The USP Curriculum focuses on synapse building through problem-solving, rich experiences, and challenging content. Lessons are designed to be interdisciplinary, engaging, project-based, and to spark intellectual curiosity.  The customized, compacted scope and sequence is designed to prepare students with the necessary skills and background knowledge to begin Advanced Placement coursework.  Recognizing the unique needs of each child, readiness for advanced coursework is determined by the academic precocity of each child, regardless of biological age or grade level classification.

The University Scholars Program course offerings are driven each year by the academic needs and unique interests of our student population.

PALCS USP Academics

The aim of the University Scholars Program English scope and sequence is to provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to critically interpret, analyze, and respond to literary works, identify literary elements, and create fiction and non-fiction that applies these elements. Students also receive instruction and practice in all forms of oral and written exposition.

English Course Offerings

Middle School Courses

Seminar courses are middle school honors level courses and do
not get weighed into a student’s transcript.

Prerequisite: Advanced reading comprehension skills, advanced writing skills, and strong critical thinking skills.

The course focuses on strengthening students’ critical thinking skills through the exploration of various literary genres and non-fiction text. Students read trade books, short stories, plays, poetry and writing selections from a literature text. Grammar and writing skills (Step-Up to Writing) are incorporated into the lessons via the literature. Spelling, vocabulary, presentation, and research skills are perpetually strengthened.

Given the amount of reading assigned to students during the school year, students are encouraged to spend the summer reading books of personal interest. Cyber weekend work is assigned for this course.

Seminar courses are middle school honors level courses and do
not get weighed into a student’s transcript.

Prerequisite: Successful completion of Seminar Language Arts I or demonstrated knowledge and skill equivalent.

A variety of challenging texts, including novels, short stories, plays and poetry, as well as non-fiction texts develop students’ knowledge of literary elements. The course seeks to strike a balance between encouraging creativity and requiring correct use of conventions. Students are given many opportunities to write both creative and expository pieces, some that are also linked to the social studies curriculum. Writing assignments include all of the following: summaries, comparative essays, biography, literary analysis essays, original poetry, stories, and a standard business letter. Students develop or enhance their working understanding of correctness of expression, the parts of a sentence, clauses, punctuation, and sentence variety and are able to use this understanding to discuss and analyze writing. Spelling, vocabulary, presentation, research, and listening skills are continuously developed and strengthened.

Given the amount of reading assigned to students during the school year, students are encouraged to spend the summer reading books of personal interest. Cyber weekend work is assigned for this course.

Seminar courses are middle school honors level courses and do
not get weighed into a student’s transcript.

Prerequisite: Successful completion of Seminar Language Arts II or demonstrated knowledge and skill equivalent and/or teacher recommendation.

In this course, students work to dually master relevant elements of literary analysis, while strengthening and building their understandings of writing conventions. Exploration of literary elements in novels, short fiction, poetry, and drama facilitate the competency required for upper level literature courses. Expository, persuasive, argumentative, and creative writing are practiced with an emphasis on composition and revision, the research process, and standard MLA parenthetical documentation.

Given the amount of reading assigned to students during the school year, students are encouraged to spend the summer reading books of personal interest. Cyber weekend work is assigned for this course.

This is a middle school honors level course and does not get weighed into a student’s transcript.

In the middle school creative writing elective, we will explore a variety of genres and writing techniques as well as ways to enhance our natural creativity. We will think, write, share, and learn together. Whether students are experienced writers or just getting started, this course will allow them to develop both their skills and their love of writing through poetry, short stories, creative nonfiction, and student driven writing projects.

Seminar courses are middle school honors level courses and do not get weighed into a student’s transcript. While courses may be marked middle school and high school on this page, students in the University Scholars Program are placed according to ability and are not confined by grade level.

High School Courses

1 credit

Prerequisite: Successful completion of Seminar Language Arts III or demonstrated knowledge and skill equivalent, and/or teacher recommendation.

In this course, students engage in an in-depth exploration of literary representations of the American experience and the quest for the “American Dream.” Analysis of language manipulation and elements of literature accompany a thematic approach to American authors’ representations of the following: Issues of Gender, Issues of Class, Issues of Religion, and Issues of Race. Fiction and nonfiction literary texts include works by Franklin, Cather, Wharton, Sinclair, Fitzgerald, Perkins Gilman, Douglass, and Twain. Dramatic texts include works by Wilder, Hansberry, and Miller. Poetic texts include poems by Dickinson, Whitman, Hughes, Giovanni, Wong, Angelou, Mora, and Shihab-Nye. Strong emphasis is placed on the writing process in both personal analysis and research/argument forms.

Given the amount of reading assigned to students during the school year, students are encouraged to spend the summer reading books of personal interest. Weekend work is assigned for this course.

1 credit

Prerequisite: Successful completion of Honors University Scholars American Literature or demonstrated knowledge and skill equivalent, and/or teacher recommendation.

The aim of the course is to develop in students an understanding and enjoyment of selected works of British literature from the Anglo-Saxon Period through the Contemporary Voices of the late 20th century. Students engage in the perpetual question of what qualifies a particular work for inclusion in a cultural canon, in this case the British Canon. Emphasis is placed on historical background, cultural context, genre-specific authorial techniques, and literary analysis of selected prose, poetry, and drama. Among the writers emphasized are The Beowulf and Pearl poets, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Donne, Swift, Keats, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Shelley, Blake, Byron, Austen, Carroll, Stoker, and Woolf. Strong emphasis is placed on multiple modes of writing, emulating or responding to the highlighted British authors.

This course will also include the necessary prep work for the Keystone Literature Exam , which will be administered and scored separately from this course.

