will emphasize subject development, problem solving, and laboratory exercises which require mathematical analysis more advanced than usually required in Physics 1-2. Homework will include problem sets and laboratory reports. Student evaluation will be based on homework, periodic quizzes, and a comprehensive final exam. All students enrolled  in this course are required to take the Advanced Placement exam.

AP Biology (P)

Prerequisite: Grade 11, 12. Grade of B or higher in Biology, Grade of C or higher in Chemistry or instructor approval.

This course is designed to be the equivalent of a college introductory biology course and to prepare the student for the advanced placement exam given in May. This course is an in-depth, content intensive study of biological principles which include laboratory investigations dealing with cell biology, genetics, DNA technology, enzyme catalysis, photosynthetic rate, ecology, evolution and physiology. AP Biology students will be required to meet during a weekly z-block lab/seminar. All students enrolled in this course are required to take the Advanced Placement Exam. See “AP and Honors Courses” (pg.11,12) for additional information.


Prerequisite: Grade 11, 12.  Recommended that students should have completetd  their three year laboratory science requirement, including a course in Chemistry or Physics.

Forensic Science is a fast paced multidisciplinary college preparatory course that meets the University of California Area “g” College Prep Elective in the area of Laboratory Science.  This is a year long course intended for students who are serious about applying themselves and are mature  enough to handle the  wide range of  topics learned  and properly use  potentially harmful laboratory materials.  The course bridges science based inquiry and the criminal justice system.  Forensic Science integrates core concepts from the primary area of Biology and will touch upon Chemistry and Physics building upon these themes at an advanced level.

This course utilizes lecture, extensive laboratory activities and experiments, scientific literature/case study analysis, forensic competitions and demonstrations in a forensic context which will allow students to apply the scientific method to develop their writing, problem solving and critical thinking skills in a biological context.  Inquiry based laboratory investigations and analysis play a central role in the course.

Students will apply the foundations of Biology and Chemistry to solve mock criminal investigations using a wide range of laboratory techniques used today to process and analyze evidence. Topics covered will include: crime scene analysis, physical/chemical analysis of various evidence types, advance microscopy, chromatography, hair/fiber/glass analysis, fingerprint comparison, comparative analysis, document analysis, firearms/ballistics, drugs/toxicology, entomology, anthropology, blood (serology) and DNA analysis among others.

Students will be billed $35 for lab materials.

Sports Medicine (P)

Prerequisite: Grade 11, 12.  Grade of C or higher in Biology.

This course is designed to explore human musculo-skeletal anatomy and physiology and sets the foundation for further study of these sciences. Students learn biomechanical concepts with special focus on injury prevention, assessment and treatment.  Students will learn and become certified in RED CROSS CPR/FIRST AID.  Students learn how to tape ankles, thumbs, wrists, etc., how to assess and manage minor injuries, bandage wounds, stretch out athletes, and work on injured muscles.   In the spring, the students will visit the Cal Berkeley Memorial Stadium Athletic Training Facility and get a chance to interview the athletic trainers/physical therapists/chiropractors/medical doctors and surgeons who work there year round.

The University of California considers this class to be a “g” elective, not a “d” science course.

Science Categories to meet UC/CSU requirements

Students are required to take three years of science to fulfill their Saint Mary’s graduation requirements: 1 year of a biological (life) science, 1 year of a physical science and 1year in either category, including as an elective.

Biological Science (Lab)(Life) Physical Science (Lab)

Biology (9th) Chemistry (10th, 11th, 12th ) Sports Medicine
Physiology (11th, 12th ) Conceptual Physics (10th) Forensic Science
AP Biology (11th, 12th ) Physics (11th, 12th )
AP Physics (11th, 12th )