What makes the science curriculum so special?
Elon Musk states that “[it] is important to view knowledge as a sort of semantic tree – make sure you understand the fundamental principles, i.e. the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang onto”. In this regards our science curriculum at CMA works to equip scholars with such knowledge, onto which they can hang their everyday experiences in the natural and man-made world, in order to make sense of it, making the abstract mysteries of the world concrete, allowing scholars the ability to understand what happens in the world around them, why it does so, and what impact their actions and those of others have on the world around them, and beyond. Ideas and skills that they can then apply on a day-to-day basis in their personal and professional lives through to adulthood, to potentially change the world. The curriculum at CMA is really special in its emphasis on not denying scholars knowledge and experience just because of their age. Scholars are exposed to a high level of rigour from Year 7 onwards, meaning that they access knowledge and concepts normally reserved for higher levels of study at earlier points in the learning journey, as we believe experiences these provide give scholars contexts and understandings onto which they can hang other knowledge that they are exposed to and make it easier for them to understand. For example, if we allow scholars to observe the effects of caffeine on the heart rate of water fleas, an experiment normally reserved for A Level Study, we can use this truly novel experience for them to hang on knowledge and understanding around all sorts of areas of biology, from cell biology, to microscopy skills, to understanding of the functioning of the nervous system, all of which are important areas of our 5 year study programme in Biology.
How is the science curriculum enacted in a way that honours its beauty, richness and distinctiveness?
‘Knowing stuff makes a difference’ – The point of science experiments and investigations is to find something out. We conduct these investigative thought processes that come together to apply reasoning in our everyday lives. Without fundamental substantive & disciplinary scientific knowledge, you wouldn’t know how to proceed in lots of everyday situations that enable us to understand the world around us. The CMA science curriculum looks to equip scholars with such knowledge in a progressive, gradual way, examining everything from the building blocks of life, through to the laws of physics that govern the Universe, through the lens of the fundamentals of science, how they interact with each other, and the manner in which they can be applied in real world situations, and ones in which scholars find themselves in during their day to day lives, and also looking into their future as well.
Scholars make use of custom-made department work booklets that act as a guide throughout their entire 5 years of study, acting as ‘personal textbooks’ that they collate information in and use to demonstrate to themselves the vast amount of knowledge they consume and learn during their time with us, giving them a real source of pride in their learning and understanding.
How does the science curriculum equip scholars with knowledge that provides them with new ways of thinking about the world and has the capacity to take them beyond their own original experiences?
The intent of the science curriculum is to prepare scholars to be able to contribute to a society that is continually changing due to advances in Science and Technology: to give scholars the skills to be able to question, investigate and analyse, to draw their own conclusions, evaluate and make decisions that will affect them and others in both a theoretical and practical context. The structure of the science curriculum is made so that earlier topics provide the foundational, fundamental knowledge and skills which continue to be developed and consolidated throughout the course of study. Scholars come to grips with the fundamentals of scientific disciplines, their interactions and then their application in real world contexts.
The hierarchical curriculum allows scholars to be exposed to detailed areas of climate science, for example in Year 11, and successfully draw on previous studies around atomic structure, chemical bonding, energy transfers and other concepts to make the science of this accessible to them. But they are also given the opportunity to explore such concepts in wider contexts beyond the remit of science, in areas such as political and sociological impacts as well. In doing so the curriculum also links to KS2 curriculum understanding and introduces new key terminology, basic equipment, health and safety and enquiry skills that can be used at KS3 to prepare pupils for successful study at KS4.
How does the science curriculum reflect intelligent interdisciplinarity, to allow scholars to explore meaningful connections?
The science curriculum at CMA works to be cohesive with important other disciplines across the school, ensuring that shared substantive basis, disciplinary processes and curriculum skills are taught within our subject in a manner that supports learning across the school in other subjects. Having teachers who understand the explicit links with and the skills taught in our lessons that mirror those taught in areas of maths, history, geography and design and technology is important in ensuring that means of delivery chosen with our subject compliment those used in these subject areas.
Department teachers work with other curriculum areas of the school to become upskilled in their knowledge and skills in areas such as maths, history and geography to bring in and developed scholar expert knowledge from these areas to support understanding in our subject as well. Whether that be ensuring that our methodology for tackling scientific formula is coherent and supports that being used by the maths department, or whether that being ensuring our teachers spend time learning about the impact of the Reformation on the development of scientific ideas and breakthroughs in the 16th and 17th century, such interdisciplinary foci ensure that we provide scholars with a truly rounded experience in science.