Loudoun County Public Schools (in Virginia) opened the Academy of Science (AOS) this year for 9th and 12th grade students. In the 2009-10 school year the academy will include a program of studies for students in grades 9 through 12. Students attend the AOS on alternating days. Students take science, math, and research courses at the Academy and all other subjects at their home school on the opposite day. This schedule enables students to maintain involvement in academic and extra-curricular activities at their home school while participating in a research-based challenging math and science program.
The cornerstone of instruction at 9th and 10th grades is an integrated physical science course that includes the study of Earth Science, Chemistry and Physics. Upperclassmen participate in a Science Research Course in addition to AP Science and AP Math offerings. The Science Research Course is geared toward developing scientific habits of mind, as well as integrating math, writing, and communication skills into scientific experimentation.
The AOS will build a mentorship program with local and regional science organizations. Plans include student participation in research at the AOS as well as in the scientific community. The faculty of the AOS hopes to develop a national model for teaching inquiry-based, interdisciplinary science and math. The selection of the AOS faculty was based on their academic achievement in math and science, their interest in inquiry-based teaching, and their willingness to work with unique students. All staff members have advanced degrees; a number of the staff come to the AOS with extensive experience in private industry and research.
The mission of the LCPS Academy of Science is to provide an academic environment where students are encouraged to develop creative scientific endeavors of their own design, while having the opportunity to pursue a rich, well-rounded high school experience. A student at the Academy of Science will acquire skills to ask sophisticated scientific questions and conduct research and experimentation, to explore the interconnections between the sciences, math, and the humanities, to read, write, and communicate at a level that is required of university students, and to develop perspectives to assess the impact of scientific advancements on society.
Loudoun's public schools offer more our students an educational program that ranks with the best in Virginia and the nation. Students' scores on nationally normed achievement tests and the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) consistently rank well above state and national averages. Located 25 miles northwest of Washington, D.C., Loudoun County combines the best of rural and suburban living. One of the fastest growing jurisdiction in the nation, Loudoun is home to increasing numbers of regional and global corporations whose active participation in school-business partnerships enriches and extends learning opportunities in Loudoun County Public Schools.
The Academy of Science is under the direction of George Wolfe, who comes to the AOS with 30 years experience in science education and research. From 1984 to 2005, Wolfe taught at the Wilson Magnet School in Rochester, NY. He has taught biology, marine biology, Advanced Placement biology, and International Baccalaureate biology and has developed an International Baccalaureate elective called “Research in the Biological Sciences.” Since 2002, he has been an advisory member/lab developer for the Cornell Institute of Physics Teachers. This is an organization designed to create the new technology necessary to support inquiry-based physics
His contributions to education have been extensive, serving on multiple advisory boards including the Cornell Institute of Biology Teachers and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics SportSmarts curriculum project. He has authored several publications including “The Nasonia Project”, a lab series built around the genetics and behaviors of a parasitic wasp, as well as “Thinkwell’s Biology”; a CD lecture series used in freshman biology courses in many colleges throughout the US. Wolfe also has been host of the Emmy Award-winning “Homework Hotline” on PBS affiliate WXXI since 1992.