The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

Science department changes chemistry course

Science teacher Narae Park. Credit: Nathanson’s

Chemistry students will learn from an entirely redesigned curriculum, which includes less content and more homework and labs, beginning this year.

Chemistry team leader Narae Park, Head of the Science Department Larry Axelrod and science teacher Heather Audesirk developed the new course materials during the summer.

The chemistry team decided to alter the course last year because teachers wanted their students to be required to think more in the lab setting.

“Kids weren’t really figuring out concepts during the unit, and then they would just get destroyed on tests,” Park said. “Because the labs that we did were designed so that you just had to follow instructions and not really think about it, kids weren’t understanding what they were doing and why. That’s what we’re trying to fix.”

Additionally, students will now learn concepts in a revised order.

Instead of beginning by memorizing elements and their charges, students will learn about atomic structure.

Previously, students blindly memorized without being introduced to basic concepts, Park said.

Instead of optional homework, chemistry students will be required to complete bi-weekly online assignments.

“The course will definitely be more rigorous, but we are trying to make up for that with added time for in-class homework and group practice work,” Park said. “We know that chemistry is a difficult course and I think that now with all the extra ways for students to understand material have a much better support system.”

Liam Douglass ’18 said his chemistry experience last year was stressful.

“I was in the office every day, trying to understand the material just so that I could pass,” Douglass said. “I absolutely think this new program will be beneficial because I think it will be more discussion based instead of students being overloaded with lectures, which is something I would have really appreciated.”

Emma Spencer ’18 said she also believes altering the curriculum will help students.

“I think it will be beneficial because towards the end of the year chemistry got harder and this will definitely level the playing field,” Spencer said.

Mid-year and final assessments will be weighted less.

Park said the chemistry department is also considering adding a lab practical section to these assessments.

The redesigned chemistry curriculum will help students in future Advanced Placement classes as well, Park said.

“If you think about it, the material is pretty much the same, it’s just about how we’re getting students to understand it and think about it,” Park said. “They’ll be writing methods before labs, and having that skill will be useful in AP classes they might take the next year.”


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Science department changes chemistry course