Breadcrumbs

Science

Evaluating evidence to create a better world for all.

By immersing students in the foundational concepts of biology, chemistry, Earth and Space science, and physics, we seek to graduate scientifically literate students who will be able to draw evidence-based conclusions in the ever-changing world in which they live.

"The Penn Charter Science department prepared me to engage with scientific research in academia and to excel in STEM fields. Their constant support and guidance helped me achieve success in college and beyond." Gautam Nagaraj OPC ‘13

Key Characteristics

  • Lab-based experiences allow students to see and explore concepts in action.
  • Students use traditional and new technologies to collect, analyze and interpret data in real time.
  • Different levels of each core course provide each student with appropriate levels of challenge.
  • Students may dive deeper into areas of interest through a variety of elective course offerings.
  • Students generate data from their own experiments, and also use data from scientific organizations (NOAA, USGS, etc) to complement and expand their learning.

Curricular Highlights

Bottle rockets. Students design, build and launch a rocket constructed from a 2-liter bottle, applying concepts of force, energy, kinematics and dynamics.

Real-world applications. Advanced Physics students construct ukuleles from laser-cut wood pieces using principles learned in the classroom. Students play their ukuleles in assembly at the end of the year.

Hands-on Experimentation. How are proteins expressed? 9th grade biology students explore the translation of DNA by generating green, fluorescent protein in bacteria.

"I love teaching science by making it accessible, inclusive, and relevant. It is meaningful to me to nurture the innate curiosity and critical thinking skills of our next generation of adults.  The insights they gain through the study of science apply to all realms of the world at large." -Parveen Roberts, science teacher

 

Graduation Requirements

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.  Juniors who are selected for an AP course during their junior year may delay completing their Physics/Earth and Space Science requirement until their senior year.

Course List

All Year

Biology

S210
BIOLOGY
(2 UNITS)   ALL YEAR

The 9th grade introductory biology course investigates the range of biological systems. We start large and "zoom in" through the various levels of study, including global ecology and ecosystems, communities and populations, animal form and function, cells and metabolism, and patterns of inheritance. Lab work and use of computer technology are essential parts of the course. (9th grade)

Advanced Biology

S210A
ADVANCED BIOLOGY
(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 Middle School science and English classes; high score on placement test; and departmental approval.  (9th grade)

AP Biology

S630
AP BIOLOGY
(2 UNITS)   ALL YEAR

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; and departmental approval. (11th, 12th grades)

Chemistry

S440
CHEMISTRY
(2 UNITS)   ALL YEAR

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)

Advanced Chemistry

S440A
ADVANCED CHEMISTRY
(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)

AP Chemistry

S640
AP CHEMISTRY
(2 UNITS)   ALL YEAR

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)

Physics

S670
PHYSICS
(2 UNITS)   ALL YEAR

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)

Advanced Physics

S670A
ADVANCED PHYSICS
(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; and mechanical waves and sound. 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).

AP Physics C: Mechanics

S680
AP PHYSICS C:  MECHANICS
(2 UNITS) ALL YEAR

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: successful work on the placement test and approval by the department chair and physics teacher will be required. (11th and 12th grade)

AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism

S780
AP PHYSICS C: ELECTRICITY AND MAGNETISM
(2 UNITS)   ALL YEAR

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.

Earth and Space Science

S620
EARTH AND SPACE SCIENCE
(2 UNITS)   ALL YEAR

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. This course provides two credits toward the Certificate of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability. (11th or 12th grade)

AP Environmental Science

S610
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. This course provides two credits toward the Certificate of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability. Prerequisites: high honors grades in biology and chemistry, and departmental approval. (11th, 12th grades)

One Semester

Bioethics

S607
BIOETHICS 
(1 UNIT)   SEMESTER 1 

Bioethics is an interdisciplinary courses that seeks to understand both the science and moral dimensions behind major bioethical questions today. The course begins with a survey of ethical theories, logic and arguments and the history of bioethics as a field of study. We also explore questions of health care access, costs and equity in all the bioethical issues we examine. 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. 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 and Quaker Principles and Practices.

Human Anatomy and Physiology

S637
HUMAN ANATOMY AND PHYSIOLOGY
(1 UNIT)   SEMESTER 1

This course is designed to provide students with an opportunity to investigate the structure and function of the human body, and how the human body reacts to external stimuli throughout everyday life. Using dissection, laboratory investigations, multimedia simulations, group work and lecture, students will seek to understand and explain the human body in a variety of scenarios that incorporate scientific reasoning, analysis, communication skills and real-world applications. Students completing Human Anatomy and Physiology will be prepared to take post secondary courses in Human Anatomy and Biology. Prerequisites: Biology, Chemistry. (11th, 12th grades)

The Natural History of the Wissahickon

S651
THE NATURAL HISTORY OF THE WISSAHICKON
(1 UNIT)   SEMESTER 1

Penn Charter is less than a mile from one of the largest and most beautiful city parks in the world, full of interesting wildlife, amazing geologic features and hidden secrets. We’ll explore some of this unique natural wonder through frequent hikes, research and an independent project. The semester will be broken into three units of study: the ecology of the forest and stream, the geography and geology of the Wissahickon watershed, and the environmental history of the park with a focus on human impacts to the watershed over time. Each unit will involve weekly hikes, reading and research, class discussion, and project work.  If you like to get outside, appreciate nature, and would like to learn more about this tremendous resource, then come join our exploration of the Wissahickon! This course provides one credit toward the Certificate of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability. Prerequisites: students must be nature-lovers, be willing to hike in all kinds of weather, and be willing to think creatively. (11th, 12th grade)

Robotics I

S657
ROBOTICS I
(1 UNIT)   SEMESTER 1

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

S657A
ADVANCED ROBOTICS
(1 UNIT)   SEMESTER 1

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

Biotechnology

S648
BIOTECHNOLOGY
(1 UNIT)   SEMESTER 2


This class will be a hands-on experience in biotechnology with an emphasis on investigating questions related to molecular biology. 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: honors grades in biology and chemistry. (11th, 12th grades)

Ornithology

S646
ORNITHOLOGY
(1 UNIT) SEMESTER 2

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. This course provides one credit toward the Certificate of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability. (11th, 12th grade)

The Physics of Sound

S654
THE PHYSICS OF SOUND
(1 UNIT)   SEMESTER 2

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)

Space Science: Rocketry and Orbital Mechanics

S656
SPACE SCIENCE:  ROCKETRY AND ORBITAL MECHANICS
(1 UNIT)   SEMESTER 2

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)