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Student Nadya Jatoft and teacher Janis Allocco in the physics lab of Carondelet High School.
Carondelet adopts 'Physics First'
inspire students in math, science
In a move designed to excite more young women about science, Carondelet High School in Concord this year has become the first school in the Oakland diocese to implement an innovative science curriculum called "Physics First."
First year students at the all-girl school now start their science studies with a conceptual, hands-on course called Physics 9 before moving to Chemistry and Biology in subsequent years — a reversal of the curriculum traditionally offered in most US high schools.
"We decided to make this change after conducting extensive research, much of which indicated that offering Physics first provides students with the foundation to better understand and appreciate the more abstract sciences," said Nancy Meyerhofer, director of curriculum innovation. "Because of Carondelet's focus on women-centered education, we were especially swayed by studies that show that girls who take Physics in their ninth grade year are more likely to continue to higher level math and science courses later in their educational careers."
The "Physics First" approach was first proposed by educational scholars in the 1990s, but has only recently begun to be adopted by high schools across the country. The idea is to expose freshmen to an introductory physics course that emphasizes investigation and problem-solving, enabling students to learn firsthand about the scientific method and real-world applications of mathematics.
Carondelet principal Nancy Libby said she is proud to have Carondelet be among the early wave of adopters of Physics First.
In the early weeks of the school year, Carondelet freshmen seem to be responding well to the new Physics 9 coursework. On Wednesdays of each week, students in Physics 9 focus on "investigation," discovering and exploring firsthand the core principles of physics. Science department chair Merrilee Silveira said, "we hope this inquiry-based way of learning will help our young women find the confidence to move forward in science, math, engineering and other fields."
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