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Opinions

Volume 65 Number 5

Why PCB Science curriculum falls short

by Ekaterina Smith - 2015-03-19

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The integrated Physics, Chemistry and Biology Science program at Chadwick, which began in 2010 while I was in the eighth grade, has become a reluctant part of many students’ Upper School experience. Though many sophomores are able to skip their final year of PCB by testing into AP Chemistry, most go on to take PCB 3 or PCB 3 Honors.

The PCB program’s fundamental purpose is to brief students in each of the core science classes: physics, chemistry and biology. By introducing these topics to eighth-graders in PCB 1, students are meant to build on their skills in these classes through their sophomore year. After completing PCB 3 or PCB 3 Honors, students can take AP sciences or regular elective sciences, having gained the skills to succeed in any science class they pursue...from their introduction to the fundamental concepts in each of the three topics.

The PCB program also benefits Upper School students by providing alternative pathways in their science education. For those who are interested in science but don’t want to take demanding AP courses, the program also made a number of electives available: forensics, brain and behavior, marine biology and robotics. Also, before the PCB program, fewer students took a science course their senior year. Now, almost all seniors do.

So why then do Chadwick students--even seniors who have already finished these courses --complain so much about PCB? Is it the course load? Are Chadwick students lazy?

Or, maybe, the class isn’t reaching all of its fundamental goals.

The overwhelming feedback from students I have talked to is that the class doesn’t spend equal amounts of time on the three subjects. The majority of the topics in my freshman and sophomore PCB courses were biology-related. When I took AP Biology my junior year, many of the topics were introduced in PCB. We just explored the topics at a deeper level. However, PCB does not adequately prepare students for chemistry and physics.

In its few chemistry-related units, PCB taught me how to balance chemical equations, identify reducing and oxidizing agents in reactions, convert different units, and use molarity by converting moles to grams and grams to moles. However, these topics are so fundamental that I was completely unprepared for AP Chemistry’s more in-depth and complicated units.

In addition, the students I have talked to taking AP Physics have found themselves similarly unprepared. In the physics unit of PCB, students learn about non-essential topics like optics, rather than covering more important subjects such as kinematics.

Though the freshmen and sophomores taking PCB aren’t usually enrolled in the higher-level mathematics classes required for AP Physics problems, the PCB program could do a more thorough job of giving students a foundation in physics.

While the PCB courses do offer interesting opportunities for students, they also have room for improvement. Chadwick should work to refine the program by making its policy more flexible and providing a stronger foundation in chemistry and physics.


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Article Keywords:

physics, chemistry, biology, science, program, chadwick, students, year, pcb, fundamental, topics, sophomore, also, course, unit


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