Preparing Boys for Life


Haverford students are required to complete three years of core laboratory science: physics, chemistry, and biology in that order.

The core courses are sequential in that they are designed to build on another and to prepare students to choose from a rich array of science electives and provide a strong foundation for college study and future careers in science. Below you will find descriptions of the advanced (denoted by an *) and standard course offerings.

Core Courses


The Haverford student sets out on his Upper School science journey with an exploration of fundamental physics, laying the foundation for in-depth explorations of chemistry and biology. Third Form students choose between a conceptual or a problem based approach. The two physics courses are designed around a project based curriculum and are the cornerstone in our development of scientifically literate graduates who appreciate science and are curious about the natural world. Both courses are structured around pillars of physics such as Newton's Laws, the Law of Conservation of Energy, and electricity and magnetism. Students, through individual and collaborative work, will engage in laboratory research, reading, writing, problem-solving, and relevant and creative projects. We incorporate project-based inquiries that allow students to explore foundational aspects of topics that could include applications of engineering, robotics, programming, and collaborative problem-solving. During his laboratory exercises, students will capture data, work collaboratively with colleagues, and use imagination, ingenuity, and creativity to solve the practical problems presented.


The second of three required courses, Chemistry is an integral component of Haverford’s Upper School science sequence. Like Physics, Chemistry emphasizes problem-solving strategies, experimentation, teamwork, project based activities, and the fundamental principles of physical science. To that foundation it adds an understanding of modern theoretical concepts, the relationship between structure and function, multi-step calculations, and qualitative and quantitative laboratory work. All Chemistry courses provide students with an understanding of basic chemical concepts: atomic and molecular structure, periodic properties of elements, reactions, stoichiometric calculations, thermochemistry, solution chemistry, acids and bases, and equilibrium. We expect students who have completed a course in Chemistry to have a firm grounding in experimental procedures, calculations, basic error analysis, and lab report writing skills.


Fifth Form Biology is the last of the science requirements. The course takes advantage of the experience students have acquired in their earlier physics and chemistry courses. As the science of biology takes an increasingly molecular approach to pursuing answers to questions about life processes, and as technological advances provide tools of studying phenomena with more and more precision, a student must demonstrate competency in the physical sciences in order to achieve the greatest understanding of modern biology. Each student should gain a thorough knowledge of biological processes that apply to him and to the natural world around him. Students to grow to have an appreciation for the richness of the natural world, a curiosity about the many mysteries that remain, and the confidence to continue to study biology at the higher levels of college and graduate school.

Elective Courses

Advanced Physics*

Advanced Physics* is a year-long course designed for those Sixth-Formers who are seriously considering the physical, medical, or engineering sciences as a future college major or career path. The purpose of this course is to revisit topics from Third-Form physics while exploring additional topics common to a second year physics curriculum. All topics will be explored from a conceptually deep and computationally intense perspective that often relies on calculus. Students will need to be proficient in algebra, trigonometry, and basic calculus. Students will explore relativity, linear and circular motion, fluid dynamics, temperature and heat transfer, quantum physics, health physics, and much more. The course will be conducted at an accelerated pace with a strong focus on problem-solving. Finally, students should expect frequent and challenging class assignments including group collaborations as well as reading and interpreting actual academic papers.


The purpose of this course is to introduce the student to compelling aspects of Astronomy that they may be less familiar with, namely to those areas of our universe that extend beyond our local solar system. We will investigate such areas as cosmology, galactic morphology, stellar evolution, dark matter and energy, evidence for intelligent life beyond our solar system, and the ultimate fate of the universe itself. We will be utilizing one of the more definitive classroom texts about Astronomy, Universe by Freedman and Kaufmann. Our discussion will begin with a look at the origin and development of the universe and some of the largest-scale aspects of Astronomy, effectively moving backwards through the book.


This course provides an introduction to electricity and electronics with a focus on hands-on experience and practical applications. From the invention of the transistor almost sixty years ago to our current reliance on the “Information Superhighway,” electronics has been a vital part of our modern technological society. The semester will begin with a look at the evolution of electronics over the last century. This will be followed by a thorough examination of the basic principles: voltage, current, resistance, Ohm's Law, Kirchoff's Law, etc. Ultimately, students will design their own circuits. Using a solder gun and solderless breadboards, students will learn how to build analog circuits that accomplish particular tasks. Teamwork, critical thinking, and problem solving will be important attributes. Assessment will be based on weekly lab projects, quizzes, homework, and a long-term circuit project.


Engineering* is designed for students who are seriously considering any engineering discipline as a college major. Students will be required to use first principles of physics, mathematics, chemistry, and biology to design, build, and test structures and devices. Prior to building, students will apply their developing knowledge of mechanics while preparing calculation-based designs. Students will then construct working prototypes to test their models, while gathering and analyzing data to inform the iterative process. The goal of each project will be to address an engineering problem relevant to practicing engineers while adhering to specific design and economic constraints. The accelerated pace of Engineering* will require students to complete calculations, modeling, and data analysis independently. The course will cover energy transfer, fluid dynamics, biomechanics, materials chemistry, mechanics of materials, programming, systems integration and others as time permits.

