Graduation requirement: Three years of study, including two lab courses (Biology, Chemistry)
The sequence of study in the Science Department begins with biology in the freshman year and is typically followed by chemistry (sophomore year), physics or environmental science (junior year), with senior year options for study in several electives and Advanced Placement courses in biology, chemistry, and physics. Although this is a traditional sequence, coursework stresses the integration of ideas and concepts from each discipline of science as well as the fields of technology, engineering, and mathematics. The coursework also seeks to develop and inspire students to be dedicated to the principles of science, to understand science as a process (a way of knowing), and to apply understanding to real-world concerns. The faculty see science as an ideal platform to teach habits of mind such as discipline of thought, perseverance, and personal accountability.
Students who complete all courses offered in the science curriculum at Pennington, or who demonstrate exceptional ability, may be given permission to enroll in science courses offered at Princeton University.
- Biology; Grade 9
- Biology — Honors; Grade 9
- Chemistry Concepts; Grade 10
- Chemistry; Grade 10
- Chemistry–Honors; Grade 10
- Environmental Science; Grades 11-12
- Physics; Grades 11–12
- Physics–Honors; Grades 11–12
- AP Biology; Grades 11-12
- AP Chemistry; Grades 11–12
- AP Physics C; Grades 11–12
- Science Electives; Grades 11 and 12
This course is a comprehensive study of a variety of biological concepts, beginning with the ecosystems and evolution on earth, moving to the cell, followed by the whole living organism, and the role humans play in this "web" of life. Applied science skills are emphasized both in class and in a laboratory setting. Students develop intellectual integrity, critical thinking, problem solving, and skills in observation, collection, interpretation, and analysis of data through the exploration of biological events relevant to their everyday lives.
This course is designed for students who have demonstrated a high level of interest and ability in previous science work. Biology Honors equips students to think seriously about science and apply their knowledge in both the classroom and during laboratory work. Students gain knowledge of the interdependence of organisms; biological evolution; cell structure and function; the molecular basis of heredity; and matter, energy, and organization in living systems. Application of science and math skills to problem-solving in real-world situations is an integral part of this course.
*Prerequisite: Permission of the department
This course offers a full survey of fundamental chemistry concepts. Students will study matter, molecular structure, atomic structure, chemical formulas, bonds, acids, bases, distillation, organic chemistry, solutions, photons, and radiation. Real-world examples and applications of the course’s concepts, combined with extended lab experiments, allow students to develop a strong understanding of chemical processes.
In this course, the concepts of chemistry are presented to stress their importance in the lives of the students and in society as a whole. In addition to learning the concepts of chemistry, students develop problem-solving techniques and critical-thinking skills to apply their understanding to authentic situations. Weekly laboratory and group activities are integral to the course. Students are responsible for designing and executing laboratory-based projects involving the integration of multiple chemical topics.
This honors course is designed for students who show a strong aptitude for science. It includes descriptive and theoretical material, with a strong emphasis on problem solving, and covers the basic concepts of chemistry. Students are responsible for researching, designing, and executing a quantitative analysis experiment at the end of the first semester of study, as well as a research project of their choosing during the second semester. Demonstrations, critical-thinking activities, and weekly labs are integral parts of the curriculum. Mastery of mathematical skills through Algebra I is required.
*Corequisites: Concurrent placement in Geometry–Honors or higher and permission of the department
Environmental Science (Lab)*
Environmental Science is a year-long course designed to introduce students to major environmental concepts (e.g., climate, soil, water, biological resources), their interrelationships, and impacts from human activities. The physical sciences and social sciences are integrated to create an interdisciplinary curriculum. Some themes explored are local and global systems, policy solutions, and environmental justice. To satisfy a lab credit, classwork will be supplemented with fieldwork around the campus (in the garden, stream, and pond), data labs, hands-on projects, and other research-driven, inquiry-based labs that will involve data collection and analysis. Students should be prepared to undertake a culminating project in the spring.
