Science and Engineering Practices

Science utilizes observation and experimentation along with existing scientific knowledge, mathematics, and engineering technologies to answer questions about the natural world. Engineering employs existing scientific knowledge, mathematics, and technology to create, design and develop new devices, objects or technology to meet the needs of society. By utilizing both scientific and engineering practices in the science classroom, students develop a deeper understanding and competence with techniques at the heart of each discipline.

High school science offerings provide students with multiple contexts in which to explore new disciplines and expand on their K-8 work through both required courses and electives. Science courses introduce complex content and support the development of critical thinking skills that are essential for student success in and beyond school as students grow as lifelong learners.

Science Course Descriptions

Analytical Lab Investigations

The course provides an opportunity for students to focus on investigations across a wide range of science topics, with the goal of entering science fairs and similar competitions. Similar to a maker space focused on science, students will design, conduct and present laboratory investigations. This course is open to all students who wish to explore independent work in the science field.

AP Biology

AP Biology courses emphasize four general concepts: evolution; cellular processes (energy and communication); genetics and information transfer; and interactions of biological systems. For each concept, these courses emphasize the development of scientific inquiry and reasoning skills, such as designing a plan for collecting data, analyzing data, applying mathematical routines, and connecting concepts in and across domains. AP Biology courses include college-level laboratory investigations.

AP Chemistry

Concepts covered may include the structure of matter; bonding of intermolecular forces; chemical reactions; kinetics; thermodynamics; and chemical equilibrium. For each concept, these courses emphasize the development of scientific inquiry and reasoning skills, such as designing a plan for collecting data, analyzing data, applying mathematical routines, and connecting concepts in and across domains. AP Chemistry courses include college-level laboratory investigations.

Prerequisites: High school chemistry and Algebra 2 recommended

AP Environmental Science

AP Environmental Science courses are designed by the College Board to provide students with the scientific principles, concepts, and methodologies required to understand the interrelationships of the natural world, identify and analyze environmental problems (both natural and human made), evaluate the relative risks associated with the problems, and examine alternative solutions for resolving and/or preventing them. Topics covered include science as a process, ecological processes and energy conversions, earth as an interconnected system, the impact of humans on natural systems, cultural and societal contexts of environmental problems, and the development of practices that will ensure sustainable systems.

AP Physics 1, 2

AP Physics 1: Focuses on Newtonian mechanics, including rotational motion; work, energy and power; mechanical waves and sound; and introductory circuits.

AP Physics 2: Covers fluid statics and dynamics; thermodynamics with kinetic theory; PV diagrams and probability; electrostatics; electrical circuits with capacitors; magnetic fields; electromagnetism; physical and geometric optics; and quantum, atomic and nuclear physics.

These courses, which were designed by the College Board to parallel first-semester college-level courses in algebra-based physics, may also include college-level laboratory investigations.

AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism

AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism courses focus on electricity and magnetism, including topics such as electrostatics; conductors, capacitors, and dielectrics; electric circuits; magnetic fields; and electromagnetism. This course is designed by the College Board to parallel college-level physics courses that serve as a partial foundation for science or engineering majors. Requires the use of calculus to solve problems posed.

AP Physics C: Mechanics

AP Physics C: Mechanics courses focus on classical mechanics, including topics in kinematics; Newton's laws of motion; work, energy, and power; systems of particles and linear momentum; circular motion and rotation; oscillations; and gravitation. This course is designed by the College Board to parallel college-level physics courses that serve as a partial foundation for science or engineering majors. Requires the use of calculus to solve problems posed.


Astronomy courses offer students the opportunity to study the solar system, stars, galaxies, and interstellar bodies. These courses usually introduce and use astronomic instruments and typically explore theories regarding the origin and evolution of the universe, space, and time.

Biology 1

Biology courses are designed to provide information regarding the fundamental concepts of life and life processes. These courses include (but are not restricted to) such topics as cell structure and function, general plant and animal physiology, genetics, and taxonomy.

