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San Mateo Union High School District offers a rigorous science program at every school site.  The science graduation requirement calls for 2 years of successfully completed science, one course in the life science category and one course in the physical science. At least one of these courses must be considered a Level D laboratory science, meaning it meets the UC/ CSU criteria for a laboratory science.  All students are encouraged to complete at least three years of science, to better prepare them for both college and vocational careers. In addition to our Next Generation Science Standard aligned Biology, Chemistry and Physics courses, school sites also offer either AP or IB science programs. The specific AP and IB classes offered vary by school site,and specific offerings can be found on each school site’s course catalog. Several of our school sites also offer exciting science and science/ career technical education electives, such as Biotechnology, Human Physiology, Environmental Science, and Computer Science.

California Standards in Science

Curriculum Framework: Science


Anatomy and Physiology I

The course builds upon the scientific foundations developed in Biology I and Chemistry I by spiraling and integrating topics and key themes in the context of the human body.  The course content is primarily organized around the organ systems of the vertebrate body - skeletal, muscular, cardiovascular, respiratory, and so on - and their interaction in maintaining a functioning, homeostatic organism.  The course is laboratory-based, drawing equally on experimental and observational studies as the major instructional methodologies.

Biology: The Living Earth

Students will engage in Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs) and Crosscutting Concepts (CCCs) to build their understanding of how living earth systems interact and influence living organisms and populations, and how these populations in turn influence earth systems. The performance expectations outlined in this course of study and through the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) may be addressed in multiple units of study. The goal is for students to be able to meet the demands of the performance expectations for High School Life Science by the end of the course.

AP Biology II

“The AP Biology course is designed to enable students to develop advanced inquiry and reasoning skills, such as designing a plan for collecting data, analyzing data, applying mathematical routines, and connecting concepts in and across domains. The result will be readiness for the study of advanced topics in subsequent college courses — a goal of every AP course. AP Biology is equivalent to a two-semester college introductory biology course and has been endorsed enthusiastically by higher education officials.

The Emphasis on Science Practices: A practice is a way to coordinate knowledge and skills in order to accomplish a goal or task. The science practices enable you to establish lines of evidence and use them to develop and refine testable explanations and predictions of natural phenomena. Because content, inquiry, and reasoning are equally important in AP Biology, each learning objective combines content with inquiry and reasoning skills described in the science practices. The science practices capture important aspects of the work that scientists engage in, at the level of competence expected of you, an AP Biology student.

Organized around Big Ideas: The key concepts and related content that define the AP Biology course and exam are organized around a few underlying principles called the big ideas, which encompass the core scientific principles, theories and processes governing living organisms and biological systems.” From AP College Board

IB Biology SL / HL I and II

Grade: 11 and 12   
Credits: 20   
College Recommended?  Yes
Recommended Prerequisites: Teacher Recommendation and successful completion of chemistry.

This two-year course is designed for those students pursuing the International Baccalaureate diploma or certificate.  It is expected that students enrolled in this class will take the IB Biology exam in May of their second year.  IB Biology is a two-year course that combines academic study with the acquisition of practical and laboratory skills.  There is an emphasis on open-ended laboratory investigations that the students design themselves.  The course will include topics in cells, biochemistry, genetics, ecology, human physiology, plant physiology, evolution and biotechnology.

Biotechnology I and II

Biotechnology fuses academic and technical training to prepare students to work in the growing biotechnology industry. The focus of Biotechnology I is on mastery of basic standard laboratory operating procedures. Record-keeping, safe and proper use of equipment, and employee etiquette are stressed. Students learn sterile technique, cell culture, DNA and protein isolation and analysis, including electrophoresis. In the second semester students build on the skills developed in the first semester with emphasis on assay development, spectrophotometry, recombinant DNA technology, and bacterial transformation. All pathway courses have workplace experiences.

In biotechnology II, students build on skills learned in Biotechnology I to perform advanced DNA and protein analysis.  The focus of Biotechnology II is on pharmaceutical and agricultural biotechnology applications.  Students extract and analyze DNA and proteins from plants as well as breed and genetically engineer plants.  In the Spring, students conduct sophisticated diagnostic testing of protein and DNA samples, including polymerase chain reaction, DNA synthesis and sequencing and column chromatography.  

This course meets the UC/CSU “d” laboratory science requirement. This course meets the CTE district graduation requirement.

Biotechnology Independent Research

Biotechnology Independent Research is a laboratory research course designed to give students with substantial lab experience an opportunity to conduct industry-standard research.  In research teams, student scientists will model research techniques and strategies used at established biotechnology companies.  Progress will be monitored by the CEO (course instructor) and reported regularly to the company employees (class members).

Biotechnology Services (Internship)

The Biotechnology Services course prepares students for research and manufacturing positions in academic and industrial biotechnology laboratories.  Biotechnology Services is a one-year community classroom course (internship).  Biotechnology Services requires a minimum 180-hour commitment from students and a placement into a laboratory internship at a local biotechnology companies.  For sixty hours prior to internship placement, students review and demonstrate proficiency in the laboratory research techniques currently used in the field of biotechnology.  Students develop placement portfolios and resumes.  After interviewing for several laboratory research positions, students are placed at a long-term (minimum of 120 hours) laboratory internship.   

