Browse Curriculum


At the heart of Millbrook’s science curriculum is the physics-chemistry-biology sequence of core science courses.  These are taught using the Modeling Instructional Method, a curriculum and pedagogical approach which has been under development since 1990 at Arizona State University, and is being adapted and implemented at a number of public and independent school science programs across the country.

Unlike a traditional approach, in which students encounter a stream of disconnected topics, Modeling Instruction organizes courses around a small number of scientific models, thus making the content coherent. It applies structured inquiry techniques to the teaching of basic skills and practices in observation and experience of the world, mathematical modeling, proportional reasoning, quantitative estimation and technology-enabled data collection and analysis. 

As a result, students experience a coherent pedagogical and curricular approach through the physics, chemistry, and biology sequence with skills and content being introduced and revisited. Throughout, Millbrook's students benefit from our unique resources such as the Trevor Zoo, canopy walkway and marsh boardwalk, and the LEED Gold certified Hamilton Math and Science Center itself.  
  • Adv. Biology - Honors

    Advanced biology is a laboratory/lecture/research course for the highly motivated science student. The course differs significantly from the general biology course with respect to the range and depth of topics covered, the kind of hands-on/inquiry-based work done by students, and the time and effort required. The course focuses on macro-biological concepts, including ecology and evolution in the fall semester and microbiological concepts, including protein synthesis and genetics, in the spring semester. Each year students participate in a citizen science project in our canopy walkway research station. Throughout, students develop reasoning skills through real and meaningful scientific research. This program is taught at the beginning college level with expectations based accordingly. Prerequisites: Biology, Chemistry, and strong math and reading comprehension skills required.
  • Adv. Chemistry - Honors

    This course offers in-depth investigation of college-level topics not covered previously in the general chemistry course. Students build a strong conceptual and empirical model of the atom and use it to explain and predict the behavior of chemical systems. Through a combination of guided and student-designed experiments, demonstrations, and discrepant events, students hone problem-solving skills and become adept at using chemical concepts to explain observed events. Topics covered in this course include atomic structure and bonding, equilibrium, reaction kinetics, thermodynamics, and other advanced topics based on student interest. Prerequisites: Biology, Chemistry, and a strong background in math.
  • Advanced Physics– Honors: Mechanics

    (Not offered in 2019-2020)
    In this rigorous course the student will investigate mechanics in depth.  1-D and 2-D Kinematics, Newton’s Laws of Motion, Energy, and Momentum, Uniform Circular Motion, Rotational Kinematics and Dynamics, Newton’s Law of Gravitation and Oscillating Systems are studied by experiment and theoretical analysis. The student will also utilize the VPython programming language to develop 2- and 3-D animations of physical systems.  Students learn the course material to take the AP Physics C: Mechanics examination if they choose to do so.  The course concludes with an introductory study of Einstein’s Special Relativity. A year-long project involving rocketry is conducted with participation in the Team America Rocketry Challenge.
    Prerequisites: Algebra I & II, Geometry, Physics, and a strong background in mathematics.
  • Anatomy and Physiology

    Semester 1
    In this advanced-level course students investigate particular structures and functions of the human body. Topics covered include a comprehensive study of the major body systems along with the relationship particular systems play in everyday life including fitness, health, and athletics. With the use of project-based learning, students develop a greater understanding of how one system interconnects with another. This course is recommended for students interested in continuing their science education in college with a focus on nursing, physical therapy, or athletic training. Prerequisites: Biology and Vth or VIth form standing.
  • Animal Behavior

    Semester 2
    Millbrook School is the only high school with a zoo on campus. This unique course allows students to take a deep dive into the lives of animals at our Trevor Zoo. Students consider animal behavior in a broad evolutionary context, tracing it from its evolutionary function as adaptation, through its physiological basis and associated mechanisms, to its expression. Students participate in on-going research projects and conduct their own research projects on animal behavior at the Trevor Zoo. Prerequisites: biology and Vth or VIth form standing.
  • Astronomy

    Semester 1
    Astronomy is the study of the celestial objects found in the universe. This challenging course centers on two major themes studied via project-based learning: 1) the composition, formation, behavior, and fate of celestial objects; and 2) observational techniques such as visible light astronomy, radio astronomy, spectroscopy and other remote sensing methods. Students utilize optical telescopes, spectroscopes, astrophotography, and radio astronomy, study the history of astronomy, and discuss the future of the universe. Prerequisites: Physics and Chemistry.