Biology 2: Anatomy & Physiology

Anatomy and Physiology courses present the human body and biological systems in more detail. In order to understand the structure of the human body and its functions, students learn anatomical terminology, study cells and tissues, explore functional systems (skeletal, muscular, circulatory, respiratory, digestive, reproductive, nervous, and so on), and may dissect mammals.

Prerequisite: Comprehensive initial study of biology recommended

Biology 2: Animal Studies

This course is an introduction to the world of Zoology designed for 11th and 12th grade students. Students will survey the animal world from protists through chordates. Using a comparative approach, the study of each group will emphasize diversity, anatomy, evolutionary relationships, functional adaptations, and environmental relationships. Extensive lab work, including dissections, will be an integral part of the course.

Chemistry 1

Chemistry courses involve studying the composition, properties, and reactions of substances. These courses typically explore such concepts as the behaviors of solids, liquids, and gases; acid/base and oxidation/reduction reactions; and atomic structure. Chemical formulas and equations and nuclear reactions are also studied.

Earth Science

Earth Science courses offer insight into the environment on earth and the earth’s environment in space. While presenting the concepts and principles essential to students’ understanding of the dynamics and history of the earth, these courses usually explore oceanography, geology, astronomy, meteorology, and geography.

Earth Science 2: Geology

Geology courses provide an in-depth study of the forces that formed and continue to affect the earth’s surface. Earthquakes, volcanoes, and erosion are examples of topics that are presented.

Earth Science 2: Oceanography

Courses in Marine Science focus on the content, features, and possibilities of the earth’s oceans. They explore marine organisms, conditions, and ecology and sometimes cover marine mining, farming, and exploration.


Ecology is a laboratory science from the biology discipline dealing with the interrelationships of living things and their environments. Major topics include energy flow, bio-geochemical cycles, biotic and abiotic influences on communities of living things, population dynamics, and an in-depth study of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem pollution.


Genetic courses offer students the opportunity to study molecular genetics, chromosomal genetics, genetics and human health, synthetic biology, and population genetics. Students in this course will investigate how the structure of DNA enables the processes of both protein synthesis and inheritance. They will also understand meiosis and its impact on the transmission of alleles from one generation to the next. In addition to studying Mendelian genetics, students will learn about sex-linked genes and multifactorial traits and their attributes to both the environment and genes. Students will investigate and understand that synthetic biology has been applied in numerous fields including agriculture, medicine and industry. A study on population genetics will allow students an opportunity to investigate and understand that random occurrences affect the genetic makeup of a population.

Horticulture 1

This course combines an introduction to plant systems, taxonomy, anatomy, introductory botany, basic horticulture, and greenhouse management. Our concentration is on the growth, identification, classification and reproduction of various plant families. We will use the lens of a botanist to learn about these topics. Throughout this curriculum, students will learn some basic knowledge of horticulture, the tools and skills needed in this industry, and the environmental impact of cultivating plants. The focus for Horticulture 1 will be vegetable, herb gardening, seed propagation, pollination, and flowers.​

IB Biology I, II

IB Biology I and II investigate the fundamental topics of biology, including cell biology, molecular biology, genetics, and evolution through laboratory investigations and individual student research.

Prerequisites: Biology 1 is a prerequisite for IB Biology I; IB Biology I is a prerequisite for IB Biology II.

IB Environmental Systems and Societies

Through studying environmental systems and societies, students will be provided with a coherent perspective of the interrelationships between environmental systems and societies, one that enables them to adopt an informed personal response to the wide range of pressing environmental issues that they will inevitably come to face.


This course will invite students to explore the ocean and study the geological and physical components of the ocean. Students will also investigate the ocean's effects on weather and climate. As students explore the ocean's environments, they will see the impact that the physical properties and geographical locations have on the populations of the ocean. An investigation of the impacts caused by humans will provide an opportunity for students to learn how we impact the ocean habitats.

