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Curriculum Guide: Science

The PBS Approach

In the science program at Phillips Brooks School, students are expected to think like scientists, conduct the work of scientists, and build their scientific content knowledge. Our young scientists develop investigation and engineering skills through lab work in disciplinary core ideas pulled from life sciences, physical sciences, environmental sciences, and earth/space sciences. Using active inquiry in science notebooks and hands-on projects, students build connections between scientific disciplines through recognizing cross-cutting concepts such as patterns and cause-and-effect. We ignite students’ passion for science by offering engaging, meaningful, and practical lab experiences that empower young scientists to understand the world around them, ask questions, investigate phenomena, and solve problems.

Each year, students demonstrate greater capacity for connecting knowledge across, and between, the scientific disciplines. Over time, students build scientific inquiry and engineering design skills as they plan and carry out investigations, collect and analyze data, and construct explanations and arguments.


  • Scientific investigation has broad importance across multiple fields of science and engineering disciplines and may be a key organizing concept of a single discipline.
  • Science and engineering practices provide key tools for understanding or investigating more complex ideas and solving problems.
  • Meaningful science education relates to the interests and life experiences of students and can be connected to societal or personal concerns that require scientific or technological knowledge.
  • Science content is teachable and learnable over multiple grades at increasing levels of depth and sophistication.

Overarching Curricular Concepts

Disciplinary Core Content Areas

  • Physical sciences
  • Life sciences
  • Earth and space sciences
  • Engineering design
  • Environmental science

Crosscutting Concepts

  • Patterns
  • Cause and effect
  • Scale, proportion, and quantity
  • Systems and system models
  • Energy and matter:  Flows, cycles, and conservation
  • Structure and function
  • Stability and change

Science and Engineering Practices

  • Asking questions
  • Developing and using models
  • Planning and carrying out investigations
  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Using mathematics and computational thinking
  • Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
  • Engaging in argument from evidence
  • Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

Environmental Science Principles and Concepts

  • People depend on natural systems
  • People influence natural systems
  • Natural systems change in ways that people benefit from and can influence
  • There are no permanent or impermeable boundaries that prevent matter from flowing between systems
  • Decisions affecting resources and natural systems are complex and involve many factors

Key Concepts and Emphasis

Evaluation Criteria

From the PBS Blog…