Student Perspectives: US Science and Applied Science and Engineering

Here’s some student  feedback about the electives in Upper School Science and Applied Science & Engineering

The comments below were taken from student surveys conducted the week of February 22. (Please keep the ratings score in context, for example, Sophomores might consider a class or assignment as more rigorous than a Senior.)

Anatomy & Physiology
Advanced Topics in Biology
AP Chemistry
AP Physics 1-2
AP Physics C
Applied Science Research (ASR)
Biotechnology Research
Design & Architecture
Intro to Mechanical/Electrical Engineering
Neuroscience

Advanced Topics in Biology

Instructor: Tanya Buxton

What should a student know that’s NOT in the course description:

  • This is a really fun class, but the long lab reports we write are challenging and you’ll want to ask for help from the teacher and your classmates.
  • There is a decent amount of chemistry knowledge needed, especially in some units like cellular respiration.
  • Ms. Buxton is the nicest teacher in the entire world and even if you’re not a science person, she will help you. She makes AT Bio super fun!
  • If you take Anatomy alongside AT Biology, it’s very nice because the two classes sometimes overlap and complement each other in topic while not being a duplicate.

I would recommend this course to students that…

  • enjoyed Biology junior year!
  • are interested in learning about how different life processes work at a cellular and molecular level.
  • are curious about how different body systems (not covered in first year Biology) work.

I would NOT recommend this course to students that…

  • want an easy class, because curiosity and a willingness to put in work is pretty necessary for AT Biology.
  • don’t like doing labs or didn’t enjoy Biology last year.
  • are not comfortable with being a bit confused for a few days until the information gels in your head.
  • aren’t interested in spending a lot of time memorizing different processes and cellular models.

Highlights from the course and/or specific skills that I learned:

  • I understand so many things now that I never thought I could like how food gives us energy, how vaccines work, how the environment can influence our genetic traits (epigenetics), to name a few.
  • I am more competent with lab equipment now and can read more scholarly science articles. Everything is super applicable to life so it has made me more interested and empowered to learn biology in the future.
  • Ms. Buxton! She is so sweet. Highlight was being around her. I learned how to ask for help when I am just as a whole 100% confused.

Other comments:

  • I would highly suggest taking this class. Ms. Buxton is a super understanding, flexible, and invested teacher. Her enthusiasm for the subject enriches our class experience, and she is great with one-on-one review sessions. The content of the class is also extremely relevant and continues to blow my mind every day!
  • I think the first unit almost scared me off because it was pretty heavy on “In chemistry you learned….” AP Chemistry wasn’t a prerequisite so not all of us took it, but a good amount of students did which helped those students. That almost scared me enough to the point where I might’ve dropped it.
  • Great class!

Average “Academic Rigor” Rating (1-5): 3.5

Average “Amount of Homework” Rating (1-5): 3.5

Anatomy & Physiology

Instructor: Todd Hardie

What should a student know that’s NOT in the course description:

  • They should know that this class is very demanding, but very rewarding. It is as much about learning the material than learning about yourself.
  • This class is totally what you make of it. It’s challenging, but if you work hard, you’re going to get positive results. The chronic condition project in particular stops feeling like a normal class assignment at a certain point. The only way to get as much out of it as possible is to really devote yourself to it.
  • This a holistic class - it doesn’t just address all aspects of anatomy and physiology on the biological level and the medical level, it also strives to teach us more about ourselves as students and people.

I would recommend this course to students that…

  • are interested in the medical field, are curious about the human body, want to learn about themselves.
  • like to learn about science in a way that feels tangible rather than theoretical and for students that are prepared to take on a challenge for their own personal growth.

I would NOT recommend this course to students that…

  • do not want to have to spend a lot of time memorizing/studying anatomy or want a more traditional lecture style class structure.
  • need a teacher to teach every bit of the material to them (this is a very independent class, and you truly will get out only as much as you put in).

Highlights from the course and/or specific skills that I learned:

  • The Chronic Condition project is eye-opening and a great way to form a personal connection to an illness that you may have never heard of. Out of all the classes I have taken at Menlo, I learned how valuable time management was in this class and was able to hone that throughout the course.
  • I learned how to complete research projects and how to learn both individually and within groups.
  • I think skill-set wise the biggest thing has been about managing my time and pacing myself the way I need to like I will need to be able to do for college. The chronic condition project was awesome, and I really love how Mr Hardie looks at not only how the human body works but also how to take care of ourselves.

Average “Academic Rigor” Rating (1-5): 4.0

Average “Amount of Homework” Rating (1-5): 3.3

AP Chemistry

Instructor: Eugenia McCauley

What should a student know that’s NOT in the course description:

  • It’s more about understanding everything and barely any memorization.
  • There is a good amount of lab work in this course, which is always fun.
  • This class involves more math than the Chemistry in Sophomore year which makes it more fun.
  • It is very difficult for a student coming from conceptual chemistry, but doable

I would recommend this course to students that…

  • loves science and working through problems and combining many concepts that you learn.
  • want to delve deeper into Chemistry and molecular composition.
  • enjoy chemistry, who are very interested in chemical reactions and love to watch them happen and then figure out why they happen.
  • had a solid understanding in Chemistry sophomore year and have good math skills.