  • Biology

    This course explores life through an ecological lens. From the role energy plays in the ecosystem to the way biological systems interact with one another, this course is built around investigative, open-inquiry lab activities that allow students to develop predictive conceptual models grounded in a variety of representations. Students are asked to defend and expand their understanding in a supportive and cooperative environment. The topics covered in this course draw upon an understanding of the nature of matter and energy, core concepts covered in physics and chemistry courses.  Prerequisites: physics is recommended, chemistry is required.

  • Botany

    (Semester 1) 
    Botany is defined as a science involving the study of plants. This fall semester master class covers a wide array of concepts in plant biology and addresses topics from the micro (cells and tissues) to the macro (ecology, biomes, and flowering plants and civilization). A large portion of the course is lab and field based, and the Millbrook School Farm, greater main and south campuses, and local environment all serve as test plots for meaningful, authentic experiential and place-based education, experiments, and research. The curricular units center around project-based learning, and this field course exposes students to interdisciplinary principles and thinking, be it through nature writing, art as a tool for scientific communication, or ethnobotany and forest forensics. With active participation and thoughtful engagement in the natural world, students have the opportunity to deepen their sense of place in the wilds of Dutchess County. Prerequisites: biology and Vth or VI form standing.
  • Chemistry

    Chemistry is the study of matter and the changes it undergoes through various processes. Even though this branch of science is full of abstract ideas involving scales that even our best microscopes cannot see, chemistry is literally all around us and even within us every day. Students gain a fundamental understanding of how we understand chemistry at its most basic level by continuously building upon models we create as a class in order to represent natural phenomena. Just like a real scientific community, our class functions as a collaborative group of scientists questioning the world around us as we develop experiments to collect data to create and improve upon our models. Students will develop communication, collaboration, technology, and reasoning skills so that they can better understand how the tiniest bits of matter that surround us affect our everyday lives. The topics covered in sequence include: the particulate structure of matter, energy and kinetic molecular theory, describing chemical compounds, the mole, stoichiometry, energy and chemical change, models of the atom, and periodic table and bonding. Prerequisites: Physics is recommended.
  • Design-Thinking and Making

    Semester 2
    This course gives students challenging opportunities to practice and develop as designers and builders. Students learn basic programming using the C programming language and gain familiarity with the Arduino microcontroller via self-paced tutorials. Students also have access to Raspberry Pi microcomputers, 3D printers, and other tools of the design and building trade including robotic devices. Students work within a design and building team to improve their collaboration, problem-solving, financial optimization, and communication skills using the design and build process to create a solution to benefit members of society.   Prerequisites: None
  • Enviro. Science - Climate Change

    Semester 2
    In this course students analyze climate change as the central issue related to environmental science at the global level and develop a deep understanding of climate change science while engaging with real-life mitigation and adaptation solutions. Students enter the Biomimicry Design Challenge and work to implement effective actions at Millbrook School. Students also participate remotely in research in the Peruvian Amazon to explore climate change, conservation, and indigenous livelihoods. In these ways students apply advanced scientific theory to effect change locally and globally. Prerequisites: biology and Vth or VIth form standing.
  • Enviro. Science in the Hudson Valley

    Semester 1
    Through this challenging course students take a deep dive in environmental science on the local level, using the Hudson River Valley to define our scope and our 800-acre campus as a textbook. Lessons emphasize rigorous scientific skills and methodology as well as multi-disciplinary approaches including economics, equity, and governance. Project-based learning leads students through topics in food systems, ecosystem health, and conservation management. The course features several guest speakers and field trips, through which students are involved in real and meaningful research. Prerequisites: biology and Vth or VIth form standing.
  • Field Biology (Sem 1)

