A Force in Motion: The CVU Science Curriculum Will Evolve Next Year

Mssrs. Isaac Cleveland and Earl Fletcher

HINESBURG, VT – The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), after being adopted by the Vermont Department of Education in June of 2013, are completely changing CVU’s science curriculum to allow their students to have more well-rounded skills in science.  The NGSS is completely altering how students learn and use their science skills.

According to Katherine Riley, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, students will be getting “two solid years of science curriculum where they will be practicing their skills for the upper level science classes.” NGSS educates students through skill-based learning targets, allowing them to be knowledgeable in the general science topics needed for life.

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Physics in action. Image by Isaac Cleveland

CVU started altering their curriculum in the Fall of the 2015/16 for the incoming freshman class. Integrated Environmental Science has replaced Freshman Core science and Integrated Biology has been introduced as a required class for this year’s Sophomores. One of the reasons for making the new Integrated Biology a required course was that, according to Katherine Riley, “Teachers couldn’t have the students long enough to really get an in-depth look at human bio.” With the new system for Freshman and Sophomores, students “can go into more depth” and they “get better general skills.”

However, the new classes still have some issues. Madi Oliver, a sophomore at CVU, stated “because it’s a new course, the teachers aren’t really familiar with the material, so as they discover challenges in the material, the students have to face those same problems with the teachers. The work load isn’t that bad. It’s doable, but sometimes you have to go back and reteach yourself the material.” As the teachers become more familiar with the system, hopefully, the issues will be resolved in upcoming years.

To accommodate this year’s changes, the standards are being addressed for the next year, the third year since CVU implemented the national science standards.

The Champlain Valley Union High School Science Department plans to revise the current chemistry and physics curriculums for next year to support the new Freshman and Sophomore science program.

Both Chemistry One and Two and Physics One and Two are being removed, replaced by three new semester long classes. Principles of Chemistry, Physics Mechanics, and Physics Waves will be available for students who aren’t looking to complete a year long class in the subjects. These classes will also be using the NGSS. According to Jessica Lemieux, a science teacher and curricular coach helping to facilitate the curriculum change, the standards help students “focus on the skills that scientists engage with rather than just the content.”

Though Principles of Chemistry can’t be used as a prerequisite to AP Chemistry, according to Sarah Malcolm, the AP Chemistry teacher, Principles of Chemistry is a great option for students who are curious about the subject but aren’t sure they want to do a yearlong course. It also allows students to learn the valuable skills that scientists use, even if they aren’t looking to go into the science profession. The class is “less math intensive [and more of a] conceptual look at the main ideas of Chemistry.”

The new classes allow for the students coming out of the Sophomore Integrated Bio and Environment studies a selection of topic based courses that give in depth overview of the both Physics and Chemistry courses.

One of the other main changes that will be implemented into next year’s science curriculum is the change from AP Physics Algebra Based to AP Physics Calculus Based. Though AP Physics Calculus Based is only open to students who have taken or are taking calculus, according to the teacher Laurel Billingsley, more people pass the Calculus based class. In her words, kids are in her Algebra based class just “because there is an ‘AP’ in front of it.” She also stated that the new changes will enable students to be more prepared for a college physics class.

Katherine Riley and Jessica Lemieux both believe that the Next Generation Science Standards will allow students to master their scientific skills by the end of their high school career. These standards are revolutionizing the way CVU students learn and apply their skills and knowledge and CVU will be awaiting the changes coming in the future years.

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