Integrated Science at BHS

Aug 2000

A friend has asked me about Integrated Science at Berkeley High. Without meaning to offend anyone, I've always heard and/or have assumed that this is basically "bonehead" science. Does anyone (whose child has taken Integrated Science) have any feedback in agreement or to the contrary? Was the course helpful in providing a transition or background to chemistry or biology as a sophomore? Sally

good question...I had planned on my son taking it because I thought it would be good to take science every year. But when I learned that it does not count toward college requirements, I changed my mind. Then I was told that it was basically a remedial class My older son had gone to three years of high school in VA and took Earth Science which did count toward college requirements. Seems to be they need to upgrade their offerings at BHS. MaryAnn

I think this probably IS bonehead science. But the students get so little science in middle school, it is nice to give them an overview before they get into a serious class. If they taught a bit of chemistry and physics along with sex and drugs in 6th, 7th and 8th grades, kids would be better prepared for high school science. Many kids can handle biology, physics, etc without first taking integrated science. But for some I'm sure it would be a welcome prep class. Anon Please

Integrated Science 1 & 2 can only be taken by freshmen. It does count as an "F requirement, an elective" in the U.C. a-g scheme.

Integrated Science 3 & 4 can be taken by students 10th-12th grades. It counts as a "D requirement, a lab science" in the U.C. a-g scheme. It is a single period lab science and counts as a U.C. lab science credit just as the double period sciences do.

Flora Russ --
Computer Technologies Department & Computer Academy

I am working on my third child going through BHS, and the kids and I are all interested in them being UC eligible. (My oldest is beginning her third year at UCSB.) My understanding regarding Integrated Science is that if your child is on "track" to the UC system, Integrated Science (which was originially intended to be taken in both ninth and tenth grade) was not the way to go. Your child would not take science in the ninth, but would begin with Chemistry in the tenth after completing at least Algebra in the ninth grade.

Depending on my relationship with the teacher or administrator, I have been told different things about the intention of Integrated Science. I do not have the BHS catalog at hand at this moment, but I thought that it was accepted by four-year institutions; although I have been told (and told to keep it to myself) that UC Berkeley does not think highly of this course.

But, since science is required to graduate from BHS, many students are not prepared to take any of the other science courses. So, by placing "at risk" kids in this course in the ninth grade, they can continue it in the tenth grade and thereby satisfy the science requirement for high school graduation.

When I am talking to the friends of my children about their plans for college, I am upfront with them about how prepared they must be to follow that track. It's not only choices about science, but choices about math courses that must be made. They go hand in hand. Not all students quite get it, nor do they all have access to an adult who has things figured out.

I was at one of the middle schools earlier in the year, helping students with their course selections for BHS. The two administrators from BHS were promoting Integrated Science, and I got the impression from them that they were really trying to get these kids to sign up for it. They used tactics (which may or may not be appropriate) such as "When you get to the tenth grade, you're going to really be behind the other students if you don't take science in the ninth grade." I watched as most students, who did not have a parent there or another significant adult who was looking out for their interest, struggled with whether or not they would sign up for that class. Of course most kids that I checked with did have it as a selection. However, those kids who were taking classes such as Honors Geometry were not. Now, I did not conduct a formal study, but it would be interesting to note who are the kids with the information. I don't necessarily think it's an accident. Parents who are inquisitive about their children tend to be more involved with what goes on with them at school. And those are the children who have a better chance at succeeding and moving on.

Therefore, if your child is college bound, then you may not need to push him/her into this course. If your child isn't quite sure which direction he/she may go, then have them get their science requirement out of the way.

Just my observations.

As an addendum to my previous response regarding Integrated Science.

Just this evening the topic of Integrated Science came up in a discussion I had with a parent who does not have access to the Internet nor this newsletter. And I realized how freaked out a parent can become if she feels her student has been inappropriately placed in this class. I think many of us are learning how to become more proactive about the choices our students make, and some of us are just at different levels. But, this parent was beginning to think that if her child was planning to go to college, then he should plan to take Chemistry next year with the other students who will be in his Geometry class this fall. Afterall, he performs well in school and there's no reason to suspect he would have any more of a difficult time than his peers. She felt that it was a waste of his time to be in a class that continues into the tenth grade. (It is true that you can also choose to take either one of the two years of Integrated Science.)

But based on information from the BHS catalog, although the first year of Integrated Science will not satisfy the UC Science requirement ("d"), it will satisfy the "f" requirement. Therefore, this first year of Int Sci is not necessarily a "waste" and should be considered as an elective and not as a science course (even though it is science that the student is getting.)

The second year of Int Sci does satisfy the "d" requirement, but the student will still need another year of a science with lab since UC requires a minimum of two years of lab science. Therefore, the two year course of Integrated Science is not enough for UC. The student who takes Int Sci in the ninth grade, just as is the case with a student who does not take it, will still need to take another science course in the 11th and/or 12th grade.


