Months in Review: October & November, 2015 – ACADEMICS

*The “Month in Review” series highlights academics, student experiences, community events and happenings at SVGS. 


Advanced Calculus:Multivariable – Students focused on vectors and geometry of space and learned to use a tool Maple, a computer algebra system, to visulaize and explore vectors in space.  We plunged into the concept of a tangent plane to a 3D surface. To see all the recent topics in Advanced Calculus, visit the SVGS Moodle server ( and click “Login as guest”. Find Advanced Calculus in the  list of courses, and visit our webpage.


Advanced Technology – Students explored the various tools and applications of Dreamweaver and are developing websites.



AP Calclulus BC –  Students turned their attention to integral calculus where they studied antiderivatives and Riemann sums as a lead-in to the Fundamental Theorems of Calculus.  They have applied the Fundamental Theorems extensively to physical situations with particular emphasis on particle motion.



AP Chemistry-  Students began the month with atomic structure, including a little Quantum Theory and the spectrophometry lab, followed by the Periodic Table and Chemical Bonds. The focus was on the structure of matter and how that pertains to its properties. Lewis (dot and structural) diagrams provide the basis for understanding molecular shapes and bond polarity and for predicting melting points, boiling points and solubility.

chem lab

AP Computer Science – Students learned about hardware, software and logical operators.


AP Environmental Science –  In October, all APES classes went to Shenandoah National Park and learned about the Appalachian Trail, burl wood, trail maintenance, and karst topography.  They took soil samples to be used in the soil lab the following week.  The APES students also got to play a farming game developed by JMU professors and graduate students to help pastoral Massai farmers in Africa work through problems in a game situation that fairly accurately represents the problems of pastoral farming in Africa.

Some APES students went to the Chincoteague Field Station and learned about salt marshes, water testing for saltwater, intertidal zones, maritime forests, and dune ecology.  They also got to  see the Chincoteague ponies and climb to the top of the lighthouse.


AP Statistics –  The month of October began with students working on correlation/regression.  They chose projects such as:

1)            Which is a better predictor of Fantasy Football points, past performance or future projections?

2)            What is the relationship between state divorce rates and education rate/median income?

3)            What impacts the sale price of Honda Civics more?  Is it the mileage on the vehicle or the age of the vehicle?

4)            What correlates more strongly with NYC crime rates?  Is it the high school dropout rate, or the annual income per capita?

The month ended with students working with probability.   They used Microsoft Excel to create simulations of complex probabilistic questions.  They also employed Bayesian reasoning in calculating probabilities associated with medical tests.

 Calclulus (DE) –  In Dual Enrollment Calculus, we have been working on related rates problems. Students created posters (see photos) showing diagrams and solutions, presented them in class, and took a group test in during which they could consult their posters and discuss the problems with teammates. Lots of great calculus discussions occurred.

Irons_Posters_11_11_2015r Irons_MorePosters_11_11_2015r

Computer Networking and Security –  Students worked to understand the basics   of the OSI 7 layer model for networking and command line tools needed to administer Linux operating systems, and simple attacks that are used against them.

Environmental Chemistry – Students studied Chemical Bonds & Nomenclature, including the “What’s in that?” project, followed by a unit on atmospheric chemistry that culminated in a research project on air pollution (“Why are the Blue Ridge Blue?”) and a physical project involving Gas Laws. Some students built barometers to help predict the weather (picture), while others built ping-pong ball launchers.


Engineering I –

Students have been adding to their repertoire of computer-aided design (CAD) skills using Autodesk Inventor.  They have recently completed a design project that focused on the aerodynamic stability of a projectile.  The designs were rendered on the 3D printer and tested with a spring cannon.

Students have also had the opportunity to talk with a number of practicing engineers about their profession.  Alex Sullivan, a mechanical engineer and project manager from McKee Foods, visited our class and shared his background and highlights of his work.  Also in October, students visited the Lycra® spandex facility in Waynesboro and spoke with a variety of engineers about their roles in the R&D and manufacturing processes.


Engineering II   -Students did background research and identified problems to address with their prototype designs. Under the guidance of professor Groves, the teams are moving toward prototype designs and specifications. Students are looking forward to the material acquisition and construction phases of their projects.

Geospatial Information Systems –  Students got to map the ocean floor in a box that represented the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay.  They also learned geoprocessing and geocoding of addresses.

Molecular Biology – Students studied  structure and function of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, nucleic acids, prokaryotic life; viruses–characteristics, emerging and re-emerging diseases, transmission of infectious diseases, history of microbiology, immune system vaccines and antimicrobial pharmaceuticals.

mol bio

Modern Physics – We have started a new chapter — Experimental Basis of  Quantum Theory, which covers some of the “most beautiful experiments” ever conducted by scientists.

mod physics

Physics – Students explored topics of circular motion, gravity and orbits, energy conservation, work, and power. Activities included calculating the mass of Jupiter by observing the motion of its moons, determining students’ horsepower as they accelerated from rest (record for 2015: 1.17 horsepower!), and conducting video analysis of friction.

Jupiter SimulationCart and Track

Precalculus – Students worked with functions.  They used technology such as GeoGebra and Microsoft Excel in analyzing function characteristics.   They studied transformations and analyzed polynomial functions.

