Sophomores in physics enjoy predominantly upperclassman course

December 8, 2016 — by Ami Nachiappan and Phoebe Wang

Sophomores take physics

Walking into science teacher Jenny Garcia’s fourth-period Physics class in September, sophomore Jennifer Li saw exactly what she had expected: She was the only underclassman in a classroom full of juniors and seniors.

In past years, regular Physics has been a course offered only for upperclassmen. This changed, however, after a Saratoga parent created a petition last year arguing that underclassmen should have earlier exposure in physics.

Since the school requires students to take Biology and Chemistry prior to AP Biology and AP Chemistry, the ideas was that students would do better by having regular Physics as a prerequisite before taking AP Physics.

Li is one of two sophomores this year who decided to jump on the idea of taking physics earlier in her high school career. She, along with sophomore Sora Ebrahimi, are the first to take advantage of this change.

Li said she chose to take regular physics this year since she plans to take AP Physics as a junior next year. After hearing from upperclassmen that AP Physics is a tough course that requires in-depth knowledge of various concepts, Li wanted to have a “smoother time adjusting” to the course next year.

“Since I plan to take AP Physics as a junior, I just really want to be prepared for the class,” Li said. “So, taking physics this year was a great opportunity for me to learn some of the topics that we will cover in more detail next year.”

However, because of an already tough course load, Li decided to take Chemistry Honors as a junior next year. Since the majority of her friends are taking Chemistry Honors, Li admits that at times it is tough to not be in the same class as her friends. Nevertheless, the light homework load given in physics has helped Li realized she made the right choice this year.

“When I hear that my friends in Chemistry Honors are having a really hard test and I see them studying during tutorial, it’s pretty funny since I don’t have to go through that yet,” Li said. “I usually finish most or all of my homework in class.”

Ebrahimi, who is in physics teacher Kirk Davis’ first-period class, chose to take the course this year because of her passion for the subject, in particular objects traveling in 3-D motion and catapult projections.

“I really like physics because of how easily everything you learn can be applied to the world around you,” she said. “Taking the class this year also opens up a chance for me to learn higher level math concepts at an earlier age.”

Even though Physics is predominantly a course for upperclassmen, both girls have had a relatively easy time forming friendships with upperclassmen and adjusting to the pace of the class.

Since Li is also taking Trigonometry/Pre-Calculus Honors, a class with mainly sophomores and juniors, rather than being intimidated by upperclassmen, she finds working with them during labs is quite the opposite.

“I’m usually a pretty reserved person so when we do work in groups, I normally finish my part and either listen to their conversations or help them out,“ Li said. “All the upperclassmen in my class are pretty welcoming.”

Though Garcia finds that the addition of sophomores does not affect her teaching style, she does notice that sophomores occasionally struggle with some concepts because they have only one high school science course under their belt.

“My issue [with sophomores taking Physics] is that they aren’t really comfortable with dimensional analysis yet, since that’s a vital skill that you learn in Chemistry,” Garcia said. “But, other than that small aspect, I have no other concerns with younger students taking physics.”