    This course takes students up in the forest canopy, around the marsh, and as far as the Peruvian Amazon— all in an effort to use nature as a laboratory to understand the biological world around us. With a combination of discussion, lecture, and field-based activities, students design and conduct scientific investigations to address research questions and, using the AP Research framework, develop skills in accessing, analyzing, and synthesizing information. Possible research units include canopy ecology, deer management, endangered turtle survey, and bird banding with such partners as the Cary Institute, Dutchess Land Conservancy, George Mason University, and more. Our flagship project focuses on ethnobiology in the Peruvian Amazon, where we contribute to investigations involving stingless bees, wildlife cameras, and tropical ecology. Students in this course have priority in attending a Peruvian Amazon trip over March break. Students keep field journals throughout the semester and share a final research paper at the spring science symposium. Prerequisites: general biology.
  • Field Biology (Sem 2)

    This course will take students up in the forest canopy, around the marsh, and as far as the Peruvian Amazon— all in an effort to use nature as a laboratory to understand the biological world around us. With a combination of discussion, lecture, and field-based activities, this course will teach students how to design and conduct scientific investigations to address research questions, using the AP Research framework to develop skills in accessing, analyzing, and synthesizing information. Possible research units include canopy ecology, deer management, endangered turtle survey, and bird banding with such partners as the Cary Institute, Dutchess Land Conservancy, George Mason University, and more. Our flagship project will focus on ethnobiology in the Peruvian Amazon where we will be able to contribute from the classroom to investigations involving stingless bees, wildlife cameras, and tropical ecology. Students in this course will have priority in attending the Peruvian Amazon trip over March break. Field journals will be kept throughout the semester and a final research paper will be shared at the spring science symposium. This course is offered in the fall and spring as stand-alone classes. Prerequisites: general biology.
  • Forensics

    Semester 2
    This course focuses on the broad field of forensics with an emphasis on the biological aspects as students use particular methods to analyze and solve simulated problems and fictional crime scenes. Besides the use of lab and field activities, the integration of project-based learning is a key element in student mastery. Students participating in the course keep a detailed notebook of each topic covered. Prerequisites: Biology and Vth or VIth form standing.
  • Honors Biology

    This course is an accelerated version of the biology course with the inclusion of units on molecular biology and genetics. Students enrolled in honors biology take an active part in classroom and lab discussions, regularly contribute to the enhancement of the course, and independently investigate information to allow for a faster-paced learning environment. Students are encouraged to take the SAT II in Biology with additional preparation outside of class. Prerequisites: physics is recommended, chemistry is required.
  • Independent Science Research

    This class offers a unique science research opportunity for motivated students who conduct one of two forms of research: creating and conducting an original experiment or contributing to an existing experiment. The latter option could involve assisting in data collection for research being done on Millbrook’s campus or partnering with a local scientist. Participants meet as a group with the teacher once a week and organize their work and time to meet specific goals created with the teacher. Research completed as part of this class is presented in a formal scientific paper and at Millbrook’s Annual Science Symposium and can be used as the content of a science CES presentation. Prerequisite: current or planned enrollment in an advanced or master class and statistics are recommended. Enrollment by invitation of the Science Department only.
  • Physics

    Physics is truly the most fundamental of all sciences. The concepts and analytical techniques of physics underlie the major concepts of biology and chemistry, and a mastery of these is a prerequisite for success in all scientific fields. Physics offers students an opportunity to learn how to apply their knowledge of the scientific method by performing experiments involving energy, force, and motion. Laboratory work and mathematical skills are given equal weight with conceptual understanding. Students also develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which they practice during laboratory activities. Coursework stresses careful gathering and analysis of quantitative data. Prerequisites: none.