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Academics → Science → Science Curriclum → High School Curriculum
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In Montgomery County Public Schools, the goal of the science program is for all students to achieve full scientific literacy through Next Generation Science Standards aligned and phenomenon-based instruction that will prepare them for success in college and career. The MCPS science curriculum was developed as a coherent learning progression from kindergarten through grade 12 where all students experience a rigorous, interdisciplinary approach to science content, exploring science through hands-on explorations, productive discourse, and purposeful reading and writing. Students apply content knowledge through the scientific and engineering practices to solve real world problems and develop the tools that will make them successful lifelong learners.
Frequently Asked Questions
This NGSS aligned course investigates physical laws and theories, relationships of physical phenomena, and the interrelationships of physics to other fields of human endeavor through the lens of astronomy. Topics include traditional physics subjects (Newtonian mechanics: dynamics, momentum, energy; electricity and magnetism; waves) along with related subjects in earth and space science (plate tectonics; earthquake activity, planetary orbits, solar evolution).
How can one predict an object’s continued motion, changes in motion, or stability? What underlying forces explain the variety of interactions observed? What is meant by conservation of energy? How is energy transferred between objects or systems? What is the universe, and what is Earth’s place in it? What are the predictable patterns caused by Earth’s movement in the solar system? What is the process for developing potential design solutions?
HS-PS2-1, HS-PS2-2, HS-PS2-4, HS-PS3-1, HS-PS3-5, HS-ESS1-4, HS-ETS1-2, HS-ETS1-3
Students explore the motion, orbits, and underlying forces of planets and objects within our solar system. They use a variety of models and simulations of the solar system to explain relationships between Earth and other objects. They apply Kepler’s laws to predict the motion of an asteroid, use Newton’s laws of motion to engage in argumentation related to a mission launch, and design a Mars lander that will protect an egg. Students will choose an object for an exploratory mission, and use online tools to plan and determine an orbital launch time and trajectory.
Unit Driving Question(s):
How can one predict an object’s continued motion, changes in motion, or stability? What underlying forces explain the variety of interactions observed? How is energy transferred and conserved? How are waves used to transfer energy and information? How do people reconstruct and date events in Earth’s planetary history? How do Earth’s major systems interact? Why do the continents move, and what causes earthquakes and volcanoes? What regulates weather and climate?
HS-PS2-6, HS-PS3-2, HS-PS4-1, HS-ESS1-6, HS-ESS2-1, HS-ESS2-2, HS-ESS2-3 HS-ESS2-4, HS-ETS1-1
Students explore the formation of the solar system and evaluate data to compare planets and objects within the solar system. They engage in argumentation with evidence to classify Pluto, use models to provide evidence of factors that affect climate, and investigate earthquakes and planetary systems. Students develop a museum exhibit to showcase and explain space exploration.
What forces hold nuclei together and mediate nuclear processes? How is energy transferred between objects or systems? How are forces related to energy? What are the characteristic properties and behaviors of waves? What is light? What other forms of electromagnetic radiation are there? What is the universe and what goes on in stars? What are the criteria and constraints for a successful solution? What is the process for developing potential design solutions?
HS-PS1-8, HS-PS2-4, HS-PS2-5, HS-PS2-6, HS-PS3-2, HS-PS3-5, HS-PS4-1, HS-PS4-3, HS-PS4-4, HS-PS4-5, HS-ESS 1-1, HS-ESS1-3, HS-ETS1-2, HS-ETS1-3
Students explore the phenomenon of stars and starlight. They model the formation of stars, analyze electromagnetic waves and radiation emitted by stars, and engage in argumentation about the nature of light. Students plan for energy use and generation aboard a manned space station.
How can one predict an object’s continued motion, changes in motion, or stability? What underlying forces explain the variety of interactions observed? What are the characteristics and properties of waves? How can one explain the varied effects that involve light? What is the universe and what goes on in stars? how can the various design solutions be compared and improved?
HS-PS2-2, HS-PS2-4, HS-PS4-1, HS-PS4-4, HS-ESS1-2, HS-ETS1-2, HS-ETS1-3
Students explore the galaxies and structures of the universe, and the devices that scientists and engineers use to study the universe. They apply the concepts of forces and momentum to events and processes evident in the universe. Students use models of the Big Bang event and early universe to construct an explanation of the formation of the universe. At the end of the unit, students plan a space-based observatory..
