Honors Hist of Science


Online for the 2023-2024 School Year

Teacher: Ms. Valerio

Email: scoobmaster@gmail.com

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Who Should take The History of Western Science, Honors? Everyone!

This class fills a niche for STEM, arts, and liberal arts students alike. Students may use this class to fill either a one credit of non-lab science or a one credit of history class slot on their transcripts. Have you ever groaned over writing a lab report, and wondered if so much detail was really necessary? Have you ever wondered how— and when— the scientific method in use today was developed, and whether real scientists follow it? Is the scientific method really as linear a process as the method makes it sound? (Hint: No!) Have you ever wanted a peek at how it is we arrived at some of today’s most important theories, such as the age of the universe, and evolution? Do you really understand what the theory of evolution does—and doesn’t— say as well as you think you do? How did scientists conclude that a massive impact caused dinosaur extinction? How does scientific collaboration work— and sometimes not? Have you ever wondered what the ancients observed and thought about our universe, and how we got from those early observations to what we observe and interpret today? How do major scientific discoveries fit into the rest of history, and how did scientific change and historical events interact? Do you want to improve your critical reading and thinking skills? Then this course is for you! (In fact, I have had many of the parents of my previous students admit they wish they could take this course too).

Live class times will often be discussion-oriented, rather than lecture-oriented, and all students will take turns leading class discussion, and will give a capstone presentation. Students who will complete the assigned reading before class, participate in discussion boards, and arrive in class ready to participate will be students who are ready to succeed in this class! There will be quite a bit of reading required throughout this class, with highest requirements during the months of February and March.

Class Description:

The History of Western Science, Honors is a challenging course in which students will wrestle with primary and secondary sources across several disciplines, arranged within chronological order within each broad conceptual topic, lead class discussions, participate in weekly message board discussions, write short papers to synthesize material, participate in writer’s workshop, and maintain a collaborative class timeline. The final timeline will be able to be downloaded and kept as a keepsake from the class. We will explore the following units:

While we focus on documented western science tradition, students are welcomed at many points throughout the course to include and discuss evidence of sciences throughout the rest of the world, including different timelines, forms of evidence, and methods of transmission.

Each unit will require students to either write a short 3-5 page paper or complete a short project, synthesizing the information from that unit, and engaging in a peer workshopping process to help support one another’s writing process. Students will take turns leading class discussion on Zoom, developing questions to help facilitate class discussion on the Bauer text and the primary source material. Throughout the course, all students will collaborate on a timeline project, to which they will add both notable events from the course, and be welcomed to add events from other courses they are studying. 

Each week, the class will begin with a Weekly message in Canvas outlining a suggested schedule of work for the week, including times to complete reading assignments, writing assignments, and discussion board participation, as well as reminders of upcoming topics and who will be leading discussion the following week. While I naturally recommend this pacing to allow for the course material to have time to be thoroughly understood, students may proceed through the week’s assignments asynchronously as long as the final deadlines each week are met. It is recommended that students attend class with their notes and books at hand for quick reference during discussion— it can be challenging to keep track of who was a uniformitarianist and who was a catastrophist without some notes handy!

Although this is a highly interactive class that depends heavily upon participation, family travel and sports and holidays that do not fall within our scheduled breaks can be accommodated with sufficient advance notice. I have had families in the past who managed to find parking lots and stop in for a quick Zoom break to participate in class, and never missed, even while on a 4-month road trip! However, if missing class is simply unavoidable, I do record each lecture and make it available on our class Google Drive, so that it may be downloaded and watched later.

This class is reading intensive. Students are encouraged to collaborate on their assignments and support one another in the writing process. I do not give exams in this course. There is no laboratory component to the science content of this course. Class participation does count toward the course grade. This is not primarily a writing course, and while grammatical and spelling errors will be corrected, essays will be graded primarily on content. As this is a high school level course and most of the students are likely college or career  or job market bound within the next few years, students will be held accountable for meeting due dates.

