Parent Guide to High School Science

This high school science guide for parents will help you understand the topics your student is studying in high school and how you can help them succeed in their studies.

This high school science guide for parents will help you understand the topics your student is studying in high school and how you can help them succeed in their studies. 

Main High School Science Courses

Here are the main high school science courses you can expect your student to take. 


Biology is also known as the life sciences. It is the scientific study of life, organisms, cells, and human development. It does not require a lot of math knowledge. 

Students will learn about cell structure, carbohydrates, proteins, amino acids, nucleic acids, water, life, and a lot more. They will also learn about biochemical reactions, photosynthesis, and DNA. They will likely conduct experiments as part of their studies to help them understand what they are learning. 


Chemistry is part of the physical sciences. It involves the study of matter and the substances matter contains, along with the behavior of that matter. They will learn about different phases of matter, atomic structures and properties, chemical reactions, thermodynamics, the periodic table, and the properties of elements. They will likely conduct experiments. 

When studying organic chemistry, your student may learn about alkanes, alpha-carbon chemistry, aromatic compounds, substitution and elimination reactions, and more. Organic chemistry focuses on organic compounds, which contain carbon. 


Physics is also part of the physical sciences. It studies the nature of energy and focuses on heat, light, magnetism, sound, electricity, and more. Your student may learn about forces, motion, momentum, Newton’s laws of motion, waves, static electricity, one- and two-dimensional motion, electric charges, and more. 

Environmental Science

Environmental science focuses on the world, the environment, biodiversity, and populations. Students learn about the land, water, ecosystems, and research methods using data collected from the earth. 


Astronomy focuses on the scale of the universe, life on earth, stars, black holes, galaxies, laws of gravity and motion, the solar system and its development, and similar topics. 

Environmental science and astronomy are also known as earth and space science. Earth and space science focuses on geology, the age of the planets, plate tectonics, how water moves around the earth, and more. Often, there will be an emphasis on climate change and how fossil fuels affect the environment. 

Regular Vs. AP High School Classes: What Is The Difference? 

Your high school student may get a chance to take AP classes in high school. AP stands for Advanced Placement, and AP classes differ from regular high school classes in the subjects’ difficulty and the amount of workload and homework your student will complete. 

The AP program gives your student a chance to take college-level curriculum and exams during high school, but that doesn’t mean the coursework will be overwhelmingly challenging. Most high school students understand AP-level coursework just fine. 

If your student takes AP level classes during high school, they may get a chance to earn college credits before even entering college. In addition, they may be able to skip introductory-level college courses and get advanced placement in college, hence the program’s name. 

AP level classes result in higher GPA grades. That is because the coursework is more complicated. 

There are many reasons to enroll your student in high school AP classes. Instead of paying for such courses and the credits your student will earn from them once your student enters college, they can learn those subjects and earn those credits for free during high school. 

In addition, it will give them a head start during college. They will be better prepared and less likely to burn out, as they will have already studied a significant portion of the coursework. 

What kind of subjects do AP classes cover? Generally, you can expect them to cover slightly more advanced topics than regular high school classes. For example, AP Physics 2 might cover quantum physics and geometric optics. AP Chemistry might include the study of redox reactions. 

How Parents Can Help Their High School Students Study Science

Here is how you can support and help your teenager succeed in high school, whether they are taking regular high school classes or AP classes. 

Set Up a Distraction-Free Environment for Studying

Try to set up a distraction-free environment or space in your house where your student can complete their homework and study for exams. Homework loads can sometimes be overwhelming for high school students, especially if they are taking AP classes. In addition, when preparing for comprehensive exams such as the SAT, they may have to study long hours. 

A quiet workplace with sufficient lighting can go a long way in helping your child study. 

Stay In Contact With Teachers

Stay in touch with your student’s teachers. The best way to do that is by attending parent-teacher conferences. That will give you a chance to meet your student’s teachers, discover how they have been doing and what they have been learning, and understand the struggles they are facing. Your student’s teacher may give you some pointers on how to get your student the help they need. 

Provide Tutoring or Homework Help

Every high school student can benefit from tutoring. There’s always more to learn, and it never hurts to review what they learned with a professional tutor. If you don’t have the time or knowledge to help your student with their studies or homework yourself, consider hiring an experienced tutor who can help. 

Don’t Slack On Attendance

If your student is sick, they need to take time off until they recover and can focus again on their studies. Physical illness can sometimes be a sign of burnout. However, at other times, it is crucial to take attendance seriously and ensure your student is attending all classes. 

Science classes can move quickly in high school. If your student misses a few classes, they may get left behind, and they may not understand future courses. Make sure your student is getting to school on time. If they are skipping school, find out what is preventing them from going; there may be bullying going on, or they may need tutoring help. 

Keep Your Student Rested

Make sure your student gets enough sleep and food. They also need time off from their studies so as not to get burned out. 

If you are unsure if the high school your student is attending is providing science classes at a satisfactory level, you can ask the school these 10 questions developed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 


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