The Nuts and Bolts of Science Seminar

In the new Patriot Hybrid Schedule, Stevenson extends AP science periods


The school bell blares, signaling the end of seventh period. Evelyn Jiang ’22 skims her AP Biology homework assignment, organizes her data and clicks out of the digital lab. While the teacher is ending the lab, none of the students exit the Zoom. 

Instead, Jiang and her peers prepare for Science Seminar. While not an actual academic seminar, this time block offers an opportunity for AP science students like Jiang to clarify material, take formatives and complete class work. 

“The way the Science Seminar was presented to me was that it was an extension of the class with a break in between the class itself,” Jiang said. “What the AP Biology department has done is that they have the assessments during the seminar time.”

In the remote schedule, Jiang and other AP science students had to independently study material outside of class time during first semester because their classes were cut from 72 to 55 minutes. Given the Patriot Hybrid Schedule, the Stevenson administration had to decide between removing the half period, making AP science courses 40 minutes, or adding Science Seminar to make them 60 minutes. 

“The easiest solution is just to say, well, AP science classes will just be a period long for the second semester and just cut them,” Principal Troy Gobble said. “It just didn’t feel fair to not give students the opportunity to have all of the time of class that they would expect.”

Members of the administration aren’t the only ones acknowledging ramifications of the time limitation. Some teachers were initially worried about the time restraints of having a single period of AP science class, so they believe the additional 20 minutes is helpful.

“We were freaking out a little bit… First we just kind of assumed like okay, we only have 40 minutes, we’re gonna have to cut a bunch of stuff,” AP Physics 1 teacher Andy Fitz said. “It would be a lot more homework, a lot more work for students outside of class, and we try to limit that.”

With the upcoming AP College Board exams in May, students are also racing to learn the required material. Many students still are not satisfied with their AP science experience because of a schoolwide break that makes it more difficult for some to understand the content. Some students, like Nathan James ’23 are accustomed to uninterrupted classes, but now are in an AP science class and seminar that is interrupted by a midday break for lunch and busing. 

Despite having more time to learn, students who are accustomed to uninterrupted classes may struggle with concentrating after a 70 minute break that occurs during the hybrid schedule. James is one of many students whose AP science class and seminar are interrupted by a midday break for lunch and busing.

“The seminar is mediocre at best, so I do not feel prepared for unit summatives,” James said. “I have a break then have this awkward 20 minutes of physics to partake in and then another break, which is disruptive because it creates an abnormal learning pattern for me.” 

However, for other students, like Jiang, the creation of Science Seminar has been helpful. Jiang believes that Science Seminar gives her an opportunity to expand her knowledge because of the additional instructional time.

“I think it’s a nice way to redirect the content and reduce concern over learning college-level content on your own,” Jiang said. “I think Stevenson teachers are trying their best to make sure our content is all well-taught.”