For many thinkers, the emergence of modern science is one of the decisive events in the history of the west, if not the history of all mankind. Every aspect of our lives has been touched by this revolution in our understanding of the world. When seen in such broad terms, it is clear that the study of science cannot and should not be limited to those who are, or aspire to be scientists.
Understanding the story that science tells is of universal importance. The study of science at Providence Country Day aims to prepare our students to achieve a rich understanding of that story. Students are exposed to the story, not as spectators, but as active participants in the methods and ways of the sciences. We aim to make the experiences of the classroom akin to those who have and will practice science. Like any scientist, the students engage in purposeful investigations of nature, which allow them to experience firsthand, the discipline needed to establish experimental results, the excitement of discovery, and the responsibility to align their discoveries with those that have been previously recorded.
It is not easy for a young and inexperienced science student to align the evidence s/he observes with the established intellectual norms of the scientific community. For our students to be able to meet this responsibility they need to understand the story of science as a coherent whole. The coherence of modern science is best understood if approached through its conceptual foundations—that is, through the concepts of physics. The concepts of forces, motion, and energy, which are at the heart of the modern revolution, are investigated first in PCD's science curriculum. These ideas form the foundation for a rich understanding of the study of matter in chemistry and the study of life in biology. In their senior year, students are given further opportunities to weave their understanding into a coherent whole with electives like astronomy, by studying the ethical ramifications of new technologies in bioethics, or by revisiting the foundational concepts in physics with honors physics (PSSC advanced topics). They are also given the opportunity for a more practical integration of what they have learned by studying forensic science.
In 1986 PCD created a “Physics First” science curriculum. It is a sequence now being recommended by science reform experts throughout the country.