Skip to main content
Skip to navigation

June 23, 2011 Volume 32, No. 32

Program tweaks science curriculum


Building a stronger foundation for learning

University of Missouri physics professors have joined a movement to encourage students to take physics courses in the 9th grade.

Physics First is a national effort to better prepare high school students for college-level science and engineering courses. The MU project is called the Academy for Teachers Using Inquiry and Modeling Experiences, or A TIME for Physics First. The project supports implementing physics courses in 9th grade instead of 11th grade, reversing the traditional biology-chemistry-physics order suggested in 1892 by a committee appointed to standardize high school curricula by the National Education Association.

“Our knowledge of science has changed dramatically during the past century,” said Meera Chandrasekhar, program director and Curators’ Teaching Professor of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Arts and Science. “Because biology courses now include elements of physics and chemistry, it’s more practical to teach physics first so students are better prepared to handle the material.”

The program trains 9th grade science teachers to teach conceptual physics as a way to increase student achievement in science coursework. Professors from the MU Department of Physics and Astronomy will share their expertise in physics instruction with 70 Missouri high school science teachers.

“Students are often shocked at the faster pace and increased demands they experience in college-level physics courses. Many struggle to keep up and become discouraged from continuing with science and engineering majors,” Chandrasekhar said. “Arming high school students with a solid background in physics will enable them to succeed once they graduate to higher level classes and will produce more qualified science and engineering workers.”

The 70 high school teachers participating in the month-long program will attend a three-year series of summer academies, where they will engage in research-based professional development. They also will gain leadership expertise to reform science education at the secondary level.

A TIME for Physics First is funded by a five-year National Science Foundation Math-Science Partnership Institutes grant that began in September 2009. Other MU faculty members involved in the project include Dorina Kosztin, associate teaching professor; Deborah Hanuscin, associate professor; Paul Miceli, professor; and Angela Speck, associate professor, from the Department of Physics and Astronomy; and Dorina Mitrea, professor in the math department.

For more information, visit