Culture of Advanced Classes

Is taking both AP Physics C and AP Biology too much?


Weiss teaching one of her two AP Biology blocks this year

Course choices are plentiful at the school for all ages, but one of the joys of being an upperclassman is that options increase tremendously. This variety can create a certain culture within the school over the difficulty of each class. Blake offers numerous challenging courses, from AP Euro to AP Statistics, but for many, the science department offers the most difficult and challenging courses at Blake. Deborah Weiss’s AP Chemistry and AP Biology and Steve Kaback’s AP Physics C are widely known for their challenging curriculum, insurmountable time commitment and intellectual challenge.

Underclassmen don’t receive the opportunity to take any of these classes because all three of these classes are only offered to upperclassmen. But when class selections are looming around the corner, time management, intellectual curiosity and sheer ingenuity all must be factored into the decision to take one of these courses. Completing just one of these courses is a worthy accomplishment in itself, but what about the select few who take all three of the courses?

The students who make this decision push their intellectual capacity and curiosity by taking these college level courses. But what does everyone else think about these students? As John Miller ‘16, who is enrolled in all three of these courses, explains, “At Blake, it’s cool to be smart,” Miller goes on explaining how “students often are heard complaining or making jokes about the complexity or amount of work” for the high-level classes at hand. Likewise, Miller states that many students make comments and “ jokes that are only privy to the few who are also brave enough to take on college level courses.”

Miller’s belief is echoed by Armaan Gori ‘16. Gori believes “the students in these [high level] classes like to challenge themselves and hold themselves to very high standards. That’s why when most people hear that you take Chem, Bio, or Physics, they think you are smart and also a bit crazy. However, these stereotypes are not completely wrong. The workload in all of these classes can be upwards of 2 hours a day, so you have to be committed when you sign up for these classes. In all, the three big sciences breed the stereotype of a smart, committed, nerdy, and slightly crazy student, which to be completely honest is not inaccurate.”

Angelo Rustichini ‘16 continues, stating “I think because the “big three” classes often provide the most work, they’re thought to be the hardest. From gaining this reputation, it’s often only the hardest working or most driven kids in the grade that take these classes, so it’s not that absurd to assume that of someone in those classes.” However, Rustichini believes that “One aspect that people don’t really think about that much though, is the bonding and co-operation that occurs in these classes. Last year in Chemistry, students were always working together on all sorts of assignments, not only making the work easier, but also making the learning easier.” And as anyone who has taken one of these courses knows, it never hurts for life to be a little easier.