Coming this Fall: New Science Classes

Published in The Pillar, Athenian’s student newspaper, May 2015

by Irena Volkov ’16

Starting in the Fall of 2015, Athenian will be offering two new science courses for juniors and seniors: Geology and Anatomy and Physiology.

Geology will be a UC-approved course, encompassing the units of solar system and earth formations, plate tectonics, matter and minerals, volcanoes, geological time, crustal deformation, earthquakes, and earth structure and planetary geology.

Molly Gowen, current Chemistry teacher, initiated the creation of this course and will be teaching the course because of her love for geology and her specialty in volcanology.

“I mentioned that I could teach Geology when I was hired, since that’s what I have my higher degree in; I actually have a masters in geophysics,” Gowen said. “We were talking about adding more classes at the end of last year and I said that I would love to teach it because I have been working on geology in the background.”

Gowen envisions this course having several field trip units, such as the matter and minerals unit as well as the earthquake unit.

“We’re going to go to Berkeley and actually measure the structural deformation in the Cal football stadium,” Gowen said.

Students will be doing projects such as measuring how much a building is being split apart over years due to fault lines.

“A big majority of the class will be outdoors; it’s a class that lends itself to being outdoors,” Gowen said.

Other field trips that will be taking place during this course include a trip to the Sibley Volcanic Preserve in Oakland that will involve a geological hike, and a trip to the side of Mt. Diablo to look at fossil deposits.

“I would also like to take trips to a few research centers,” Gowen said. “I would like the kids to take tours and talk to scientists in the field.”

Although the plans for some field trips are still uncertain, Gowen intends for this course to be very experiential. She has even adopted a new grading system, making the course more feedback-based.

“I’m hoping we can assess without stress,” Gowen said. “Yes, there will be midterms and finals, but the quizzes and tests are more formative to see what you know and be able to update and re-master that knowledge.”

Gowen’s tests and quizzes will not be graded and will be more largely apart of the student’s participation grade so that students can learn how to prepare for the midterm exams.

Because this course is being offered for the first year, it will not have an honors option yet and will only be offered to juniors and seniors who have taken Chemistry in previous years.

Anatomy and Physiology will also be offered as a new science course next year. However, the Science Department is still working on creating an official curriculum and hiring a new teacher for the course.