Josie Wallmuth, Department Chair
Students must satisfactorily complete six credits of lab science coursework. This represents three full years of science. In satisfying the six-credit requirement, students will sequentially take Biology (9th grade), Chemistry (10th grade), and Physics or Earth and Space Science (11th or 12th grade). Students may enroll in either the general or advanced sections of these courses, subject to their readiness and/or progress in meeting established departmental prerequisites. Any alteration in the required science sequence must be approved by the science department chair and the director of the Upper School.
Note: Students enrolled in full-year science courses are required to complete the entire year and satisfactorily complete all lab assignments. With departmental permission, qualified juniors (11th grade) may concurrently enroll in Physics and an AP science course.
Advanced and AP Science Courses:
Science department prerequisites for admission to advanced and AP courses are listed in individual course descriptions. In the selection process:
- Students are selected based on their academic grades in all classes, standardized testing scores and science teacher recommendations.
- Students that fully meet the departmental prerequisites are the first to be placed in the advanced or AP classes.
- The remainder of the class will be filled with preference given to those students with strong science teacher recommendations and to upperclassmen.
If a student has not maintained an average of B or higher at the end of semester 1, the Science Department may remove the student from the AP course in which he or she is enrolled. If the student’s transcript has been sent to colleges, the colleges will be notified of the change of status.
Note: Science Department course descriptions are listed by subject matter, not course number. For example, all biology offerings are listed together, as are the other disciplines.
The following chart organizes offerings by semester and can be used in the design of a student’s individualized program. These are suggestions only and the student could switch back and forth between the two levels as interest and ability indicate.
|S210A Advanced Biology|
|S440A Advanced Chemistry|
|S610 AP Environmental Science|
|S630 AP Biology|
|S640 AP Chemistry|
|SEMESTER 1||SEMESTER 2|
|S607 Bioethics 1||S608 Bioethics 2|
|S635 Comparative Anatomy and Physiology*|
|S654 The Physics of Sound|
|S656 Space Science: Rocketry and Orbital Mechanics*|
Asterisk (*) indicates lab science electives.
The 9th grade introductory biology course investigates biological organization from molecules through cells, organisms, populations, communities and ecosystems. We start small and "zoom out" through the various levels of study; starting with atoms, molecules and cell structure, biochemistry, classical and molecular genetics, ecology and plant physiology. Lab work and use of computer technology are essential parts of the course. (9th grade)
(2 UNITS) ALL YEAR
This is a college preparatory biology course. Studies will include biochemistry (photosynthesis and respiration), genetics, classification, botany, ecology, human anatomy and physiology. Laboratory exercises will reinforce class material and introduce students to lab techniques and equipment, including the scientific-writing process. Students will also perform molecular biology labs, exploring the science of cloning and DNA analysis. In a college prep course students must be willing to make a full commitment to the requirements and expectations of this course. Prerequisites: high honors grades in science, English and math; a qualifying exam recommendation of 8th grade science teacher; and departmental approval. (9th grade)
BIOETHICS 1, BIOETHICS 2
(1 UNIT) SEMESTER 1 & 2
Bioethics 1 and 2 are an interdisciplinary course that seeks to understand both the science and moral dimensions behind major bioethical questions today. Each semester the course begins with a survey of ethical theories, logic and arguments and the history of bioethics as a field of study. We will also explore questions of health care access, costs and equity in all the bioethical issues we examine. In semester 1, the class focuses on mental health and neuroethics. Students will examine the ethical, legal and social issues raised by mental health treatments and new advances in neuroscience. During semester 2, students will investigate a variety of bioethical topics that might be faced at the beginning and end of life. Regardless of the semester, students use case studies, current events and presentations by guest speakers to enhance their understanding of topics. Students enrolled in this course may receive either science or religious studies and philosophy credit. Prerequisite: Biology. (11th, 12th grades)