Given the amount of reading assigned to students during the school year, students are encouraged to spend the summer reading books of personal interest. Weekend work is assigned for this course.

1 credit

Prerequisite: Teacher Recommendation.

This college level English course is designed to finesse student understanding of composition, authorial intent, rhetorical strategies, and manipulation of language in primarily nonfiction and fiction texts, as well as to prepare students for success on the Advanced Placement exam given in May. Special emphasis on how authors write guides students through an exploration of essays, memoirs, fiction, drama, and literary criticism by historically and culturally diverse authors. Nonfiction texts include works by Twain, Carol Oates, DuBois, Eliot, Stein, Frost, White, McCarthy, James, Welty, Sontag, Hurston, Perelman, Momaday, Ozick, Ehrlich, Bellow, Didion, McCourt, and Krakauer. Fiction and dramatic texts include works by O’Brien, Austen, Beckett, and Woolf. Literary criticism by various authors is discussed. Writing assignments emphasize multiple modes of composition and revision.

Given the amount of reading assigned to students during the school year, students are encouraged to spend the summer reading books of personal interest. Cyber weekend work is assigned for this course.

1 credit

Prerequisite: Teacher Recommendation.

This college level literature course is designed to finesse reading and writing skills, prepare students to critically read both literature and the outside world, and prepare students for success on the Advanced Placement exam given in May. Analysis of language manipulation and elements of literature accompanies a thematic approach to literatures from diverse authorial, historical, and cultural contexts. Fall Semester (Secrets and Circumstances) texts include works by Ishiguro, Dahl, Bronte, Rhys, Sophocles, and Shakespeare. Spring Semester (Ambiguity of Good and Evil) texts include works by Marlowe, Wilde, and Vonnegut. Poetic texts include poems by Herrick, Marvell, Browning, Coleridge, Eliot, Frost, Plath, Cummings, Larkin, Dickinson, Williams, and Koch. Writing assignments are diverse and frequent, with especial emphasis on advanced literary analysis.

Given the amount of reading assigned to students during the school year, students are encouraged to spend the summer reading books of personal interest. Cyber weekend work is assigned for this course.

1 credit

In the middle school creative writing elective, we will explore a variety of genres and writing techniques as well as ways to enhance our natural creativity. We will think, write, share, and learn together. Whether students are experienced writers or just getting started, this course will allow them to develop both their skills and their love of writing through poetry, short stories, and novellas.

1 credit
Prerequisite: Teacher recommendation.
The goal of the Film as Literature course is to help students look analytically at the process of visual storytelling and better understand how elements and devices utilized in literature are transferrable to film. Students learn vocabulary and terms applicable to film production and analysis, as well as review literary concepts that apply to cinema. They view films from different genres and era of film production and discuss how these factors influence the director’s process of communicating a story through a visual medium. Among the films discussed
are: Citizen Kane, To Kill a Mockingbird, 2001: A Space Odyssey, La Vita é Bella, and The Prestige.

The class meets to discuss and respond to each film based on applicable themes, cinematic techniques, quality of moviemaking,
and other relevant criteria. Students write analytically about the different elements of the films based on class discussion and activities, and complete creative projects that demonstrate the comprehension of core concepts from the course.

The University Scholars math curriculum is designed to provide a solid foundation in computational skills, and also to promote creative problem solving and a curiosity about why basic algorithms work. Extensive research and experience have demonstrated that no one math curriculum meets the needs of every learner. Therefore, the courses include a variety of different approaches to learning. An appreciation for the mathematical connections to all branches of knowledge is developed through project-based learning. Discovery and inquiry activities are also incorporated to enhance self-confidence in the ability to learn and improve at mathematical problem solving.

The courses differ from traditional mathematics courses in that they go beyond the memorization of algorithms to explore the underlying concepts and connections between branches of mathematics. The collection of all of these different aspects of the curriculum mold the students into confident, independent mathematical scholars.

Math Course Offerings

Middle School Courses

Prerequisite: Demonstrated skills necessary and/or teacher recommendation.

This course emphasizes the use of tables, graphs, and symbolic notation to represent observed mathematical patterns and relationships. Students investigate problem situations and then generalize their findings in order to predict and describe theoretical outcomes for similar circumstances. Students derive important insights into understanding the power of an algebraic representation when they see how it relates to actual calculations. They also explore the historical development of mathematical thinking in order to establish their understanding that mathematics is not a collection of rules to be memorized but a continuously evolving language created by imaginative and thoughtful men and women (such as they are becoming) to solve the problems of their day. As the students transition to this more abstract level of mathematical thinking, they discover and examine important nuances and extensions in the mathematical vocabulary such as the fact that besides standing for an unknown value, the term variable can be used to represent a varying quantity (as it is in functions), a set of values (as it is in inequalities), and to illustrate general properties of numbers.

Major topics addressed in this course:

  • History of mathematics
  • Number sense and computation
  • Fractions
  • Exponents
  • Ratios, proportions, and percent
  • Evaluating expressions
  • Solving equations and inequalities
  • Absolute value
  • Graphing in the coordinate plane
  • Measurement, Area, Volume, and Right Triangles
  • An introduction to linear equations
  • Statistics and probability

Class work includes both individual and small group activities. Students complete significant independent reading, investigations, and skill practice on days when they are not in class. Students are to have a scientific calculator (can be virtual), such as the TI-30, for home use. TI-30 calculators will be available in class for students to use.

Summer review material and cyber weekend work are assigned for this course.

