A look at the South Fork High School Science Department

By Melinda Bailey

The science department at South Fork High School is a rigorous academic program that is standards driven. We offer students a wide variety of activities that support various components of the scientific method and which develops important critical thinking skills. Despite South Fork’s shrinking enrollment numbers, we are proud of the fact that we offer Chemistry, Physics and Biology II as upper division science classes to our juniors and seniors. Eighth grade science develops and explores science fundamentals such as atomic structure, physical laws and life processes. Ninth grade science is called Earth Science and emphasizes geology, meteorology and astronomy. In 10th grade, two classes are offered: Life Science or Biology. Both delve into the topics of genetics, cellular biology, ecology, evolution and human physiology, however, Biology is a more rigorous program and satisfies the requirements of a lab class for entrance into the UC system.

For many years now various local organizations like SOS and Rotary have given money to buy supplies, which have kept us afloat. Teachers have also written various grants. For the past eight years, Save-the-Redwoods League has supported redwood ecology education by giving over $6,000. This money has paid for necessary field supplies for conducting fieldwork (including rigging a 300 foot redwood tree with sensors), classroom equipment and field trips. With this funding, Biology II students have participated in river studies along the Eel River and population studies in Stephen’s Grove. In 2007, South Fork High School was the recipient of a PG&E solar schools grant that installed a 1KW solar array which is now in place on campus and helps offset our carbon footprint. Last year a digital weather station was bought and is waiting to be installed.

In Biology I this year students have observed the growth and development of living brine shrimp. They have learned about the characteristics of life and how they apply to organisms. Students have learned how to use a microscope and have viewed many things, from live bacteria to a cross section of a leaf. These students will end their year with an annual field trip to Bull Creek to learn about the local redwood ecosystem.

Chemistry and Physics are offered every other year and both meet the physical science lab requirement for entrance into the UC system. This year, Physics students participated in an online, nationwide program called Adopt-a-Physicist. This year and last year, the Biology II class has been part of a phytoplankton monitoring project in partnership with the local BLM office and NOAA whereby students identify and record phytoplankton sampled at Shelter Cove on a bimonthly basis. This information is part of a larger database that goes to the Department of Health.

All classes have utilized our new awesome learning center (paid for by our community) in a host of different applications from taking virtual tours, conducting research and making PowerPoint presentations. Technology is integrated into our curriculum more and more all the time. Assessment of all classes is mostly done through tests and lab write-ups. It is our hope that students will become more inquisitive about the natural world around them and will continue to learn about our planet, the universe in which it is an integral part, and the amazing complexity of life that flourishes here.

To sustain and expand the quality of these programs we need your help. Donations may be made to: SOS for SFHS, P.O. Box 650, Miranda, CA 95553.


1. Melinda Bailey (left) teaches 8th grade science, Biology I and Biology II and Leslie Yale (right) teaches Earth Science, Life Science and Physics at South Fork High School.

2. The Biology II class traveled to Shelter Cove in September for an introduction to the Phytoplankton monitoring project with BLM in Briceland.

3. Natalie Finch in Biology I looking at a leaf cross section under the microscope.

4. Tenth graders Kristina Pardoski (left) and Konane Evans (right) with a human torso model. Kristina says, "I like the fact that we are always exploring new things. Also we do labs that are very fun and sometimes we get to use dangerous chemicals." Konane comments, "I like that we get to do a bunch of different experiments using equipment and we get to wear really cool goggles! It is awesome how we get to learn about life on the planet." Eleventh grader Shaylin Via-Yount (not pictured) adds, "Science at South Fork High School is fun and exciting every day. Mrs. Bailey is a wonderful teacher and she makes learning worthwhile. I love all the exciting experiments and learning about all of the things science has to offer."