I would NOT recommend this course to students that…

  • think Chemistry is already hard enough to understand at their current level.
  • do not like abstract ideas.
  • are not good at details.
  • only want to take it for the AP credit.

Highlights from the course and/or specific skills that I learned:

  • It is awesome to do much more complex labs and feel like a pro chemist.
  • I learned lab skills/techniques, lab writing skills, and I feel like I improved my scientific thinking.
  • Being able to recognize certain trends in Chemistry after a while. You get better at the subject after working your mind/exercising it for a semester.

Average “Academic Rigor” Rating (1-5): 4.0

Average “Amount of Homework” Rating (1-5): 3.1

AP Physics 1-2

Instructor: Deb Jensen

What should a student know that’s NOT in the course description:

  • Willingness to work hard is key in this class.
  • You should know that a lot of the course builds off concepts in freshman physics so if you want to do it, you should be pretty solid in all of those topics.
  • The course is usually structured with lectures and examples done in class, but there is a lot of learning that does happen at home. The homework problems are very important in your understanding of the material.
  • It’s fun.
  • Although this course can take up a lot of time, there is a very steady and predictable schedule so it never feels too overwhelming

I would recommend this course to students that…

  • are interested in math and science. Do not take it if you’re not interested in the subject, it will just make it harder.
  • genuinely enjoy physics and want to learn more about it.
  • enjoyed freshman physics and did not have to work too hard in that class to get a good grade.
  • like a challenge and want to deepen and explore advanced physics concepts. Do it if you love physics.

I would NOT recommend this course to students that…

  • don’t want to put in the work or are taking this just for another AP.
  • are signing up for this class just to take an extra AP, not interested in course.
  • procrastinate.
  • do not enjoy solving mathematic problems with equations.

Highlights from the course and/or specific skills that I learned:

  • I learned how to break down complex problems by its basic pieces, a skill which is very useful in pretty much everything.
  • You learn how to stay organized and use study time effectively.
  • I learned how to prepare for tests effectively, and that you often do not understand concepts right away.

Other comments:

  • I like the class a lot, but it is challenging.
  • It’s definitely a bit of work, but it’s really fun and rewarding.

Average “Academic Rigor” Rating (1-5): 3.9

Average “Amount of Homework” Rating (1-5): 3.5

AP Physics C

Instructor: Jamie Formato

What should a student know that’s NOT in the course description:

  • I think everything is pretty adequately covered.
  • There’s a good amount of lab time in the first semester.
  • It’s hard.
  • There is a ton of study on your own/groups.

I would recommend this course to students that…

  • have a genuine interest in science, engineering or math, and not just completing a class for a grade.
  • love physics.
  • are curious and have strong math skills.
  • absolutely love physics and don’t mind leaving a class with more questions than when you came in.

I would NOT recommend this course to students that…

  • want a light workload and don’t want to think deeply and critically, and be challenged.
  • do not like solving physics problems or do not like labs.
  • are shy in the face of algebra or integrals.
  • don’t love physics or math or are not competent in either. Or are allergic to getting bad grades.

Highlights from the course and/or specific skills that I learned:

  • I learned how to think about really complex systems and I learned this is always something way crazier the further you look.

Other comments:

  • It’s awesome!
  • It’s a lot of fun. If you liked AP Physics 1-2 I highly recommend it as a next step.

Average “Academic Rigor” Rating (1-5): 4.3

Average “Amount of Homework” Rating (1-5): 4.2

Applied Science Research (ASR)

Instructor: James Dann

What should a student know that’s NOT in the course description:

  • There isn’t a lot of formal instruction. There are a few days to introduce a topic and Dr. Dann is very helpful when you need him but you do most of the learning on your own.
  • There is little nightly homework. However, many students spend lots of additional time in the lab working on projects, which helps you do well in the class.
  • It’s going to take up a lot of your life but will be a lot of fun.

I would recommend this course to students that…

  • really want to dive in deep and learn a lot in a short amount of time.
  • love computer science, math, physics, or general engineering. who love to explore and learn new things and learn by doing.
  • enjoy working independently and in teams on freeform but challenging projects.

I would NOT recommend this course to students that…

  • cannot work on ASR outside of class, hate working without step-by-step guidelines, hate researching, hate writing papers more than they like doing science.
  • do not like trial and error, reasoning/problem solving, teamwork, and engineering, and who are not academically independent (i.e. those who would only like extremely structured courses).
  • don’t like a challenge.

Highlights from the course and/or specific skills that I learned:

  • I have loved the freedom to build and create in this class.