Chemistry in Earth Systems

Students will explore physical science concepts that build comprehension around matter, its properties, and its interactions with other matter and energy in the context of the earth system. The instructional segments within this scope and sequence are presented thematically to provide a context for student learning of Chemistry’s place in the Earth System. Students will explore science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts and disciplinary core ideas, demonstrating their understanding through NGSS-aligned Performance Expectations.

AP Chemistry II

The AP Chemistry course provides students with training for such knowledge and skills through guided inquiry labs, a focused curriculum on content relevant to today's problems, and an exam that assesses students' mental models of the particulate nature of matter instead of memorization of rules to understand chemistry. The AP Chemistry course is designed to be the equivalent of the general chemistry course usually taken during the first college year. The goal is that students will take the AP Exam to receive college credit or placement at the student’s college of choice. Students may be able to undertake second-year work in the chemistry sequence at their institution or take courses for which general chemistry is a prerequisite. For other students, this course fulfills the laboratory science requirement and frees time for other courses.

Students who take the AP Chemistry course, designed with this curriculum framework as its foundation will develop a deep understanding of the concepts within the big ideas through the application of the science practices in the required laboratory component of the course. Students must complete a minimum of 16, hands-on lab investigations to support the learning objectives in the curriculum framework. At least six of the lab investigations must be guided inquiry-based labs. The result will be readiness for the study of advanced topics in subsequent college courses — a goal of every AP course.” From the AP College Board

IB Chemistry SL

Grade: 11-12   
Credits: 10   
College Recommended?  Yes
Recommended Prerequisites: Successfully completed Algebra II, and Chemistry I

The IB Chemistry Standard Level course combines academic study with the acquisition of practical and investigation skills through the experimental approach. Students learn the chemical principles that underpin both the physical environment and biological systems through the study of quantitative chemistry, periodicity, kinetics and other subjects. The IB Chemistry curriculum is organized into 11 required topics and 2 options topics allowing for many opportunities to practice scientific lab skills. Throughout the course, students become aware of how scientists work and communicate with each other and have multiple opportunities for scientific study and creative inquiry within a global context. It is expected that students enrolled in this class will take the IB Chemistry Exam in May.

Environmental Science I

This is a course dedicated to understanding the interactions between earth’s natural systems and the demands placed on them by the human population. This course examines the scientific principles behind natural phenomena and resource cycles, explores how we utilize these systems and our impact, and potential solutions for the resulting consequences of resource mismanagement and exploitation. Concepts can be explored through inquiry based laboratory exercises, environmental health assessment techniques, student presentations and projects.

AP - Environmental Science I

“The goal of the AP Environmental Science course is to provide students with the scientific principles, concepts, and methodologies required to understand the interrelationships of the natural world, to identify and analyze environmental problems both natural and human-made, to evaluate the relative risks associated with these problems, and to examine alternative solutions for resolving or preventing them. Environmental science is interdisciplinary; it embraces a wide variety of topics from different areas of study. Yet there are several major unifying constructs, or themes, that cut across the many topics included in the study of environmental science.” From the AP College Board

Physics in the Universe

Physics In this course, students will study the underlying causes and effects of forces on Earth and in the Universe, including: Gravitational, Contact, Magnetic, Nuclear and Electrostatic forces. Students will investigate the nature of energy, and matter and their conservation. They will have the opportunity to study the formation of the geophysics features of Earth and Cosmic Evolution. They will examine the collection of evidence supporting physical models. Students will also examine the principles of waves, and how we use waves in information technology, including information storage and transfer. Students will work on projects which demonstrate students’ mastery of course, regularly conduct experimental investigations, and participate in engineering practices.

AP Physics I

AP Physics 1 is a full-year course that is the equivalent of a first semester introductory college course in algebra-based physics.  Students cultivate their understanding of Physics through inquiry-based investigations as they explore topics such as Newtonian mechanics (including rotational motion); work, energy, and power; mechanical waves and sound; and introductory, simple circuits.” From the AP College Board

AP Physics II

“AP Physics 2 is a full-year course that is the equivalent of a second semester introductory college course in algebra-based physics. The course covers fluids; thermodynamics; electrical force, field, and potential; electric circuits; magnetism and electromagnetic induction; geometric and physical optics; and quantum, atomic, and nuclear physics.” From the AP College Board

AP Physics C

“The Physics C: Mechanics course is equivalent to a one-semester, calculus-based, college-level physics course. It is especially appropriate for students planning to specialize or major in physical science or engineering. The course explores topics such as kinematics; Newton's laws of motion; work, energy and power; systems of particles and linear momentum; circular motion and rotation; and oscillations and gravitation. Introductory differential and integral calculus is used throughout the course.” From the AP College Board

District Science Coordinator:
Chris Lipski

Department Chairs by
School Site:

Kevin Doyle

Chris Balmy
Alex Kirkpatrick 

Kristen Tucker

Chris Lipski

Lara Liu
Mary Rustia

Anthony Dilemme

San Mateo:
Miguel Appleman
Jimmy Ikeda