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"Do, or do not.  There is no try."

Development History

Advanced Earth and Space Science 372


In 2001, the first generation of what are now the Advanced Earth and Space Science (AES) and the Advanced Geosciences (AGS) curricula were introduced for the first time at Upper Dublin High School. The only courses of their kind in the Philadelphia region, they presented an advanced, in-depth study of selected topics from the traditional earth and space science fields of geology, meteorology, oceanography and astronomy.. The courses were offered at two different academic levels with each on par with the rigor of other science courses of the same number designations at UDHS. The Level 2 version, AES 372, provided students with a college prep look at all four disciplines and represented a broad brush approach to these fields.  Although this course has evolved over the years, it has held true to its mission of providing interested students with a look at the major geoscience disciplines as a viable career option and is open to any UDHS junior or senior who has successfully completed two years of Level 2 science courses.

Advanced Geosciences 371H and 381H


Originally, the Advanced Earth and Space Science curriculum came in two versions; a Level 2 (372) and a Level 1 (371) version.  AES 371(H) was an honors/AP level course that also covered all four earth and space disciplines but included additional units, individual research projects, more stringent evaluation and a faster pace than AES 372. The course did not carry an AP designation since such a title required a specific curriculum set forth by the makers of the AP exams, the College Board. At present, there is no such curriculum in the geosciences and the College Board has shown no interest in its development.  (see AP vs. Dual Credit for more information on this issue).

In 2010, the original AES 371H course was split into two courses with each focusing on only two of the four geoscience disciplines effectively doubling the "seat time" for each discipline.  This split offered an unprecedented opportunity for UDHS students to engage in two of the most comprehensive high school geoscience courses in the nation.  This major transformation has led to the creation of Advanced Geosciences 371H (meteorology and oceanography) and Advanced Geosciences 381H (geology and astronomy).  The courses were split in this fashion since the disciplines included in each course made many natural connections with each other.  Advanced Geosciences 371H opened in the fall of 2010 and Advanced Geosciences 381H opened for the first time in the fall of 2011.  The courses are still offered in alternating years from each other.


Both of these courses continue to carry the "Honors" designation today but quickly evolved into the high school's first dual enrollment curricula which allows students to earn actual college credit from the partner institution. Both AGS curricula and the courses' instructor were originally endorsed by the State University of New York (SUNY) through its Earth Science Outreach Program (ESOP) in 2010.  At that time, Upper Dublin was the only high school outside of New York to be recognized as part of this program.  In 2014 and with SUNY's assistance, a new partnership was created between Upper Dublin and West Chester University (PA) to better serve our college bound student population.  West Chester's strong geoscience department, its geoscience education program and its proximity to Upper Dublin made it an excellent dual enrollment partner for UDHS.  The recognition of the AGS 371H and AGS 381H curricula by multiple four year undergraduate institutions represented a major step in gaining UDHS students a solid foothold in an entire career field virtually unexplored by previous graduates and the course remain an open pipeline for those interested in a geoscience career (see the Pathfinders section).  It also places UDHS among only a very small number of high schools across the nation offering such curricula to students in the geosciences.  Please read on to learn more about the dual credit process and these exciting new student opportunities.


Cloud with Silver Lining


The Career Field


Heat Energy

Atmospheric Moisture

Remote Sensing

Air Pressure and Wind

The Upper Atmosphere

Atmospheric Stability

Mid-Latitude Cyclone

Weather Forecasting



The Career Field


Marine Geology

Marine Chemistry

Continental Margins

Physical Properties of Seawater

Ocean Circulation

Marine Biology 

Marine Technology

Mountains in Fog


The Career Field


Earth Structure



Structural Geology

Plate Tectonics

Geologic Time




The Career Field


Earth in the Universe


Stellar Astronomy

Space Weather

Planetary Science

Space Exploration

The Advanced Placement Dilemma

Although the purpose of advanced placement (AP) and dual credit curricula is effectively the same, the methods each uses to achieve the goals are very different.  The curricula for AP courses are created and governed by the College Board, a well established, non-profit association composed of colleges, universities and a variety of other educational organizations and institutions. The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), for example, is perhaps the College Board’s most famous exam so their name as a testing agency is widely accepted and well known throughout the United States.  There are about 30 AP curricula with exams that run the gamut from Physics to English Literature to Music Theory with several other programs under consideration. Whether a school district offers an AP or not is up to that particular district. However, the College Board also always had to consider the likelihood their efforts would lead to an exam that would produce enough demand to justify the research and development needed to create a new curriculum. Herein lay the problem with the earth and space sciences.