Seminar courses are middle school honors level courses and do not get weighed into a student’s transcript.
This first course in the mathematics sequence is designed to insure that our students have a solid foundation and confidence in the use of numbers, operations, and problem solving strategies. Students will be able to see multiple ways to solving problems as well as recognizing their own individual strengths and learning how to communicate mathematically with others in order to collaborate on group problem solving challenges. Games and activities will be used to allow the students to think creatively and practice with the concepts in a fun learning environment. This course will also help to foster a curiosity for how algorithms work and an appreciation for mathematics as it relates to all knowledge. Students will also explore the important uses of each topic through assignments, research, and projects.

Major topics addressed in this course:
• Integers and fractions
• Decimals and Percents
• Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, and Division with
Integers, Angles, Fraction and Measurement
• Statistics and Displays
• Probability
• Area and Volume
• Exploration of Triangles, Quadrilaterals, and
Transformations
Class work includes both individual and small group activities.
Students complete significant independent reading, investigations,
and skill practice on days when they are not in class. Students are
to have a scientific calculator, such as the TI-30, for home use. TI-
30 calculators will be available in class for students to use.

Seminar courses are middle school honors level courses and do not get weighed into a student’s transcript.

The MATHCOUNTS elective is offered for all middle school students, regardless of student math placement. This elective will help students to improve problem solving skills, build confidence in their mathematics courses, and prepare students to compete in the chapter level competition, which occurs in late winter each year. The competition consists of four different rounds: the sprint round, where students are given 40 minutes to solve 30 math problems; the target round, where students are given four pairs of problems and have six minutes to complete each pair; the team round, where students have 20 minutes to complete 10 problems working with the other members on their team; and the countdown round, where students participate on an individual level, answering questions in front of an audience to improve individual placement in the competition (not all students participate in this round).

If successful, students may progress to the state competition as well as the national competition! The questions are designed
to promote problem solving skills and encourage students to embrace challenge. There is a wide range of different topics covered, such as algebra, combinatorics, geometry, statistics, probability, and many others! During the meetings, students will practice answering the types of questions for the individual and team rounds to prepare for competition.

Students will also participate in the National Math Club, which focuses on a collaborative project related to a topic in the mathematics curriculum. There is also the potential to participate in the Math Video Challenge, a problem-based learning activity where students will create a video explaining a real world application of a math concept. The Mathematics Video Challenge provides students the opportunity to develop their creativity, communication and technology skills through
mathematics. Students who are interested in participating in a MATHCOUNTS competition during their middle school
years are encouraged to sign up for this elective in sixth grade, to create a foundation for the skills and practice that lead to
success in the competitions. Participation in MATHCOUNTS also prepares students for the types of questions that are used on prestigious mathematics competition tests, such as the AMC (American Mathematics Competition) exams which can be taken in high school

Seminar courses are middle school honors level courses and do not get weighed into a student’s transcript. While courses may be marked middle school and high school on this page, students in the University Scholars Program are placed according to ability and are not confined by grade level.

High School Courses

Prerequisite: Successful completion of Pre-Algebra.

Algebra I emphasizes the analysis of patterns and the use of functions to represent and analyze mathematical relationships among quantities. Functional relationships can be expressed by using symbolic notation, which allows complex mathematical ideas to be expressed succinctly and change to be analyzed efficiently. Algebraic understanding and competence is a crucial prerequisite for all subsequent math courses and has numerous practical applications in fields as diverse as business, technology, politics, social services and the arts. Therefore, this course provides frequent opportunities for students to translate real-life situations into linear, quadratic, and exponential mathematical models as well as interpret and apply the results of algebraic analysis into the context of real-life applications.

Major topics addressed in this course:

  • Operations with real numbers and expressions
    • Linear equations
    • Linear inequalities
    • Coordinate geometry
    • Functions
    • Linear functions
    • Systems of linear equations
    • Systems of linear inequalities
    • Operations with polynomials
    • Factoring polynomials
    • Quadratic functions
    • Data analysis
    • Exponential functions
    • Rational and Radical functions

Class work includes both individual and small group activities. Students complete significant independent reading, investigations, and skill practice on days when they are not in class.
This course will also include the necessary prep work for the Keystone Algebra I Exam, which will be administered and scored separately from this course.
Students are to have use of a TI-83 or TI-84 graphing calculator for both at home and in class use.

Summer review material and weekend work may be assigned for this course.

1 credit

Prerequisite: Successful completion of Algebra I.

Through the study of geometry, students learn to understand and apply the mathematical vocabulary and symbols that have been developed to analyze the characteristics and patterns of shapes and structures in two- and three-dimensional space. Geometric modeling and spatial reasoning offer ways to interpret and describe physical environments and can be important tools in problem solving. This course also includes a strong focus on the development of careful reasoning and proof, guiding students to an understanding and appreciation for the axiomatic structure of formal mathematics. Students undertake a series of investigations in order to develop their own conjectures (hypotheses) about patterns they observe. Using precise definitions, established facts, and logical reasoning, they work individually and in small groups to establish the validity of their conjectures through informal and formal proof. Though the explorations begin with the basic tools of straightedge, compass and paper, extensive use of computer-based sketches is required. Additionally, students are encouraged to discover and explore connections between geometry and their personal areas of interest such as art, science, technology, literature, history, etc.

Major topics addressed in this course:

  • Inductive and deductive reasoning
  • Angle relationships
  • Congruence and similarity
  • Geometric constructions
  • Polygon properties
  • Circle properties
  • Transformations
  • Coordinate Geometry
  • Area and volume
  • Geometric probability
  • Right Triangle Trigonometry

Class work includes both individual and small group activities. Students complete significant independent reading, investigations, and skill practice on days when they are not in class.

Students are to have use of a TI-83 or TI-84 graphing calculator for both at home and in class use.

Summer review material and cyber weekend work may be assigned for this course.

1 credit

Prerequisite: Successful completion of Honors Algebra I and teacher recommendation.

