This year, the Science Department changed the 9th Grade science curriculum to include Biology and Honors Biology courses designed specifically for ninth graders. In the past, ninth graders could take either Exploring Science Systems (ESS) or Chemistry Honors; the new biology classes aim to create a more cohesive, consistent system that better suits the 9th Grade level as a whole.Science Department Head Jennifer Garrison Ross, who teaches 9th Grade Biology along with science instructors Jay Buckley and Lisa Ellis, said that the new classes will expose all ninth graders to the same overall topics and themes.
“I think that it’ll put them on an even footing,” Garrison Ross said. “It’s not like one group is going to leave [9th Grade] and have no idea what the circulatory system is… Honors Bio will get a little more depth, but those are the basic differences.”
Many schools, both public and private, offer biology in 9th Grade. Before making the final decision to modify the program, the Science Department looked into other schools’ curricula to ensure that carefully-planned 9th Grade Biology courses would succeed at Marlborough.
“It was just confirmation that [offering 9th Grade Biology] wasn’t a bad idea, and it works,” Garrison Ross said.
“Because of other schools, we had confirmation that it was a viable thing.”
Garrison Ross said the changes were made because students and faculty had been concerned about significant differences in the pace and subject material of Chemistry Honors, an Upper School course, and ESS, which was more similar to 7th and 8th Grade’s Exploring Science I and II.
Nicole ’12 was one of the many ninth graders who struggled with Chemistry Honors. Lim said that when she began at Marlborough in 9th Grade, she took Chemistry Honors instead of ESS because she excelled in science at her previous school. However, Chemistry Honors proved to be much more challenging than she had originally expected. She ultimately relied on a tutor to help her understand the material, and the class’ difficulty discouraged her from taking honors or Advanced Placement science courses in the Upper School.
“Grasping the concepts took a lot of time. For me, at least, [I was] adjusting to Marlborough in general and then adjusting to Chem Honors,” Nicole said. To alleviate these problems, the new biology courses are only offered to ninth graders. Gabby ’15 said that because her classmates in Honors Biology are all in the same grade and are equally experienced in science, the classroom environment is more open. In other classes, Luu said, learning alongside upperclassmen sometimes discourages younger students from fully participating in class.
“[In 9th Grade Biology] you feel more comfortable because you’re with your friends,” Gabby said.
Another advantage of the new system is that all students will fulfill one of the two lab science graduation requirements by the end of 9th Grade. As a result, students will have more freedom when choosing Upper School science courses and, according to Garrison Ross, the Science Department hopes to introduce a wider variety of Upper School science electives in the future.