AP ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE
(2 UNITS) ALL YEAR
Environmental science is an interdisciplinary course that approaches issues from the sociological, political and scientific perspectives. This is an introductory, college-level course that stresses scientific principles and analysis, and includes a strong practical component. Students wishing to take this course should be willing to commit to summer review of biology prior to the course, and an hour of homework nightly during the school year. The course goals are to provide students with an in-depth understanding of environmental problems, to enable students to evaluate the risks associated with these problems, and to offer solutions for preventing or resolving them. Lectures will cover the living and non-living world, population dynamics, land and water use, energy resources and consumption, pollution and global change. Students will be expected to read and analyze current news articles, and keep up to date with local and international environmental issues. Laboratory investigations, long-term projects and field work will supplement lectures and are an integral part of the curriculum. There will be a final, cumulative exam, and all enrolled students are required to take the AP Environmental Science exam. Prerequisites: high honors grades in biology and chemistry, and departmental approval. (11th, 12th grades)
(1 UNIT) SEMESTER 2
This class will be a hands-on experience in molecular biology with an emphasis on investigating questions related to botany (plants). In this class, we will isolate DNA, RNA and proteins to analyze how cells actually make the things they need to stay alive. Through this course you will learn and use molecular methods that will translate directly into college lab/research experiences when you graduate from Penn Charter. Prerequisites: an interest in doing real science, and persistence. (11th, 12th grades)
This is an introductory college-level course, open to juniors and seniors who are willing to make a commitment to the requirements and expectations of the course. This commitment includes summer study prior to the start of the course and one to two hours of reading/homework nightly during the school year. Learning and understanding of major biological principles and concepts are developed through course lectures, laboratory exercises, and outside reading and study. The comparison of structure and function, principles of genetics, cellular biochemistry, botany, human physiology and ecology are some of the topics in the course. The laboratory portion of the course reinforces lecture material and introduces the use of laboratory equipment and techniques. Laboratory reports will build on the technical writing skills necessary to be successful in science today. All enrolled students are required to take the AP Biology exam. Prerequisites: high honors grades in Biology 210/210A, Chemistry 440/440A and English X; combined score of 110 or greater in Critical Reading and Math on the PSAT; and departmental approval. (11th, 12th grades)
The anatomy and physiology of all organisms are perfectly adapted to living in a specific environment. Using examples from the main phyla from the Animal Kingdom, we will study the structure and function of a range of organisms and the tissues and systems involved in some of the following characteristics of life: feeding, movement, sensitivity, reproduction and homeostasis.
Physiology studies how organisms acquire and use food, oxygen and water, the three essential requirements for survival. In order to do this, organisms must be able to sense, interpret and respond to their surroundings, adjust to change, and somehow coordinate numerous organ systems to function smoothly. The anatomy and physiology of these systems will be studied and compared at different levels of organization, from single-celled protists to highly evolved vertebrates. Students will compare and contrast "typical" examples to get a sense of evolutionary pathways, and then explore the astonishing ways in which organisms have adapted to exploit particular environments.