This NGSS aligned course emphasizes the patterns, processes, and relationships of living organisms. Students will use observations, experiments, hypotheses, tests, models, theory, and technology to explore how life works. Core ideas include structures and processes in organisms, ecology, heredity, and evolution. There will be multiple opportunities for students to apply these ideas in developing solutions to authentic problem-based scenarios while also exploring career opportunities.
How do ecosystems maintain equilibrium with respect to population dynamics and community interactions? What influence does the human population have on ecosystems? What should/can be done to limit negative human impacts on ecosystems? What is the value of protecting natural ecosystems and biodiversity?
HS-LS2-1, HS-LS2-2, HS-LS2-6, HS-LS2-7, HS-LS2-8., HS-ESS3-4
Earth’s Biosphere is characterized by numerous Biomes and Ecosystems. Ecosystems are dynamic with unique combinations of species, each in relationship with each other and the available non-living resources. Ecosystems have long been responding to natural changes in environmental conditions that result in predictable recovery from disturbances, but the growth in the human population is creating unnatural conditions that can push an ecosystem beyond limits for recovery.
What impact does the growing human population have on the distribution of matter and energy on the planet? Can sustainable practices minimize the negative impact humans have on the planet?
HS-LS1-6, HS-LS1-7. HS-LS1-5, HS-LS2-3, HS-LS2-4, HS-LS2-5, S-ESS3-4, HS-ESS3-6, HS-ETS1-1
In the last 50 to 200 years, we have entered a new period of time called the Anthropocene where human activities have affected and continue to reshape our planet in profound ways. Earth’s current population numbers over seven billion people and counting. The majority of those people choose to live in urban areas. Due to the growing population in urban areas, cities may be unable to provide the matter and energy required to sustain life for multiple generations.
How does the human body maintain equilibrium with respect to the characteristics of living things? How does the body respond to changes in its internal and external environment? What advances in the area of athletic training and medicine prepare student athletes for competitive sports and protect them from permanent injury?
Athletes push their bodies to the limit every time they perform in high level athletic competition. This puts pressure on their bodies and continued extreme stress can cause injury. The human body is an intricate combination of systems that coordinate functions to maintain homeostasis using feedback mechanisms. When systems are pushed out of balance through illness or injury, detectable changes in key components of the affected system or systems occur. Processes within the body may restore homeostasis naturally or medical intervention may be necessary. Prevention of injury is an important strategy for athletes. Students follow specific athletes using a case study model to investigate problems in homeostasis, injury and prevention.
How do cells coordinate and control their behavior in multicellular organisms? What are possible outcomes when the DNA in cells change? Are DNA changes distributed evenly through a species, and if not, what processes impact variation in DNA sequences?
HS-LS1-1, HS-LS1-4, HS-LS3-1, HS-LS3-2, HS-LS3-3, HS-ETS1-1, HS-ETS1-3
The body is made up of trillions of living cells. These cells are differentiated according to their role in the body. Normal body cells grow, divide, and die in an orderly fashion. In adulthood, most cells divide only to replace worn-out or dying cells or to repair injuries. Cancer starts when cells in a part of the body start to grow out of control. Cancer cell growth is different from normal cell growth. Instead of dying, cancer cells continue to grow and form new, abnormal cells. The risk of developing cancer is not the same for all organisms. Some begin life at higher risk due to the inheritance of specific gene variations, others are exposed to higher cancer risks due to their environment.
What forces have shaped the appearance of life as we know it on Earth? Are the actions of humans adding to the forces that influence the evolution of species? Is preserving biodiversity through conservation a solution to human impacts on the evolution of life on Earth?
HS-LS4-1, HS-LS4-2, HS-LS4-3, HS-LS4-4, HS-LS4-5, HS-ESS1-5, HS-ESS1-6, HS-ESS2-7
The earth is constantly changing throughout time due to natural phenomena. As the earth changes, the types of organisms that can thrive also change. Humans may be impacting the rate of change of the climate on earth, potentially negatively impacting the survival of the existing organisms.
