Starting in the 2022-2023 school year, schools within the Fremont Union High School District will be offering a new science course that will entice the more “hands-on” students. In this new course, called “Science and Society”, students will dive deeper into specific topics and attempt to solve complex problems ranging from the world’s water consumption to the ethics of gene modification. These classes hope to create an environment where students can fully explore topics without the fear of getting the wrong answer, as most of the time, the questions asked in these classes do not have a set solution.
While different districts may change the name of the course as the upcoming school year approaches, Cupertino High School will be sticking with the name “Science and Society.” “[Science and Society will] provide a non-AP level class that is heavy on the engagement, relevance, and project bases, as opposed to just ‘here comes some more content,’” Cupertino High School science teacher Andrew Goldenkranz said. Alongside providing a more diverse science curriculum, the class intends to appeal to students who have previously failed a science course or students who have taken two years of science and want a change of pace for their third year.
The course will follow the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which act as a guideline for project-based classes across the country. These standards require the curriculum to teach topics in physical science, life science, planetary science and engineering. A model classroom will have students research and develop solutions to problems that seem interesting to them. Said Goldenkranz, “The key [idea] we refer to is ‘student voice and choice,’ […] It is based around things that students express an interest in with respect to a phenomenon, rather than what the teacher decides is important.”
Before a school can implement a science class, it must first be approved as a University of California lab science course. However, compared to many previous classes, this course was approved relatively quickly. “What was kind of pleasantly surprising was that the course […] was approved in twenty-four hours, which is something I have never seen happen. Usually it takes months to get some approved,” Goldenkranz said. This is not a common occurrence when trying to introduce classes.
While the district has not held any trial runs for this class, there will be some problems that teachers will have to face. For the teachers that may not have studied or taught certain subjects before, the current solution is for them to write and exchange lesson plans with other teachers familiar with those subjects so that they can get a general understanding of the topic. The course will encounter problems, but with time, the science department hopes to solve and further refine the course. The best solution to this problem would be finding and selecting the right teachers to teach the course. Said Goldenkranz, “When you look for good teachers, you want people who have a sense of curiosity and imagination, and you want people who can relate to kids.”