*Prerequisites: Biology and Chemistry
In this course, students study the concepts of classical mechanics, electricity and magnetism, and waves. Principles are stressed, and selected areas of contemporary interest are studied to condition students to our ever-changing technological society. Students conduct laboratory experiments to strengthen their understanding of concepts and further develop critical-thinking skills. Students complete a guided design project involving the construction of a mechanical device that integrates the application of physical concepts covered in the course. The study of physics, unlike biology and chemistry, places a heavy reliance on mathematical models to explain, predict, and understand physical phenomena.
*Corequisite: Concurrent mathematics placement in Precalculus with Function Limits or higher
This course is designed for students with a strong foundation in math and science who plan to continue their studies in a field related to math and science. Mathematical concepts are extensively applied to the physics principles of mechanics, electricity, magnetism, and waves; these principles are then used for complex problem solving. Laboratory investigations are an integral part of this course including student-designed experiments. Students complete a guided design project involving the construction of a mechanical device that integrates the application of physical concepts covered in the course.
*Prerequisite: Chemistry and permission of the department
*Corequisite: Concurrent mathematics placement in Precalculus—Honors or higher
This college-level course is recommended for students who intend to major in biological sciences such as biochemistry and/or medicine. AP Biology provides students with the conceptual framework, factual knowledge, and analytical skills necessary to handle critically the rapidly changing science of biology. The emphasis of this laboratory course is to develop an understanding of concepts and of science as an applied problem-solving process rather than an accumulation of facts.
*Prerequisites: Biology, Chemistry, and permission of the department
Students who intend to major in science in college may wish to take this course, which covers all the subject matter usually included in the first year of college chemistry. AP Chemistry has a strong emphasis on problem solving and critical thinking and includes both descriptive and theoretical material. Students delve into some of the more complex issues of chemistry with emphasis on the application of concepts to other disciplines of science and topics of interest to society. Demonstrations, group activities, class discussions, and weekly labs are integral parts of the curriculum.
*Prerequisites: Chemistry and permission of the department
AP Physics C*
AP Physics C is intended to provide a rigorous introductory college-level physics course with laboratory activities. It is recommended for students planning to study a scientific or engineering discipline in college. The course emphasizes the speculative aspects of mathematics and physics and assumes that the students will be able to solve problems and develop laboratory procedures independently. The course expands on topics introduced in Physics–Honors and introduces the utilization of calculus as a tool to analyze physical systems.
*Prerequisite: Physics-Honors and permission of the department
*Corequisite: Concurrent mathematics placement in AP Calculus or higher
This course will give students multiple experiences applying the Engineering Design Cycle. Using CAD and graphics software, hand tools, a 3D printer, a laser cutter, and a variety of materials, students will design, build, and test a solution to a given problem. Students will apply the engineering design cycle to improve their design’s performance. This course will give students opportunities to develop important twenty-first-century skills such as collaborating with one another, identifying and working effectively to problem solve, honing presentation and writing ability, and learning how to complete a project on time and on budget. Students will document their learning by keeping an engineering notebook.
*Prerequisite: Successful application to the Applied Science Certificate Program
Offered fall and spring semesters
This honors course is intended for highly motivated students who have successfully completed Advanced Placement Chemistry. Students work at their own pace and are required to turn in problem sets and tests at the end of each unit. It is the responsibility of the student to schedule meetings with the instructor to discuss course material and complete the required labs. The course covers introductory material usually included in college-level organic chemistry as well as common organic laboratory techniques.
*Prerequisites: AP Chemistry and permission of the department
Environmental Science in Action
In this course, students will work together to identify a single environmental issue, research and define a problem, design and propose various solutions, and ultimately implement one or more of the solutions. Students will conduct in-depth research, discuss and debate the various aspects of the issue at hand. Students will have the opportunity to delve deep into the issue’s environmental impacts, examine its scientific underpinnings, policy implications, cultural influences, and new and emerging technologies. The class will be community-centered, with students exploring how the issue manifests on campus and how they can learn from and work with the surrounding community to effect change and tailor solutions.