This NGSS aligned course emphasizes the study of matter through inquiry. Through the use of laboratory investigations, students will explore their world at the atomic level. Using data, evidence, and scientific modelling, students achieve a deeper understanding of changes in matter. Topics of study include structures and properties of matter, weather and climate, chemical reactions, conservation of mass/ energy, and relationships between Earth and human activity.
How do particles combine to form the variety of matter one observes? What forces hold nuclei together and mediate nuclear processes? What mediates nuclear processes? If energy is conserved, why do people say it is produced? Other than light, what forms of electromagnetic radiation are there?
HS-PS1-1, HS-PS1-2, HS-PS1-8, HS-ESS1-1, HS-ESS1-2, HS-ESS1-3, HS-ESS1-6
Chemistry of Everyday Objects:Everything is made up of tiny particles called atoms. These atoms make up over 100 elements that combine to make compounds, molecules, and substances. Chemists can sort these substances according to their physical and chemical properties and determine which state of matter they are in: solid, liquid, or gas. More importantly chemists look at how items are put together and how they react with one another. The focus of chemistry is how the chemical reactions, or changes, take place. We can also look at whether physical or chemical changes occur.
How do the forces between molecules vary with the type of molecules in a substance? What factors affect solubility? How do the properties and movements of water shape Earth’s surface and affect its systems? How do people model and predict the effects of human activities on Earth’s climate?
HS-PS1-1, HS-PS1-2, HS-PS1-3, HS-PS1-4, HS-ESS2-5, HS-ESS3-5, HS-ETS1-1
Mitigating Sea Level Rise: During this unit, students explore sea level rise. Students will learn the science behind why sea level rise is happening.Students will also learn about sea level rise by researching changes expected to take place on the coast of Maryland. Using evidence from investigations conducted in their classroom, students will develop a claim, identify at least three pieces of evidence, and connect the evidence to your claim about how to slow or maintain the current rate of sea level change
How do substances combine or change (react) to make new substances? How does one characterize and explain these reactions and make predictions about them? How can one explain the structure, properties, and interactions of matter? What is the process for developing potential design solutions?
HS-PS1-2, HS-PS1-4, HS-PS1-5, HS-PS1-6, HS-PS1-7, HS-ETS1-3
Acidic Drainage: Students represent a team hired by Montgomery Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to remedy the effect of AMD in your region. Their team’s task is to use your understanding of chemical reactions and properties of matter to design an investigation to model a remedy to an effect of AMD to support healthy drinking water. Their investigation will model what might happen to stream water contaminated with AMD to become suitable for drinking water.
What is meant by conservation of energy? How is energy transferred between objects and systems? How and why is Earth constantly changing? How do humans depend on Earth’s resources? How do human activities impact earth’s natural processes? What are the criteria and constraints of a successful solution? What is the process for developing potential solutions? How can the various proposed design solutions be compared and improved?
HS-PS3-1, HS-PS3-2, HS-PS3-3, HS-PS3-4, HS-ESS2-4, HS-ESS2-5. HS-ESS2-6, HS-ESS2-7, HS-ESS3-2. HS-ESS3-6, HS-ETS1-1, HS-ETS1-2, HS-ETS1-3
Alternative Fuel Vehicle: Using the phenomena of GE’s innovation in developing an alternative fuel vehicle and data about fuel usage, carbon dioxide emissions, vehicle purchases, and water quality, students will analyze data and identify patterns within the data. As the unit progresses, students will gain the understanding necessary to successfully complete the challenge.
This NGSS aligned course investigates physical laws and theories, relationships of physical phenomena, and the interrelationships of physics to other fields of human endeavor. Topics include traditional physics subjects (Newtonian mechanics: dynamics, momentum, energy; electricity and magnetism; waves) along with related subjects in earth science (plate tectonics; earthquake activity) and astronomy (solar evolution).
How can one explain and predict interactions between objects and within systems of objects? How can one predict an object’s continued motion, changes in motion, or stability? What is energy? What is meant by conservation of energy? How is energy transferred between objects or systems? What is a design for? What are the criteria and constraints of a successful solution? How can the various proposed design solutions be compared and improved?