The lack of an AP exam can generally be explained two ways. The first lay in the nature of the science and its inclusion of four distinctly different applied scientific fields.  Each draws from different principles of biology, chemistry and physics and each also has its own respective professional organizations that want to be included in any final curriculum. With so many stakeholders and sets of priorities involved, deciding on a final AP curriculum has proven to be nearly impossible to this day.

The second issue is a more practical one of instruction. By and large, dedicated earth and space curricula are taught at the middle school or ninth grade (at the latest) which translates into very few qualified geoscience instructors housed at a high school. With no instructors to teach an advanced curriculum, the College Board would again see all of the effort invested in designing an AP Earth & Space Science largely go to waste as few schools would probably have qualified staff to teach it.


The Dual Credit Option

For many different reasons, research is showing that schools at the "leading edge" of education are branching out into different arenas where their students can earn post secondary credit by engaging in advanced studies other than traditional AP curricula. Whether that opportunity manifests itself through AP-style programs like the International Baccalaureate (IB) system or dual credit options, there is no doubt the playing field is widening.  Even a cursory web search will reveal dozens of recent articles and research papers about this very topic.  Whether referred to as dual credit, dual enrollment or one of several other names, the principal behind these courses remains the same.  It is to introduce high school students into the world of college curricula prior to full time enrollment as undergraduate freshmen. These programs also differ widely in their delivery with some requiring students to attend classes at a local college campus while others provide professors at a high school campus while others still others allow approved high school teachers to administer the program themselves (effectively adjunct professors).  Nationally, these types of programs are currently most prevalent at two year community colleges but an increasing number of four year institutions are beginning to create in similar partnerships.  In the case of the Advanced Geosciences 371/381 curricula, the courses are taught by an Upper Dublin instructor formally sanctioned by the cooperating university.


Which is Better...AP or Dual Credit?

It would be simple if there was a "silver bullet" answer to this question but there simply is not. Each option has certain advantages and limitations (it is difficult to say either has "disadvantages" if completed successfully).  Ultimately, it is important to understand that there is no hard and fast rule about what a college or university does with an applicant who has AP and/or dual credit courses on his/her high school transcript. Let's not forget there are still schools out there that do not accept AP or dual credit credits no matter what the score on the exam was or who is sanctioning the curricula.  What can at least be agreed upon though is that the better the performance, the higher the likelihood of finding some kind of transference into the undergraduate setting.  In the end, it is perhaps most helpful to encourage a college applicant to contact the school of his or her choice to see exactly what it will or will not accept rather than being surprised at the last moment.  College admissions processes are often very complicated and involve more than successful completion of just AP or dual credit courses.  An aspiring college student should consider all of the facets of their application in order to create the greatest chance of success.  Once in the door, the rest is up to them.

Chart modified from data acquired at El Paso (TX) Independent School District

Why West Chester University?

In 2010, Upper Dublin's geoscience dual enrollment initiative began with a partnership established with the State University of New York (SUNY) through a preexisting program at the Oneonta campus called the Earth Science Outreach Program (ESOP).  SUNY Oneonta created the ESOP in 2004 whereby New York state high schools could apply for dual credit status through the campus’s Earth Sciences Department.  The program’s director, Dr. Jim Ebert, realized both the reality of the AP dilemma and the fact that there were many talented geoscience instructors teaching at the high school level across New York.  Unfortunately, these instructors had no vehicle with which to compete with the natural draw of AP science courses.  Ebert sought to create the ESOP as a partnership between the SUNY and the high school communities where the geosciences would have a chance to engage high school students at the same rigor as the APs with the same chances of gaining college credit at the end of the course.  To date, approximately 12 New York high schools have established dual credit partnerships with SUNY and it has proven to be a very successful program.  However, until the Upper Dublin proposal in 2009, the ESOP had never extended beyond the borders of New York.  After extensive work and coordination between Dr. Ebert, Dr. Todd Ellis (the program’s other director for several years) and Upper Dublin advanced geosciences instructor Rick Schmidt, UDHS became the first out of state high school to enter into an ESOP agreement with SUNY, an major achievement for both schools. This dual credit agreement was also the first of its kind for any major subject course at Upper Dublin.  Between 2010 and 2013, over 100 UDHS students were able to benefit from this partnership and more than a few eventually chose to begin their undergraduate years as geoscience majors.

