Sunday, July 12, 2009

A 2-Year Science Course for Grades 9-10. What do you think?

My previous post addresses why I think we have a need to include some amount of the 'Big Picture' to classes. We need to show students why what they are studying matters, how it applies to their world, and why we need to focus on real learning for students. I have thought about what a big picture science course might look like, and below is a basic draft of one possibility. It would be integrated and team-taught over grades 9 and 10 in high school, and it addresses in a logical (at least in my mind) order the connection between many different disciplines in science. I am curious to learn what you think about it.

First Year
I. Ingredients for a Universe
A. Size Scales – Powers of Ten; From Big to Small, Science Studies it All!
B. Observation and Scientific Process
C. Big Bang – What is it, and what evidence supports it?
D. Energy – Basics and Examples
E. Matter – Basics and Examples (include E = mc2)
F. Forces – Basics (Newton’s laws) and Examples
G. What is Physics?

II. Atoms
A. What are they?
B. Electric Force
C. Nuclear Forces
D. Molecules (and introduction to bonding, valence electron concepts)
E. State of Matter - Gas
F. Gravity
G. Phase transition – Gas to Plasma (new state of matter)
H. Stars – Heavy Atom Factories (nuclear reactions)
I. Evolution of Universe – Simplicity to Complexity (quarks/electrons to atoms to gas clouds to stars to supernovae to heavy elements to planets to solar systems to galaxies to superclusters)
J. What is Astronomy?

III. Periodic Table
A. Patterns in Nature
B. Organization of elements based on patterns of chemical properties
C. Why does it look like it does? What those electrons are doing…
D. Significance of the Table…more on bonding, intro to reactions (both chemical and nuclear)
E. What is Chemistry?

IV. The Solar System
A. Formation of Planets
B. States of Matter – Liquid & Solid
C. Behavior of Planets – Kepler’s laws of Planetary Motion
D. The Structure of Earth
i. Land (include core, plate tectonics)
ii. Water
iii. Atmosphere
E. Chemical Reactions
F. What is Geoscience?

V. Life
A. What is Life?
i. Characteristics of Life
ii. Chemistry of Life
B. First Life on Earth
C. The Cell
D. Genetics
E. Evolution of Life – Simplicity to Complexity (build off the previous series: simple molecules to polyatomic molecules to organic systems to molecular networks to simple structures to cells to tissues to organs to organisms…)
F. What is Biology?

Summer Supplements
I. The Math – algebra practice; basic trig of right triangles
II. Summer readings and/or project

Second Year
I. Motion in Everyday Life
A. Basics of Vectors
B. Applying Newton’s laws of Motion – Equilibrium vs Nonequilibrium
C. Applying Conservation of Energy
D. What is Engineering?

II. Thermodynamics
A. Energy in Chemistry
B. Entropy
C. Types of Chemical Reactions & why reactions happen in the first place
D. What is Physical Chemistry?

III. Electricity and Magnetism
A. Electrostatics
i. Field and Force
ii. Potential and Electrical Energy
B. Electric Current and Origin of Magnetism
C. Power Generation – Faraday’s law
D. Bioelectromagnetism
E. What is Biophysics?

IV. Communication
A. Intermolecular
B. Cellular (not the phones…at least not yet)
i. Cell-Environment
ii. Intercellular
C. Nervous system
D. Waves
i. Properties & Phenomena
ii. Sound
a. The ear
b. Sonar for animals
iii. Electromagnetic Radiation
a. Visual communication, the eye
b. Radar, satellites
c. Astronomical communication
E. What is Biochemistry?

V. Science for the Citizen (for political, economic, environmental issues): Applications of What We Have Studied That Affects Your Life on a Daily Basis (Relevancy of the science; prior knowledge, personal experience, self-discovery, project-based, choice of what to study, possible careers in science and technology, etc)
A. Global Climate Change
B. Genetic Engineering (including stem cell research)
C. Energy Sources
D. Nuclear Power and Weapons Proliferation
E. Computer Security
F. Food and Water Supplies
G. Medicine – Fighting Disease, Bioterrorism
H. Intelligent Design and Creationism vs. Big Bang and Evolution
I. The Next Generation of Space Exploration
i. Back to the Moon, to Mars?
ii. Protecting the Earth
J. Ethics in Science and in Public Policy related to Science
K. When Does Life Begin? The Abortion issue
L. Where will the jobs be for your generation? Why you should care about everything you have studied in this course…


mark said...

This is very good. Several comments:

1. It de-compartmentalizes and puts science into a comprehensible, connected, context for the student - theory to experiment, one field to another then science to society. It has rigor and it has liberal/classical ed inquiry. Exactly what public ed should be striving to do!

2. While you were shooting for "big picture", from the interconnection aspect, there's also the answer for the eternal student question "Why is this important?"

3. At the end of the two years a student has an educational platform to handle college level science classes down the road as a non-major or to focus more on science as an upperclassman in H.S.

4. This could be mirrored by a parallel 2 year humanities class that rolls Literature, History,Philosophy and Culture. District 99 in Downers Grove recently approved a 1 year course of this nature that students can opt to take instead of the normal English class in their junior or senior year.

vonny said...

Thanks, Mark. And it was great to see you.

I personally think it would be great fun to teach this with other teachers from other disciplines. It would be necessary at some level because I also think it is necessary to try and break free from a 'rent a teacher' or 'convert a teacher' practice that has become an unwelcome necessity, where a math teacher is converted to teach physics or a chemist is converted to teach biology, due to a lack of qualified teachers with an actual degree in the subject. I know my limitations in biology and chemistry and geoscience, and it is a disservice to students for me to teach those subjects. But if the stars align properly and we have someone who is an expert in those subjects, and we team teach, it would likely benefit kids and I would learn.

This is an entirely different topic and issue within our education system. I know you agree that we need to overhaul our certification system, and welcome those who want to change careers to teaching and offer years of experience in some field to share with kids. We should not make this transition so difficult and tedious with coursework that it chases many away from teaching. Reform on a large scale must start with teacher training programs in college.

Talk with you soon.