Science, complicated

To further muddy the  waters of science curricula choices, it turns out that Canadian and American schools work on different systems.   Despite all appearances of similarity I thought that years of watching sitcoms and Buffy had ascertained, we work on fairly different approaches.


Here is how science works in Canada:

In Gr 9 and 10, we take general science -a course which covers all 4 branches of science (chemistry, physics, environmental studies, biology). In Gr 11 and 12, the three main sciences split into independent courses. If you are planning to do more scientific or technical studies after school, you take all three.  That makes a total of 8 credits for science. In Manitoba, the minimum graduating credit load is 32.


Here is what I believe science in the US is like:

Gr 9 students study environmental studies

Gr 10 students do biology

Gr 11 students do chemistry

Gr 12 students do physics

The order may be different, but that’s the sense I get of it. To graduate from high school you need 20 credits, I believe.

What this means is that as I find secular science materials, they are almost inevitably from the States and therefore have only one course per subject area.



I have a meeting tomorrow with the science admissions counsellor at the local university.


(As yet another example of school difference, Rainer points out that he’s long been baffled by the Canadian system since Germany separates the sciences in gr 7 for university-track students and you study all 3 for several years before starting to specialize into liberal arts orscientific areas.  At least, that’s how it was when he did it.)


5 thoughts on “Science, complicated

  1. sedstrom says:

    I would like to mention that I would be intensely interested in any science curriculum you find that seems to be of good quality. We’re in the US, but I’m open to seeing anything you would find. My children are all young, but my oldest is very science orienting and has decided that his future lies in the field of engineering. 🙂

    Next year we’re starting with Real Science for Kids for my third- and first-grader. But I have an eye to the future!

  2. Erin says:

    Yes, that is about right for public schools in the US that I know of. Some private schools will teach all concepts together in math and sciences.

  3. Bobbi says:

    I am working up physics for my boys 10 and 8 this year. We picked up Physics by Palgrave a UK publisher. It isn’t so weighty to be completely out of reach for them but heavy enough that we could potentially use it again later.

    A good book that is a fun listen in The Canon by Natalie Angiers (sp?) We’re on our second listen through of it ourselves. I’m certain the boys miss a lot but for me they are still in that place where it is all about exposure versus retention. But what I love about this book is it picks out the major areas Scientists wish the public new and understood. Personally I think it is an great overview. I will say that you have to be okay with some adult level science humor.

  4. moominmamma says:

    We’ve used Canadian schools curricula for science from Grade 6 level on up. BC Science, etc. Haven’t been at all impressed with offerings with the US. The Canadian stuff isn’t stellar necessarily in presentation, but at least the content is better.

  5. Passerby says:

    That’s pretty much in keeping with what I’ve seen, except that, in Arizona at least, you cannot take physics unless you are in the Honors track. There’s AP Physics and nothing beneath that, and since Honors skips the enviromental studies (or Chem-Phys here), it’s an 11th grade course.

    Which sucked for me because I hated chemistry and biology but was passionate about physics. But I was barred from taking it because I’d left the Honors science program 😦

    So we either go:
    Honors Bio -> Honors Chem -> AP Physics
    Chem-phys -> Biology -> Chemistry
    There’s some science electives you can take for your fourth year, but those three meet your university entrance requirements, so senior year is usually science-free.

    And people wonder why homeschooling is sweeping this nation?

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