Algebra II extends students’ established abilities to model mathematical relationships using symbols, graphs, and words. Building upon a solid understanding of systems of linear equations, students learn to solve complex systems of linear inequalities through the use of matrices and linear programming techniques. The concept of imaginary numbers is introduced and applied to finding complex roots of quadratic functions. Students then explore many additional function families including polynomial, exponential, logarithmic, rational, and radical, adding new mathematical symbols and vocabulary that they can use to analyze and communicate about mathematical relationships. Skills for transforming functions and generating regression models for making predictions based on sets of real-life data are practiced throughout the course. The course also includes units on conic sections, trigonometry, probability and statistics, and arithmetic and geometric sequences and series.

Class work includes both individual and small group activities. Students complete significant independent reading, investigations, and skill practice on days when they are not in class.

Students are to have use of a TI-83 or TI-84 graphing calculator for both at home and in class use.

Summer review material and cyber weekend work may be assigned for this course.

1 credit

Prerequisite: Successful completion of Honors Algebra II and Honors Geometry and teacher recommendation.

Pre-AP Calculus solidifies students’ abilities to work with symbolic representations, preparing students to continue their study of advanced mathematics through AP Calculus the following year.

Building upon a solid foundation of the techniques of algebra, students formalize procedures for analyzing functional relationships. They develop practical and theoretic concepts of trigonometric functions and equations.

This course is for students of established exceptional ability and interest, and provides a thorough preparation for AP Calculus.

Major topics addressed in this course:

  • Functions and Inverses
  • Polynomial, Rational, Exponential, and Logarithmic Functions
  • Trigonometric Problem Solving
  • Analytic Trigonometry
  • Vectors
  • Systems of Equations
  • Matrix Operations
  • Infinite Sequences and Series

Students are to have use of a TI-83, TI-84, TI-89, or TI-Nspire graphing calculator for both at home and in class use.

Summer review material and cyber weekend work may be assigned for this course.

Prerequisite: Successful completion of Honors Pre-Calculus & Trigonometry and teacher recommendation.

In University Scholars Program Differential Calculus, we will cover the topics of limits, continuity, derivatives, applications of derivatives and an introduction to definite and indefinite integrals. Unlike AP Calculus, which covers an entire college Calculus course, USP Differential Calculus instead allows students the opportunity to investigate and explore a more limited set of Calculus topics in a supportive, leading manner that enables them to build a foundation for future Calculus learning.

In this course, students will:
• Engage in an active, inquiry-driven approach, where learners strive to construct solutions and approaches to ideas on their own, with appropriate support through questions posed, hints, and guidance from the instructor and text.
• Develop intuition as to why the main ideas in calculus are natural and true. Often we do this through consideration of the instantaneous position and velocity of a moving object.
• Acquire deep, personal understanding of calculus through reading the text and completing preview activities on their own, working on activities in small groups in class, and doing substantial exercises outside of class time.
• Strengthen written and oral communication skills by having them write about and explain aloud the key ideas of calculus.
• Prepare and be encouraged to enroll in further Calculus courses, either AP Calculus AB at the High School level or Calc 1 and beyond at the College level.

Summer review material and weekend work are assigned for this course.

1 credit

Prerequisite: Successful completion of Honors Pre-Calculus & Trigonometry and teacher recommendation.

Calculus AB is primarily concerned with developing students’ understanding of the concepts of calculus and providing experience with its methods and applications. The course emphasizes a multi-representational approach to calculus, with concepts, results, and problems being expressed graphically, numerically, analytically, and verbally. Students develop the meaning of the derivative in terms of a rate of change and local linear approximation, and use derivatives to solve a variety of problems. They work with definite integrals both as a limit of Riemann sums and as the net accumulation of change, and are able to use integrals to solve a variety of problems. As students recognize the relationship between the derivative and the definite integral as expressed in both parts of the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus, they develop an appreciation of calculus as a coherent body of knowledge.

Students are to have use of a TI-83, TI-84, TI-89, or TI-Nspire calculator for both at home and in class use.

Summer review material and cyber weekend work are assigned for this course.

1/2 credit | Fall

Prerequisite: Successful completion of AP Calculus AB or Honors Calculus and teacher recommendation.

This one semester course is considered to be a college level course, and the expectation is for serious and sustained effort at that level. Students will extend their knowledge of procedures of differentiation and integration gained through their study of AP Calculus AB.

Major topics addressed in this course:

  • Formalizing the definition of limit for proof of various theorems
  • Finding arc lengths and surface areas created from functions or parametric curves
  • Finding areas and arc lengths in polar coordinates
  • Performing advanced techiniques of integration, including trigonometric substitution and integration by parts
  • Modeling physical situations with differential equations
  • Exploring the convergence/divergence of infinite series
  • Using power series to represent functions, approximate physical constants, and approximate solutions to differential equations

Students are to have use of a TI-83, TI-84, TI-89, or TI-Nspire calculator for both at home and in class use.

Summer review material and cyber weekend work are assigned for this course.

1/2 credit | Spring

Prerequisite: Successful completion of AP Calculus AB and BC and teacher recommendation.

This one semester course is considered a college level course, and the expectation is for serious and sustained effort at that level. This course covers vector and multi-variable calculus.

Major topics covered in this course include:

• Vectors and Matrices
• Partial Derivatives
• Double and Triple Integrals
• Vector Calculus in 2 and 3-space

Students are to have use of a TI-83, TI-84, TI-89, or TI-Nspire calculator for both at home and in class use.

Weekend work is assigned for this course.

1 credit

Prerequisite: Successful completion of AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC, Multi-Variable Calculus and teacher recommendation.

This course is considered a college level course, and the expectation is for serious and sustained effort at that level.