The focus of the course is much more than “just dissections and experiments” – it is an exploration of how variations on a basic plan can be traced throughout the animal kingdom. On the practical side, there will be a number of laboratory exercises, including the study of live and preserved specimens, microscopy, dissections and experiments. The course will be evaluated by means of continuous lab work, a final lab record, and tests on the topics covered in the lab and lectures. There may also be a presentation on a topic of individual choice. Prerequisites: Biology, Chemistry. (11th, 12th grades)
The course will introduce students to the basics of bird biology, physiology, anatomy and behavior. We will also spend time investigating the multitude of factors that are impacting bird populations in North America and throughout the world. The course will also include a taxonomical overview of the species of species found in Pennsylvania. Class time will be split between in-class lectures, activities and projects, as well as on- and off-campus birding trips and fieldwork. Students will have the opportunity to visit the Academy of Natural Science of Drexel University to learn about current ornithological projects taking place in the Philadelphia area, visit several Important Birding Areas (IBAs) in the Philadelphia area, and learn about local citizen science projects and organizations. The class will also investigate issues that are affecting bird populations both positively and negatively throughout North, Central and South America, with a focus on global climate change. (11th, 12th grade)
Penn Charter is less than a mile from one of the largest and most beautiful city parks in the world, full of weird geologic features and hidden secrets. We’ll explore some of this amazing natural wonder through frequent hikes, research and an independent project. The semester will be broken into three units of study: the geography and geology of the Wissahickon watershed, the ecology of the forest and stream, and the current environmental issues impacting the park. Each unit will involve weekly hikes, reading and research, class discussion, and project work. If you like to get outside, appreciate nature, can handle a long hike, and would like to learn more about this tremendous resource, then come join our exploration of the Wissahickon! Prerequisites: students must be nature-lovers, be willing to hike in all kinds of weather, and be willing to think creatively. Attendance on all hikes is mandatory. (11th, 12th grade)
Students will study the theories that are the foundation of chemistry as a modern physical science. Through the use of experimental evidence, demonstrations and discussions, these theories are explored in terms of their practical and mathematical implications. Writing and problem-solving skills are stressed. Laboratory work is emphasized as a means to develop and to test concepts. Prerequisites: biology, Algebra I. (10th grade)
(2 UNITS) ALL YEAR
This course is based on the mathematical and theoretical fundamentals of chemical phenomena. Strong emphasis is placed on the development of the ability to solve scientific problems quantitatively. We will make extensive use of structural models, mechanisms and demonstrations to encourage interpretation and problem-solving techniques. Laboratory work will stress independent analysis and discussion of chemical situations. Prerequisites: high honors grades in mathematics, A or B section; high honors grades in biology; strong marks in standardized testing; a qualifying exam; and departmental approval. (10th grade)
The AP Chemistry course provides students with a foundation to support future advanced coursework in chemistry. It is is structured around the six Big Ideas articulated in the AP Chemistry curriculum framework provided by the College Board. Through inquiry-based learning, students cultivate their understanding of chemistry and science practices as they explore topics including atomic structure, intermolecular forces and bonding, chemical reactions, kinetics, electrochemistry, thermodynamics and equilibrium. Special emphasis is placed on engaging students in activities that authentically capture scientific work and allow them to develop their critical thinking and reasoning skills. Prerequisites: honors grades in Algebra II and Chemistry 440/440A, and departmental approval. (11th, 12th grades)
Look around you and list what you see. Your list will include lots of polymers! In this course, we will examine some important polymers, huge molecules that play a role in our daily lives. We will investigate the modern discipline of polymer chemistry largely through hands-on mini-lab activities. Other methods of learning will be classroom discussions, experiments, debates and group presentations. Topics that we will study include: physical and chemical properties of polymers; molecular structures; processing polymers into useful products; environmental issues. Some of the activities we will do include: identifying common plastics; making nylon; painting with elastomers; molding plastics; making and taking the foam out of Styrofoam. Many experiments will have an independent design extensions. The course will culminate in an independent project where students will engineer slime and super balls to specific qualifications. Prerequisite: Chemistry. (11th, 12th grades)
Do you like chemistry? Do you like visual arts? If you can answer yes to either question, then this is the course for you. This interdisciplinary course explores the link between art and archaeology, and chemistry. We will explore how artifacts and works of art, such as Stonehenge and Helen of Troy’s gold, are chemically analyzed and what additional information this analysis provides. Find out what mourners at King Midas’ tomb ate, why samurai swords are so sharp, how to make royal purple and much more. Controversies such as provenance, the return of artifacts to countries of origin, plus how art frauds are uncovered, will be discussed. Lab work will explore chemical techniques that are applicable to producing works of art. Students will make their own pottery glazes and create a fresco in a pizza box. A field trip to a pottery studio, a local museum and a lab facility is planned. Prerequisite: Chemistry. (11th and 12th grades)
Physics is an algebra-based course that studies kinematics, dynamics, energy, collisions, planetary motion, rockets and black holes. Students will measure and analyze the properties of physical phenomena through numerous laboratory experiments using computer-based technologies. The course emphasizes applications of physical principles and theory to everyday experiences. (11th or 12th grade)
Earth and Space Science introduces students to a variety of geologic phenomena and the scientific principles that govern them. Topics include plate tectonics, volcanoes, earthquakes, rock cycle, water cycle, paleontology, solar system and the universe. A series of mini-labs, scientific readings and focused discussions will deepen understanding and appreciation of our home planet and its place in the universe. (11th or 12th grade)
(2 UNITS) ALL YEAR
Advanced Physics is an algebra-based, introductory college-level physics course that explores topics such as Newtonian mechanics (including rotational motion); work, energy and power; mechanical waves and sound; and introductory, simple circuits. Through inquiry-based learning, students will develop scientific critical thinking and reasoning skills. Prerequisites: satisfactory completion of Algebra II and chemistry courses, qualifying exam and departmental approval. (11th or 12th grade).
