Friday, August 31, 2007

Suggestions for science in high school

I recently heard from an old high school buddy with whom I had lost touch for a number of years. She is now an assistant principal at a 6-12 secondary school, and she is currently redesigning their science curriculum. She asked if I had any suggestions, and I told her that I could ask the science blogosphere, and she could stop by the lounge to see what people thought.

Now, I can’t guarantee she’ll actually visit the lounge, much less that she’ll care what any of y’all think. But if any of the scientists who read this e-rag have opinions on secondary school science curricula, feel free to introduce yourself in the comments here and state your opinion. With a little luck, one of the people crafting one such curriculum might possibly take note of what you have to say here.

Otherwise, she’ll have to go with what I told her are the four most important take-home points from the geosciences:

That the Earth is:
-less than 10 Ka old
-designed by an intelligent creator
-warming due to entirely natural causes.


Schlupp said...

Don't try to teach Newtonian mechanics (beyond v=s/t) before calulus. And if you do, just give them the formulas. It is not, I repaet NOT, a good idea to employ these makeshift work-around-calculus geometric 'proves'.

A solid foundation in math would be a good idea anyway.

Aaaaand, a physicist's selection of the Most Important Concepts of Chemistry:
- 'chemical' = 'bad'
- The opposite of 'chemical' is
- 'natural' = 'harmless'

('physical' = 'involving sport', BTW)

tdubose said...

Newtonian physics can be done without calc--you effectively teach them derivatives by hand using real-world data points: if you have points [0,1] [3,4] and [6,10] that mark position, then the speed when the object is at x=3 is approx. 3/2. You can use vectors if you want velocity.

Sara said...

but Newtonian mechanics is bo.ring.
at least give the students a little taste of something cool like quantum mechanics or special relativity. there are lots and lots of simple approaches to learning a few things about these subjects (and they dont require calculus).
i think the whole, calculating the speed of a ball rolling down a hill is a large part of the reason i run into so many people who say "oh i hated physics in high school"

Schlupp said...

Yes, you can do that, and for velocity, it might make sense. But in my school, they went on to use similar tricks to find the derivative of 1/r and such stuff. You CAN do all that, but I don't think it's a good idea. Because it is boring.

Dr. Lemming said...

Is the corellary to your proposition to deny any knowledge of mechanics to the 4/5 of US high school students who never take calculus?