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Science curriculum reviewed by California School Board

Science curriculum reviewed by California School Board

June 25th, 2014 in News

In a followup to questions asked at the May California R-I School Board meeting about the science curriculum for the 2014-15 school year at CHS, a presentation was given by science teachers Amy Kuebler, Mike Baepler, Dennis Davis and Jamie Johnston at the June 18 meeting. Following the review, Superintendent Dwight Sanders said the California school curriculum is more in line with what is referred to as the "next generation" of science classes. Some of the other schools that do not offer Earth Science will probably have to in the next few years.

The questions asked at the May meeting involved making Earth Science a required freshman course for all students. In several prior years, a maximum of 10 students passing certain criteria were allowed to opt out of Earth Science and go directly into a more advanced science course. While one of the concerns was that Earth Science does not count towards the College Preparatory Studies Certificate, another was that the class is not one of the science curriculum courses offered in many area schools.

Dismissing the question of the College Preparatory Studies Certificate, since it is of limited value at this time, the science staff explained that Earth Science as taught at CHS is a beginning science class. In many ways it is a survey class, and gives basic information for a wide range of different fields of science. Earth Science, along with Algebra I, taken during the freshman year can provide students with the science and math background to go on to successful study of the upper level science classes, such as Physical Science, Biology and Chemistry.

Freshman Physical Science classes offered at some other area schools are simplified for the freshmen students. They may take an entire year to go through what California's sophomore Physical Science studies in one semester.

By going to an eight-period school day (from the previous seven-period day), it was possible for the curriculum change to be made, requiring Earth Science in the freshman year. This allows students to double-up on science classes in the sophomore year. With the new system and eight class periods every day, both Physical Science and Biology are offered as sophomore courses and both can be taken. "It's a good problem," Baepler said. "We offer a lot of upper-level science classes." For the coming year, eight sophomores have registered to double-up, by taking Physical Science and Biology.

If the student wants to, doubling up on science classes is also possible for the junior and senior years, while still taking electives such as FFA, shop, band and choir. With the previous seven-period school day, there was not enough time to take some of the advanced science classes.

The board and the science teachers concluded that part of the problem has been communication concerning the classes offered. In the past, a select few had been allowed to skip the general freshman class, leading some of those students and their parents to feel they "weren't good enough." Others concluded the freshman class was a remedial science class. In reality, it was a broad-based, basic information science class.

The teachers and administrators explained to the board members that there is very little class choice offered to the members of the freshman class, especially not in the core courses. By providing all freshman students with a science and math class, the students and parents are better prepared to make decisions on how much science and math they will take in the sophomore, junior and senior years.

The board was informed that if Earth Science was dropped for a basic physical science class, a third required class would have to be in the curriculum. If Chemistry was the third required class, it could be a problem for some. "It's not an easy class to take," said Baepler. On the other hand, Physical Science at the sophomore level gives the students another year to get "up to speed" on the required math. Earth Science, Physical Science and Biology gives a well-rounded curriculum for the student