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Science

In our science classrooms, students tap into their curiosity about the world around them, ask thought-provoking questions, and employ scientific processes to make predictions, collect and analyze data, and share conclusions about scientific phenomena. This intentional design of the curriculum seeks to foster a sense of purpose in each student by emphasizing relevance, impact, and connection to the larger scientific community.

Emma Willard’s science program engages students in hands-on labs and activities, live demonstrations, discussions, group work, computer-based simulations, experimental design, and long-term projects. Utilizing these methodologies, students are asked to consider big questions and work to solve big problems. For example, students contextualize the amount of energy associated with the combustion of fossil fuels while learning about concepts in Chemistry. At all levels, from graduation-level classes to advanced studies courses, students encounter challenging texts, grapple with difficult problems, and write about complex ideas.
 
Students interpret verbal, mathematical, and graphical scientific information. They learn to analyze and describe scientific phenomena and problems through a series of steps including asking questions, modeling, applying fundamental principles, and interpreting results. Students develop mathematical reasoning skills within a scientific context using arithmetic, algebraic, geometric, trigonometric, or calculus-based methods. They perform experiments, analyze their data, and assess experimental uncertainties. The experimental process includes trial and error. Through reflection and revision, our teachers guide students to take risks and navigate moments of failure with humor and resilience.
 
In fulfilling their science requirements, students master the foundational knowledge that lays the groundwork for advanced study in the life and physical sciences. Beyond their graduation requirements, students can choose to continue their study of science through an extensive elective program that includes Advanced Studies courses and an array of elective classes designed around the teacher's personal scientific passions. These classes cover specific topics within a major scientific discipline or approach science from an interdisciplinary lens.

In partnership with the Experiential Learning Department, our school also offers students the opportunity to participate in scientific research through a research program which places students in laboratories throughout the Capital District. In the past, students have completed projects studying spinal cord regeneration, microgravity, environmentally-friendly packing materials, and the spread of disease.

Research placement and coursework introduces students to experimental design, scientific literature, graphical interpretation, public speaking, the act of creating presentations, and finding connections between science and other disciplines. Student researchers also learn to connect the work they are doing in a laboratory setting to the larger, exciting “big picture” of where scientific research is today.
 

students at beaver dam

Ava V. '26, Gisele N. '26, and Alexa F. ’26 (not photographed) are sampling water quality above and below a large network of beaver dams on the Poestenkill River as part of their STEAM 10 class. Their hypothesis is that a filtration effect from the beavers' handiwork may purify the water of chemicals and other pollutants downstream of the dams. In addition to collecting samples, they have placed trail cameras to track the activity around the main beaver lodge.

Three people standing facing the sun and smiling at the camera as they take a selfie.

Shannon Bailey is a science fellow at Emma Willard School, joining our faculty this fall. The Fellows program at Emma Willard School partners with Clarkson Graduate School so that the candidate receives a Master’s of Arts in Teaching degree from Clarkson University’s Capital Region campus. We asked Shannon four questions about her role at Emma Willard.

five students at a boot with information about their STEAM project

STEAM has an extensive history at Emma Willard School. Combining the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics, STEAM is a contemporary version of STEM education. At Emma Willard School, STEAM is entirely experiential and has influenced quite a few programs during its tenure on campus.

Emma Green and other climate change activists at the youth climate summit

The Adirondack Youth Climate Summit was held on November 8–9 at The Wild Center, with a team from Emma Green in attendance. Our students presented their STEAM 10 projects and helped develop a Climate Change Plan to bring back to the Emma community.
 

students inspecting a variety of mushrooms

We were excited to welcome back Collar City Mushrooms! Every year our students grow art using mycelium kits, then Collar City Mushrooms comes in to show how mycelium turns to mushrooms and different ways to cook and eat them. We love seeing all the growth happening in the Signature lab!

Marine Biology students touching mana rays

Last week, Marine Biology students got to visit the VIA Aquarium in Rotterdam. They got a guided tour from a biologist, a behind the scenes look at how the tanks are maintained, took a class on coral reef ecology, saw the corals being fed, and got to feed stingrays and koi fish themselves!

Haruru S. ’25, Nghi H. ’25, Angela K. ’24 and Liza N. '24, meeting the sunrise on campus.

Meet Liza N. ’24, a first year junior from Western Ukraine. Hear from Liza, in her own words, about her journey from Novovolynsk to Troy, Computational Chemistry, and exploring the ski slopes of the Northeast. 

students and adults posted in front of the map on the wall at Global Foundries

Computer Science and Math Instructor Chiara Shah recently took six Emma students on a field trip to Global Foundries to learn how semiconductor chips are made. It takes three to four months and over 1,500 steps to make a chip. Some of the steps involve laying down elements atom by atom!

French instructor Eloise Bererd explains identity

What does it mean to be French? Is it birthplace? Language? Home address? DNA? This question is one that French Instructor Eloise Bererd has posed to her Advanced Studies French Identity class. To inform the conversation, the class joined in a discussion of DNA with a biology class led by Science Instructor Dr. Julie Matthews.

Megan Labbate in a brown sweater in front of Emma Willard School

Ms. Megan Labbate is a science instructor at Emma Willard School. Ms. Labbate joined the community in 2015, having spent the first three years of her teaching career in an art and design-based charter school in Michigan. We asked her four questions about her experience at Emma.

Screenshot of Meli N.'s first co-authored published work

Meli N. ’23 is pursuing a Signature project on “The Scientific Research Process in Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics.” Her work with Albany Medical College was recently recognized when she was included in the byline in an article published in Frontiers in Pain Research. Meli shares in her own words what inspired her work and what she’s learned thus far.

Jon Calos, Chair of Experiential Learning, Signature Director, Homer L. Dodge Instructor in Science

In leading the Signature program at Emma Willard School for many years, Jon Calos has developed a depth of knowledge that begs to be shared. First through involvement in the National Capstone Consortium, and now in the release of his first co-authored book, Jon has set out to make sure others feel empowered to bring a capstone program to their own schools.

Download our course catalog for more details and graduation requirements.

Course Catalog

Science Faculty

Alexandra Grimm

Alexandra Grimm

Science Department Chair, Science Instructor, Chemical Hygiene Officer
Shannon Bailey

Shannon Bailey

Science Fellow
Jon Calos

Jon Calos

Experiential Learning Department Chair, Signature Director, Homer L. Dodge Instructor in Science
Samantha Evans

Samantha Evans

Class of 2013
Science Instructor, Crew Coach
Megan Labbate

Megan Labbate

Science Instructor, Sara Lee Schupf Family Chair in Curriculum Excellence And Innovation, Coach
Julie Matthews

Julie Matthews

Science Instructor, Crew Coach
Kathleen Mroczka

Kathleen Mroczka

Science Instructor, Assistant Indoor Track Coach, Co-Head Cross Country Coach
Samantha Skott

Samantha Skott

Science Instructor, Head Softball, Asst. V Field Hockey, Asst. V Basketball Coach