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Physical Science

Course Overview

Physical Science is broken into two distinct topics – Matter and Physics. Each of these topics is covered over the course of a semester.

Course Content (Physical Science-Matter)

Physical Science is a branch of natural science that studies non-living systems as opposed to life sciences which dedicates its studies to living systems. Physical Science examines the physical laws that govern the universe and characteristics of matter- including the changes it undergoes – from the microscopic (atomic) level to the macroscopic (universal) level. This section of physical science will emphasize matter and the changes it undergoes. In addition, we will place special emphasis on the standardized SI systems used in scientific measurements.

Unit 1: Introduction to Chemistry

  • Distinguish between the physical and chemical properties of matter.
  • Classify changes as physical or chemical.
  • Transform a statement of equality into a conversion factor and use it to solve problems in different situations.
  • Distinguish between accuracy and precision.
  • Determine the number of significant figures in measurements and mathematical calculations.
  • Define density in terms of base units.
  • Use density as a method of identification of a substance.


Unit 2: Atoms and Elements

  • Use element names and symbols to recognize atoms and their place on the periodic table.
  • Use the characteristics of metals, nonmetals and metalloids to understand the periodic table of elements and the relationships between different elements.
  • Use the results of historical experiments to explain the make up of atoms.
  • Describe nuclides and isotopes in terms of atomic number, mass number and electron number.
  • Relate the number of sublevels corresponding to each of an atoms’ main energy levels, the number of orbitals per sublevel and the number of orbitals per main energy level.
  • Describe the electron configurations for the atoms of any element using orbital notation, electron configuration configuration, and when appropriate, noble gas notation.
  • Explain the relationship between valence electrons and element placement on the periodic table.
  • Define ions and be familiar with common ions.
  • Use properties of ions to be able to form and name common ionic compounds.


Unit 3: Chemical Reactions

  • List three observations that suggest that a chemical reaction has taken place.
  • List three requirements for a correctly written chemical equation.
  • Write a word equation and formula equation for a given chemical reaction.
  • Balance a formula equation.
  • Define and give general equations for synthesis, decomposition, single displacement, and double displacement reactions.
  • Recognize reactions as one of the types listed above or a combustion reaction.
  • Predict the products of simple reactions, given the reactants.
  • Discuss the factors that influence reaction rates.
  • Define catalyst and discuss two different types.
  • List general properties of acids and bases.
  • Explain the process of neutralization.
  • Explain and use the pH scale.
  • Describe how an acid/base indicator functions.


Unit 4: Nuclear Chemistry

  • Define and relate the terms mass defect and nuclear binding energy.
  • Explain the relationship between number of nucleons and the stability of nuclei.
  • Explain why nuclear reactions occur and how to balance a nuclear reaction.
  • Describe the different types of radioactive decay and their affects on the nucleus and human body.
  • Define the term half life and explain how it relates to the stability of the nucleus.
  • Explain natural and artificial radioactivity and their significance.
  • Discuss applications of radioactive nuclides.
  • Define nuclear fission, chain reaction and nuclear fusion and distinguish between them.
  • Explain how fission and fusion are/can be used to generate power.
  • Discuss applications of nuclear reactions and their impact on society.


Unit 5: States of Matter

  • State the kinetic-molecular theory of matter and describe how it explains certain properties of matter.
  • List the five assumptions of the kinetic – molecular theory of gases, define the terms ideal gas and real gas.
  • Discuss the process by which matter can change states.
  • Create and interpret phase diagrams.


Course Content (Physical Science-Physics)

This section of physical science will focus on the underlying principles of physics. Students will apply Newton’s Laws to a variety of physical situations to fully describe the applicable forces and motions. They will analyze physical systems by applying the Law of Conservation of Energy. Students will engage in hands-on lab exercises that emphasize inquiry.

Unit 1: Constant Velocity

  • Determine the average velocity of an object in two ways.
  • Determine the displacement of an object in two ways.
  • Given an x vs t graph:
    • describe the motion of the object
    • draw the corresponding v vs t graph.
    • draw a motion map for the object.
    • determine the average velocity of the object.
    • write the mathematical model which describes the motion.
  • Given a v vs t graph:
    • describe the motion of the object.
    • draw the corresponding x vs t graph.
    • determine the displacement of the object.
    • draw a motion map for the object.
    • write a mathematical model to describe the motion.


Unit 2: Acceleration

  • Determine the velocity of an object in three ways.
  • Determine the displacement (d = Δx = xf – xi) of an object in three ways.
  • Determine the acceleration of an object in five ways.
  • Given a x vs t graph:
    • describe the motion of the object (starting position, direction of motion, velocity)
    • draw the corresponding v vs t graph
    • draw the corresponding a vs t graph
    • draw a motion map for the object
    • determine the instantaneous velocity of the object at a given time
  • Given a v vs t graph:
    • describe the motion of the object (direction of motion, acceleration)
    • draw the corresponding x vs t graph
    • draw the corresponding a vs t graph
    • draw a motion map for the object
    • write a mathematical model to describe the motion
    • determine the acceleration
    • determine the displacement for a given time interval


Unit 3: Forces

  • Describe and give examples of Newton’s 1st Law.
  • Given a diagram or a written description of the forces acting on an object:
    • draw a force diagram for the object.
    • resolve the forces into x and y components, then find the vector sum of the forces.
    • state whether the velocity of the object is constant or changing.
  • Given a diagram or description of an object in equilibrium, including the forces acting on the object, determine the magnitude and direction of the “missing” force required to keep the object from accelerating.
  • State Newton’s 3rd Law; apply it in situations in which you are trying to determine all the forces acting on an object.


Unit 4: Unbalanced Forces

  • Use Newton’s 2nd Law to qualitatively describe the relationship between m, F and a.
  • Given a v vs t graph, draw the corresponding a vs t and F vs t graphs.
  • Determine the net force acting on an object by three different methods.
  • Solve quantitative problems involving forces, mass and acceleration using Newton’s 2nd Law.
  • Solve problems relating the frictional force law to F = ma and kinematics.
    • Distinguish between static and kinetic friction.


Unit 5: Projectile Motion

  • Use analysis techniques to produce position-time and velocity-time graphs which represent the behavior of an object moving in two dimensions.
  • Determine which model (free or constant force particle model) is appropriate to describe the horizontal and vertical motion of an object.
  • Draw a motion map for an object undergoing parabolic motion, with velocity and acceleration vectors for both dimensions.
  • Draw a force diagram for an object undergoing parabolic motion.
  • Given information about the initial velocity and height of a projectile determine:
    • the time of flight
    • the point where the projectile lands
    • velocity at impact
  • Explain what effect the mass of a projectile has on its time of flight.
  • Use lab equipment to determine the initial velocity of a projectile; use this information along with the initial height to determine where the object will strike the ground.