The changes that national science organizations are calling for in science and math education are aligned with NOCCA’s four decade approach to teaching – including providing students with direct experience with methods and processes of inquiry, mentorship, development of proficiency and persistence, and student-centered instructional strategies. The call has also gone out to link curiosity and creativity to math and science, particularly through STEAM initiatives, adding Arts to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
Bridging the arts and sciences is a primary goal of Integrated Sciences. Rather than simply focusing on Art as an end-product in the learning process, Academic Studio’s faculty have leveraged the tried-and-true creative process (codified in NOCCA’s Creative DNA) in order to develop science and math curricula. Tapping into the same core values used by artists, the program fosters creative young scientists who are prepared and eager to follow the promptings of their imaginations. Courses are integrated (topics listed below) to nurture an environment where students collect, analyze, and communicate real-world data using professional technology. As specialists in their field, NOCCA faculty bring real life experiences to everyday learning. Their goal is to promote scientific literacy and mathematical competence in creative artists by building skills to help them become better citizens and prepare them for success in any field.
The Integrated Sciences curriculum focuses on multiple themes and technical grounding skills that spiral throughout students’ four-year arc. Beginning in Level I, skills such as scientific vocabulary, chemistry, programming, robotics and logical thinking are continuously developed in order for students to master how to carry out scientific research across many fields. Recurring themes in Integrated Sciences include: logical thinking; scalability; origins and maintenance of life; chemical reactions; programming and robotics; paradigm shifts; scientific vocabulary; influential mathematicians and scientists; lab safety and methods; measurements and instrumentation. Major focus is also given to understanding the historic context of science and mathematics, including the study of paradigm shifts as well as influential scientists and mathematicians. Essential questions within the curriculum focus on the interrogation of the natural world, modeling and pattern recognition, and the process of scientific research.
- Journal Club – Students read and analyze peer-reviewed journal articles and present their findings to the class for discussion. Skills are progressively built around background research, analysis of methods, findings & results, critique, and future research.
- Σ Week – A week where the entire school comes together to work on a project. Students are group by mixed grade levels and are challenged to work in both Sciences & Humanities. Previous topics have included Water, Ethics, and Failure.
- Academic Portfolios – Students develop an artistic piece around a math or science topic to be showcased at the end of the year
- Pop-up Science Museum – NOCCA academic spaces are transformed into interactive science discovery arenas. Students from area elementary schools are invited to interact with current NOCCA students to explore the intersection of the arts and sciences through a variety of hands on activities curated from the Academic Studio sciences curriculum.
NOCCA’s Integrated Sciences curriculum consists of four interdisciplinary year-long courses: 9th grade Integrated Sciences I (Physics & Algebra I Focus), 10th Integrated Sciences II (Biology & Geometry Focus), 11th Integrated Sciences III (Environmental Science & Algebra II Focus), and 12th Integrated Sciences IV (Bioengineering and Calculus Focus). While each course has a main focus, topics are not compartmentalized but instead spiraled throughout all four years. Several projects span more than a single year (listed below). Furthermore, topics emphasize historical context and connection to humanities and arts, preparing students for college and post-secondary success.