Science Highlights and Special Programs

  • Curriculum News
    The Passaic Valley Science Department has expanded its academic programs over the past few years to appeal to the diverse interests of our school community. In addition to Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science and Physics, students can select from a number of electives including: Anatomy and Physiology Honors, Climate and Weather, the Ocean, Allied Health Science, and Forensics.

    Students can learn at the academic level that meets their needs. College credit can be earned through our Middle College Program for Anatomy and Physiology Honors, AP Biology, AP Chemistry, AP Physics and AP Environmental Science.

    ABA Environmental Science
    This course focuses on teaching neurologically diverse students, hands on skills in multiple forms of gardening. The students are taught how to farm hydroponically. This includes tasks like preparing growing media for planting, planting seeds and monitoring the health of the plants in the hydroponic systems. To date the students have hydroponically grown and harvested 21 pounds of produce. Some of the students have also been able to participate in an internship at GreensDoGood | An Innovative Vertical Farm in New Jersey, a vertical farm in Hackensack, NJ that works exclusively with adults and teens with autism.

    Environmental Science classes are learning about energy resources--nonrenewable and renewable. They are currently working in teams to build solar ovens and will compete with each other to achieve the highest temperature.

    NASA Projects both being done with STEM Explorations
    STEM Explorations is currently working on two projects with NASA.

    Project 1, Growing Space Chiles
    The students are growing New Mexico Chimayo chiles in the classroom. We are currently testing the impacts of regular watering vs. intermittent watering and the impacts on capsaicin development, the ingredient that makes chiles hot. The data we are collecting has been guided by NASA’s own research on the ISS. This particular chile was grown on the ISS during the summer of 2021. It was the longest and most complex agricultural experiment ever conducted on the ISS. The data that is being collected by the students will be shared with NASA and the chiles will be sent to the University of New Mexico for capsaicin testing in their labs.

    The goal of this project is to learn the best way to grow food in space. Why do want to grow food in food space? First, sending food into space is very expensive and takes up a lot space in resupply missions. Second, astronauts have very specific dietary requirements while in space, and they can’t get all of the nutrients they need from the food that is being supplied, so they have to take a lot of supplemental vitamins. By growing their own food, they can have access to fresh, nutrient dense food that is very flavorful. Third, NASA has aspirations of colonizing the Moon and Mars, in order to be able to do that, we need to be able to grow food in those locations. Again this research is providing valuable data on how to grow plants in microgravity environments.

    Project 2, Fairchild Botanical Garden Miami / NASA
    We are currently finishing up a project working with the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden: Your Miami Botanical Garden (fairchildgarden.org) and NASA. We are growing radishes using a simulated VEGGIE system, testing different growing protocols and cultivars. The goal of this project is help guide NASA’s research by providing them with as much data as possible so they can make better decisions about which types of plants to research and which ones they want to send to the International Space Station (ISS) for further testing in microgravity. Student selected plants from this research have been grown in the ISS.</span

    Science students have opportunities to apply Engineering Design principles to several projects throughout the year including: Biology I Honors programs to develop a self-sustaining nitrogen cycle, and a device to clean up a “toxic” waste site. Anatomy and Physiology Honors students create a device to repair broken “bones”.

    In Spring of 2022, the Biology I Essentials course will be working with TytoLearning, a video game interface, on the implementation of a module on Genetics and Growth.

    A highlight of the AP Physics course is the Rube Goldberg presentations that are held each year after the AP testing. This activity has become the event of the spring and involves students in multiple disciplines including AP Physics, AP Calculus, and students in our Media and Art Courses.

    Extracurricular Activities
    Outside the classroom, students have opportunities to extend their interests in Science by participating in Science League Competitions, and the American Chemical Society sponsored Chemagination contest.

    In June 2021, Passaic Valley students: Sophia Colacino, Ava Mania and Yastika Singh won the MidAtlantic Regional Chemagination Competition as FRESHMEN. This achievement is remarkable for a number of reasons including that their competition included students from several states, were from 10-12th grade, and were enrolled in or had completed a year of Chemistry instruction. Applications for the 2022 Chemagination contest will occur this spring.

    Christopher Perez, Class of 2022, was accepted and participated in the Columbia Science Honors Program during the 2021 school year. Applications for this program are currently open with an April 15th deadline.

    The environmental club (with Sanders) is making "seed bombs"--small spheres of clay and native wildflower seeds to help jump start a native garden. The club is also planning a Peckman River cleanup with the Interact club for Earth Day (working to clean up watershed on PV property).

    Physics Club provides students an opportunity to interact with students with similar-minded interests. Club members are given the opportunity to explore their interests through student led discussions and presentations. Additional club activities include special projects, lab experiments, career exploration, and guest speakers. Special projects have included building a container for an egg drop that was brought to Six Flags for Physics day. Guest speakers have typically been in the STEM field such as professionals in Computer Science and Engineering.

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