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The Manlius Pebble Hill Science Department believes that in order to be informed members of the global community, students must achieve a “scientific literacy” that enables them to weigh disparate ideas, facts and points of view in order to make ethical decisions. Recognizing that such competencies represent a set of thinking skills, the department is committed to hands-on and inquiry-driven teaching that allows students to experience the natural world first-hand. Rather than fill students’ heads with facts about that world, we teach them to first formulate questions from their own observations, and then how to answer their own questions in a systematic way.

At MPH, science is presented as an open-ended process that leads to an understanding of theories and laws about the natural world. Opportunities are available for students to work both individually and as part of a team to develop the skills to test questions using the scientific process. That process involves researching a question, designing and carrying out an experiment, solving problems, analyzing data, drawing conclusions and communicating findings. In this way the study of biology, chemistry and physics builds a foundation of lifelong learning skills.

Our approach to scientific study also affords each student the opportunity to approach course content on her or his own terms. Inquisitive students often set the bar higher than the teacher may have, and push themselves to take intellectual risks if they sense the respect and trust of their teachers and classmates. Teachers in the Science Department proactively cultivate an atmosphere where new experiments and experiences are revered and encouraged, and the risk of failure is understood to be a necessary cost of success. From their experience in such an environment, students learn to think critically, challenge themselves and push one another in ways that extend beyond the classroom and toward a lifelong love of learning.



Introductory topics include biological chemistry, cell biology, genetics, evolution, ecology, the diversity of living things, and human biology. Unifying themes stressed throughout the year are evolution, energy transfer, the relationship of structure to function, interdependence in nature, and regulation. Laboratory activities help students to understand that science is a process, and to develop important skills in scientific expression and qualitative and quantitative analysis. Biology challenges students to think critically in order to understand the larger significance of the details they are learning.

Advanced Placement Biology

Advanced Placement Biology is the equivalent of the general biology course usually taken during the first college year. Topics include biological chemistry, cells, energetics, heredity, molecular genetics, evolution, the diversity of organisms, the structure and function of plants and animals, and ecology. The course aims to provide students with the conceptual framework, factual knowledge, and analytical skills necessary to deal critically with the rapidly changing science of biology. All students in the course will take the College Board Advanced Placement exam in biology. Prerequisites include the successful completion of Biology and Chemistry.


This introductory course covers the basic concepts of inorganic chemistry. The major units are: matter and energy, atomic structure, the periodic law, chemical bonding and reactions, stoichiometry, solutions, gases, and the reactions of acids and bases. The course encompasses both the conceptual aspects of chemical theories, and the application of mathematical formulas to the course concepts. Involving both quantitative and qualitative methods, laboratory exercises reinforce the course content and allow hands-on experience with each of the topics.

Advanced Placement Chemistry

This college-level course emphasizes chemical calculations and the mathematical formulation of principles. It also emphasizes the development of the students’ ability to think clearly and express ideas with clarity and logic in essays, in calculations, and in oral communication. Topics include atomic theory, stoichiometry, thermochemistry, gas laws, kinetics, solution equilibria, qualitative analysis, acids and bases, oxidation-reduction, electrochemistry, and an introduction to organic and nuclear chemistry. All students will take the College Board Advanced Placement exam in chemistry.

Fundamentals of Physics

Fundamentals of Physics is a survey course of physics that emphasizes both a conceptual understanding of the material and a practical demonstration of knowledge through laboratory experimentation. Topics include motion, energy, properties of matter, thermodynamics, electricity and magnetism, sound and light. The history of physics and its impact on daily life provide the framework for the course, and the science behind everyday objects will be the focus of the labs. Some algebra will be used throughout the course. Enrollment is limited to students who will be concurrently enrolled in Algebra II/Trigonometry or the preceding classes. This one-semester course must be combined with Topics in STEM to fulfill the physics graduation requirement.  


Physics is a rigorous, in-depth study of physical phenomena. The topics covered include vector analysis, mechanics, electricity, magnetism, waves, optics, heat, thermodynamics, and modern physics. Physical problem solving is emphasized throughout the course, and laboratory investigations reinforce concepts and develop analytical skills. Because the course is highly mathematical and requires familiarity with algebra, trigonometry, geometry, and graphical analysis, students must have completed Algebra II/Trigonometry or the equivalent before enrolling in Physics. Physics students must be concurrently enrolled in an advanced math class such as Pre-Calculus, Pre-Calculus AC, or AP Calculus.

