Course Descriptions

Winter/Spring 2022

Financial Literacy

This course introduces students to the mathematical concepts related to financial literacy. This course will provide students with the knowledge  and skills they need to become self-supporting and able to make critical decisions regarding personal finances. Topics this term will include paying for post-secondary education, entering the workforce, taxes, retirement readiness and more. Upon completion of this course students should gain an increased confidence in their mathematical ability and be able to make informed decisions about several real life financial situations of today. 

Class Update 1/21/2022

So far this term we have learned about and discussed knowing how to determine approximate post-secondary education expenses, how to save for these education expenses, and how to combine 

savings with financial aid, student loans, scholarships, and work to finance post-secondary education to make career goals more attainable.


Chemistry is the study of matter through observation and experimentation. In this course, students get a rigorous hands-on introduction to the topics, tools, terms, mathematics, and practices of the study of chemistry. Students will engage in hands-on activities, inquiry-based quick labs, written assignments, and creative ways to explore chemistry principles and their real-world applications. Using the scientific method, data analysis, powers of observation, and critical thinking, students will learn to solve problems and perform comprehensive labs. 

Class Update 1/21/2022

Students have been learning about physically changing matter and the properties of gases, including the gas laws. We have discussed and practiced how to do temperature conversions, how rainfall is measured, and the relationship between volume and density, as well as the relationship between volume and temperature, and how these concepts are applied to weather forecasting. We completed an experiment that demonstrated Charles’s Law and the relationship between volume and temperature. 

English Language Arts – High School

Coursework is designed to help students become better readers, writers, speakers, and thinkers. Along the way, we’ll enjoy great pieces of classic literature, including Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. We’ll improve grammar knowledge, advance vocabulary, sharpen public speaking skills, and, I hope, have a great time learning.

Class Update 1/21/22

Students have been learning the importance of punctuation and how it can completely alter meaning. We will be working on weekly M.U.G.s (Mechanics, Usage, and Grammar) and correcting grammar

and punctuation on practice sentences. We will also be looking at one literary term each week, starting this week with the importance of theme.  We also studied the qualities of a personal narrative and read Gary Soto’s “The Pie.” Students were assigned their first writing assignment this week to write their own personal narrative.

English Language Arts – Middle School

This class is designed to enhance each student’s reading, writing, and oral skills. It is also specially designed to encourage open and clear communication, and foster reading for comprehension, information, and enjoyment.   English Language Arts is a reading and writing centered course in which students increasingly become more willing and able writers and readers while appreciating the diversity and beauty of the human experience. The course focuses on narrative, descriptive, and analytical writing. Readings and discussions focus on the five major genres particularly as they serve the goal of growth in writing. 

Class Update – 1/21/2022

This class will begin on Monday, January 24 studying Arthur Conan Boyle’s Sherlock Holmes.  Students will learn about the author and the methods of Sherlock Holmes while studying the structure of story, character analysis, and why his stories became so popular. Students will also hopefully enjoy considering whether they would make a good detective!

Writing Prompts

This week’s prompts included:

  1.  Write a letter to yourself to read one year in the future.
  2. Sometimes adults find it hard to remember what it’s like to be a student.  Tell them the most important things they need to know about people your age. (Expository)
  3. Reflect on the following quotation:  “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

Spelling and Grammar

Using a morphemic strategy, students learn basic spelling patterns and progress to new and more irregular spellings.  Carefully planned multisensory sound discrimination exercises are utilized to nurture and develop phonological awareness and segmenting skills. Students do dictation exercises including sentence writing to learn and practice correct punctuation and grammar. The objective is to enable students to feel confident writing academic-level compositions.

Math Groups Update 1/21/2022

Middle School Math: multiplication and order of operations

Pre Algebra: An introduction to solving linear equations

Algebra 1: Simplifying radicals, translating word problems into algebraic equations, graphing on the coordinate plane

Geometry: Volume and surface area of geometric solids

Spanish Update 1/21/2022

Hola, families! So far this semester, we have been practicing the pronunciation of the Spanish alphabet, and learning about aspects of the calendar such as days of the week, months and how to say the date. Next week, we will begin reading a beginners level book in Spanish and continue studying calendar aspects. The seasons and weather are next week’s topics. Further ahead, we will be learning vocabulary words for classroom items and daily schedules in Unit 2.  

World History

In our World History class we finished the Italian Renaissance and are now learning about the Northern Renaissance. Up north, we studied Thomas More and read passages of his book Utopia. We also discussed More’s falling out with King Henry the VIII over the King’s divorce and re-marriage. More’s devotion to his religious faith caused him to literally lose his head, which was then put on public display. In this period of Royal Absolutism, it was dangerous to quarrel with the monarch.

