First English, then math, and now…science? Howard County is changing its science curriculum to better fit the state’s requirements. However, there is one thought on student’s and teacher’s minds: is this for the better?
Mrs. Forgnoni, the head of the science team at Atholton, received the new charts of the science class progression recently.
“Earth and Space Science will no longer be a class after this year,” said Forgnoni. “Instead, it will be integrated into some of the mandatory science classes.” These classes include Biology, and the new course named Advanced Physical Science. Since freshmen can no longer take Earth and Space Science, they are forced into taking one of two paths: beginning with Biology or Biology G/T.
The first path starts with Biology, a regularly weighted class. The next year the student can then either go on to Chemistry G/T or Advanced Physical Science, a new class the will be implemented in the next two years.
“Advanced Physical Science is like Chemistry and Physics combined into one class,” Forgnoni said. “A little bit of Earth and Space Science is also included.”
After a student completes Advanced Physical Science, he or she can choose from one of two other options to determine the future of their high school science experience. The first option is the student takes the Maryland Integrated Science Assessment (MISA) or, the second choice, the student takes AP Physics. Regardless what path the student chooses, he or she will have to take the MISA at the end of either course, Advanced Physical Science or AP Physics.
The second path requires the student to take Biology G/T as his or her first science in high school. Students then can choose between Chemistry G/T or Advanced Physical Science for their sophomore year, and then they can either take the MISA or take AP Physics. The two paths may be very similar, but both are designed to provide students with a variety of options to better fit their strengths or weaknesses. For example, if a student is strong in Biology, he or she can take Biology G/T and then go to Advanced Physical Science instead of Chemistry.
If students choose to take the MISA after Advanced Physical Science, they will likely need to take one more science class to fulfill their three science credit requirement for graduation.
Howard County isn’t the only county changing the curriculum. According to Forgnoni, the state of Maryland is changing the whole state’s curriculum to conform to one of two options. Howard County is one of the lucky counties because they can pick from both, while most other Maryland counties can only chose one for their students to go through due to a lack of science teachers.
This change is taking place next school year, so what happens to current high school students, from freshmen to juniors?
“Everybody currently in this school will keep going on the old science track,” said Forgnoni. “Only freshmen will be affected. It will take almost four more years for the change to be complete since the freshmen will continue the original path.” Students will not be the only ones affected by this change.
“In a great way, we will have to redo lessons, curriculum, unit plans, flow, textbooks, and resources. We will not have all the necessary resources, texts, and printing capabilities for the upcoming years,” said Mrs. Klotz, a experienced Atholton teacher. There will be no new textbooks for the new classes. A lot of the new curriculum course changing drive does not include resources, and possibly online access. It will be [an] interesting change, but a struggle for the community of Atholton.”
With no new textbooks and possibly no online sources, the state expects teachers to use other methods of teaching, such as project-based learning. This method of learning can be described as a mix between labs and simple projects: no textbooks, not many performance-based tasks, and less guidance from teachers.
“There is a fallacy of an idea that new students should not be using texts to learn,” said Klotz. “Instead they want project-based learning and that will not work today in the real world…that is not how adolescent brains learn, resulting in a subpar learning experience. It will not set them for college or a career well enough.”
These changes seem influential for the students, but because they have yet to take a high school science course, it will really be a challenge for the teachers.