This course is a first-year physics course for students considering advanced study in science and/or engineering. It will cover the topics required by the College Board to prepare the student for the AP exam: kinematics, motion, work, energy, power, momentum, circular motion and gravitation. Basic calculus will be needed, but students do not need to be enrolled in calculus to take this course. The calculus concepts required will be taught as part of the class. Prerequisites: there will be a placement test for this course and approval by the department chair and physics teacher will be required to sign up. (11th and 12th grade)
AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism is a calculus-based, college-level physics course, especially appropriate for students planning to specialize or major in physical science or engineering. The course explores topics such as electrostatics; conductors, capacitors and dielectrics; electric circuits; magnetic fields; and electromagnetism. Introductory differential and integral calculus is used throughout the course. Prerequisites: satisfactory completion of either Physics or Advanced Physics; concurrent enrollment in AP Calculus AB along with a strong recommendation from his/her most recent math instructor; or concurrent enrollment in AP Calculus BC; departmental approval.
The objective of this course is to use a hands-on approach to introduce the basic concepts in robotics, focusing on mobile robots and illustrations of current state-of-the-art research and applications. Course information will be tied to lab experiments; students will work in teams to build and test increasingly more complex Lego-based mobile robots, culminating in an end-of-trimester robot contest. This course introduces fundamental concepts in robotics. In this course, basic concepts will be discussed, including coordinate transformations, sensors, path planning, kinematics, feedback and feed-forward control, stressing the importance of integrating sensors, effectors and control. These topics will be exemplified with Lego Robot Kit labs. This course is intended for upper school students with interests in robotics, engineering, and programming. (11th, 12th grades)
Advanced Robotics will introduce students to modern robotics with an emphasis on creating working robots to achieve various tasks including prosthetic limbs, animatronics, and mobile, wheeled bases. Students will learn about electric circuits, mechanical design, CAD, artificial intelligence, and various programming languages and environments. Grades will be based on a combination of project work, exams, and homework assignments. (11th, 12th grades; 10th grade by permission of the department chair)
This course is for students with a love of music and an interest in studying the science behind music. During this class, we will learn the physics behind the creation of sound by various instruments and then use this knowledge to design and build our own instruments. We will also study the fundamentals of music theory and use this to compose music to play on the instruments we have created. This course can be used to satisfy the graduation requirement for Performing Arts. (11th and 12th grades)
In this class, students will learn what is is like to create their own space program and explore the solar system through an aerospace simulator, Kerbal Space Program, and by building and testing their own model rockets. While students will learn the basic math behind rocket design and testing, the simulation will allow them to experience many of the challenges and successes that scientists experienced in the space race. In a hands-on environment, students will learn how to send astronauts to other planets and back, reflect on current events like the SpaceX launches, design and laser cut parts for their own rockets, and more. The course will conclude with open-ended challenges to test their real and virtual rocket building skills. (11th, 12th grades; 10th grade by permission of the department chair)
Courses Not Offered in 2017-2018
(1 UNIT) NOT OFFERED
Oceanography introduces students to a variety of marine ecosystems and the scientific principles that govern them. The study of oceanography is interdisciplinary in that it draws from a variety of scientific disciplines, including biology, chemistry and physics. Students will study the formation of the world oceans, the nature of seawater, tides, currents, waves and marine ecosystems. Class discussions will also include current ocean-related issues like coastal zone management, beach re-nourishment projects, ocean waste disposal and fishing practices. Central to the course is a one-day field experience to Corson’s Inlet State Park in Ocean City, N.J., enabling students to gain firsthand experience with the marine environments studied in the classroom. Prerequisite: biology. (11th, 12th grades)