Moving to the south into Germany, another risk-taking writer named Martin Luther is taking chances by questioning Papal Infallibility. In this cliff-hanger, will Luther’s refusal to renounce his ’95 Thesis’ lead to another execution? In this period, heretics could be burned at the stake. Will his loyal criticism of the Catholic Religion be forgotten? Or will the newly invented printing press spread the word? Students must stay tuned for the next installment of The Reformation.

As the new semester began, we spent two days skipping ahead to look at and discuss the major events of the last 500 years on a spreadsheet. I’m sure many parents use spreadsheets for work, it’s an important life skill to learn early. So on Tuesday, we used a spreadsheet to vote for what I call the ‘Fun Five’ major topics we will cover in class. In this election the leading topics are:

1. Major developments in Chinese & Japanese history in the 19th and early 20th centuries

2. The Great Wars, 1914-1945

3. The Growth of the Nation State in Europe & causes and events of the French Revolution

One benefit of using the spreadsheet is it can be used by our students to assist in deciding what topic they will independently study to create an ‘artifact of social relevance’ for their final World History project.

The artifact must demonstrate knowledge of ‘something important’ from the period 472 AD to 2022 AD in World History. Each student should choose something that is intrinsically interesting to them, because most of the work will be done outside class. This artifact should be high quality so it can be included in their college application portfolio. By Valentine’s Day each student should find a topic they ‘love’ and be ready to commit to this final project, See the Homework Log in Google Classroom for more info.

An integrated reading and writing approach is used to teach reading skills and the writing process through the study of literature. Units are developed to present literary forms including short stories, poetry, and non-fiction. The use of class novels supplements the numerous self-selected novels read throughout the year.  The six traits of writing provide the framework for writing instruction.   Peer editing and revision are also emphasized.  Students are required to demonstrate the ability to compose argumentative, informative, and narrative pieces of writing that address a specific topic, purpose, and audience.  Students are also required to demonstrate the ability to compose an essay based on text dependent evidence (TDA).  The curriculum is aligned to the PA Core Standards.  

An integrated reading and writing approach is used to teach reading skills and the writing process through the study of literature. Units are developed to present literary forms including short stories, poetry, and non-fiction. The use of class novels supplements the numerous self-selected novels read throughout the year.  The six traits of writing provide the framework for writing instruction.   Peer editing and revision are also emphasized.  Students are required to demonstrate the ability to compose argumentative, informative, and narrative pieces of writing that address a specific topic, purpose, and audience.  Students are also required to demonstrate the ability to compose an essay based on text dependent evidence (TDA).  The curriculum is aligned to the PA Core Standards.


Our Improv class is focused primarily on teaching students the techniques to feel more comfortable and confident with thinking on their feet and presenting or “performing” in front of groups.  We use games and exercises that encourage creativity, spontaneity and collaboration.  While much of what the students will practice is based on improv comedy in the traditional sense, the true goal is to train the skills that help students to improvise in a variety of ways.  

Book Club

This week, we read the poem “The Highwayman,” by Alfred Noyes.  We took time throughout our reading to stop and break down complex or antiquated language, and get a solid sense of the story’s plot.

  • Afterwards, we chatted about why people read, watch and enjoy tragedies like this one- why do we intentionally experience something that makes us feel sad?  We tossed around some ideas, but were not concerned with coming to one solid conclusion.

Dungeons and Dragons

We finalized our new students’ character sheet and got a few items and supplies set for everyone else. In-game, the players navigated a dark underground market inside of a pyramid, and earned a bit of trust with the less-than-savory folks down there.

Once prepared, they set out towards the mountains to the East in search of the lost adventurers they’ve been hired to find.  On the way, they’ve disturbed an Earth Elemental, which emerged from the side of a mountain and attacks the party. 

Visual Art

This week was all about portraits and faces.  We began by practicing our diagram of a human face and reviewing several of the proportions we’ve discussed in past semesters (and catching up new students)

After that, we used a number of photo references, a painting by Alice Neel (after a brief discussion of her work), and my own drawings all as different faces and styles to practice from

Earth and Environmental Science

Earth and Environmental Science at Symbiosis Learning Center  is a laboratory and project-based course that will explore multidisciplinary scientific principles from biology, chemistry, physics, geology, meteorology, astronomy and others, in order to provide an understanding of the natural functioning of our planet.  Students will study Earth’s four spheres, the lithosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and atmosphere, and explore the interactions between this intricate system and all living things. Students will delve further into the biosphere, learning about energy resources, major biomes, ecosystems, chemical cycles and the role of living things in ecosystems. We will learn about fundamental ecological concepts and focus on the consequences of human interactions within our environment. In addition to learning about environmental problems, students explore practical alternatives for protecting the environment, moving toward a sustainable future.  This course will help to increase students’ awareness of global environmental issues, as well as their role on a local and global scale.  