The SUNY/UDSD partnership set the stage for SUNY to extend the ESOP beyond New York's borders which they did until early 2014 when senior administration (not the Earth Science Department) decided to limit ESOP's reach to New York schools and effectively ending the SUNY/UDHS partnership.  However, through a fortuitous meeting between Dr. Schmidt and Dr. Martin Helmke, Geology and Astronomy Department Chair of West Chester University at the 2013 GSA Annual Meeting and Symposium in Denver, CO, the groundwork was set for UDHS's next partnership, this time with West Chester University.


The West Chester University Partnership (2014-Present)

West Chester University offers many advantages to UDHS students as an academic partner.  First, many UDHS students matriculate to the school as its location in suburban Chester County offers much to a UD student wishing to stay close to home.  This same proximity to Upper Dublin also creates the opportunity for frequent direct contact between the university's professors and the high school, a tremendous plus that was not possible with SUNY.  West Chester University is also one of the fourteen institutions that make up the PA State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) and has a very active geoscience department that could further enhance a partnership between the two schools.  WCU currently offers a B.S. degree in Geosciences with several minors in Astronomy, Earth Sciences, Geology and Science Education.  The dual enrollment agreement with Upper Dublin was the first of its kind for the department and all parties involved were excited about the possibilities of this arrangement for mutual success.  In many regards, the "power" of a dual credit course lies in the higher ed. institution that is granting credit.  West Chester University is the largest and highest ranked of the fourteen PASSHE institutions according to US News and World Report statistics.  Its name is widely known in the region and it is a major PA degree granting institution.

Dual Enrollment Course Options

UDHS students have the opportunity to earn credit for up to four geoscience courses at West Chester University depending on the courses taken while at UD.  The list below illustrates the conversion between UDHS's Advanced Geosciences curriculum to WCU courses.

*Special Note:  Seniors wishing to earn credit for the second semester of AGS 371H or 381H (oceanography and astronomy respectively) must continue to attend class and take a final exam regardless of community study plans.  Otherwise, only the first semester will be eligible for dual credit status.

Grading Policies

Students enrolled in the AGS courses follow two separate grading scales, each independent of the other.  Although the AGS 371 and 381 courses are full year curricula in terms of UDHS scheduling, they are considered semester courses for WCU.  Therefore, grades for geology and meteorology (depending on the course) will be determined by the strict numerical average of the first two marking periods plus the midterm (which is basically a final exam for that half of the year).  Grades for astronomy or oceanography will be determined by averaging the third and fourth marking periods and the UDHS final exam.  Grades used for WCU in no way impact a student's academic standing at UDHS.  Both grading systems are used simultaneously and neither affects the other.  At the current time, WCU requires a final exam for any student wishing to receive credit regardless of UDHS policy.  Again, seniors who are dual enrolled for the second half of the school year must complete the entire course including the final exam regardless of community study or similar activities that take them out of school early.

*Transfer of credits for grades less than a C are extremely rare.

Transferring Credits

It is important to reiterate that whether or not an institution will accept either dual credit courses or AP scores is entirely up to that particular institution.  Exactly how those credits are applied is also the choice of the college or university.  For instance, some schools will not exempt a student from a course even with a high scoring AP exam (or dual credit credits) but will instead attempt to place that student in a more advanced version of the course.  Some institutions accept scores and exempt a student outright while others do not accept them at all.  Others might not accept them if the course is part of a student’s major.  In the end, it is up to the receiving institution to decide what to do with the scores or credits - there is no predetermined playbook.

A student who enrolls in an AP/dual credit course with only the intention of exempting out of a college course may not only be disappointed but is also not engaging in these rigorous courses of study for the right reasons.  AP and dual credit courses represent a chance to legitimately "test the waters" with advanced curricula of a collegiate nature and to even possibly introduce a student to a new career path. They are often useful in a college selection process but only if they are completed successfully.  A student should make the effort to call a university or check their website to see how they handle AP/dual credit courses in order to maximize the quality and impact of the experience.

The Registration Process

In the dual credit process, an Upper Dublin High School student formally enrolls online as an Undergraduate Non-Degree Student at WCU in the October-November timeframe.  This process will be coordinated in class through your instructor and repeated in the spring for the second half of the AGS course if desired.  Because of the differences in the school year calendar between high schools and universities, the two halves of the UDHS AGS course will be considered spring semester courses at WCU.  Note that students can register for one or both of the UDHS 371/381 components.  Each WCU course costs the same price as an AP exam and is determined each academic year (see instructor for current rate).  There is no separate application fee when applying to WCU as a Non-Degree student.  When the registration fees are paid, UDHS students will automatically be scheduled into the appropriate class by WCU officials.