HS-PS2-1, HS-PS2-2, HS-PS2-3, HS-PS3-1, HS-PS3-2, HS-ETS1-2., HS-ETS1-3
Students will design and build a prototype of a zip line. These zip lines will operate on classical physics principles without any electricity or chemical energy. The models will be designed to carry a specific load and to be reliably used multiple times. Students will work together in design and building teams as they conduct research to determine the best design to quickly, efficiently and safely transport materials.
What underlying forces explain the variety of interactions between two objects observed? How are forces related to energy? How do food and fuel provide energy? If energy is conserved, why do people say it is produced or used? How is energy transferred between objects or systems? What is light? How can one explain the varied effects that involve light? What other forms of electromagnetic radiation are there?
HS-PS2-4, HS-PS2-5., HS-PS2-6., HS-PS3-1, HS-PS3-2, HS-PS3-3, HS-PS3-5, HS-ETS1-1, HS-ETS1-2, HS-ETS1-3, HS-ETS1-4
Students will analyze electrical power distribution systems and propose a solution to create a more efficient system. Students also conduct investigations to create a model of a home’s electrical devices and power it using either a classroom wind turbine or solar photovoltaic cells. Based on research, students make a recommendation for home design in a new community of 10,000 homes and the additional power generation capacity needed to support the homes. Students will also make a recommendation for near-term and long-term power generation changes in the region.
How is energy transferred between objects or systems? What are the characteristic properties and behaviors of waves? How do Earth’s major systems interact? What regulates weather and climate? How do people model and predict the effects of human activities on Earth’s climate? How are regional oceanic and atmospheric changes affecting communities? How and why is Earth constantly changing? What are the criteria and constraints for a successful solution? What is the process for developing potential design solutions?
HS-PS3-1, HS-PS3-2, HS-PS3-4 , HS-PS4-1. HS-ESS1-6, HS-ESS2-1, HS-ESS2-2, HS-ESS2-3 HS-ESS2-4, HS-ETS1-1, HS-ETS1-2, HS-ETS1-3
With growing human population, shifts in technology, and changes in the global climate, communities worldwide are facing challenges that they didn’t face 100 years ago. Changes in weather, rainfall, temperatures, land usage, water usage, development, sea level rise, land subsidence, and overall population growth can turn what used to be a viable community into one that is facing collapse due to one or more factors. Students will choose a specific community to study and will examine a variety of environmental factors, including oceanic, atmospheric, and geographic, as well as human caused factors which may be affecting the community. Students will identify the primary challenges and will identify possible solutions, including ones that can be implemented locally, regionally, and globally in both the near term (next 5-20 years) and long term (next 100 years).
Why are telescopes in space and how does their design affect their function? How can one explain the varied effects that involve light? What other forms of electromagnetic radiation are there? What is the universe and what goes on in stars? What are the predictable patterns caused by Earth’s movement in the solar system? How do engineers solve problems? What are the criteria and constraints of a successful solution?
HS-PS1-8, HS-PS4-1, HS-PS4-2, HS-PS4-3, HS-PS4-4, HS-PS4-5, HS-ESS1-1, HS-ESS1-2, HS-ESS1-3, HS-ESS1-4, HS-ETS1-2, HS-ETS1-3, HS-ETS1-4
Space-based observatories provide views of the universe that are not achievable within the Earth’s atmosphere. The Hubble Space Telescope has provided unparalleled views of the cosmos with views of the visible spectrum as well as ultraviolet and near infrared. Instrumentation onboard such observatories include cameras to obtain images of scientific targets, instruments for exploring the spectrum of a target and tools for transmitting that information down to Earth. Further equipment is needed in order to propel the observatory into space and keep it there. This includes thrusters/engines and a device for generating electricity. Students will research telescopes suitable for various wavelengths of electromagnetic energies. Students will design a telescope and provide a flight plan for deployment.
Three Next Generation Science Standard (NGSS) credits, including one life science (BC) credit and one physical science (PC) credit of organized instruction that integrate laboratory components in each are required for graduation
In February 2020, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) voted to modify the high school science assessment for graduation, known as the Maryland Integrated Science Assessment (HS MISA) from addressing topics in three science domains (life science, physical science, earth/space science) to addressing topics in a single science domain (life science).
Beginning in 2023 students will be expected to pass this version of the HS MISA to graduate.
For students taking the MISA in the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school year, taking the MISA will meet graduation assessment requirements for science.