Average “Academic Rigor” Rating (1-5): 4.7

Average “Amount of Homework” Rating (1-5): 3.8

Biotechnology Research

Instructor: Cristina Weaver

What should a student know that’s NOT in the course description:

  • This course really gives you a glimpse into what life in a lab could be in college and even post-grad. It especially allows you to explore the various kinds of work you could be doing in a lab.
  • The second-semester project is a lot of work outside of class, but it is definitely worth it and enjoyable. Although I knew this class was primarily about research, I didn’t expect for us to spend as much time in the lab as we do, but it is extremely interesting and something I’m passionate about.
  • It’s a family!

I would recommend this course to students that…

  • love biology, but want more time in the lab and want a different experience with biology.
  • are just as comfortable working independently as they are with a partner— you will need to be able to do both.
  • really enjoy lab work.

I would NOT recommend this course to students that…

  • don’t love doing experiments, or to students who are not interested in learning more about the engineering side of biology.
  • are not okay with failure— your independent project will have plenty of problems and will not be perfect. You must learn to troubleshoot and learn from your errors.
  • don’t like hands-on projects, basically labs are essentially the whole class, and don’t like independent work.

Highlights from the course and/or specific skills that I learned:

  • I have honestly loved have the ability to work in the lab every day. I have learned so many things from culturing cancer cells to purifying proteins to modifying genes inside bacteria.
  • I don’t have a specific highlight, but I love that this course allows you to research something you are genuinely interested in. It isn’t like history where you are assigned a topic to research— you come up with your own experimental design. There is plenty of room for creativity in that sense.
  • Lots of specific lab skills that will be extremely valuable if I choose to pursue research in college!! I also loved many if not all the labs we did in class!
  • Everything. How to plan all experiments in an effective way

Other comments:

  • I think this course is one of the hidden gems at Menlo. This has definitely been one of my favorite courses at my time in the high school.
  • You don’t have to be a stellar science student to do well or enjoy this course. I came into the class without taking honors or AP sciences, and I have loved being in this class.

Average “Academic Rigor” Rating (1-5): 3.9

Average “Amount of Homework” Rating (1-5): 3.1

Design & Architecture

Instructor: Marc Allard

What should a student know that’s NOT in the course description:

  • It’s more design than it is engineering.
  • That a student will not get certified in all of the power tool or get a chance to use them.
  • This class is highly dependent on group projects and student leadership positions.
  • There is a big range in the projects, some are simple and can be completed in class but some do require additional time in the lab.
  • The opportunity that this class provides is for an integration of creativity and design.
  • That it is more hands on then I thought it was which was a very pleasant surprise!!

I would recommend this course to students that…

  • want a science elective but don’t want something as rigorous like ASR.
  • who would like to take an engineering course, but feel that math is not their strong suit.
  • like to challenge conventional design by creating new, innovative designs.
  • like hands-on projects and studying architecture.
  • loves architecture and buildings.
  • enjoy building and product creation, who also desire the opportunity to be creative in their designs.

I would NOT recommend this course to students that…

  • aren’t very excited about group projects and don’t have any time outside of school to devote to your project.
  • dislike group projects, have trouble with presentations, and are looking for an easy class.
  • are not very detailed and do not have very much patience and resilience when a project fails.
  • have a tough time working in groups to reach consensus.

Highlights from the course and/or specific skills that I learned:

  • One thing that I really enjoyed about this class is that I was able to freely design my own products and that I could have not only a conceptual but also a hands-on experience in learning about architecture.
  • I learned so much about architecture that I didn’t know and now I can’t see a house that I don’t critique (haha). I loved making the lamp.
  • to be patient and not freak out when a project fails.

Average “Academic Rigor” Rating (1-5): 2.8

Average “Amount of Homework” Rating (1-5): 1.9

Neuroscience

Instructors: James Dann/Cristina Weaver

What should a student know that’s NOT in the course description:

  • This class Engineering-oriented. It consists of mostly lab work.
  • It’s harder for underclassmen, because they don’t have as much science background, but it is still doable.
  • We will be dissecting insects.
  • This course includes a thorough exploration of neuroscience through the comparison of electrical engineering circuits and the biology of the brain. Participants must be willing to touch many, many bugs.

I would recommend this course to students that…

  • are interested in lab work and engineering as well as life science.
  • are very interested in science and learning more about fields that are still developing and like getting their hands dirty during experiments.
  • have never taken a hands-on science class at Menlo before.

I would NOT recommend this course to students that…

  • are not willing to kill/experiment on various insects.

Highlights from the course and/or specific skills that I learned:

  • Great class to learn a variety of lab skills.
  • Learning how to write papers was very helpful.
  • I really liked the cricket lab.
  • I loved the final project because it gave me the opportunity to explore a subject that really interested me.

Other comments:

  • I loved this class and am now very interested in Neuroscience!
  • Not a lot of regular homework, but a lot of work when it comes to labs.
  • I absolutely loved neuroscience, and can say with confidence that it was the best science class I ever took at Menlo. It was such a cool opportunity to use all of the resources in the lab and really formulate my own experiment at the end of the semester. Only wish it had been a year long.

Average “Academic Rigor” Rating (1-5): 4.7

Average “Amount of Homework” Rating (1-5): 3.6