Science Curriculum Gravitates Toward Physics

  • September 11, 2017

Photo by Josh Fung

Earlier last year, the school district decided to change the science curriculum for incoming freshmen. Rather than being offered the choice of regular or Honors Biology, the class of 2021 is the first of many to take “Conceptual Physics.” This means that Biology classes will only be available to upperclassmen, and may eliminate the Honors Biology course altogether. The school district observed both local and national schools that use this system, and concluded that it would be beneficial to use this system at La Canada. And after a month of experience, the students seem pretty happy with the new course change.

Josh Fung (9) explains how the course wasn’t as difficult as he originally feared, and that he’s already learned the math through self discovery. The workload “consists of a few worksheets and an essay each week,” Josh says, which effectively covers the material and isn’t too overwhelming for the students to handle. But one of the main things he noticed was “[Even though] I took biology over the summer… I think taking biology first didn’t help [in how I approached physics].”

“There’s not that much homework [in physics]. It’s pretty reasonable,” David Yang (9) agreed, mentioning how there’s much more material in the summer biology class than the physics course.

But what exactly are we hoping to accomplish from this change? Dr. Mark Ewoldsen, who’s been advocating for the new system since the 1990s, feels that the benefits are fundamental to the students’ academic development.

“A lot of people were afraid that the math and physics was too difficult for freshmen. What I’ve learned over [my 25+ years of teaching] is that, to understand chemistry, it would [benefit the students] to understand forces, energy, and [various other concepts in physics].”

Without having any prior knowledge of physics and then chemistry, he explains, taking honors biology would be a waste of time, and even more difficult for kids taking it as their first high school science course. But the impacts of this change can go even further than the students’ high school experiences. Throughout his career, Dr. E’s frequent conversations with university faculty, scientists, and even JPL employees have also shown an alarming pattern from college graduates.

“Many of the students who were coming to [work in the science fields] knew how to use the formulas, but they didn’t always fully understand the concepts. They know how to do the math, but don’t know how to do the physics,” Dr E said.

This change in the system could alter the mentality and skill sets of students who choose to pursue a career in the sciences. Not only will they become more accustomed to applying the math to realistic situations, but learning the material sooner could make it easier for students in the long run.

With such high potential to improve the science curriculum, this new change in the system is sure to benefit students for years to come.

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