Our Science Department combines scientific inquiry and critical thinking to help students pose good questions, design experiments to address them, and interpret the data collected in order to extract meaningful results.

Our course offerings emphasize collaborative and project-based work, regular hands-on laboratory work, and rigorous analytical thinking to take students beyond traditional rote memorization of concepts. Our goal is to produce scientifically literate, life-long learners with a deep and rich appreciation of their world.

Small class sizes and modern, computerized laboratories provide ready-access to state-of-the-art equipment. Our faculty provide an appropriate balance of motivation and support to further students’ understanding, by connecting the scientific concepts explored in their coursework to real-world applications.

Coursework and Requirements

Coursework and Requirements
Ninth grade and sophomore students take an introductory sequence: physics, chemistry and biology that exposes them to core science disciplines. Juniors and Seniors select from an array of advanced courses that emphasize an interdisciplinary approach and mastery of material that is meaningful beyond the classroom. Many students take more than one science course concurrently during their junior and senior years.

Unique Offerings

Thacher’s Horse Program and 427-acre campus nestled in the foothills of the Los Padres National Forest provide opportunities that students won’t find anywhere else. The veterinary medicine class benefits from hands-on care of our own horses and pigs right here on site, while our environmental science and other courses make classrooms of outdoor spaces, from creek beds to beehives, solar fields to composting facilities.

The dark night skies in Ojai also provide excellent opportunities for hands-on learning in our 
astronomy courses. The Thacher Observatory, which underwent a major renovation during the Fall of 2016, is now a state-of-the-art research-grade facility. It offers students in our astronomy and data science courses significant opportunities for applied learning and represents one of the finest such facilities at any high school in the nation. 
The Observatory also supports NASA-funded research on eclipsing binary stars and transiting exoplanets led by one of our own faculty members in partnership with Harvard University and Boston University. 

- Leo

In Advanced Topics in Environmental Science, our teacher made sure the things we learned in the classroom were grounded in our interactions with the surrounding environment. I came away a changed person, both more aware of my natural surroundings and passionate about protecting them.”

East Hampton, New York

Science Department Faculty

List of 7 members.

  • Photo of Christopher Vyhnal

    Dr. Christopher Vyhnal 

    Science Department; Chemistry and Geology Teacher
    Colgate University - BA
    University of Tennessee - MS
    Dartmouth College - PhD
  • Photo of Edgar Arceo

    Mr. Edgar Arceo 

    Psychology Teacher; Los Padres Dorm Head
    Kenyon College - Bachelors of Arts (B.A)
    University of Pennsylvania - Masters of Science in Education (M.S.Ed)
    Middlebury College - Masters of Arts (M.A.)
  • Photo of Megan Carney

    Ms. Megan Carney 

    Director of Student Life
    Princeton University - AB
    Harvard University - EdM
  • Photo of Nicole Chung

    Ms. Nicole Chung 

  • Photo of Heather Grant

    Ms. Heather Grant 

    Science Department Chair, Biology and Chemistry Teacher
    Mount Holyoke College - BA
    Montana State University - MS
  • Photo of Ami Robinson

    Ms. Ami Robinson 

    Prescott College - B.S.
    Prescott College - B.A.
  • Photo of Jonathan Swift

    Dr. Jonathan Swift 

    Mathematics, Physics, and Astronomy Teacher and Director of the Thacher Observatory
    University of California, Berkeley - PhD
    University of California, Los Angeles - BS
Notice of nondiscriminatory policy as to students: The Thacher School admits students of any race, color, national, and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the School. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national, and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admission policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other School-administered programs.