Linking High School Science and Humanities: A Four-Year Plan

At Oceana High School in Pacifica, California, ninth and tenth graders all take a two-year required science program linking major concepts in physics, chemistry, earth science, and life science, and corresponding with the school’ s humanities curricula. “Patterns of Evolution and Change,” the first-year science course, connects with Humanities curriculum for the same year: “Patterns of Cultures.” In the second year “Science through All Time,” connects with the humanities theme, “How Do People Govern Themselves?”

In their third year, Oceana students investigate scientific principles in physics, chemistry, earth science and life science, asking the unifying question, “How has the scientific community contributed to the American dream?” At the same time their humanities course explores the American dream through political and social history and literature. Finally, in the fourth year the theme of “Power and the Good Life” links both science and humanities curricula, and students who have shown a consistent interest in science and math may focus on specialized areas of research and investigation.

At each level, Oceana has articulated specific objectives of which students must demonstrate mastery by the time they complete the course. These include traditional scientific skills: laboratory methods, measurements, the recording of scientific data, and the like. But other, less traditional objectives are also listed: they must be able to communicate scientific knowledge clearly in writing and speaking, for instance; they must be aware of ethical issues in science and technology; they must be able to evaluate the methods used in a scientific research study and the accuracy and sources of error in its conclusions. And sprinkled among the objectives are surprisingly concrete and everyday goals: students must make an invention, explain how an airplane and a photocopy machine work, use a computer spreadsheet. All along, the objectives themselves blur the lines between the disciplines; one of the fourth-year science objectives requires students to understand how governments use technology to become powerful and maintain or restore power and order.