Major topics covered in this course include:

  • Linear Equations
  • Matrix Algebra
  • Determinants
  • Vector Spaces
  • Eigenvalues
  • Orthogonality
  • Least Squares
  • Symmetric Matrices
  • Quadratic Forms

Students are to have use of a TI-83, TI-84, TI-89, or TI-Nspire calculator for both at home and in class use.

Weekend work may be assigned for this course.

1 credit

Prerequisite: Successful completion of Honors Pre-Calculus & Trigonometry and teacher recommendation.

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the major concepts and tools for collecting, analyzing, and drawing conclusions from data.

In this course, students will:

  • Explore data by describing patterns and departures from patterns.
  • Practice sampling and experimentation by planning and conducting a study.
  • Anticipating Patterns by exploring random phenomena using probability and simulation.
  • Make statistical inferences by estimating population parameters and testing hypotheses.Students are to have use of a TI-83 or TI-84 calculator for both at home and in class use.

Weekend work is assigned for this course.

1 credit

This course may be used to fulfill Math or Technology graduation
requirements.

Prerequisite: B or higher in Algebra 2 and teacher recommendation.

AP Computer Science A introduces students to computer science with fundamental topics that include problem solving, design strategies and methodologies, organization of data (data structures), approaches to processing data (algorithms), analysis of potential solutions, and the ethical and social implications of computing. The course emphasizes both object-oriented and imperative problem solving and design using Java language.

Weekend work may be assigned for this course.

The science courses emphasize scientific inquiry and utilize a discovery learning approach. Students step into the shoes of scientists to face their challenges and problem-solve the real-life scientific questions of history and today. Project-based, problem-based, and inquiry-based learning is used for the delivery of a curriculum which stimulates questioning, critical thinking, and problem-solving. Using an inquiry-based approach to science, students assume the role of scientists by observing the environment around them, establishing the issues present, asking questions, and conducting experiments to test ideas and verify results.

Science Course Offerings

Middle School Courses

Seminar courses are middle school honors level courses and do not get weighed into a student’s transcript

Prerequisite: Demonstrated skills necessary and/or teacher recommendation.

This science course immerses students in hands-on learning as they examine how and why the world around them works. Students learn how humanity has developed the science of astronomy, as well as how Earth interacts with various objects in space to create phenomena such as the seasons and the tides. Students examine the world from an environmental standpoint, exploring watersheds and wetlands. Students also delve into the inner workings of the Earth to understand how many natural disasters are created, and they work with the physical properties of the Earth’s lithosphere to locate the epicenter of earthquakes. In addition, students closely study the Earth’s Biosphere, Hydrosphere, and Atmosphere to gain a firm understanding of how the ocean affects the climatology and meteorology of Earth.

Prerequisite: Demonstrated skills necessary and/or teacher recommendation.

In this survey science course, some of the ecological, physical, and chemical principals that govern the world are unveiled. Students will be introduced to the history and nature of science. They also study the theories and scientific laws of physics and chemistry that include such topics as the periodic table, light and sound, forces and motion, properties and structure of matter, and chemical bonding and reactions.

Prerequisite: Teacher recommendation.

The Middle School STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) course allows students to delve into the concepts of STEM and how the disciplines are interconnected through methods, research, and experimentation. Presented with hands-on opportunities to explore the scientific method in the context of everyday life, students participate in a variety of projects that develop and expand upon the basic tools and confidence needed to approach real-world problems in a logical and scientific manner.

Seminar courses are middle school honors level courses and do not get weighed into a student’s transcript. While courses may be marked middle school and high school on this page, students in the University Scholars Program are placed according to ability and are not confined by grade level.

High School Courses

1 credit

Prerequisite: Demonstrated skills necessary and/or teacher recommendation.

This science course is designed to teach students the fundamental concepts and principles of biology, such that students could transition into AP Biology. Students develop a conceptual framework for modern biology and recognize unifying themes that integrate the major topics of biology. Laboratory activities and a science fair requirement stress the development of important skills such as detailed observation, accurate recording, experimental design, and data interpretation and analysis. Students develop critical thinking skills through research and discussions about issues relating to current advancements in biology. This course is aligned with the Keystone Biology Exam’s curriculum.

Major topics addressed in this course:

  • Nature of Science & Experimental Design
  • The Chemistry of Life
  • Basic Cellular and Viral Structure
  • Homeostasis & Transport
  • Bioenergetics
  • Cellular Growth & Reproduction
  • Genetics & DNA Technology
  • Evolution
  • Ecology

Class work includes both individual and small group activities. Students complete significant independent reading, investigations, and skill practice on days when they are not in class. This course will also include the necessary prep work for the Keystone Biology Exam, which will be administered and scored separately from the course.

1 credit
Prerequisite: Successful completion of Honors Pre-Calculus and teacher recommendation.

This course is intended to provide students with a fundamental study of physics. Students focus on developing and understanding the mathematical relationships between matter, energy, space, and time that enables them to solve college-level problems.

topics addressed in this course:

  • Measurement and Vector Representations
  • Motion (in one, two, and three dimensions)
  • Newton’s Three Laws
  • Friction
  • Circular Motion
  • Work and Energy
  • Momentum
  • Rotational Dynamics
  • Torque and Angular Momentum
  • Equilibrium
  • Circular Motion and Gravitation
  • Oscillation and Waves
  • Sound
  • Static and Current Electricity
  • Electric Circuits
  • Magnetism

Weekend work is assigned for this course.

1 credit

Prerequisite: Successful completion of, or concurrent enrollment in, Honors Biology, Honors Algebra II and/or teacher recommendation.