To counter the comments about Integrated Science of the last couple of newsletters:

Please don't dismiss the Integrated Science 3/4 class offhand without some consideration. On page 54 of the course Catalog from last spring, it states that Integrated Science 3/4 is a P (College- Preparatory) class that satisfies the UC "d" requirement for a lab science and that it also qualifies as one of the two years of lab science required to graduate BHS. To be in it, a student must have a "C" or better in both semesters of a first year college prep math, like Geometry.

So it does indeed make the grade as a lab class for both UC and the state system, but it is only one period long. That can have advantages in fitting things into your child's schedule. Rather than go into great depth in one subject, it introduces the students to chemistry, ecology, space science, human biology, geology and mechanical physics.

If your student has a defined interest in one science, then a focused lab is great. But if your student is like mine, she had her fill of physics in 7th & 8th grade that turned her off science in general. This kind of class has piqued her interest. She hopes it will let her discover a science she does wish to learn more deeply during her second year of lab science.

The class serves its purpose, meets college requirements and shouldn't be labeled a class for less-thans" simply because it's not intense. Our kids have lots of opportunity for intense at BHS, academically and otherwise. If a non-major wishes to explore the sciences, why not use this? I was told by a teacher, whose opinion I value, that the teachers in Integrated Science are excellent and stimulating. What more could you want for your student?


I'm replying to the question about Integrated Science at Berkeley High. My son took this class last year. I had heard the same thing that the author of the message had heard, that is, that this class is a "bonehead" class. However, even though I didn't notice that it was demanding or challenging as AP Bio or Chemistry, etc. are said to be, my son really enjoyed this class. It gave an overview of many different fields of science, from astronomy to geology, biology, chemistry, etc. This coming year my son is taking AP Chem, which may be a very rude shock in terms of challenge and amount of work compared to the class he just took, but Integrated Science awakened in him an attitude that science is intriguing and interesting and gave exposure to many varied aspects.

I think a lot of kids take Integrated Science to give them an easy science credit for high school graduation requirements, and perhaps this is part of the "bonehead" reputation it has. The teacher who taught my son this class last year, Mr. De Jong, made it interesting, informative, and enjoyable.


One of the posters asked how some students seem to "know" whether or not to take Integrated Science, and suggested it was parental guidance that made the difference. Speaking as a parent without a clue about these things, it was my daughter who took the initiative to find out what classes would be considered rigorous enough to qualify her for a high-level college. Students talk to each other; and I expect information from older siblings and parents gets passed around. After reading these postings, it appears to me the information gained this way is pretty accurate and it is available to anyone who asks around. Louise

I would just like to add my opinion on integrated science. I am a very serious, college bound student. I am in Honors Algebra 2 in sophmore year. I am also taking integrated science. The main reason for this is that I (as of yet) do not have an incredibly strong interest in science. Why should I spend two periods out of my day doing stuff I don't even like? Instead, I am able to choose an elective that I really enjoy. Also, I hope this year to be able to find an aspect of science that I actually like. Then, when I take a double period next year, I will be able to pick that aspect and really go in depth with it, and I won't have to spend two periods for a whole year doing something I hate. Not only that, but I will have fulfilled my collage requirements for science. Meg

I thought the best reply to the concerns about Integrated Science was made by a student, Meg , a sophomore. Meg's solution, for herself anyway, sounds so sensible and she articulates it so well. However, I would like to express my concern that parents get too worked up over what colleges want from students and not what students want from college and education overall. For example, a parent's comment that UC looks down on Integrated Science is just an opinion expressed, and not the overall picture of what UC will look for in admitting a freshman student. If a high school student takes Integrated Science because of a total lack of interest in science, but pursues his/her express interest in art, language, music, English--in other words, the humanities approach--and has grades in those courses which are outstanding, then colleges will not "look down on Integrated Science." Even UC wouldn't "look down" on it if the student's SAT scores are high, and if the student can articulate and show on a college application his/her focus and passion for these interests. The point is that the student should show consistency throughout his/her academic career, whether it's top grades in all subjects, or a passion for extracurricular activities balanced with good grades. It is very important that the student is able to relate to an admissions officer his/her abilities and fitness for the intellectual rigors of college--and not all students will be applying to the College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Now, for the comment that BHS advisors were pushing 8th grade students to take Integrated Science in the 9th grade, without their parents there to advise them (like having your lawyer beside you at all times so you don't say anything self-incriminating), I feel it's extremely important for parents to remove themselves at this point from the process and begin to let their kids decide what advice to take and what advice not to take in terms of their high school curriculum. Always helpful are parents who are well-informed, but I remember telling my child to take some course that in the end, if my child had listened to me, would've been totally wrong considering my child's other interests. The rationale, I believe, for advising students to take IS in 9th grade is that if a student does not take it as a freshman, then jumps into a double period science like Biology or Chemistry in the 10th grade, especially AP, they may find themselves at a loss because of so little exposure to science. If a student is very strong in math and is very strong in reading and English, then not taking IS as a freshman will probably not hurt, and they are then free to pursue other electives. (A note: on the other side of "bonehead," those of us with strong liberal arts backgrounds have always used the words "geeks" and "nerds" for those who were tops in science and math--somewhat derogatory--however, we're talking apples and oranges and both are good for you.) --jahlee