The CHRHS Science Department believes that our program of course offerings and instructional approaches encourages students of all abilities and interests to take as many science courses as possible. Science courses are designed to instill an appreciation for the world around us and its interconnectedness. Students are encouraged to discover how science is relevant to their own lives, career aspirations are sparked, and individual growth and responsibility are fostered.
Science is both a body of knowledge and a set of processes by which new knowledge is gained and evaluated. Delivering scientific knowledge effectively requires using a variety of instructional approaches. Inquiry plays a central but non-exclusive role among those approaches, especially in developing the essential skills of critical thinking, problem-solving, and scientific creativity. Inquiry also provides opportunities for learning science by doing science: designing questions, collecting and analyzing data, using appropriate technology, and communicating effectively.
Meeting the needs and interests of a diverse population of students requires diversity both within and among our course offerings. We believe that teachers, like students, are diverse and that diversity plays an important role in curriculum, instruction and grouping. Teachers who teach to their individual strengths and share their personal scientific passions engender a love of science and of learning within their students. Sections of the same course taught by different personnel and/or to different students must provide the same core content but will vary slightly to reflect the needs, abilities and interests of all participants.
The Science Department consists of nine full time teachers, one of whom also serves as department head. The staff has a broad range of educational and work backgrounds, holding bachelors degrees in biology, chemistry, marine biology, geology, environmental science and secondary science, and masters degrees in chemistry, environmental education, engineering geology / remote sensing, science education, gifted & talented education, special education and marine biology resources. This diversity of knowledge and skills is combined with a strong tradition of blending teacher independence and cooperation, focused on commitment to students. The result is a deep, flexible foundation for building a variety of courses to meet the needs and interests of students and the communities where they will live and work.
CHRHS requires a minimum of three credits in science for high school graduation, and strongly recommends a minimum of two lab courses for students entering four year colleges or universities. [Note that “lab” courses are worth 1.5 credits and meet for 300 minutes/week, rather than the 200 min/week of 1.0 credit courses.] In 2006 the department approved requiring a minimum of one credit each in life and physical sciences within that three credit total. We are awaiting finalization of current discussions at the state level regarding graduation requirements before bringing this proposed local requirement for School Board approval. The majority of students at the school meet or exceed these minimum required and recommended standards. The class of 2006 completed an average of five credits and 64.5% of students took more than three years of science. The average number of lab classes completed was 2.1, and 38% of seniors completed more than two lab classes.
The Science Department offers both leveled and unleveled (heterogeneous) classes. Main sequence courses (global science, biology, chemistry, and physics) are leveled to allow all students to be appropriately challenged and supported. Students often move between levels over their four years, guided by prerequisites and science teacher approval with the advise of counselors, special education teachers and parents. Within the class of 2006, 98.1% of students completed biology, 71.3% completed chemistry, and 45.4% completed physics. The department also offers unleveled semester long electives, which mix together students of all abilities to study specific interests. In the class of 2006, 52% of students completed at least one of these electives: about half used them as part of their three-credit minimum for graduation and half took these courses in addition to main sequence courses. Finally, the department offers three AP courses: AP Biology, AP Environmental Science and AP Physics C: Mechanics. .
The Science Department facilities include nine lab-classrooms. Eight of the labs are paired together with shared prep rooms; the ninth has its own prep room. Three lab-classrooms have additional attached spaces: a plant room, a small animal room, and a marine aquarium room. Outside, there is a 600 sq. foot greenhouse used by the Botany course, and an outdoor classroom (dedicated to a former science teacher) open to all classes in the school. Classes also make use of outdoor spaces on the grounds and short distances from the school, including local harbors: Research Biology, Botany, Oceanology and Natural Science use the most outdoor space. Beginning with the summer of 2011, a Marine Ecology Seminar will be offered that includes place-based learning in the Bahamas.
The science department is committed to building upon students’ understanding of science and engineering practices, disciplinary core ideas, and cross-cutting concepts from earlier grades, as defined by Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). We fully support and are working towards implementation of NGSS and relevant Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics, with emphasis on the following:•Students will achieve basic scientific literacy, comprised of scientific knowledge (life, physical, earth/space and engineering disciplinary core ideas), critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and creativity.
•Students will integrate science into their knowledge base: this involves understanding the cross-cutting concepts within the sciences and with other disciplines.
•Students will demonstrate the ability to ask scientific questions and define engineering problems.
•Students will demonstrate the ability to generate and test new knowledge and models through experimentation, analysis of data, and scientific argumentation.
•Students will demonstrate the ability to locate information, validate it, and incorporate it into what they already know.
•Students will demonstrate the ability to communicate their knowledge effectively, using appropriate technology and models.
•Students will graduate with a science and engineering foundation necessary for college, career, and citizenship.
In the modern changing world all people need basic knowledge of core scientific concepts in order to be informed and engaged citizens, employees and consumers. Knowledge of scientific processes is important if students are to handle change and be flexible self-directed life-long learners. The skills of critical thinking, problem-solving and scientific creativity will guide students in evaluating and incorporating the impact of new science and technology within their personal lives and their communities.
Scientific knowledge and skills offer other benefits to students. Our course offerings purposefully integrate content and skills from other disciplines, helping students improve their competencies in those disciplines. Studying the variety in the natural world helps foster an appreciation for diversity in all aspects of students’ lives. Finally, our program provides students with the foundation for post-secondary readiness in whatever field of endeavor they wish to pursue.