Honors Chemistry is a full-year survey of the fundamental principles of atoms, compounds, and their interactions. Successful completion of this course prepares students for AP Chemistry, AP Biology, AP Environmental Science, Honors Physics, and Honors Human Anatomy & Physiology. Onsite class work includes individual and small group activities with a heavy emphasis on laboratory work. Students complete significant independent study, lab report writing, and quantitative skill practice on cyber days.

Major topics addressed in this course:

  • Measuring, Analyzing, and Communicating Scientific Data
  • Matter and Energy
  • Phases of Matter
  • Atomic Structure and Nuclear Chemistry
  • Periodicity
  • Bonding, Compounds, and Intermolecular Forces
  • Chemical Reactions
  • Kinetics, Equilibrium, and Thermodynamics
  • Solutions
  • Acids and Bases
  • Electrochemistry
  • Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry

Cyber weekend work is assigned for this course.

1 credit

Prerequisite: Successful completion of Honors Algebra II, Honors Biology, and Honors Chemistry, plus teacher recommendation.

AP Biology is a full-year survey of biological concepts equivalent to a full-year introductory college course for biology majors. This course differs sharply from Honors Biology with regard to the range and complexity of the material, the textbook used, the difficulty of the laboratory work, and the time and effort required for students to be successful in the course. In addition to developing a deeper understanding of life science, students who take AP Biology will develop advanced inquiry and reasoning skills such as designing plans for collecting data, performing qualitative and quantitative analysis of data, and making connections across the curriculum.

Four big ideas studied over the course of the year. First, students will learn how the process of evolution drives the diversity and unity of life. Second, they will study how biological systems utilize free energy and molecular building blocks to grow, reproduce, and maintain homeostasis. Third, students will explore how living systems store, retrieve, transmit, and respond to information essential to life processes. Finally, students will learn how biological systems interact, and that these systems and their interactions possess complex properties.

Summer review material and cyber weekend work are assigned for this course.

1 credit

Prerequisite: Successful completion of Honors Algebra II, Honors Biology, and Honors Chemistry, as well as teacher recommendation.

AP Chemistry is a complete survey of chemical principles on a college introductory level. Topics are similar to those covered in Honors Chemistry expanded to advance students’ understanding of the topics. The course will place special emphasis on applying mathematics to problem solving as a means of expressing and modeling scientific inquiry. The course has a strong focus on chemistry laboratory techniques and write-ups.

Six big ideas are studied per the required AP Chemistry curriculum. The first is that chemical elements are fundamental building materials of matter, and all matter can be understood in terms of arrangements of atoms. These atoms retain their identity in chemical reactions. Second, chemical and physical properties of materials can be explained by the structure and the arrangement of atoms, ions, or molecules and the forces between them. Third, changes in matter involve the rearrangement and/or reorganization of atoms and/or the transfer of electrons. Fourth, rates of chemical reactions are determined by details of the molecular collisions. Fifth, the laws of thermodynamics describe the essential role of energy and explain and predict the direction of changes in matter. Sixth, any bond or intermolecular attraction that can be formed can be broken. These two processes are in a dynamic competition, sensitive to initial conditions and external perturbations.

Summer review material and cyber weekend work are assigned for this course.

1 credit

Prerequisite: Successful completion of Honors Physics and previous or concurrent enrollment in Honors Calculus, AP Calculus AB, or AP Calculus BC, and teacher recommendation.

This advanced course is intended to provide students with a detailed study of classical mechanics and electromagnetism. The focus includes the use of calculus to solve college-level physics problems by applying fundamental principles. Note that this course prepares students for two AP exams: Mechanics and Electricity and Magnetism.

Major topics addressed in this course:

  • Kinematics
  • Dynamics
  • Gravitation
  • Work, Energy, and Power
  • Linear Momentum
  • Circular Motion
  • Angular Momentum
  • Oscillatory Motion
  • Systems of Particles
  • Electrostatics
  • Conductors, Capacitors, & Dielectrics
  • Electric Circuits
  • Magnetic Fields
  • Electromagnetism

Summer review material and cyber weekend work are assigned for this course.

1 credit

Prerequisite: Successful completion of Honors Biology, Honors Chemistry, and teacher recommendation.

Elements of biology, chemistry, earth science, and ecology intertwine to create the study of environmental science. This advanced course provides students with the scientific principles, concepts, and methodologies required to understand the interrelationships of the natural world, to identify and analyze environmental problems, both natural and human-made, to evaluate the relative risks associated with these problems, and to examine alternative solutions for resolving and/or preventing them. Students complete projects, presentations, laboratory exercises, and field investigations.

Major topics addressed in this course:

  • Earth Systems and Resources
  • The Living World
  • Population
  • Land and Water Use
  • Energy Resources and Consumption
  • Pollution
  • Global Change

Cyber weekend work is assigned for this course.

1 credit
This science course is a multi-disciplinary introduction to space science in which we will explore the universe through reading, experimentation, and digital media. We will examine the impact of the investigation of space, and its importance in the development of human history and science.

Major topics addressed in this course:

  • Celestial motion of the Earth, Sun, Moon, and planets
  • Astronomical observation
  • Stellar formation and evolution
  • Comparative planetology
  • Geology of the Earth and the Moon
  • Terrestrial and gas planets and their moons
  • Dwarf planets, asteroids, and comets
  • Extra-solar planets
  • The history of space exploration

1 credit

Prerequisite: Successful completion of Honors Algebra, Honors Biology, and Honors Chemistry, plus teacher recommendation.

This course, which is equivalent in breadth and depth to an introductory college course, is designed to provide students with a strong foundation in human biology. This includes a familiarity with the basic anatomical and histological organization of the human body and an understanding of how the various organs of the body interact with one another to contribute to the overall functioning of the body. Clinical cases and pathologies are studied as examples of disruption to normal body homeostasis.

