Science Course Descriptions


Investigations with the Scientific Method (0.5 credits)

In this class, second semester 9th grade students can work on science literacy by applying introductory statistics to conceptual physics. The class aims to develop familiarity and aptitude with scientific notation, measurements, and graphing. In addition, students will develop computer skills involved in analyzing data. By running several short studies and doing in-class experiments, students will learn how to develop conceptual models for physics topics such as energy and circuits.

Midland 101: Ecosystems and Natural History (0.5 credits in Science) UC
Midland 101 teaches authentic place-based physical science and cultural history on Midland’s 2,860 acres; the property is the text book for Midland 101. Science topics and skills include: topographic map interpretation, geology and hydrology, ecology, ecological thematic mapping, data collecting, and field notation.

Chemistry (1 credit) UC
Grounded in a solid understanding of the periodic table, students explore chemical principles in applications involving the nature, use, conservation, and pollution of Earth’s water, mineral, and atmospheric resources. Students take part in two projects that make use of Midland’s natural resources and philosophy – a field study of the water quality of our local creek and the installation of a photovoltaic system on campus, both of which culminate in scientific writing and promote scientific literacy in the globally important issues of water quality, energy, pollution, and climate change.

Biology (1 credit) UC
Beginning with the question, “What is life?”, both biology classes jump into the living world in a real and tangible way. On the journey, the students learn how a cell processes energy and nutrients, how living things reproduce and pass on genes, what organ systems are needed, how populations evolve over time, and how organisms interact to maintain homeostasis in an ecosystem. Getting out onto the property is a priority, for it is there that students translate ideas found in books into living reality. Every living thing in and around Midland’s campus is a teaching tool and every encounter a learning opportunity.

Biology Honors UC
Biology students earn honors credit by completing additional work outside of class, going a step further in depth and detail, and doing more inquiry-based learning and field research.



Physics (1 credit) UC

Students in Physics learn traditional fundamentals of physics through laboratory experimentation and projects involving self-discovery of physics concepts.  Formal physics lectures covering concepts and equations are augmented by demonstrations and labs that provide a hands-on approach to understanding the concepts beyond the merely conceptual level.  In addition, Physics provides students with practical skills and knowledge to show how physics fits in our everyday lives.

Honors Physics (1 credit) UC

Honors Physics – similar to Physics in its experimental approach – is designed to follow an introductory college physics course in both scope and difficulty.  The course covers Newtonian mechanics and electricity/magnetism with basic applications of Calculus.

Geology (1 credit) UC
Geology is a senior-level elective lab science, covering similar material as a typical introductory college geology course. This class utilizes a “process approach,” whereby understanding current geologic processes allows students to interpret geologic systems that shaped the earth millions of years ago. Midland’s property functions as the primary location for field experience, offering a diversity of rocks and geologic settings many colleges would travel miles to visit. Other field areas used for instruction include the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains – from Owens Valley to Mono Lake – as well as the Central Coast of California and the local San Rafael Mountains within the Los Padres National Forest.

Anatomy and Physiology (1 credit)
This course provides students with an understanding of the intricate relationships between the form, function, and regulation of the human body. Through labs, lectures, and projects students explore the anatomy and physiology of body systems with a primary focus on the maintenance of homeostasis. We discuss the impact of the environment on health and we explore chronic diseases. In addition, students learn about a variety of special topics including nutrition, motor development, exercise physiology, and biomechanics.

Conservation and Agriculture (0.5 credits)
This field-based course is taught at Midland’s organic farm. Students learn to make compost to National Organic Program standards, maintaining and troubleshooting their piles over five months. The compost becomes a model for understanding soil ecology and building soil health using organic methods. The essential goal is that students understand the organic fertility plan for the Midland Farm, derived from extremely local sources of vegetable waste and manure. Sub-Saharan Africa is explored as a case study in environmental and social issues in agriculture, where most farms are similar in size to ours, but lack resources like irrigation supplies, cultivation tools, and the capital to invest in seed.

Marine Biology (0.5 credits) UC
Marine Biology introduces students to the ocean and its inhabitants with a field studies component that takes advantage of Midland’s proximity to the Pacific Coast. Through readings, discussion, laboratory exercises, examination of live material (often aided by microscopes), field trips to a rich variety of ecosystems (sandy beaches, rocky intertidal, mudflats), student research projects, and lectures by experts at UCSB, students explore oceanography, invertebrate and vertebrate zoology, ecology, and human-ocean issues.

Ecological Field Research (0.25 credits)

Students can participate in a study sponsored by the National Science Foundation of the Santa Barbara Jewelflower, a rare annual plant adapted and restricted to serpentine outcrops. Students will collect data on key phenological events (germination, growth, flowering, seed set, and dehiscence), paired with seasonal data from the Midland weather station on Serpentine Mountain. The class will also investigate interactions of insects with the population. To accommodate ecological monitoring and data collection at the hike-in site, the class will meet during half-holiday afternoons outside of the regular academic day.

5100 Figueroa Mountain Road/PO Box 8, Los Olivos, CA 93441 | ph: 805-688-5114 |

website by: Hallstrom Design