P441: Successful approach to Atoms First at the high school level
The high school chemistry course taught at Billerica Memorial High School, Billerica MA, has been following the Atoms First approach for the last eight years. The adoption of the atoms first approach was driven by the need to accommodate the increasing number of students in the tenth grade with limited mathematics skills that eventually are acquired by the end of the first semester. Chemistry is a graduation requirement in our school, so all students in the tenth grade must take chemistry. The surprising result of the change was the increase in the number of students taking a second year chemistry (Advanced Placement), and later on, pursuing science degrees at the college level. We are now seeing students from those groups starting to graduate with science, and engineering degrees. In addition, the passing rate for chemistry in the general population increased gradually since we implemented the new curriculum, and now we have hardly anyone failing the class. I will present the curriculum content and its sequence, the modifications made in the traditional curriculum in order to facilitate the understanding of the atoms first approach, and a description of the impact that the modifications had in the students understanding of chemical concepts. Copies of assessment questions and some examples of students’ responses will be shared at the meeting.