Waldorf High School of Massachusetts Bay
An Independent Waldorf High School For Grades 9-12

Physics I: Thermal Physics

Ninth Grade Main Lesson Block Class
Through student-designed experiments, we study changes in materials associated with changes in temperature: expansion, contraction, phase changes. This incorporates thermodynamics concepts including specific heat, the heat of fusion of ice, and the heat of vaporization of steam. We also explore different types of heat transfer (conduction, convection, and radiation) and their practical applications, ranging from the internal combustion engine to culinary techniques for making ice cream.


Ninth Grade Main Lesson Block Class
Through a series of hands-on explorations, field observations, demonstrations and discussions, this class introduces the fundamental chemical processes of our world. Following human history from the Stone Age through the Bronze Age and Iron Age, we will discover the role of key minerals and organic chemicals in developing our modern civilization. Then we will investigate where these substances came from, and the geological and biological processes that lie behind our society. Finally, we will look deeper into the big picture of life on Earth, how the Earth itself has formed and changed and how these chemical processes are continuing and changing today.

Human Anatomy & Physiology

Ninth Grade Main Lesson Block Class
This course introduces students to the structure and function of the human body. Beginning with a historical perspective of anatomy, students will explore the basic organization of the body and its major systems. Physiological experiments will be conducted both to explore the functioning of different body systems and to gain an understanding of the scientific method.

Physics II: Mechanics

Tenth Grade Main Lesson Block Class
Students study how physical movement, force and energy work through scientific experiment, philosophical reflection, and active movement. Beginning with describing the motion of our own bodies while walking, running, balancing, and falling, we move from our everyday unconscious intuitions about motion to the kind of specific technical language and thought that has made modern civilization and technology possible. After developing a clear mathematical framework for describing motion using the ideas of speed and acceleration, students explore how motion can be caused or changed by gravity or other interactions. These discoveries lead them to an understanding of the concepts of energy and forces.  

Chemistry II: Acids & Bases

Tenth Grade Main Lesson Block Class
We begin by extracting acidic juices from fruits and investigating our own built in chemical sense of taste. We then compare taste tests to color changes that occur with indicators: special juices that change color when added to different liquids. These help us discover antacids, substances which seem to neutralize the sharp taste and caustic action of acids. Through extensive hands-on lab work, we learn to use acids and antacids (bases) to produce and identify various common substances known as salts. We also explore the interaction between acids and metals, and learn lab techniques including quantitative titration, gas capture, and several analytical tests. Through this lab work and classroom discussion, we develop the concept of ionic compounds and begin to introduce modern chemical names and reaction formulas.

Earth Science II: Navigation

Tenth Grade Main Lesson Block Class
In this main lesson we explore both ancient and modern methods for answering the question, "Where am I?" incorporating astronomy, history, geometry, and outdoor living skills. We build several traditional celestial navigation tools used by seafaring explorers to measure location using the geometry of the motion of the sun and stars. We also learn about the history of how scientists and navigators toiled to find a method for measuring longitude at sea, culminating in the invention of the marine chronometer in the 1700s. Furthermore, we explore modern navigational methods of GPS by participating in a global scavenger hunt known as geocaching. On the class field trip, we put these skills into practice through orienteering on land and water, using the sun and stars to measure our latitude and longitude as we travel.

Biology II: Embryology and Cell Biology

Tenth Grade Main Lesson Block Class
In this course, we begin with a consideration of the basic organization of the cell — its structure and the function of subcellular components. We discuss the different processes of cell division involved in the formation of gametes and the growth of organisms, and how these division processes relate to the transmission of genetic material. We then turn to developmental biology, asking the fundamental question: how do complex organisms develop from a single fertilized egg? We end with a discussion of recent technological developments and their medical and societal implications.

Chemistry III: The Nature of Matter

Eleventh Grade Main Lesson Block Class
We take up the question, “What is the nature of matter?” – a question which has occupied humans for millennia. The periodic table is, in many ways, an icon of the twentieth century. We learn the history of the table, how it is arranged, and how to use it as a tool. In addition, we focus on the real experience of a number of different elements, since the table does not convey many of the qualities of the elements. Hydrogen is much more than an atomic number, weight, and density. Work continues on chemical equations.

Physics III: Electricity and Magnetism

Eleventh Grade Main Lesson Block Class
The focus of this course is the study of phenomena due to static electricity, electric current, magnetism, and electromagnetism. Starting with simple experiments making static electricity by rubbing fur on rubber, we build up our understanding to learn about how lightning works and experiment with artificial lightning using a Van de Graaff generator. Students gain an understanding of charges, electric and magnetic fields, as well as their interactions. Practical applications, such as the radio, relay, and dynamo are explored: we learn how the interactions of electricity and magnetism are used to build generators and motors.


Eleventh Grade Main Lesson Block Class
In this course students focus deeply on the plant world. We examine how plants have developed over time and the different reproductive cycles. We study plant anatomy, both of full plants, as well as their fruit and flowers. The class also discusses plant identification, which is highlighted on our curriculum trip.

Laboratory Science

Eleventh Grade Course
First semester
The focus of this course is on student-chosen independent research projects. Students are guided through the process of selecting interesting scientific research questions and designing their own experiments to try to answer them. Student work on these projects is integrated with a study of scientific method and mathematical data analysis. Students present their work at an exhibition for the school community at the end of the semester and have the opportunity to showcase their work at a regional science fair.

Second semester

The focus of this course is on energy flow in mechanical and biological systems. We explore different types of energy (kinetic, potential, mechanical, electrical, chemical, heat) and how they change forms by building a Rube Goldberg device involving many types of energy transformations in a chain reaction. We then study ecobiology through field and laboratory study of macro invertebrates (insects, worms, and arachnids), followed by lab culture and microscope observation of fungus anatomy and physiology. We build to an understanding of ecosystems through the ways different organisms (including humans) harness and use different forms of energy.

Physics IV: Optics

Twelfth Grade Main Lesson Block Class
The sense of sight is an enormous part of our experience almost every waking moment. In this course, students have a number of visual experiences designed to challenge their everyday intuitions of what it means to see and deepen their understanding of sight and light. Students learn both how artists create visual experience and how scientists probe its mysteries. Beginning with the phenomenon of illumination and color, we then study the physiology of seeing and physics of light.

Zoology and Evolution

Twelfth Grade Main Lesson Block Class
From the earliest simple microscopic organisms to the richly complex ecosystems present on Earth today, we explore the history and diversity of animal life. We begin with the grand view of the history of our planet as revealed by fossils and the big picture of all animal life on Earth, sorting out familial relationships between types of species. The third week is spent on Hermit Island in Maine studying invertebrate sea life through direct observation and lecture/workshops. Finally, each student researches, documents, and gives a presentation on a different category of vertebrates.

Chemistry IV: Biochemistry

Twelfth Grade Main Lesson Block Class
This course seeks to give students an appreciation of life at the molecular level. We first consider some of the unique features of the carbon-based chemistry of life. Three main themes are then addressed. One is the structure and function of proteins – the molecular machines that perform a vast range of functions within the cell. Moving from proteins to nucleic acids, we next ask: what is a “gene”? What are the approaches used and challenges involved in drawing the connections between the molecular level of genes and proteins and the organismal level of traits, diseases, and other complex characteristics and outcomes? Finally, we consider how chemical energy is derived from food and used to drive the many processes of the cell.

The strengths of Waldorf High School are many. One is the acceptance of all students and the welcoming, nonjudgmental atmosphere. Another is capturing the interest of students; it is real experiential learning.
Waldorf High School Parent
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