Physics 1

Physics courses involve the study of the forces and laws of nature affecting matter, such as equilibrium, motion, momentum, and the relationships between matter and energy. The study of physics includes examination of sound, light, and magnetic and electric phenomena.

PVCC BIO 101/102 General Biology

These courses explore fundamental characteristics of living matter from the molecular level to the ecological community with emphasis on general biological principles. Students are introduced to the diversity of living organisms, their structure, function, and evolution.

Prerequisites: Completed MTE 1-9 or placement test score equivalent or SAT math score of 520 or greater or ACT math score of 22 or greater and placement into ENF3/ENG 111

PVCC BIO 107 Biology of the Environment

BIO 107 presents the basic concepts of environmental science through a topical approach. Includes the scientific method, population growth, and migration, use of natural resources and waste management, ecosystem simplification recovery, evolution, biogeochemical cycles, photosynthesis and global warming, geological formations, atmosphere and climate, and ozone depletion and acid deposition.

Prerequisites: VPT placement into ENF 3 or SAT Critical Reading score of 500 or greater or ACT score of 21 or greater and completion of MTE 1-5 or placement test score equivalent

PVCC CHM 101 Introduction to Chemistry

Emphasizes experimental and theoretical aspects of inorganic, organic and biological chemistry. Discusses general chemistry concepts as they apply to issues within our society and environment.

PVCC CHM 111 College Chemistry I

Explores the fundamental laws, theories, and mathematical concepts of chemistry. Designed primarily for science and engineering majors.

Prerequisites: MTH 163 or MTH 167 is a prerequisite or corequisite for CHM 111; CHM 111 Lab is a corequisite for CHM 111.

PVCC GOL 105 Physical Geology

​Introduces the composition and structure of the earth and modifying agents and processes. Investigates the formation of minerals and rocks, weathering, erosion, earthquakes, and crustal deformation.

PVCC GOL 106 Historical Geology

Traces the evolution of the earth and life through time. Presents scientific theories of the origin of the earth and life and interprets rock and fossil record.

PVCC NAS 131/132 Astronomy

This is an introductory astronomy course that emphasizes concepts rather than mathematics. The course is designed for non-science majors and there are no math prerequisites. The main goal of this course is for students to understand and appreciate the nature of science through the study of astronomy. After completing this class, students will have achieved basic understanding of: scientific method, patterns in the night sky, motion, energy, gravity, and light, telescopes, our solar system, nature of stars and galaxies, birth and death of stars, theories on beginning and end of the universe, and properties of planets beyond our solar system. Remote observatory viewing may be scheduled according to availability and time allowance.

Corequisite: NAS 131/132 lab

PVCC PHY 201 General College Physics

Teaches fundamental principles of physics. Covers mechanics, thermodynamics, wave phenomena, electricity and magnetism, and selected topics in modern physics.

Prerequisite: MTH 164

Science, Technology & Society

Students explore and understand the ways in which science and technology shape culture, values and institutions, and how such factors, in turn, shape science and technology. Students examine science, technology and engineering fundamentals in relation to solving real-world problems. Students are introduced to engineering fundamentals using mathematical and scientific concepts, and they apply the engineering design process through participation in hands-on engineering projects. Students are introduced to scientific research fundamentals using scientific inquiry and experimentation methodologies, and they apply the scientific method through participation in hands-on science projects. An important outcome of this course is helping students decide on a STEM focus, either engineering or science, and a particular area of specialty.

Scientific Research and Design

Scientific Research and Design is a broad-based course designed to allow students the opportunity to research fields of interest in the areas of science, social science, math, technology, and engineering. The course has the components of any rigorous scientific or engineering program of study, including problem identification, investigation design, data collection, data analysis, formulation, and presentation of conclusions. These components are integrated through a career and technical education lens, with an emphasis on helping students gain entry-level employment in high-skill, high-wage jobs and/or continue their education.