By Ashley Harris '19
Freshman year: NCS girls nervously file into a physics classroom, many wondering why on earth they are forced to take such an intimidating course their first year of high school. This is a reasonable thought process, after all, most schools start by teaching biology so students can take physics and advanced math classes concurrently. However, NCS has chosen a science curriculum that allows students to do more in sophomore chemistry and biology. According to the NCS website, freshman physics is “intended to foster students’ scientific abilities and to provide students with a solid foundation for the continued study of science.” Throughout freshman year, NCS girls study the fundamentals of forces and energy, and once armed with this basic knowledge, they can tackle more complicated subjects with greater competence. Biology is essentially applied chemistry, and chemistry is applied physics: each requires an understanding of the previous subject. Therefore, the most logical way to educate students about biology is to begin by teaching them about the fundamental forces of physics that shape different chemical processes that allow biological systems to function. For example, in freshman physics NCS girls learn about the concept of polarity. In sophomore chemistry, they learn that differences in electronegativity between hydrogen and oxygen cause water molecules to be polar. In biology, they learn that water’s polarity allows for the formation of phospholipid bilayers that make up cellular membranes. Will a biology student who has neither a physics nor chemistry background truly understand what’s happening in biology? If they are forced to merely memorize information rather than truly understanding it, what is the point of even taking the class?
While NCS is not alone in starting with physics, most high schools begin with biology so students can pair physics with more advanced math classes that allow for more in-depth exploration of the subject. However, this curriculum sacrifices a full understanding of biology and even chemistry, depending on when students take it. By making freshman take physics and learn the basics, NCS ensures they are well prepared for chemistry and later biology while still offering advanced physics courses for those who are interested. Basically, don’t worry freshman. There is a reason we put you through this.