Math at Your Level

21 + 22 is 43.  That is a fact, and what is all this new math about?  While 21 + 22 equals 43 is true, there is more than one way to figure out that fact.  You can memorize it.  You can stack the numbers on top of each other.  You could focus on the place values and say 2 tens + 2 tens is 4 tens and 1 + 2 is 3 ones. Together they are 43. You could also build the problem with manipulatives, as some people prefer a visual representation when solving math problems. Everyone’s brain approaches math differently, and there are different ways to solve even the simplest problems.  In the end mathematics is about thinking and puzzling out a path to the answer you need.  When learning mathematics, effort and the process of discovery count more than how fast you get the answer. 

Here at Symbiosis Learning Center we endeavor to find approaches to learning mathematics that fit each student.  What official level the student is at does not matter, as people learn different aspects at different paces.  An area that is particularly frustrating can be touched on, left behind for a while, and circled back to multiple times if need be, until a better learning approach is found or the student simply has that “Aha!” moment.  Conversely, some students may quickly achieve goals in math and require a faster pace. Understanding in the end is what matters, not how fast that understanding happens. 

In this course, we will help each student create an individual plan for their mathematics education and provide the instruction and guidance to support their success along the way. 

3D Design

In the past you could draw and render in 3 dimensions on your computer screen.  Now you can manufacture your creation right in front of your eyes.  Whether you are looking to replace something that broke around the house, create a one of a kind toy, or a work of art.  The possibilities of 3d printing are both staggering and extremely fun! This class combines learning how to use the software to create 3d designs, as well as learning what is necessary in the designs so that a 3d printer can actually manufacture your creations.  We will encourage personal projects in this class, which will allow the students to create a personal emphasis on engineering or art, whichever path their passion lies.  Symbiosis owns a 3d printer and students will be taught how to use it to manufacture their creations, as well as maintenance for the machine.

Nature Journaling

This class will broaden and deepen student curiosity, wonder, and attention.  Through a combination of sketching, labeling, recording thoughts, and forming questions and explanations, students will embark on a journey of scientific inquiry and self expression.  Using such prompts as “I notice… I wonder… This reminds me of…” class will focus on recording and reflecting on observations made in nature (a leaf, clouds, grass, flowers, tree, acorn, etc.) The goal will be to sharpen critical and creative thinking skills, build self-confidence, and improve writing skills.  Activities will focus on using metaphors, similes, and descriptive writing and will include poetry, persuasive writing, narratives, descriptive essays, map making, etc.    

Math in Real Life

Hey – have you ever looked around the world and wondered how math is in pretty much everything around us?  Me too!  This course explores real world math applications.  We will look at how numbers, patterns, and relationships show up in everyday life.  The goal is to provide a fun, interactive, and hands-on learning experience for students looking to see how math concepts apply beyond the classroom ranging from paying your bills, to bridge construction, to parachute design, the election process, stock market, and everything in between!”

US History

For the fall of 2020,  students will be studying several different US History topics. To start out the course, students will be studying the US Constitution and be examining different sections and amendments to understand the Constitution. Students will also learn about the US election process, what happens when you cast a ballot, what the Electoral College is and how it works in order to better understand the 2020 election. Another possible topic students will look at this semester is Westward Expansion with an in-depth look at topics such as The Louisiana Purchase, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the Oregon Trail, the Mexican American War, Gold Rush, etc. and one final possible topic would be the Cold War which would cover topics such as the Space Race, The Cuban Missile Crisis, etc. And during each class there will be a few minutes set aside to discuss current events that are going on. This will vary depending on what events are going on at the time and student interest.

American Sign Language

In American Sign Language this semester we have been reviewing the alphabet and numbers, as well as colors, foods, animals, and jobs. We have also covered basic ASL grammar and syntax and are working on applying our vocabulary to beginner conversational skills. In class we also discuss Deaf culture in order to ensure a well rounded understanding of the Deaf community and language.

Music Appreciation

Welcome to Anna’s Music Appreciation class! Throughout the school year, we will be exploring many musical aspects from various different lenses, both as musicians and non-musicians. While we will be learning about traditional music theory and composition, we’ll also be incorporating real life practice time into the class, as well as experimenting with creative activities that reflect what we’ve learned already. Students will be encouraged to practice their focus instrument for about 20-30 minutes each class, wherein I will have the opportunity to meet individually with each student to touch base on the goals they’ve set for that day, discuss with them any obstacles that are preventing them from reaching these goals, and strategize with them as to how they can best overcome said obstacles. Outside of practice time, class consists of basic music & aural theory, group jam sessions, discussions exploring music, composition, percussion circles, and much more.–

Teen Talk 

Welcome to Teen Talk! In this discussion group we will be building connections with one another while exploring various topics. These topics include mental health, forming healthy relationships, developing mindfulness skills, stress management strategies, exploring current events, planning for life after highschool, and much more! The goal of this discussion group is to support one another in a positive light and experience personal growth as individuals and as a collective. The number one rule for Teen Talk is to HAVE FUN! This is YOUR group. Let’s make it memorable!