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Your high schooler and science

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By GreatSchools Staff

What high school science looks like

The National Science Education Standards, voluntary guidelines established in the late 1990s, form the basis of many state standards. In general, the topics your student could be studying in high school fall into these key areas:

Physical science (physics, chemistry)

In physics, high school students continue their explorations into the interaction of matter and energy, studying force, motion, momentum, electricity, and magnetism.

Students should transition from basic to sophisticated mathematical calculations, while solving problems related to speed, velocity, acceleration, and force.

Teens will study and work with various forms of energy, including electrical, chemical, light, sound, and thermal energy. Teens might study the properties of mechanical and electromagnetic waves — and experiment with both sound and light waves. Parents can expect students taking physics to learn about subatomic particles, fission, fusion, and nuclear energy.

And in the lab, teens work to explore chemical stability, chemical compounds, and chemical and physical changes of matter. They’ll study the different phases of matter, how structure changes, and the natural laws associated with this change.

Life science (biology)

High school biology students often conduct experiments in both the lab and the field, which helps to develop their understanding of living things — cell structure, systems, and ecosystems, and the genetics of organisms. More specifically, students look at cell theory, the concept of cells as the fundamental units of living things.

Students learn about biochemical reactions involving pH, temperature, and energy conversion processes like photosynthesis. They’ll study the functions of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats in the human body and should be able to demonstrate their understanding of the way energy flows through ecosystems by creating food chains and energy pyramids.

Teen biologists may examine the molecular foundations of heredity, using their knowledge of DNA, RNA, genes, and chromosomes to aid in their investigations. By studying the process of formation and growth of organisms, how genetics and environment play a role in a species’ survival, teens also study relationships between organisms and their environments, including how human activities affect the natural processes of the earth.

Comments from readers

"Actually, NY standards are some of the highest in the US. The sad part is that, despite all the rhetoric, the standards that you see quoted here haven't really changed since I was in high school over 30 years ago. I teach in the sciences at the university level and find even the better students poorly prepared. If we want to be competitive, we need to go beyond the current standards. "
"This is good as far as it goes, but it should go much further. The Project 2061 is very much last century thinking. The national standards coming out in 2014 will go further into scientific literacy, and be concerned more with conceptual understanding and less with gender politics. "
"I would like to improve the science instruction in all grade levels, primary, middle and high school. How can you assist me? New York seems to lag behind. "
"i wanna come to one of the best high school of Vancouver in canada,what can i do?please help me. thanks "
"i think this is reallt great"
"Lab sciences if done right makes science soooo much more interesting and fun. "
"Lab classes are very use-less."
"I live in St. Louis, Missouri. My son will be attending high school for the 2009-2010 year. I am having trouble finding him a school that cover science classes dealing with earth and space in addition to African American History and Mathe classes. Do you have any information on schools that offer some or all of these classes in my city? I lucked up on this website and so far it is very helpful. "
"Yes I agree with everything. There is an organization I am active with that wishes to reach out to high school science by offering scholarships and teaching aids in the New England area. The organization is LRIG or Laboratory Robotics Interest Group and focuses on physical & life sciences. Send me an email if you want details on this scholarship or further details on how they can help. "