When the classroom opens, the parent(s) noted on the registration form will be added to Canvas with an observer account linked to your student. You will be able to use your parent observer account any time you wish to view assignments and grades and activity linked to your student. I am also accessible by email any time for questions. Thanks to this feature, you will always be up to date on your student’s progress and participation in the course.

Live Component: 

The class will have at least one weekly live session on Monday---a one-hour live discussion where the instructor and one student will present concepts and ask book-club style questions related to the reading material; where students will have the opportunity to pose any questions they asked as they read, as well..

We will not use every Thursday live session once the course is well underway. In the early part of the course we will use Thursday to discuss note taking techniques and technical reading strategies; in the remaining part of the course, live sessions will be reserved for the weeks when we need to conduct writer’s workshop sessions or need additional time for student project presentations. 

Live sessions are presented through the Zoom platform which is easily accessible. Because this course depends heavily upon discussion and student presentations, students are encouraged to participate in the actual live sessions. Writer’s workshop is mandatory for all students.

Live meeting times for 2023-2024: 

Class Tuition:  $675

The class includes 2 complete semesters; course materials are additional.  We take a one-week fall break, a full week break at Thanksgiving, a two-week break in December and a one-week Spring break. 

Dates at a glance:

First day of class: August 21

Labor Day holiday: September 4

Fall break: October 9-15

Thanksgiving break: November 20-26

Winter break: December 18 – January 1

Spring break: March 25-31

Last day of class: April 19

Required Texts: 

  1. The Story of Western Science, by Susan Wise Bauer (2015); ISBN 978-0-393-24326-0.
  2. T. Rex and the Crater of Doom, by Walter Alvarez (2015); Any edition will be fine, including Kindle; I suggest ISBN 978-0691169668.
  3. Some Assembly Required, by Neil Shubin (2020); ISBN 978-1-101-87133-1; any edition will be fine, including Kindle
  4. An additional choice of book from a list will be individually required; a list will be given in class with ample lead time, and may be read from the library or purchased as desired.
  5. Numerous primary sources: will be provided in class free of charge.

Technical Requirements: 



Office Hours:  I will be available for office hours upon request and appointment. I am at my desk through much of the M-F week and available to students for questions. My virtual office door is always open.  Students can communicate with me via email, Canvas email, or through the discussion board. I encourage students to share information about the topics which they are learning and ask questions in order to improve their understanding.  


Student assessment will consist of a combination of class participation in the weekly discussion board prompts, leading of class discussion, completion of unit projects, and completion of the final capstone project.

Course History: 

This course was designed by Jennette Driscoll and has been taught by her for three years. Students and their parents have lots of wonderful things to say about her course! I will be taking over for this year, using the same materials as she provided.

Instructor Biography:

Maryann Valerio, B.A. Physics & Classics Mount Holyoke College, M.S. Materials Science & Engineering University of California at Santa Barbara

I am a homeschool graduate and took three classes with PA Homeschoolers – APUSH with Susan Richman (Woo!!!!!), AP Macroeconomics with Dr. Howard Richman, and AP European History. I hold a B.A. in Physics and Classics from Mount Holyoke College and graduated magna cum laude with a GPA of 3.95. My honors thesis was in physics and described research I did on quantum dot solar cells, a novel material that could potentially be far cheaper and easier to make, and perhaps even more efficient, than regular silicon solar cells. My project was to try to find an ideal balance between fabricating a thick layer of quantum dots that could absorb lots of light, and therefore create more energy, but ensuring it was not so thick that electrons got lost in the woods, as it were, and weren’t able to make it to the terminals and provide electricity. I hold an M.S. in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of California at Santa Barbara, which is among the top 5 schools in that discipline in the nation. There, I completed a masters thesis outlining research in the field of lead halide perovskite transistors and potential future directions of research. I am currently working towards an M.F.A in fiction writing from Ashland University and working part-time as a tutor. I hope to eventually specialize in teaching and tutoring from the homeschool community that I myself come from. As someone with a passion for both science and history, I am excited to teach this course for the first time! I hope to share my love of interdisciplinary thinking and making connections between science and history and society through this class.

Click here to read class reviews from past participants