Major topics addressed in this course:

  • Anatomical Positions and Medical Terminology
  • Histology
  • Skin and Body Membranes
  • Musculoskeletal Anatomy and Physiology
  • The Nervous System and Special Senses
  • The Endocrine System
  • Blood
  • The Circulatory System
  • The Lymphatic System and Immunity
  • The Respiratory System
  • The Digestive System and Body Metabolism
  • The Urinary and Reproductive Systems

This course is especially recommended for students considering a career in fields such as medicine, nursing, physician assistance, dentistry, physical therapy, occupational therapy, athletic training, and biomedical engineering.

Cyber weekend work is assigned for this course.

1/2 credit

Prerequisite: Teacher recommendation.

The University Scholars STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) course allows students to delve further into material presented in the higher science and mathematical courses. The goal is to help students realize their potential for success in STEM careers by supporting their exploration of STEM related fields, encouraging the development of STEM related skills, and by providing them with a head start in pursuing their post-secondary educations.

The social studies courses combine historical content with the exploration of fundamental concepts of the human experience. There is a strong emphasis on higher order critical thinking skills. These courses differ from traditional history courses in that they go beyond the memorization of facts to define the cause and effect of watershed decisions and ideas. There is an emphasis on how ideas both reflected and contested the changes that defined their historical contexts. Students read historical novels, fiction, and non-fiction books to enrich their understanding of intellectual history. The historical content is explored through not only literature, but also simulations and discovery learning projects.

Social Studies Course Offerings

Middle School Courses

Prerequisite: Demonstrated advanced reading comprehension skills, writing skills, and critical thinking skills.

Civilizations I is a course that covers a variety of ancient and classical cultures. The course begins with an overview of world regional geography and key geographic concepts. During the first semester, students study ancient civilizations in China, India, Mesopotamia, and Egypt using a comparative approach that emphasizes geography, culture, and economic and social relationships. The second semester of the course focuses on the development of Western Civilization in classical Greece and Rome. Students begin to develop skills of historical inquiry such as analyzing primary sources, constructing written arguments, and conducting discussions and debates.

Prerequisite: Successful completion of Seminar Civilizations I or demonstrated knowledge and skill equivalent, and/or teacher recommendation.

Civilizations II builds on the previous course by continuing a study of Western Civilization through the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Scientific Revolution, Industrial Revolution, Immigration, and American Imperialism. Middle Eastern Religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) are also covered as foundations for understanding the evolution of Western Civilization. Students continue to hone skills of historical inquiry such as analyzing primary sources, constructing thesis-driven written arguments, and conducting discussions, debates and mock trials. In addition, throughout the course, students study and reflect upon their own heritage through an ancestry project.

Prerequisite: Successful completion of Seminar Civilizations II or demonstrated knowledge and skill equivalent, and/or teacher recommendation.

This course begins with the founding of the United States, during which students debate the American Revolution and the constitutional order. The focus is on the principles and structure of the American Republic, with a special focus on liberty and democracy. Students then move on to study World War I, the 1920s, the Great Depression, and World War II (examining the collapse of both liberty and democracy in Nazi Germany). This course prepares students with the thinking skills and historical perspective necessary for success in AP Social Studies courses.

This is a middle school honors level course and does not get weighed into a student’s transcript.

The Middle School Mock Trial Elective course’s approach to law related education is to provide authentic opportunities for students to prepare for, participate in, compete, and succeed in the areas of criminal and/or civil trial law through competition. Students will play the role of either an attorney or a witness and participate in writing and performing opening statements, direct and cross examinations, closing statements and in making objections based on an introductory understanding of the rules of evidence. Historically, the course has utilized the PA Bar Association Young Lawyer Division’s annual High School Mock Trial case. The elective spans the second and third marking period, and culminates in a Friendship Mock Trial Tournament in early April. The tournament has historically attracted teams from Great Valley Middle School and Owen J. Roberts Middle School gifted programs.

In this course, students will:
• Recognize the importance of team work and practice
collaboration.
• Build oral presentation skills.
• Recognize the importance and value of setting goals.
• Appreciate the value of planning.
• Refine productive argument and/or persuasion skills.
• Enhance critical thinking skills.
• Learn to face challenging obstacles with enthusiasm,
professionalism, and confidence

Seminar courses are middle school honors level courses and do not get weighed into a student’s transcript. While courses may be marked middle school and high school on this page, students in the University Scholars Program are placed according to ability and are not confined by grade level.

High School Courses

1 credit

This year-long honors level course will focus on modern conflicts and explore how recent events affect the lives of people around the world. The Honors Contemporary World course will be require students to complete rigorous, primary and secondary source analysis. Students will complete a variety of reading and writing assessments.This course will cover 20th and 21st century events that help our understanding of political, economic, and social trends in the world we live in. The primary goal is to provide students with new and wider perspectives beyond formulaic narratives and to evaluate contemporary issues in hopes of arriving at a greater understanding about the current state of the world. The course is designed to prepare students for college level work in the humanities to develop their reading, writing, and research skills.

Depending on student enrollment, this course may or may not be offered.

1 credit

Prerequisite: Teacher recommendation.

In this college-level course, students will build on American History content presented at the middle school level by critically exploring problems in United States History to create sound conclusions based on informed and well supported judgments. Students will learn to present reasons and evidence in a clear and concise way. They will formulate their reason and evidence based on these targeted historical skills. Students will participate in experiential learning lessons which involve simulations, projects, role playing, and discussion.

Historical skills that will be developed throughout the course include argumentation and comparison, tracing topics over time, placing events in historical context, identifying the author, and intended audience’s point of view, the purpose, cause and effect of a resource, bringing outside content into their argument, and synthesizing the consequences of a topic by relating it to a different time period.

