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Honors Earth Science approved by UC For Laboratory "d" Credit

Dear Colleagues,

After many years of effort we are pleased to report progress on gaining approval for high school Earth sciences to qualify for UC admission requirements. A new high school course, entitled Honors Earth Science, has been approved by the UC Academic Senate Board on Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS), and also by the UC Office of the President as meeting the UC laboratory science "d" requirement for UC admissions.  The course was designed principally by high school science teacher Wendy Van Norden with help from the rest of us.  It is listed on https://doorways.ucop.edu/list/, under the listings for Harvard Westlake School, North Hollywood, CA.  The course outline is attached to this email.  In addition it is on the website at Harvard Westlake School at http://www.hwscience.com/Geology/Honors/ESS%20course%20outline.doc.

The successful strategy has been to design a template for a high school course that can be widely adopted by California high schools and attract UC-bound students.

The effort that led to the approval of this course is not the same as earlier ones (2003-2010) by Eldridge Moores and Bruce Luyendyk. Their earlier proposal was to convince the Academic Senate through BOARS and the Academic Council that UC should add "Earth and Space Sciences" as one of the main sciences eligible for "d" credit, in keeping with the NRC "National Science and Education Standards". The UC Academic Senate rejected that approach in June 2010, and the Senate still holds to the view that the "PCB's"-Physics, Chemistry, and Biology are the "basic sciences". This new approach does not challenge that view, but it has the same goals as our earlier effort: recognizing the Earth sciences as an area worthy of meeting UC entrance requirements, and increasing exposure of UC-bound high school students to the Earth sciences.
BOARS in their review was enthusiastic about this course.  In their minutes of June 3, 2011, they stated, "... the course in question is strong and should be a model area "d" course".  In addition, "BOARS should support and encourage the development of such courses".  
This new course has prerequisites of biology and chemistry, two of the three UC area d "basic sciences", as well as algebra, which is a requirement for "d" status certification.  The course covers Earth sciences (including a segment on astronomy) with biology and chemistry (as well as algebra) as foundations.  It is a strong advanced course; it will be taught at a higher level than existing 9th grade Earth Science classes that do not have and will not achieve "d" certification.  
The Honors Earth Science course is intended for high school juniors and seniors.  In principle, any high school that adopts this course should receive UC's "d" Laboratory Science approval for it. Widespread adoption of this course in CA high schools should significantly increase the awareness of the Earth sciences by CA high school graduates, UC's entering students, and the public at large.
There are several advantages for students to take a third science course in high school:
UC's d Laboratory Science requirements states "two and preferably three years of high school laboratory science are required"; Three years are better than two; almost all (~90%) entering first-year UC students have three or even four years of science in high school. Now it is possible for the first time that one of these courses can be in Earth sciences. The course has Honors status, and that gives students an edge in UC admissions and a grade point bonus.

Earth science underlies any understanding of the landscape, agricultural patterns, the location and character of towns and cities, resource and economic issues, and Earth hazards.  Especially in California, all people need some background in Earth science in order to become informed citizens because of California's Earth hazards, including earthquakes, landslides, floods, and tsunamis.
In this increasingly crowded world, resource and hazard issues are at the forefront of many events and conditions on Earth, e.g. the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, the Thailand and Pakistan floods, the East African droughts, the climate change crisis.  Knowledge of Earth science is essential for every citizen, including those who attend UC!

We hope that this new development will encourage high schools around California to offer this course in advanced Earth science, and thus better prepare their students to enter UC and to function as informed citizens in the 21st century. To do so, however, the high schools will need support (approximately $8-10,000 each) to set up the course, get the equipment, books, etc.  We professional Earth scientists can help in this regard if we know of funding sources.    
The ultimate achievement of this development would be to attract more entering UC students to take courses in the Earth sciences and to have them consider it as a college major and a career choice.
Ray Ingersoll, UCLA
Bruce Luyendyk, UCSB
Eldridge Moores, UCD
Tom Traeger, La Canada High School, La Canada, CA
Wendy Van Norden, Harvard-Westlake School, North Hollywood, CA

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Comment by Gertie Cole on March 7, 2016 at 9:13am

Finally!! Thank you for all your hard work!

Comment by Anne Ybarra on December 2, 2011 at 10:19pm

That is such good news! I'm spreading the word in Fresno Unified. It is exciting to see Earth Science finally recognized as a lab science course and I hope everyone recognizes its potential and relevance. What can we do to make the course happen and have a few high schools in the valley add it to their master schedule for the 2011-2012 school year?

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