Students double up on science

As the class looks on, science teacher Antonio Nassar finishes a unit in AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism by scribbling a final formula across the whiteboard.

Sounds of rustling paper and zippers signal that sixth period is coming to an end, and the group of students exits the room in a rush.

In the midst of the shuffle, Jonathan Lee ’08 turns away from his classmates and walks up the nearby staircase to enter another Munger classroom for his double AP Chemistry lab.

Lee is taking three Advanced Placement full-year science courses: AP Chemistry, AP Physics C: Mechanics and AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism. To fit these into his schedule, Lee had to drop his foreign language courses in Japanese and Spanish.

“I enjoy problem solving, and the three science classes that I am taking currently allow me to expand on problem solving techniques more than in my regular math class,” Lee said.

Over the last 10 years, there have been on average nine percent more students enrolled in science courses than there are students on campus, according to Larry Axelrod, science department head. Since some students drop science altogether, this means more than 9 percent of students at the Upper School decide to take multiple science courses.

Axelrod cites two major reasons why students double up on science.

The first is the wide variety of courses offered by the department within four major disciplines: chemistry, biology, physics and geology.

The multiple courses and levels within each field allow every student to find a course that fits their interest in science and their skill level.

Madison Stanford ’08, who is taking AP Physics C: Mechanics and AP Chemistry this year, agrees that the variety of courses within the science department makes it easy to double.

Within the science department, there are “so many unique courses to choose from that it is not repetitive at all to take more than one,” Stanford said.

The second reason students choose science courses is the nature of the classes themselves.
“Our classes are stimulating, fun and, most importantly, the topics lend themselves to explain things in the world in which students live,” Axelrod said.

Despite her interest in science, Stanford prefers lectures to labs. When she took Honors Chemistry last year, Stanford was afraid of the Bunsen burner and got a classmate to light it for her during every lab.

With a lab almost daily in AP Chemistry, Stanford has overcome her laboratory fears but still prefers lectures.

“Though labs are fun, they can be stressful because I burn myself almost every time, and I am almost always doing something wrong,” Stanford said. “I like lectures because I understand what’s going on, whereas I tend to lose track of the point of the lab until I am writing up the report.”

Although Axelrod has not noticed a trend of more students doubling science in recent years, the enrollment in Directed Studies Scientific Research has been growing every year. 

It began in 2004 with five students, but has since grown to 18, with 28 signed up to take the course next year.

“With numerous student and guest presenters and a more active student group, the Scientific Research Club, more attention has been brought to this formerly small course,” said Jerry Porter ’07, who is currently enrolled in DSSR.

Lee is planning on taking DSSR next year along with AP Biology and Astronomy, and Stanford will also double again, taking AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism and AP Biology.

Both Lee and Stanford have always preferred math and science to their other classes. Lee enjoys solving complex problems, while Stanford appreciates the depth of understanding she gains at high levels.

“I no longer have to take anyone’s word for anything,” Stanford said.