Realignment project

Here are some of my thoughts. Feel free to add or comment.

1. I agree with others who would like to keep Science as a teaching subject for levels 2 and 3. This subject now has a ‘following’ at my school, and tends to be taken by sports/arts/humanities students who want to keep ‘a bit’ of science but don’t want to specialize. It is also taken by quite a few students who are taking one specialist science and wish to broaden their overall science exposure. I am aware it can be a bit hard to staff – most of us are a bit out of our comfort zone for at least one area. This is one reason I have developed my wikispace as an online resource (this seems to have been of help to quite a few teachers and students). Quite a few of my students go on to courses in health, environmental and similar sciences.
2. Specialist students taking these papers – a few more exclusions might solve this. Simply throwing more curly questions into the exam is the WRONG way to do it (that question about solubility of urea in the 08 fertiliser paper was a stinker; this cohort of students find it hard enough to get their heads around solubility of ions, let alone hydrogen bonding). There seems to be a tendency at the moment to manipulate exam statistics by making standard statements very vague, so we don’t know what depth to which to teach, then throw in questions from left field to limit merit and excellence marks. (Does this mean I am effectively disadvantaging my own students by placing some of my resources in the public domain?)
3. Many of my students report enjoying the earth science aspects of this course in particular – I am not sure if this is just from general interest or the fact that, as an earth scientist myself, it is an area I have a passion for. I would like to keep more of a NZ focus on the level 2 and 3 earth science strand. After all, it is their country and I can relate what I am teaching to places they have been or at least heard of or seen on TV. I would regret losing the geological history unit, but this may be a necessary sacrifice (could we retain it as a unit standard?). I think the level 3 standard on processes in NZ is great. I hope this might find its way into the new level 2 standard. Keep the emphasis on processes, and make sure it relates to NZ experiences even if the context has to be natural hazards (very social sciency)
4. I use the existing geological features of an area US and would like to keep it. Good practical stuff. You can’t evaluate geological natural hazards unless you know the geology (as the residents of Abbotsford know to their cost)
5. Chemistry in society is way too vague. The chem strand needs a clear progression from level 2 to level 3. Now that carbon chem has been dropped from level 1 general science, most students have no prior knowledge of this and the current organic unit becomes a major pain to teach. Fertilisers is ok but hardly gripping. Something a bit more interesting, with good scope for practical work . Could this become internal, with a content component and a practical component e.g. for the practical – qualitative analysis at level 2 and quantitative at level 3? The context could be something around food science perhaps – this needs input from a better chemist than me.
6. Research: proposed level 2 is OK but would need some good starter material. All this societal stuff is awfully warm and fuzzy, though. Why limit the level 3 research to a biological context? The other strands all offer issues that involve social, ethical and scientific judgements. Energy sources is one that comes to mind – biomass farms, wind farms, hydro , tidal and geothermal power all involve complex decision making around resource allocation despite their being ‘renewable’. As far as I can see, this would fit in with some of the physics and earth science achievement aims at level 8. There would certainly be issues around chemical use as well.

Paul Keestra
Sacred Heart College