Earth & Space Sciences

his high school level class consists of one semester of Astronomy, and one semester of Geology. The classes can be taken separately, or taken together (for a full high school credit) when registering.  Astronomy is taught in the fall and Geology is taught in the spring.

Astronomy (fall) - to be offered 23-24

The night sky has been a source of awe and wonder since ancient times.  Humans have been following and calculating the motion of celestial objects for 10,000 years.  Astronomy is thus the quintessential classical science. This course will cover both historical and modern astronomical discoveries.  In addition to nearly 200 pages of illustrated notes, the class features simulations, planetarium software, and video clips.

8th grade students with a strong math and science background may register for Astronomy with the approval of the instructor.

  • Part I starts in your backyard by considering the moving earth, the measurement of time, and the motion of celestial bodies in the night sky.
  • Part II covers the history and progress of astronomy including the discovery of heliocentrism, the invention of the telescope and the spectroscope, and the birth of modern astrophysics.
  • In Part III we study the earth-moon system, tour the solar system, and examine the wonders of our sun.
  • Part IV is a mind-boggling trek through the wider universe–the life and death of stars, types of galaxies, nebulae, and black holes.
  • Finally, in Part V, we consider the expansion of space (Einstein’s theory of Relativity), the origin of the universe, and reflect on the limits of science as we look at different cosmological theories and their implications for philosophy and religion.
Geology (spring) - to be offered 23-24

Geologists are like detectives or sleuths. They examine the circumstantial evidence after the fact—at the 'scene of the crime' so to speak—and try to reconstruct what happened. Geological formations contain clues to their historical origins.  Geologists, like detectives, must find and organize these clues in order to reconstruct a formation’s history.  This is how they study the changing structure of the earth, its composition, and the forces that have shaped it over eons.

The format for this class includes lectures (with numerous color graphics), demonstrations, video clips, reading, laboratory experiments, and investigative homework assignments.

  • Part I considers the large-scale structure of the earth including tectonic plates, mountains, and the earth’s interior.
  • Part II looks at rocks and minerals, including their properties and formation. Topics consist of igneous processes, weathering, erosion, soil, and the structures and environments of sedimentary and metamorphic rocks.
  • Part III, geochronology, explores geologic time and earth’s geologic and fossil history.
  • In Part IV we examine crustal movements, earthquakes, and mass wasting.
  • Part V considers the power of water, wind, and ice, to shape the surface of the earth. Topics include rivers, coastlines, groundwater, deserts, and glaciers.
  • Part VI, economic geology, is an overview of mineral resources such as ores, fossil fuels, and building materials.

The section on rocks and minerals (Part II) is an expanded, 6-week unit.  Students will be testing and examining specimens from a collection kit which they will purchase for the class ($80).  They will also learn how to develop their own collections.

In place of exams, students will incrementally develop a booklet on the geology of their state—its tectonic history, rocks, minerals, underlying strata, surface features, earthquakes, hydrology, and geologic resources.  The project is divided into several bi-weekly homework assignments which are synchronized with the lessons.  This will provide students with the opportunity to use and apply their knowledge in a more concrete way.

NOTE:  Owing to delays in delivery, parents are strongly encouraged to order books and equipment at least 3 weeks before class begins (January).  These materials will be needed the first week of class.

"My daughter loved Dr. DiPuccio's Geology class! The cumulative format of the class was very helpful, and Dr. DiPuccio's enthusiasm and presentation of the material inspired her with a love for the subject. This was one of her favorite classes ever!"
- Becca Z., Pennsylvania