ART, ARCHAEOLOGY & CHEMISTRY
(1 UNIT) NOT OFFERED
Do you like chemistry? Do you like visual arts? If you can answer yes to either question, then this is the course for you. This interdisciplinary course explores the link between art and archaeology, and chemistry. We will explore how artifacts and works of art, such as Stonehenge and Helen of Troy’s gold, are chemically analyzed and what additional information this analysis provides. Find out what mourners at King Midas’ tomb ate, why samurai swords are so sharp, how to make royal purple, and much more. Controversies such as provenance, the return of artifacts to countries of origin, plus how art frauds are uncovered, will be discussed. Lab work will explore chemical techniques that are applicable to producing works of art. Students will make their own pottery glazes and create a fresco in a pizza box. A field trip to a pottery studio, a local museum and a lab facility is planned. Prerequisite: chemistry. (11th and 12th grades)
(1 UNIT) NOT OFFERED
“If you want to fix something, it makes sense to find out how it worked in the first place.” In the context of parasitology, this translates into finding out how disease-causing organisms enjoy living, and then using that information to reduce their impact on humans. This approach is often used in disease control, by public health specialists, “bug sleuths” in exotic settings, aid workers in development programs, and many other professions. The course will cover some of the major disease-causing organisms, from the perspective of the parasite and that of the host. Using readings, class discussions and laboratory sessions, we will look at the amazing strategies used by parasites to locate and infect their hosts, and how hosts respond to rid themselves of these unwelcome guests. How important are cultural factors, such as traditional beliefs and practices, in overcoming parasitic diseases? Is globalization likely to reduce these types of illnesses? Although the emphasis of the course is on parasites affecting humans, we will also look at examples of parasites affecting members of the plant kingdom and animals other than humans. This is a laboratory-based course, and will be evaluated by means of continuous lab work, a final lab record, and tests on the topics covered in the lab and lectures. Students will also research and present the work of an organization linked to disease prevention and also present a parasitic disease. Prerequisite: biology, chemistry. (11th, 12th grades).
DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU EAT: THE CHEMISTRY OF FOOD
(1 UNITS) NOT OFFERED
Do you like to eat, but are not sure what you are eating? Find out in this course that looks at the history, chemistry and controversies surrounding food. We will explore topics, including what are the important molecule types that make up food, how cooking changes foods, why we like fatty, salty foods, and how we taste foods. Controversies such as irradiated foods, genetically modified foods and the use of artificial sweeteners will be investigated. We will also look at current food fads, fast foods and hunger in America. Experiments will include: mapping your taste buds, making artificial flavorings, and investigating how to make the best ice cream. Prerequisite: chemistry. (11th and 12th grades)
PRINCIPLES OF BOTANY
(1 UNIT) NOT OFFERED
Discover how plant structure and function combine to create the most diverse kingdom on the planet. This is a course about how plants work — literally. We will explore plant physiology, reproduction and biochemistry. Learn the fundamental aspects of plant science with implications of botanical knowledge needed for applied sciences such as agriculture, horticulture, bio-remediation and the pharmaceutical industry. This is a laboratory course with a cumulative final exam. Prerequisites: biology, chemistry. (11th, 12th grades)
(1 UNIT) NOT OFFERED
