Academics: Sciences

Have you ever wondered which chemical in your bathroom closet is the most toxic?  A group of our chemistry students did and were amazed at the answer.  Have you ever measured the change in your heart rate when you stick your face in cold water?  Probably not, right?  But a VVS biology student heard about the mammalian diving reflex, decided to check it out, and the results were staggering.  Have you ever had to dive to the bottom of a river to collect whatever might be living there?  Our Environmental Systems students do so happily.  And how did you learn the equation of a line?  Probably not by throwing a Barbie doll off a balcony as our physical science class does…


The science program at VVS is founded on a belief that play, trial-and-error, and experimentation is fun and essential to a complete understanding of how the world works.  These are not your Granddad’s science classes.

At VVS we ask our students to design and execute real scientific studies; sometimes in groups and sometimes alone.  Not once, but on a regular basis.  Inspiration comes from real life:  Which compost is best for the campus garden?  Did the spring rains delay the mayfly hatch in Oak Creek?  Does coca cola really make you pee more?  Classes are designed to be flexible to allow for tangents to be explored.

Our outdoor environment is spectacular, species-rich and unique; a perennial creek flows within half a mile of the campus, pine trees compete with cacti for rain, and rock monoliths tower over our fieldwork sites.  Red Rock Crossing – our closest creek access – is one of the most photographed scenes on the planet, and is on the cover of an international environmental science book!

The Science Department at Verde Valley School believes that educators have an ethical obligation to get it right; to use best practices; to provide opportunities for play, experimentation, success and failure; and to teach the fundamental principles of science, including values and ethics so that VVS students can go on to lead extraordinary lives whatever their future holds.

Physical Science introduces students to the big concepts of physics, chemistry, and earth science: the atom, energy, the big bang, plate tectonics and the laws of motion. Emphasis is placed on science as a way of finding out about the world and the course culminates in an original research project. Study skills are taught and highlighted throughout.

Chemistry approaches the fundamental concepts of chemistry from the point of view of experimentation and investigation, focusing on fundamental principles, including the structure and form of matter; the periodic table; the mole and an introduction to stoichiometry; and energy and thermodynamics. Students learn skills such as measuring, handling chemical apparatuses, research, problem-solving, experimental design, collecting and analyzing data, and science writing. The course emphasizes the use of concepts over memorization of facts.

Computer Science is an experimental science based on practical problem-solving. Computational thinking lies at the heart of the course and is integrated with other topics. This will be supported by practical activities including programming. Four course options will be studied: databases, modeling and simulation, web science, and object-oriented programming.

IB Environmental Systems and Societies SL 1 & 2 provides students with a sound scientific perspective on the environment by connecting a number of disciplines such as biology, geology, geography, chemistry, and physics by covering aspects of ecology, climate, population dynamics, pollution, land management, and governmental policies. It is a course grounded in fundamental scientific principles with an emphasis on using practical work to relate the local environment to the underlying environmental principles and global systems, cycles, and issues.

IB Biology HL 1 & 2 provides students with in-depth knowledge about a broad range of topics from biochemistry and cells through genetics and evolution to human physiology and ecology. This knowledge is underpinned with a broad, general understanding of the few fundamental principles that connect the subject such as the relationship between structure and function and matter and energy; the molecular basis of life and hereditary; biological evolution; and the interdependence of organisms. The course builds communication skills, lab skills, and critical thinking.