*Prerequisite: Biology and Chemistry
Climate Change and Storytelling in Religion and Science*
This class is an interdisciplinary experience in interpreting and telling stories about who we are in the Anthropocene (the age of humans)—who do we understand ourselves to be, and who do we want to become? In conversation with multiple and diverse modes of storytelling, the course outlines the science of climate change, including the greenhouse effect, human-driven changes in CO2 levels and subsequent changes in temperature (air and water), as well as data related to melting polar ice, carbon cycling, climate feedback loops, and other greenhouse gases. Students study the different consequences of climate change: sea level rise, wildfires, drought, climate refugees, hurricanes and flooding, habitat loss, species extinction, and so on. Stories in the form of journalism, ethnography, poetry, music, creative nonfiction, podcasts, film, and religious ecologies will guide us as we explore climate change impacts and pathways of perseverance, resilience, problem-solving, and hope.
Offered spring semester on alternate years - offered 2023-24
*Prerequisites: Religion and Ethics, Biology, Chemistry
*Successful completion of the course also garners Religion credit
This semester course begins with studying the physical properties of our solar system. Students will investigate the relationships that govern the movement of celestial objects and develop an understanding of the scale of the cosmos. Students will apply their understanding of these physical laws to determine the properties of other systems and galaxies. The second part of the course will focus on exploring current human endeavors in space and making informed decisions about our role and goals in space exploration.
Offered fall semester
Comparative Anatomy and Physiology in the Modern World*
This course will cover the complex nature of the human body systems and their roles within the human organism to maintain homeostasis (eg. health in the form of dynamic balance). Through a comparative exploration of the structure and function of major body systems, the class will use case studies to compare normal to altered states of these systems (eg. diseased, athletic, treated). With an added emphasis on the impact and importance of environmental and sociocultural factors on physiology, students will work to stretch thinking beyond the traditional lens of structure and function in the normative individual while completing small group projects on a particular system.
Offered fall semester
*Prerequisite: Successful completion of junior science course requirements and permission of the department
Forensic Science at the Crime Scene (Non-Lab)
Forensic Science at the Crime Scene draws on the fundamental principles of chemistry, physics, and biology. Students will learn both the theoretical and philosophical understanding of the investigatory process leading to conclusions about both perpetrator and victim within the confines of the crime scene. Students will learn and practice several techniques including crime scene analysis; fingerprinting; collection, preservation, and testing of evidence; modus operandi; use of technology; and types of evidence. Analysis of problems encountered in interviewing, interrogating, and evidence collecting will also be examined as part of this course.
Offered fall semester
Forensic Science in the Laboratory (Non-Lab)
Forensic Science in the Laboratory draws on the fundamental principles of chemistry, physics and biology. Students will explore forensic science from a laboratory perspective through various methodologies and applications used in this discipline. Topics discussed include organic and inorganic chemical analyses of physical evidence, DNA identification, analysis of fresh and decomposed tissue remains, and drug analysis. Students will practice several techniques in the laboratory such as UV-visible spectroscopy, blood-splatter analysis, and DNA analysis using electrophoresis.
Offered spring semester
Marine Biology and Ecology (Non-Lab)
Students will explore the physical and biological aspects of the world’s oceans and the organisms that live there. In addition, this class will focus on the interaction of humans with the marine environment. The course will cover marine ecosystems, including tide pools, coral reefs, the open ocean, and the deep ocean. The course will provide a thorough understanding of marine invertebrates, fish, and mammals.
Offered spring semester
Ecology is the study of interrelationships between organisms and their biotic and abiotic environments. As a basic science, ecology informs us about the processes governing the patterns we observe in nature. From an applied perspective, it is critical that we understand ecology as it provides insights and solutions to many of the environmental issues we are confronted with in our daily lives. In this semester elective course, students will investigate the types of questions asked by ecologists through field studies. Students will study the principal concepts and theories that guide ecological inquiry, and the methods that are used to answer ecological questions. The semester will cover major ideas that shape modern ecology such as population regulation, competition, predation, ecosystem energetics, mathematical models, and nutrient cycling.
Offered fall semester
In this semester course, students are introduced to robotics and computer programming. A study of the logic and algorithmic processes used by computers to perform tasks will lead to use of the programming language PYTHON. As the students develop confidence and mastery in the use of hardware and programming, they will write their own functions to perform simple tasks. As the semester progresses, students will design more advanced programs, based on individual ability and curiosity.
Offered spring semester
*Prerequisite: Algebra II