Dr. Dave Baker
The Academy School has an innovative and rigorous science program that covers, in Grade 6, on earth science, physics, renewable energy, earthquake engineering, and introductory electronics, in Grade 7 on micro-biology, evolution, and ecosystems, and in Grade 8 on space science, physics, chemistry, bridge engineering, electronics, and robotics.
Upper School Science involves combinations of direct instruction, seminar-style discussion, group work, guided lab work, field work, and self-directed learning. Extended projects (lasting weeks or months) are opportunities for interdisciplinary project-based learning. Although a framework is given for each project, students participate in setting project goals and activities.
Field trips are an essential component of the courses since they provide students with the opportunity to experience science in interdisciplinary real-world settings. The Bay Area is a superb setting for outdoor adventures in earth science, biology, physical science, mathematics, and engineering, and The Academy students have many opportunities to engage in outdoor learning.
Local, national, and global issues surrounding pollution, natural resources, climate change, and socio-economic justice are also incorporated into the curriculum. Students are challenged to get involved as creative problem-solvers looking for solutions to these problems. To this end, science classes often involve examination of primary source scientific data and publications. Students research national and international political initiatives and treaties that address issues such as climate change and ozone layer protection.
Engineering content is built into the science program to provide students with real-world engineering concepts and techniques. For example, in the earth science ‘Earthquake’ unit, students explore earthquake engineering principles for structures using seismic simulators and shake tables. In the physics ‘Energy’ unit, students explore wind power and perform experiments on the aerodynamic design of blades for wind turbines. In the ‘Forces’ unit, students explore the engineering materials and geometry principles of bridge design and build model truss bridges that they subsequently load-test to failure to determine strength:weight ratios.
DR. DAVE BAKER: UPPER-SCHOOL MATH, SCIENCE, ENGINEERING, AND CODING
Dr. Baker was born and educated in the UK, holds BS and PhD engineering degrees from the University of Birmingham and a teaching certificate in Secondary Mathematics from St. Martin’s University in Washington. For many years, Dr. Baker worked in materials research and engineering R&D for corporations and high-tech startups in the UK, New York, and Silicon Valley, and most recently in Massachusetts on the development of next-generation fingerprint sensors for smartphones and smart cards. Dr. Baker taught Physics at Berkhamsted School near London, and spent three years teaching math and science in bilingual schools in the Lake Atitlán region of Guatemala (fifth grade through AP Calculus). Dr. Baker is passionate about STEM programs that incorporate computer-based mathematics, coding, robotics, electronics, engineering design, and hands-on learning in real-world applications of mathematics and science.