Advanced Placement Physics C: Mechanics

The Advanced Placement Physics C course forms the first part of the college-level sequence that serves as the foundation in physics for students intending to major in the physical sciences or engineering. Strong emphasis is placed on solving a variety of challenging problems, many requiring calculus. The primary emphasis of Advanced Placement Physics C is on Newtonian mechanics. Use of calculus in problem solving, derivations, and in formulating principles increases as the year progresses. Topics include the laws of motion; work, energy, power, and conservation of energy; momentum; rotation and rolling motion; simple harmonic motion; and gravitation. AP Physics is taught as a first-year course; although prior enrollment in physics is not required, enrolled students must have the approval of the Advanced Placement Physics instructor.


Elective Courses

 Full Year 

Advanced Placement Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism

Advanced Placement Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism provides a thorough grounding in the laws of static and dynamic electric and magnetic fields. It forms the second part of the college-level sequence that serves as the foundation in physics for students intending to major in the physical sciences or engineering. Differential and integral calculus are used throughout the course. Topics include electrostatics, electric fields, Gauss’s law, electric potential and potential difference, capacitance, Ohm’s law, circuits, Kirchhoff’s rules, sources of magnetism, Ampere’s law, induction, Faraday’s law, and Maxwell’s equations. Successful completion of Advanced Placement Physics C: Mechanics and the instructor’s permission are required to enroll in this course.


First Semester 


Over the last 435 million years, nature’s work has created an intriguing array of landscapes and topographic features in Central New York. Evidence of a saline sea, glaciers, and tectonic activity can be found throughout the area. Investigations of Chimney Bluffs, Labrador Hollow, Clark Reservation, Green Lakes State Park, and the Tully Valley exemplify the concepts presented in class. Significant group and individual projects are expected. For final projects, students design and execute models of mastery regarding a specific content area of the course.

MSON Genetics & Genomics

This course will emphasize classic Mendelian genetics, molecular genetics, and population and evolutionary genetics. The topics include structure and function of genes (and the genome), biological variation, and regulation of gene expression. Subsequently, the course will explore current genome analysis methods, and genome manipulation technologies such as CRISPR. We will also discuss the implication of our use of this information in society. Topics include recombinant DNA technology, mathematical models, and statistical methods for data analysis. Papers from the current and classic literature will supplement lecture materials. 

Second Semester 

MPH Goes CSI – Forensic Science

Have you ever wondered how DNA can be manipulated to prove guilt or innocence? Did you know that lipstick left on a glass can be evaluated and then linked to a specific brand and, perhaps, person? Are you interested in learning how to lift fingerprints left on an object? This forensic course will apply some new and some well established lab techniques to the evidence left at a staged crime. The course is a series of experiments that lead a team of investigators to decide upon a possible perpetrator from a field of suspects. The final project involves solving a crime staged in the classroom with faculty serving as suspects.

Topics in STEM

Topics in STEM is an exciting course offered by the Science Department to students in their junior or senior year. This course can be an elective for students who want to explore their interests in science, technology, engineering and math. For students enrolled in Fundamentals of Physics, it forms the second semester of that course to meet the physics graduation requirement. All students design, implement, and present their own STEM-related projects. Throughout the course, students acquire or improve their problem-solving skills, critical thinking skills, collaboration skills, and communication skills. Previous projects include building a rocket that can be successfully launched, designing and building mini models of world monuments, and making a magnifying glass. This inquiry-driven and project-based course opens many pathways to scientific exploration.

Independent STEM Projects

The Science Department offers the exciting opportunity for students to continue the thread of independent science research started in Middle School through to their Upper School years. The Department designed a timeline and benchmarks to support interested students in their quest to complete independent STEM fair projects culminating with participation in the MPH and Central New York Science and Engineering Fairs.  Interested students enroll in the third quarter class and meet on an as needed basis with a mentoring member of the Science Department. Over the years, participating Upper School students have enjoyed great success with their independent science research.