The new science curriculum for sophomores is helping students experiment with different classes



A group of physics students during one of the exciting experiments.

If not for her high school physics class, physics teacher Amy Stone would never have fallen in love with the subject and found her career at FHC.

To make sure all students could experience an array of science classes to figure out what they are most interested in, science classes have recently revised their curriculum, ultimately leading to physics and chemistry becoming semester classes for sophomores.

Previously, both physics and chemistry were year-long classes that sophomores had to select. This year, despite the fact that they can no longer choose their science class, sophomores are able to experience a semester of each to expand their horizons.

“I can’t imagine me never having physics in high school,” Stone said. “I would never have fallen in love with a class that I currently teach and [that] I majored in.”

I can’t imagine me never having physics in high school; I would never have fallen in love with a class that I currently teach and [that] I majored in.”

— Amy Stone

Unfortunately, physics does not have the best reputation, and many students see the class as less than exhilarating; chemistry tends to grab the attention of more students.

However, since students have an inaccurate preconception of physics class, many chose to take chemistry instead in years prior before even dipping their toes into physics. Without exploring the class, students may miss an opportunity to further their learning towards a career they want to pursue.

“A lot of kids don’t realize how mathematical in nature physics is,” Stone said. “Those kids who really like math maybe don’t even realize that there’s this science out there that takes all of this math that they’ve learned and applies it to real things out there in life.”

While having multiple science classes in a year can help students fall in love with a subject, it can also help them to find out what they’d rather not pursue in a career.

Sophomore Drew Shier discovered his disinterest in physics and is eagerly awaiting second semester when he can take chemistry. While he is not entirely interested in a science career, he finds that chemistry fits his preference more closely.

“Physics deals a lot with models and [things] like that—I have a tough time with that,” Drew said. “I like math much more; I’m literal-oriented.”

Even if he predicted that he would prefer chemistry over physics, Drew couldn’t be sure that he would be interested in one science over the other without taking each class.

Despite the fact that semester classes give variety, they do lack the depth that a full-year class would bring.

“I think there are some benefits and some drawbacks [to semester classes],” Drew said. “Obviously, if they’re year [long] classes, you can have the opportunity to only take one and miss out on the other one. But, with semester classes, it’s a lukewarm-middle where you’re learning both, but you’re not learning enough about either one. So, you know the basics of both, but can that really be useful if you’re not actually going in-depth?”

Thankfully, high school is mainly a time where students are finding out their passions and goals, so experimenting with classes in earlier years could help students figure out which AP or other sciences they would like to take later on.

After physics and chemistry, the options for juniors widen to AP Environmental Science, Environmental Science, and Advanced Geology.

The updates to the curriculum were made on a district-wide scale, and head of the science department Kristy Butler agrees with the new style.

“To be compliant with the standards of the state, we have to make sure that we’re covering them all,” Butler said. “The district moved forward with a semester of chemistry and a semester of physics, so now, all kids will get physics, which is pretty cool.”

The state standards were updated to include a more physical science approach. Fortunately, the new guidelines do not affect juniors and seniors, regardless of the science classes they took in their sophomore year.

Though they do not provide the same depth as a year-long course, the semester courses offer a greater variety and sample of each class, as well as a class that students normally wouldn’t take. This can open up job opportunities and new passions for many students.

“Students have access to all the standards,” Butler said. “Most of our kids took chemistry and not physics, so now, our students have an opportunity to experience physics. Physics is fun.”