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Physics and Chemistry become combined

New class integrates subjects to aid students in gaining a broader understanding

Adria Cooper, Staff Reporter
Originally published December 19, 2019

For this year’s tenth graders, they started in Biology (unless they completed it already in middle school) and then spend their sophomore year in a PhysicsA/ChemistryA class. After that, they have a choice of going into PhysicsB/ChemsitryB, a full year of Chemistry, a full year of Physics, or some of the AP classes. This curriculum is a divergence from years past.

Up until last year, the path that students took in science did not require them to take Physics. They would take Physical Science then Biology and then they could choose from Chemistry, Physics, an AP class, or other specialized sciences.

Teacher Kaija Reinelt has taught Chemistry in the past but now teaches the Chemistry/Physics split. “I like the way that this new sequence puts chemistry and physics into the same class because I think that students can then make connections between those two subjects more easily than they could have than if they were taking them in separate years,” Reinelt said.

This change is not unique to our school as it was a district level decision. This type of curriculum is common around the world. “If you look at models of science education abroad in Europe and other places, a lot of international models have students taking Biology, Chemistry and Physics every year,” Reinelt said.

In the old curriculum, neither Physics or Chemistry were required so this new way allows everyone to have some exposure to those topics.

While Reinelt enjoys mixing together different science subjects, some of our students were concerned with the shift. Senior, Ellis Stock is in the Biotech Academy and invested in her science education.

 Though she has not had to take the new class, she feels that it isn’t a wise choice. “I feel like it prevents students from learning what they could be learning and dragging out a topic that doesn’t need to be dragged out,” Stock said.

Sophomore Serafina Smith who is currently enrolled in PhysicsA/ChemistryA is troubled by the science model. “I feel like they are kind of trying to teach for a test,” Smith said. 

This test that is mentioned by Smith is called the Washington Comprehensive Assessment of Science. As of now, it is a graduation requirement.

The test is one of the reasons the change was made. “It’s multiple things. Part of it is the test, part of it is the changes that have been made in the standards over the last few years, and part of it too is getting more of an integrated understanding of science,” Reinelt said.

The new science plan may have some valuable aspects but it was sprung on students quickly. “I’m pretty sure that everyone in my class signed up for normal Chemistry and thought that’s what we would be taking. We were shocked when we got put in Physics/Chemistry at the beginning of this year,” Smith said.

Reinelt acknowledges the perceived suddenness of the change. “Anything that would have felt sudden would have just been a lapse in communication because it’s been going on at the district level for a couple years.”

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Physics and Chemistry become combined