Major topics addressed in this course:

  • Identity
  • Work exchange, and technology
  • Peopling
  • Politics and Power
  • America in the World
  • Environment and Geography – physical and human
  • Ideas, Beliefs and Culture

Summer reading and cyber weekend work are assigned for this course.

1 credit

Prerequisite: Successful completion of Honors or AP United States History and teacher recommendation.

In this year-long, college-level course, students interpret and analyze the American government structure from its creation through to today. Students become familiar with the various institutions, groups, beliefs, and ideas that embody U.S. politics. An understanding of the typical patterns of political processes (how they behave and what their consequences are) is also covered. Research and writing are emphasized. Students are encouraged to enhance their understanding of concepts by listening to or reading the news, and as opportunities are available by spending time outside of class experiencing politics and government in action.

As part of the on-site section of this course, students are encouraged to participate in the Mock Trial and/or Moot Court Competitions to enhance their understanding of the law, public speaking abilities, and critical thinking skills.

Cyber weekend work is assigned for this course.

Depending on student enrollment, this course may or may not be offered. If enrollment is low, those students needing to move forward with the course will be able to do so via a PALCS cyber course.

1 credit
Prerequisite: Successful completion of Honors or AP United States History and teacher recommendation.

AP Comparative Government and Politics provides a conceptual framework to evaluate governmental systems as well as an understanding of the diversity of political structures and practices around the globe. We will examine in detail six nations: China, Nigeria, Iran, Great Britain, Russia, and Mexico. Students will consider each process, institution, and issue within a given country’s larger context as well as in comparison with the politics practiced in other nations. China, Nigeria, and the others provide excellent test cases for our core comparative topics: methodology, power, institutional structure, civil society, public policy, and political and economic change. Students are expected not only to know factual material but also to apply historical perspective and critical thinking, the development of which in turn prepares them for both global citizenship and success in the humanities.

Weekend work is assigned for this course.

1 credit

Prerequisite: Successful completion of Honors or AP United States History and teacher recommendation.

This course is devoted to modern Europe and the movements and major figures in politics, economics, the arts, science
and thought, religion, and social change that have shaped the society in which we live. The curriculum covers centuries of development in half a dozen major cultures acting across a complex, ever-shifting map of nation-states. This knowledge provides the context for understanding the development of contemporary institutions, the role of continuity and change in present-day society and politics, and the evolution of current forms of artistic expression and intellectual discourse.

Students develop a fuller comprehension of the emergence and growth of the modern world. European History is taught through a two-year sequence, the first year addressing 1346-1814 and the second year covering 1815-present. Each year provides a full one-year social studies
credit at the AP level. The two years of curriculum may be taken in any order. Each year may also be taken as a standalone
course.
Weekend work is assigned for this course.

1 credit

Prerequisite: Successful completion of Honors Biology and Honors Chemistry.

The purpose of the AP course in Psychology is to introduce the systematic and scientific study of the complex mechanisms that influence behavior and mental processes of human beings and other animals. Included is a consideration of the psychological facts, principles, and phenomena associated with each of the major subfields within psychology. Students also learn about the ethics and methods psychologists use in their science and practice.

Major topics addressed in this course:

  • Research Methods
  • Biology of the Mind
  • Life Span Development, Gender, and Sexuality
  • Consciousness and the Two-track Mind
  • Nature, Nurture, and Human Diversity
  • Sensation and Perception
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Thinking and Language
  • Intelligence
  • Motivation and Work
  • Personality
  • Emotions, Stress and Health
  • Personality
  • Psychological Disorders
  • Therapy
  • Social Psychology

Depending on student interest and staffing, this course may or may not be offered on-site and/or cyber/virtually.

1 credit

Prerequisite: Successful completion of two high school social studies credits and/or teacher recommendation.

In this course, great works of nonfiction serve as a springboard for discussions of the most important questions life has to offer.
Students join the “great conversation” about what lies beyond the natural world, how we can know anything for certain, how we should see human nature, and what makes for a satisfying life. Class meetings consist of open discussion in a seminar format accompanied by periodic writing assignments. As students discuss each text, they also consider the impact of historical context and rhetorical technique on groundbreaking ideas in the development of human thought.

Weekend work is assigned for this course.

½ credit
This course provides inquiry-based activities designed to provide students with the ability to analyze, evaluate, debate, and resolve legal disputes in a diplomatic and civil manner. More broadly, American Law & International Relations (ALIR) is a powerful civic education course that helps build critical thinking skills as young people prepare for thoughtful and democratic engagement. This course’s approach to law and diplomacy related education is to provide authentic opportunities for students to prepare for, participate in,
compete, and succeed in the areas of criminal and civil trial law, appellate law, and international relations through competitions in Mock Trials, Moot Courts, and Model United Nations.

Families are responsible for transportation to and from events. Participation in at least two types of competitions; i.e. one Mock Trial and one Model UN, or one Mock Trial and one Moot Court.

72 hours minimum will be derived from both practices and competitions. Students are required to create a log to track their hours. Teacher signatures are required

Additional Courses

Students enrolled in the University Scholars Program may also take any available course from thePennsylvania Leadership Charter School. The complete list of our curriculum can either be viewed on the Academics page of our site, or via complete course catalog .pdf download.

Download Catalog

Graduation Requirements

To graduate from the PA Leadership Charter School, high school students participating in the University Scholars Program must complete standard PALCS graduation requirements. High-achieving students will likely surpass these credit requirements. The PALCS guidance department and USP guidance counselor will work individually with students to ensure a solid academic portfolio, catered to student career goals.

Graduation Requirements

Next Steps

Learn about our application process and submission deadlines »

Apply to USP