Astronomy (Fall 2018)

Astronomy (Fall Semester 2018)

We will start the fall with historical astronomy: Stonehenge, the Mayan calendar, Chinese & Egyptian astronomy, Lakota stone medicine wheels, etc. – figuring out what people knew about the sky from just their own observations. We will then move on to focus on what we know now about our own solar system and read Dava Sobel’s book “The Planets.” From there, we will expand our gaze to what we know of the universe today, studying stars, other solar systems, and the universe, including Einstein’s theories of relativity. We will end the fall with some of the current topics in astronomy: dark matter, extra-solar planets, wormholes and the like.
This class will include papers and projects along with readings and several class presentations. Readings will mostly be from current articles and books of essays. We will use some computer-based lab work. Students should also expect to have extra “lab time” in the evenings many weeks, either for telescope work or for viewing science documentaries.

Priority (if needed) for Astronomy will be given to students who cannot take other science courses this year.


In the fall term biology concentrates on the topics of cell biology and human physiology as an introduction to the fundamentals of the subject. All the systems of the body are discussed and explored, including a detailed section on the brain and nervous system. In the winter term, the focus is on genetics, looking into the workings of DNA and genes, and discussing current issues in genetic technology. In the spring, the main topic is evolution, looked at through the lens of the unique organisms that have evolved in island environments, such as the hotspots of the Galapagos, Hawaii, and Indonesia. All three terms involve weekly labs and several research papers. The spring term includes an independent research project as well, the results of which are presented at the Spring Arts Weekend. Buxton’s extensive campus and greenhouse provide excellent opportunities for many of these labs and projects.


This college-preparatory laboratory science is primarily for juniors and seniors. Topics covered include atomic theory, phase changes, origins and significance of the periodic chart, quantum mechanics, chemical reactions, acid-base relationships, oxidation-reduction principles, and an expanded section on organic chemistry. Whenever possible, discussions are geared to helping students gain an understanding of the principles and mechanics of natural phenomena as well as modern technological advances. The laboratory portion of the course has been designed to illustrate chemical principles and to develop the critical thinking and problem-solving skills of the students. This is accomplished by starting with simple questions about chemistry and requiring students to develop the procedure for each laboratory experiment that they perform. As students develop their methods and become familiar with the lab, the questions become progressively more challenging.



This class will run for one semester and cover many aspects of personal health. We will study both the physical and mental/emotional sides of sexual health, substances, general wellness (nutrition, exercise, self-care, etc.) as well as social issues surrounding these topics. Through readings, discussion, various media, group activities, projects and field trips (perhaps!) we aim to create an experience that is relatable, relevant, and informative.

Freshman/ Sophomore semester elective – Fall or Spring

Marine Biology

The Marine Biology elective will cover life in the ocean from small algae to the great whales. We will focus on different ecosystems, one at a time, starting in the winter term with the coasts, and then moving on in the spring term to offshore areas such as coral reefs and kelp beds, open ocean, deep ocean, and polar regions. Within each ecosystem, we will discuss the range of organisms to be found there and their adaptations to the characteristics of that zone.

The class is structured as a seminar where students read different articles each week and then distill and present that information to the rest of the group. As a result, it is crucial that every student be highly responsible about their individual readings. The class work will also include three papers and a book to be read independently, partly over spring break and partly during the first four weeks of the spring term. Class time will include a field trip to Cape Cod in the spring and regular evenings of documentary viewing.


This course is designed to prepare students for college-level physics as well as to let them learn and work with the laws of the world around them. The fall term focuses on the fundamentals of Newtonian mechanics, work, pressure and energy. The winter expands the study of motion into centripetal and rotational analysis. The spring term moves on to the properties of waves, including sound, light and optics and concludes with a survey of modern physics: electro-magnetics, relativity, and quantum mechanics. Weekly labs allow students to make direct connections between theory and practice and to develop experimental procedures. Students also complete several independent or joint projects throughout the year with emphasis on exploration and design; the projects may be presented during Spring Arts Weekend. Due to the importance of mathematical descriptions in the course, Algebra II is a prerequisite for physics.

Geology (Spring 2019)

Geology is the youngest of the major sciences and as such there is still a great deal left to be learned about the world around us. This semester course will delve into both the details and the overall processes of geology, seeking to understand the underpinnings of global issues like oil extraction and glacial melting, as well as more local topics such as Buxton’s surroundings of mountains and marble quarries.
The semester will begin with learning how to identify mineral and rock types during the winter term. Then we will investigate plate tectonics as the driving force behind mountain-building, volcanos and earthquakes. Finally we will look at the effects of wind, water and ice in creating mudslides, sinkholes, carved formations, glaciers, and the unique environments found in the depths of caves.
Regular labs as well as a number of field trips during afternoons and weekends will provide hands-on experience. Our readings will include geological histories, essays and current articles. In addition, the course will involve presentations, papers and a couple of independent projects.

Developmental and Abnormal Psychology

This course will include a brief review/introduction of some of the fundamental aspects of psychology before diving into how people’s brains and cognitive abilities develop over time. First will be a review/introduction on neurobiology. Next we will talk about various theories in psychological development from Piaget, Freud, Erikson, and Kohlberg as we explore the stages of development from early childhood through adulthood, personality, and mental health as well. The remainder of the term will focus on psychological disorders, treatments, and other aspects of abnormal psychology. This class will be open to anybody.


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    Hollis Lane San Francisco, CA
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    Naima Nigh Mexico
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    Cynder Johnson Missouri
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    Roy Malone New York, NY
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    Nora Mittleman New York, NY
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    Ben Nigh
    Ben Nigh Mexico
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    Jiayi Cao China
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    Lena Meginsky Northhampton, MA
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    Katie McAvoy Boston, MA
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    Cheyanne Williams Boston, MA
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    Peter Shumlin Governor of Vermont, Buxton Alumni

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