What is happening at SVGS? – Science 2014-15


The Advanced Placement Chemistry class is in its second year at SVGS and our students are up to the challenge. They began with an overview of general chemistry and who did what when.  Essential skills such as experimentation, chemical nomenclature and stoichiometry were reviewed and re-enforced with labs and projects such as “how things work”. Our study of thermo-chemistry included calorimetry labs and the calorie counting project.  Next, students took an in-depth look at atomic structure and quantum theory, including the production and absorption of light. After relating atomic structure to the periodic table, chemical bonding was examined in detail.

Some students grew crystals to illustrate how chemical bonds form. They learned that each bond type has unique properties that can be used in identification and that the intermolecular forces between particles help to explain the behaviors of gases, liquids and solids. Students were able to put their knowledge and skills to use as they worked more and more independently in the lab.

The semester ended with a partial AP exam and modern materials research project. Second semester will offer new topics and challenges.



The Environmental Chemistry class started by examining the foundations of chemistry including measurement, calculations and laboratory skills. During the study of atomic theory and the periodic table, students created models of the atom.

Following that was a comprehensive unit on nuclear chemistry, nuclear energy and nuclear medicine. Learning about chemical bonding and nomenclature allowed students to name that compound and to figure out “what’s in that”.



AP Environmental Science students started the year with ecosystems and defining the boundaries of an ecosystem including population and biodiversity with a field trip to the Frontier Culture Museum to learn the difference between invasive, introduced, and native species and how they can affect biodiversity.

The next unit was public lands where students learned about nearby national parks, state parks, national forests, and wildernesses.  Students learned about the formation, rules, and regulations of each type of public land.  Students then visited St. Mary’s Wilderness which is located in the George Washington National Forest.

Students next learned about agriculture and set up their own experiment for growing vegetables in the lab. The next topic included gases and the atmosphere. Ping pong ball launchers were built to demonstrate the students understanding of gas laws. The effect of chlorofluorocarbons on the ozone layer and the impact of carbon dioxide, as well as other “greenhouse” gases, on Earth’s climate were examined in detail. The first semester concluded with thorough study of chemical reactions, so that students can more fully comprehend and communicate what is happening, and stoichiometry, so that students can better answer the “how much” question.  Significant progress in knowledge, skills and understanding was made and the second semester is shaping up nicely with thermochemistry and then solutions coming up next.



Molecular/Microbiology classes began the year by considering the “big ideas” of cell and molecular biology.  We then completed a unit on chemistry and biochemistry in order to build a background for future studies in microbiology, cell biology, and molecular biology.

Related laboratory work focused on basic techniques in microscopy, molecular modeling, and identification and purification of molecules important in living things.  During the last part of the semester, we investigated microbiology, beginning with the intriguing history of the science.  In the context of emerging and re-emerging diseases, students studied bacteria and viruses and their interactions with humans, particularly their role in causing disease.

We finished the unit by studying the immune system and epidemiology.  Laboratory work provided students with experience in established and emerging technologies related to microbiology and disease, including proper use of sterile technique, culture and identification of microorganisms, application of Koch’s postulates, assessment of bacterial sensitivity to antimicrobial agents, and the ELISA technique, an immunotechnological application.








We are starting to work on projects to participate Exploravison — a science competition that goes beyond the typical student science competition and into what it takes to bring ideas to reality.

Our students have been working to apply Modern Physics knowledge to new (future) promising technology development. The ideas and process design for those innovative technologies such as new materials for photo-electricity, super-electric capacitors, 3D-Doppler radar and laser cooling etc. are attempted to provide possible solutions to challenging issues including solar energy production efficiency, ecosystem evolution, electric energy storage for renewable energy production and electric vehicle power supplies, and controllable nucleation fusion reaction and so on.





Students in SVGS DE Physics recently wrapped up an intense semester of Newtonian Mechanics. Topics included Newton’s Laws of Motion, free body diagrams, energy and momentum conservation laws, angular velocity and torque, fluids and pressure, thermal physics, and a brief introduction to time dilation and length contraction.

PHYS 140 Momentum Investigation Students often put their skills to the test to solve unique challenges and simulated situations, including a “fender-bender” skid mark investigation, launching a cannon to hit a target on the first attempt to prevent an alien invasion, and developing their own method to test the Law of Conservation of Momentum.

In the spring semester, students will continue to be challenged as they tackle new topics, including electric and magnetic forces and fields, RC circuits and Kirchhoff’s rules, electromagnetic induction, sound and electromagnetic wave properties, and optics.








PHYS 140 Human FBD

















 Students in Life Science Research began the semester by mastering a variety of life science lab techniques.  After beginning with a lab on measurement and error analysis, we investigated methods for studying biomolecules, including a protein assay, DNA electrophoresis, and an enzyme study.

Students then performed a bioassay using the model organism Caenorhabiditis elegans and learned about other model organisms used in biological research.  Students mastered basic microbiological methods, including the disc diffusion assay.

Finally, they used bioinformatics tools to develop a hypothesis regarding the identity of a fossil specimen.  Classwork focused on basic research methodology, including research principles, experimental methods, reading scientific literature, and using descriptive and inferential statistics.

Students applied this information in choosing a research topic and designing their individual projects.  Once projects have been completed, students will prepare for the Regional Intel Science and Engineering Fair to be held at JMU in March.



Research in Physical Sciences has been redesigned with focus on physics, chemistry, engineering and applied mathematics including computer sciences and interdisciplinary STEM fields.  As a “deep-learning” class our students have been studying the principles and methods of scientific research, basic lab & measurement skills, error analysis and data analysis including descriptive statistics and various inferential statistical tools.

Most efforts have been made on students’ independent research projects in those academic fields; under the instructor’s guidance, they have initiated their own research questions and developed their own topics and designed the experimental procedures through a series of activities including brainstorming, literature investigation, inquiring and discussion with experts and SVGS teachers, peer reviewing, and, finally, two rounds of pre-tests.

Once projects have been completed, students will prepare for the Regional Intel Science and Engineering Fair to be held at JMU in March.

PHYS 140 Tangential Velocity


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