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Must we do the science Big Four?

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(Total newbie here, please be gentle!)


I am trying to plan a decent 4yr high school program for a kid who currently says she wants to go into graphic arts or advertising in college. She does okay in math and science but it is very obvious that she has little interest in those subjects. However, she is pretty into animal training and general zoology.


That said, is it a MUST to do the Big Four - biology, chemistry, and physics, and environmental science for high school?


How much leeway is there to do something like biology, chemistry, zoology, and maybe mammalian anatomy or behavioral psychology?


And what exactly constitutes a lab class? We live on a farm and have all sorts of access to both wild and domestic animals that could be taught to do...whatever. I have a background in marine mammology and training and can come up with intensive hands-on field work for zoology or behavioral psych. Due to all the local meat production, hunting, plus very accommodating veterinarians and a few exotic species farms, I'm sure we could create a nifty zoology lab experience.


So, I guess my question is just how locked in are we to doing the standard classes? Dd is not enjoying 8th grade physical science, and to be honest we both kind of glazed over and just went through the required hoops for astronomy back in 7th.


Also, is the order the classes are taken really such a big deal? Does anyone really care if a non-science major took chemistry in 11th grade(when she could do it as part of a PSEO program with a "traditional" lab)? Right now I am thinking about doing biology for 9th, zoology and/or mammalian anatomy for 10th, chem for 11th, and behavioral psych for 12th. All with what I comprehend to be "labs" attached.


I just want to keep dd engaged in learning and enthusiastic about school. I'm afraid if I tried to force her to do a typical high school physics lab class, she would decide to become a short-order cook instead of pursuing post secondary education!


Thanks for your input and sorry to be so uninformed about this. It has been a loooong time since I did high school or college and I am one of those people who hardly ever does things the (easy or) standard way. I need someone to talk some sense into me.

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I think you have a great case for the biology, chemistry, zoology grouping. Just for college purposes, and to be well rounded, I think science is important, just like math or a foreign language, but I think you have some flexibility as long as you keep tabs on her interests. They can change quickly, and she may decide she loves one of those subjects in the end. For our kids we completely blew off environmental science...one did physical, biology, chemistry, physics and the other did biology, AP bio, Chem, and AP Chem. Not sure if we made the best choices yet, but the college freshman is doing fine.

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My daughter's science progression through high school --


9th Physical Science

10th Chemistry

11th Geology

12th Environmental Science


She applied to ten different colleges and was accepted by eight. (She was wait listed at a ninth and denied by the tenth [an Ivy League school].)


There are some colleges which do require the 'standard' three sciences -- Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. However, not all colleges do.




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I think the sequence you have been thinking about is just fine. Another suggestion might be to do physics, chemistry, biology, and zoology as your science courses (that listing isn't in order) and have behavioral psych as an elective, or as her social studies class for one year.

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Very, very few kids at our local public school do Environmental Science because we only offer Environmental Biology (not Science - the two classes are different) AND it's only offered as a Level 1 class (meaning it's taught at an 8th grade level making it not desirable for college bound students).


So, I'd hardly call Environmental Science one of the big 4. The majority of college bound students do Bio, Chem, Physics and then the second course of one of those three.


My oldest did the usual three and Marine Biology.


Middle did the usual three and the second courses of all three and Microbiology.


Those two were homeschooled through high school and have had no problems with college acceptances.


Youngest (in ps) is skipping Physics (hates Physical Science), has done Bio, will do Chem 2nd semester this year, and just signed up for Advanced Bio (not AP as our school doesn't offer that), Animal & Plant Science, and Wilderness & Natural Resources. If he gets all three (they don't always get what they choose due to space/timing, etc) then he will have 3 science classes his junior year and will be loving it!


I don't think he'll have any difficulty getting into the colleges he is looking at (wants to major in Tropical Botany and/or Ethnobotany).

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I think your plan to do biology in 9th, zoology/mammalian anatomy in 10th and chemistry in 11th is great! I don't think this order is unusual at all. It's very typical to take Chemistry in 11th, and PSEO is very good option for that. Also, it sounds like you have wonderful opportunities for unique lab experiences with the zoology and biology (just be sure your biology covers some microscope work, and dissection if you can.) Those farm lab experiences could make excellent material for college essays that would stand out as unique and interesting.


I wouldn't count behavioral psychology as a science--but instead do it as an elective.


I'd leave her senior year science open at this point, and wait to see what she needs for college. If you find she's interested in colleges that want or require physics, then you could do physics in 12th. Otherwise, she might be interested in AP Bio, or something else. I'd skip Environmental Science unless she has a burning interest in it. I'm not sure that many students take it (mine didn't), and colleges don't seem to be looking for it--they're much more interested in biology, chemistry, physics. So it's really a big 3, not a big 4. And the order of those 3 is really only driven by the student's math level--you need no math for bio, you need algebra for Chem and trig for Physics. As far as college requirements for the big 3 go, I have seen a number of colleges that require biology and just one physical science--either chemistry or physics, so it's possible you'd be covered with just bio and chem-- depending on the college and depending on your dd's interests down the road.


Hope this helps.

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This is the first I've ever heard of colleges wanting Environmental Science, let alone it being one of the Big 4.


Most high schools will encourage 4 science courses for the college bound - physical science, biology, chemistry, and physics, although the physical science may get dropped if the student tests out of it or has had it in middle school. If so, then the 4th year is up to the discretion of the student. Often it's an advanced course of biology, chemistry, or physics, or a further course such as field biology or anatomy, or maybe a college level course in something like astronomy. However, a lot of kids don't even take a 4th year of science.


A lot of kids actually only ever take biology. And back when I was in high school, most college bound kids only took biology and chemistry. Only the really serious ones bothered with physics.

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I think everyone here has given you excellent advice. (I also agree that you shouldn't consider psychology a science course.) Given what you say of your daughter's interests, I also wouldn't close any doors right away. For example, she might well decide she loves biology and wants to become a veterinarian (or a biologist, for that matter).


If I were you, I'd start her with a honors level biology course with lots of lab work in 9th grade and then play it by ear. There's nothing wrong with doing another biology course (anatomy and/or microbiology) in 10th grade and leaving chemistry for 11th and physics for 12th. The advantage to doing that is that she'll have a chance to do the math she needs for chemistry and physics before she takes those courses.

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