The registration process is not very complicated but admittedly it does tend to change a bit from year to year so it is important to follow the instructions below very closely.  If issues develop, notify your instructor immediately.  Please do not call West Chester University or the UDHS Guidance department before speaking to your instructor.  The registration process boils down to three elements: registering with WCU, paying for the course, and completing the relevant UD paperwork.  Here are the instructions for all three.


WCU Registration

1.  To begin the High School Dual Enrollment Program process, click on the following link to the Non-Degree Application page. 


2.  The first page that appears will confirm you are not from an EU nation so select "No" from the pulldown and then <Continue>.


3.  There are two choices that need to be selected on this next screen which begins with "What is Non Degree".  Scroll down to the bottom of the page to the two pulldowns and select "Undergrad" and the appropriate semester (choose Spring 20xx unless otherwise directed).  Click <Continue>.


4.  On the next screen choose "Dual Enrollment Program" under the "I am a current high school student" option.  This will open up a box where you will enter UDHS's ID state ID number "391415" in the "Name of High School" box.  Leave the "Anticipated Graduation" box empty.  Click <Continue>.


5.  This page will begin with a welcome message that reads "Thank you for your interest in West Chester University" along with an additional list of requirements.  These requirements will be fulfilled with assistance from your instructor so you do not need to take any action here. Click <Continue>.  


6.  Follow the next pages that request personal information and provide it accordingly.  Once submitted, an admissions form will be sent to the indicated email address almost automatically.  Students who are already in WCU's system from earlier AGS courses might find their information will pop up once they have typed in their SSN and hit <Search>.  From here on out, much of your information will appear automatically.  Once this screen has been completed, move on to the next page.


7.  Following account setup, you will have to accept some policies and then press <Submit>.  At this point, you will receive the application via email so watch for it.  Be sure to check your spam box if it does not appear in your Inbox.  This form must be printed, completed, and sent to your instructor.  He will handle the principal's signature section.  The course names/numbers are listed on the Why WCU page of this tutorial.  For all courses, Section 21 is the standard. 


WCU Payment

Payment for all courses is online as of 2019 so there will be no checks brought to UD.

1.  Go to West Chester University's Bursar webpage.


2.  Fill in the requested personal information and then choose Upper Dublin School District - Credit by Exam on the school district pulldown.


3.  The correct course should now pop up.  If it does not, notify your instructor before proceeding any further and paying for the wrong course.  Click the box for the correct course and proceed with the remainder of the payment process.  Keep whatever receipt is sent to you.

UDHS Paperwork


To complete the registration process, your instructor will need physical copies of three forms.


1.  Bring the registration form that was sent via email to your instructor.  These will be sent to WCU once the principal has signed off on it and GPA information has been confirmed.  Your instructor will handle these details.


2.  Read and sign the Letter of Understanding form and return it to your instructor.  This form requires both student and parent signatures.  Students should also review West Chester University's policies on Academic Integrity.  This is the standard to which students will be judged in an academic integrity issue, not UDHS's. 



AGS 371H and AGS 381H courses are, in every sense of the phrase, college courses with regard to grading, depth of content and instructor expectations. Each course is a full year science course with 16 week examinations of two of the four earth and space disciplines.  AGS 371H covers meteorology (1st semester) and oceanography (2nd semester) while AGS 381H covers geology (1st semester) and astronomy (2nd semester).

Advanced Geosciences 371H

AGS 371H offers challenging material and investigations into the fields of meteorology and oceanography.  These include specialized topics never before taught at Upper Dublin High School including mesoscale meteorology, tropical meteorology, weather forecasting, marine biology, marine geology and marine archaeology and technology just to name a few. Culminating projects at the end of each semester will include a 2 week long modified version of the WXChallenge, a national intercollegiate weather forecasting competition and a considerably enhanced, 6 week version of the current AES SCUBA diving unit.

Advanced Geosciences 381H

AGS 381H features extensive investigations into the disciplines of geology and astronomy.  The backbone of the geosciences, the geology unit will feature not only basic geology, earth structure and evolution but also units in seismology, tectonics and paleontology.  Some lab investigations occur outside and offsite at places like Valley Green in Fairmount Park and Valley Forge National Park.  Depending upon seasonal weather conditions, an opportunity to engage in paleontological field work at one of a number of fossil sites in the tri-state area have also occurred.  The astronomy portion of the course will feature a variety of topics in planetary and stellar science and field work using UDHS's 8" LX200GPS telescopes as well as possible opportunities to use the district's middle school planetarium. 

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