Research: Life Science – Students learned about research principles and types of research, reviewed of descriptive statistics and error analysis, introduction to inferential statistics and t-test, designing experiments and defending conclusions and interpretation of results and labs—basic life science lab techniques; assaying proteins spectrophotometrically; exploring factors affecting fermentation by yeast.


Research: Physical Science -Students conducted and presented two rounds of pre-tests in class to test our equipment and procedures designed to manipulate independent variables and to measure dependent variables.


Humanities I – Students concluded their study of language acquisition and development on a surprising and rewarding note.  After the class discussed in detail Chomsky’s essay “New Horizons in the Study of Language,”  a student took initiative and emailed Dr. Noam Chomsky as a note of appreciation and included questions that the class compiled collaboratively based on remaining questions they had.  Topics ranged from Chomsky’s theory of  a language acquisition device to his opinions and considerations of other linguists’ theories.  Dr. Chomsky not only sent a timely acknowledgment as a response, but he later spent time carefully answering their questions, inspiring this tweet from the class: #reachingouttoallthetheorists and a class photo emailed to Dr. Chomsky as a thank-you for his time and attention.  Currently, students are concluding their gender and culture study by contributing and watching gender issues discussions on various media platforms.  Students then connect issues raised in these popular forums with essays they have read by Mary Wollstonecraft, Germaine Greer, and Judith Butler.

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Humanities II – Students continued their examination of the role of the monster in literature by reading Shakespeare’s The Tempest and examining the character of Caliban.  Assessment took the form of an essay the topic of which involved, for some students, the problematic role of Caliban as monster.  Currently, Humanities II classes are reading and discussing Shelley’s Frankenstein, noting evidence of the English Romantic mindset and the ethical dilemma created by Victor Frankenstein.   Students will seek out humanities connections by examining current indications of Shelley’s classic both in the field of medical ethics as well as in theater and cinema.

SAMPLE OF STUDENT WORK: The Tempest Reflection


Acting I: The juniors explored an acting technique called the Viewpoints, which they will be applying to the creation of a performance art piece over the next few weeks. They also performed the monologues that they’ve been working on for several weeks.

Intro to Theatre: Our Macbeth unit ended, fittingly, with blood. The students engaged in an activity where they had to closely read portions of the script, determine how much and what kind of blood the scene calls for, and then make and apply the blood in class. That was a messy day! Now we’re reading Oscar Wilde’s witty satire, The Importance of Being Earnest.

Acting II: The seniors worked hard to apply the Guideposts they’ve studied to their undirected scenes, which they performed in early November. They studied Shakespearean acting style (in conjunction with their reading of Hamlet in Theory & Crit), and they enjoyed throwing each other around during a two-day stage combat workshop with guest artist Larry Friedland.

Theory & Criticism: We finished reading Hamlet and wrapped up our discussion by looking at several different film treatments of this very famous play. We also took a crack at writing a sonnet as a class. We’re now studying Moliere’s Neoclassical satire, The Misanthrope.

Craft & Skills: The seniors are learning how to enchant young audiences with professional storyteller Barbara Lawson of Stories with a Twist. The juniors are dancing up a storm of ballet, tap, jazz and modern with choreographer Lindsey Walters.

Production News: The SVGS theatre department is pleased to announce its winter musical, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Jan. 21-24, 2016. This hilarious whodunit has many possible endings. The audience decides, and the actors comply! Mark your calendars!

Other news: The theatre department will be traveling to the Blackfriars Theater on November 24 for the American Shakespeare Company’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Your student will probably be asking you to sign a permission form in the next few days.

GraceNoraMidsummer2 Junior SelfieDarbyCourtneyScenes


Studio Art I – Students have been learning about the emotional reactions to color, especially in advertising.  They are using this knowledge in their artwork to help get the desired reaction from viewers.

Studio Art II – Students have finalized their concentration project ideas and completed their first piece in this series.  This is a year-long self-selected study of a theme, technique, and/or concept.  The students will complete a total of 12 pieces in this series throughout the year.

Survey of World Art –  Students have been reviewing the artwork and architecture of Greece, Rome, and the Middle Ages in preparation for study of the Renaissance.  They also learned about scary and creepy pieces of artwork from various time periods around Halloween.

Crafts and Skills I -Students completed their first session in stained glass, taught by Lisa Morrison.  Their final project was a large glass piece of their own design.  For their second session, the students were given a choice of black and white photography, taught by Lynn Hilton Conyers, or printmaking techniques, taught by Piper Groves.  The students are half way through this second session.

Crafts and Skills II – Students completed their first session in sculptural painting taught by Brecken Geiman.  Their major project in this class was a self-portrait sculpture.  For their second session, the students were given a choice of metal jewelry design, also taught by Brecken Geiman, or wheel-thrown ceramics, taught by Phill Ungar.  The students are half way through this second session.

The Visual Arts students took a field trip to Charlottesville on October 16th.  The students visited the Fralin Museum of Art on the UVA campus to view works by Sol Le Witt and Jacob Lawrence, as well as pieces from the museum’s permanent collection.  The students then traveled to the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, where a tour taught them about art and artists from Australia.  The tour concluded with a rare opportunity to go “behind the scenes” at the museum to see how artwork is cared for and stored.

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