Below is a comprehensive description of Pacem’s Science curriculum. In 2012-2013, we are offering Introductory Physics for 14 -16 year old students and Chemistry for 16 – 18 year old students.

The goal of the Pacem science curriculum is to create informed citizens with a strong sense of place who will contribute to the environmental sustainability of their communities. Consideration of environmental sustainability is a thread woven in throughout the curriculum, as is knowledge and understanding of the local environment. Science courses at Pacem are lab and activity based courses. Students explore every concept using both quantitative and qualitative experiments and activities. We provide students with tools and parts and ask them to devise an experimental setup to test a particular question.

14 – 16 year old students take Introductory Biology and Introductory Physics in alternating years. In both of these classes, students will learn and practice the following skills:

  • The ability to make accurate detailed quantitative and qualitative observations
  • The use of basic laboratory tools including microscopes, photogate timers, triple beam balances, and other measurement devices
  • Data analysis and interpretation
  • The use of spreadsheets, graphs, and basic statistics to interpret results
  • Scientific writing, with particular emphasis on writing from the evidence
  • Experimental design including:
  • Question and hypothesis development
  • Identification and testing of variables
  • Development of controlled experimental protocols

Introductory Physics:

Concepts Covered:

  • Measurement and graphing of velocity and acceleration
  • Acceleration due to gravity
  • Inertia and Newton’s first law of motion
  • Forces: particularly the normal force, friction force, applied force
  • Addition of forces empirically and theoretically using a force table and vectors
  • Newton’s second law of motion (force = mass x acceleration)
  • Circular motion
  • Projectile motion
  • Momentum
  • Introduction to energy
  • Work, power, and mechanical advantage
  • Simple and complex machines
  • Movement and properties of different kinds of waves
  • Properties of sound and light including reflection, refraction, and color
  • Electrostatics
  • Electric current and Ohm’s law
  • Introductory circuits
  • Biology: The Living World
  • Concepts Covered:
  • Structure and function of biological marcomolecules
  • Cell structure
  • Cell function including osmosis, diffusion, respiration, photosynthesis, protein synthesis and DNA technology
  • Cell division and genetics
  • Evolution
  • Comparative physiology
  • Interactions of organisms and populations in ecosystems
  • 16 – 18 year old students take Environmental Science and Chemistry in alternating years. In these courses, students will be expected to continue to develop and practice the science skills learned earlier at a more sophisticated level. In addition, upper level courses will add the following skills to our students’ scientific toolbox:
  • Evaluation of scientific arguments as presented in popular culture
  • Application of more complex quantitative concepts including significant digits and basic statistical methods
  • Development and completion of more complex longer term experiments
  • Close reading of scientific writing


Concepts Covered:

  • Density and significant digits
  • Types of mixtures and their separation
  • Solubility, solutions, and concentration
  • Organization, history and trends of the periodic table
  • Structure of the atom and electron configuration
  • Mole concept, molar mass, and empirical formulas
  • Chemistry of acids and bases
  • Gas Laws: Effects of temperature, pressure, and number of atoms on the volume of gas
  • Ideal gas law: PV = nRT
  • Phase changes of substances
  • Intermolecular forces
  • Molecular geometry
  • Stoichiometry and balancing equations
  • Equilibrium reactions and calculation of Keq
  • Le Chatelier’s principle
  • Exothermic and endothermic reactions, activation energy
  • Hess’s law
  • Spontaneity of Reaction and Gibbs Free Energy
  • Electrolysis and electrochemical cells

Environmental Science: “Natural History of Vermont” (first semester) “Environmental Problem Solving” (second semester)

Natural History of Vermont is intended to complement “New England Social and Environmental History” and “American Environment”.

Concepts Covered:

  • Geology, ecology, and natural history of Vermont
  • Processes and natural communities that shape the landscape
  • Current issues in Vermont conservation

Environmental Problem Solving Concepts Covered:

  • Human population growth
  • Climate change
  • Energy generation
  • Habitat destruction and conservation
  • Other topics chosen by current students