Space exploration requires the construction and maintenance of complex vessels to maintain an environment hospitable to life in the void of outer space. The microgravity environment of space presents a stress to living creatures, which has just begun to be explored in enough detail to plan manned missions to Mars and beyond. Learn what it takes to stay alive in space. What happens to your brain in microgravity? How will your bones grow? What will you eat? How are scientific experiments conducted on the shuttle and international space station? A special emphasis will be placed on plant science in space, as plants are thought to be our only sustainable food source for future long-term missions. This is a laboratory course with a cumulative final exam. Prerequisite: biology. (11th, 12th grades)
FUNDAMENTALS OF BIOLOGICAL RESEARCH
(1 UNIT) NOT OFFERED
Learn how scientists design scientific studies in the lab. DNA extraction and sequencing, protein identification and immunological methods will be just a part of this laboratory experience. Field experience will teach sampling methods for vegetation, soils, animals and insects. Learn how to perform plant and animal identification. With a triple emphasis on scientific inquiry, statistical methodologies and technical writing skills, you will prepare yourself to be a professional biological scientist. An independent scientific research project will be assigned. Prerequisites: biology, chemistry. (11th, 12th grades)
FUNDAMENTALS OF CHEMICAL RESEARCH
(1 UNIT) NOT OFFERED
Would you like to make silver and gold nano-particles, or make and investigate plastics? Would you like to do your own chemistry project, such as making crystals or finding the amount of vitamin C in multivitamins or juices? Students will try these experiments and many other lab procedures. Where possible, they will develop their own procedures and perform experiments of their choice. Synthesis and qualitative analysis, and chromatography will be some of the processes that students will investigate. There will be frequent use of technology, including the use of the spectrophotometer and gas chromatograph. Prerequisite: chemistry. (11th and 12th grades)
THE SCIENCE BEHIND IT…
(1 UNIT) NOT OFFERED
Have you ever wondered how your cell phone works, how your car starts, how we fight cancer, how a bomb explodes, or have you had a topic in your science class stir up a random thought about something that actually interests you? If so, this is the course for you! We will dedicate a trimester to investigating the science be hind the things you would like to understand, along with current topics in cutting -edge science. We create the syllabus, we do the research, and we pursue the answers. Prerequisites: curiosity, persistence, collaboration and imagination. (11th, 12th grades)
(1 UNIT) NOT OFFERED
If you like being outside, regardless of the weather, and have an interest in ecology and/or environmental issues, this could be the course for you! By the end of this combination of lectures and field work, you will be able to carry out plant and animal identification, choose sampling methods, collect and analyze data, and write a technical report. The course will also involve collaborating with nonprofit organizations active in the Philadelphia area. Each student will be assigned an independent research project to be submitted as part of the final evaluation. Prerequisites: biology and chemistry. (11th, 12th grades)
TOPICS IN NEWTONIAN PHYSICS
(1 UNIT) NOT OFFERED
This course is intended to provide students with an introduction to concepts in Newtonian mechanics. Students interested in enrolling in AP Physics C and/or plan to take physics at the university level should consider this course a primer. Demonstration, mini-activities and class discussions will drive this fast-paced introductory course. (11th grade)
THE PHYSICS OF SCIENCE FICTION
(1 UNIT) NOT OFFERED
Are you a fan of science fiction? This course will analyze the science, especially the physics, behind popular science fiction, including Star Trek, Independence Day, and The X-Files. Within the context of science fiction movies, novels and short stories, participants will examine interesting science using both classical and modern physics. (11th, 12th grades)
(1 UNIT) NOT OFFERED
This class introduces intermediate-level topics in building and programming robots using the LEGO Mindstorms NXT Robotics System. Students with previous LEGO Mindstorms experience (Robotics I) practice mechanical design, construction, programming and teamwork skills. In small groups using LEGO parts, motors and sensors, students build a number of different robot models and use a computer to program their robots to move, react and make sounds in order to solve challenges. In addition, students are introduced to C++ programming. Prerequisite: Robotics I.