Engineering: People and Processes:
Engineering is the discipline that makes the modern world tick. Students will learn exactly what Engineering is and who are engineers. They will explore the practical process philosophies that a good engineer must use. Through a series of real world applications they will investigate the complexities of the decisions faced by engineers and develop the thought processes that guide engineers through these mazes. Included in these are the trade-offs to find optimum solutions, the design process and the importance of failure. The students will conclude this semester with a team based project, where in a real business environment, they must deliver a product against a series of specifications, on-time and to cost.

Engineering: Design, Build, and Test (spring semester):
The class provides students with the opportunity to design, build and test projects in teams of two or three. In this environment the students will practice real world engineering in that they will be responsible for not only achievement of the end goals, but also for creating the detailed discrete steps that need to be taken to achieve those goals. The projects will always challenge the student to work in a collaborative environment where a drive to consensus is vital. Previous projects have included: designing and prototyping sports equipment, designing and manufacturing Trebuchets to meet specific ballistic goals, and designing, programming, and assembling Sumo Wrestling Robots. The projects are rooted in the real world and through them the students will benefit from not only the hands-on engineering experience but also the development of life skills that are the hallmarks of good engineers.

Environmental Ethics and Policy

As young adults, it is of paramount important that Haverford students understand some of the most pressing environmental challenges that confront their generation in the new millennium. Essential global issues such as water scarcity, peak oil, climate change, and much more will be explored. Local issues in the state of Pennsylvania involving hydraulic fracking and environmental justice will also be discussed. We will take a holistic approach to confronting environmental challenges by not only discussing the scientific factors at play, but the social, moral, political, and economic factors as well. The course will be conducted like a discussion-driven graduate seminar where different points of view are encouraged. Course content will be borrowed from the University of Pennsylvania's graduate program in Environmental Studies. Students will be expected to read and interpret policy assessment reports and academic papers, constructively debate their peers, reach out to experts in the field, and collectively seek meaningful solutions.

Global Impacts of Infectious Disease*

This course will examine the historical and contemporary impacts of infectious disease on our planet and its inhabitants. To demonstrate understanding, students will independently research and present proposals to minimize or eliminate the effects of a particular disease. Course and lab work will focus on the intersections of molecular and cellular biology, microbiology, immunology, physiology, ecology, epidemiology, and principles of public health. Students can expect to gain a breadth of knowledge in these areas; depth of study for particular topics will be determined by needs for student projects and student interest.

Molecular Biology*

This course is the synthesis of several disciplines: biochemistry, genetics, cell biology, and microbiology. Biologists have the ability to analyze any of the genes that compose the Human Genome. The dissection of the molecular pathway through which hereditary information flows between DNA, RNA, and protein molecules adds to our understanding of how human life develops and changes from fertilized egg to adult. Technological developments have provided powerful methods to isolate, analyze, and manipulate DNA and protein molecules. The latest techniques in microscopy provide new ways to look inside the cell and study its physiology. We believe that the best way to convey the power and excitement of molecular biology to our students is to permit them to "discover" it themselves.

Organic Chemistry*

This second year chemistry course will provide a solid foundation in some of the fundamental concepts of organic chemistry. Topics will include: organic nomenclature, functional groups, acid/base theory, isomerism, resonance, and basic reaction mechanisms related to synthesis and polymerization. The lab component of the course will introduce students to some skills and techniques essential for experimentation in an organic chemistry laboratory course. There is no doubt that organic chemistry touches almost every aspect of our daily lives. Emphasis will be placed on establishing connections to biology, biochemistry, material science, pharmacology, and art.

This course is offered in both standard and advanced format.


This course provides a survey of ways in which human structure is related to its functions, and examines the mechanisms behind selected infectious, degenerative, and traumatic illnesses. Major topics of study are the dynamic means by which humans satisfy the basic requirements for life, and to what degree the human body can tolerate deviations from normal environmental conditions. Topics may include digestion, respiration, reproduction, transport of materials, the disposal of excess and poisonous substances, acquisition and transmission of information, regulation and integration of body functions, and defenses against disease.

This course is offered in both standard and advanced format.

Advanced Laboratory Research Cooperative

Boys will explore several scientific fields through reading and discussing selected current scientific research. Once they have identified a particular area of interest, the boys will begin investigating opportunities for placement in a cooperating local university or private laboratory. Boys who complete this independent study will be enrolled in a six to eight week summer research experience in which they will work closely with investigators and/or graduate students at area university, or private laboratories on research projects they have selected. The boys will then formally write up their research for possible submission to competitions or publications and begin preparations for presentation of their research experience to the Haverford School Community at our annual symposium.