High School Science Curriculum Plan of Study

Science Curriculum for High Schools

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High school science typically consists of two or three years of required credits along with additionally offered electives. Two of these credits usually require a laboratory component. Following is an overview of suggested required courses along with electives one might find at a typical high school.

Sample High School Science Plan of Study

Year One: Physical Science

The Physical Science course covers the natural sciences and non-living systems. This is a survey course providing students with a basic understanding of key physical science concepts. Students focus on learning overall concepts and theories to help them understand and explain aspects of nature. Across the nations, different states have different opinions on what should be included in physical science. Some include astronomy and earth science while others focus on physics and chemistry. This sample Physical Science course is integrated and includes basic principles in:

  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Earth Science
  • Astronomy

Year Two: Biology

The Biology course studies living organisms and their interactions with each other and the environment. The course provides the students with laboratories designed to help them understand the nature of living organisms along with their similarities and differences. Topics covered include:

  • Cellular Biology
  • Life Cycle
  • Genetics
  • Evolution
  • Classification
  • Organisms
  • Animals
  • Plants
  • Ecosystems

AP Biology often Biology even though the college board suggests that this is taken after one year of biology and one year of chemistry. This is the equivalent of a first-year college introductory biology course. Some students choose to double up on science and take this their third year or as an elective in their senior year.

Year Three: Chemistry

The Chemistry course studies matter, atomic theory, chemical reactions and interactions, and the laws that govern the study of chemistry. The course includes laboratories that are designed to reinforce these major concepts. Topics covered include:

  • Matter
  • Atomic Structure
  • The Periodic Table
  • Ionic and Covalent Bonding
  • Chemical Reactions
  • Kinetic Theory
  • Gas Laws
  • Solutions
  • Chemical Kinetics
  • Acids, Bases, and Salts

Year Four: Electives

Typically students take their science elective in their senior year. Following are a sampling of typical science electives offered in high schools.

  • Physics or AP PhysicsPhysics is the study of the interactions between matter and energy. Students who have doubled up in previous years and taken basic physics might choose to take AP Physics their senior year.
  • Chemistry II or AP ChemistryStudents who have taken their first year of chemistry might continue with Chem II or AP Chemistry. This course continues and expands on the topics taught in Chemistry I.
  • Marine ScienceMarine Science is the study of the marine environment including the ecology of the seas and the diversity of marine organisms and ecosystems.
  • AstronomyMany schools do not offer courses in astronomy. However, the study of astronomy is fascinating and a welcome addition as a science elective. Astronomy includes the study of the planets, the stars, the sun, and other astronomical structures.
  • Anatomy and PhysiologyAnatomy and Physiology is the study of the structures and functions of the human body. Students learn about the skeletal, muscular, endocrine, nervous, and other systems in the body.
  • Environmental ScienceEnvironmental Science is the study of the interaction between humans and the living and non-living environment around them. Students learn about the effects of human interaction including deforestation, pollution, habitat destruction, and issues surrounding the management of the Earth's water resources.

Additional Resources: Importance of Integrating Curriculum