Middle School Science

Menlo Middle School students learn about anatomy through cow eye dissection in Science class. Photo by Cyrus Lowe.

Science is a verb.

In the Middle School, Science is active. Students question, test, dissect, theorize, build, analyze, fiddle, debate, investigate, engineer, discover, and interpret. Through the study of the physical, biological, and chemical world, they learn how to think and communicate like a scientist and develop a passion for science. Over the course of three years, students continually ask themselves, “How does science affect me and the role I play in the greater global community?” As they become aware of the scientific issues of the day, they learn how each of us is intimately connected to the world around us in profound ways, and that every choice we make leaves an impact.

Meet our Middle School Science faculty.

Course Catalog

  • Science 6

    In this course, students examine numerous physical, biological, and chemical phenomena using the scientific method. Students learn how to develop hypotheses, conduct experiments, make observations, gather data, and form conclusions based on critical analysis of results. Students strengthen their listening and public-speaking skills by sharing observations and debating conclusions with each other. They also develop their data presentation and writing expertise by recording their investigations in detailed fashion. Additionally, this course actively contributes to the sixth grade interdisciplinary goals of developing study skills, managing time and materials, and practicing mutual respect and tolerance as well as the Middle School Habits of the Heart and Mind.

    Students begin the year honing their scientific observation and inference skills with an array of discrepant events. Then they apply these skills to examining different types of energy and identifying evidence of energy transfers and transformations in toys. Through a variety of labs and demonstrations they make discoveries about pressure and heat that explain why ears hurt when one dives deep underwater and why metal feels colder than plastic even though they are the same temperature. Student take their understanding of heat transfer and engineer, budget, and build a “Penguin House” to keep an ice cube, the penguin, from melting. Next they apply their newfound understanding of pressure to the human cardiovascular system. Students dissect sheep hearts and lungs, measure the levels of carbon dioxide in a room after increasing amounts of exercise, and design and build their own model of the circulatory system with pumps, tubes, and connectors in the Whitaker Lab. Next, students go on virtual field trips around the world to probe for evidence to help them explain earthquakes, volcano eruptions, and fossil records. They use this evidence to mimic the creation of Continental Drift Theory and its evolution into the the Theory of Plate Tectonics. Finally, we end with the genetics unit where students distinguish between heritable and acquired traits and come up with their own models to explain inheritance. Their final project asks students to research a new genetic technology, such as the CRISPR or GMOs, and write a persuasive letter to the NSF arguing if further funding should go to this technology. The course consistently encourages students to investigate their own interests through special project assignments and laptop use. Students are also prompted to introduce and draw connections between their experiences and scientific current events.

  • Science 7
    In this course, students continue to hone the science fundamentals they developed in sixth grade. They deepen their understanding of the physical, biological, and chemical world while drawing on key concepts explored in the prior year. Students use the scientific method to generate hypotheses, design and conduct experiments, gather and analyze data, and form meaningful conclusions. Students strengthen their observation, listening, writing, and speaking skills through a variety of experimental, written, oral, and visual tasks. In addition, this course actively contributes to the seventh grade interdisciplinary goals of developing study skills, improving organization and time management, and practicing mutual respect and tolerance through cooperative learning.

    We will begin the year by investigating and exploring the nature of science by planning, implementing, analyzing, and communicating our designed experiments. Students will apply these skills as we move into our first unit in astronomy, where we will focus on understanding how the universe formed and continues to change.  Next, students will zoom into one part of the universe, the Earth, where they will dive into its history, formation, and surface dynamics through weathering and erosion. They will use their observational skills by practicing how to identify rocks and minerals. Also, they’ll learn how fossils form and why it is so rare. Then, students will study how living organisms are classified and they will choose their own organism to take a deep dive that builds through the rest of the year for our overarching project.  Next, students will use this knowledge to look into the debate and science surrounding global climate change and human impacts on natural ecosystems, including on their organism. Lastly, we will investigate neurology and electricity. We will finish the year with a culminating project that integrates the concepts of the year with problem-solving, research, and engineering using their organism that they have been studying.

    Students will continually work towards this question: “How well can you use what you know?” There will be an emphasis on open-ended dialogue and students will be expected to go beyond Knowing by Doing. As we explore the various topics of science, we will also continually ask the question: “How does science affect me in my own personal life?” While answering this question, it is my hope students will become aware of the scientific issues of the day and learn how each of us is connected to the world around us.
  • Science 8

    This course asks students to continue to develop a passion for science and to build on the skills they have learned in sixth and seventh grade. Students construct meaning about the chemical, biological, and physical world by exploring and testing their current ideas, making new discoveries, and presenting their findings to peers for discussion. In eighth grade students further expand their ability to design and construct a scientific investigation; gather, analyze, and interpret data; communicate scientific processes and explanations; construct scientific models based on data; think critically, logically, and creatively; and establish the relationship between evidence and reasoning. Students strengthen their writing skills and flex their capacity to defend theories with evidence, while developing their own concepts of quality work, building communication skills, and improving analyses through examination of one another’s ideas.

    Students build upon the rich content knowledge and skills established in sixth and seventh grade to delve deeper into the world of science. Throughout our studies of chemical reactions and chemistry, immunology and infectious diseases, physics of motion and forces, students use the scientific method to test their ideas about the world around them. Students then construct theories, which are tested further, analyzed by their peers, and addressed in class discussions. They will also examine controversial scientific issues and develop their skills of argumentation through organized debates. Individual topics will vary based on the questions raised by the students. Students will end the year with Innovations, a unit that challenges students to design and build contraptions for a specific purpose while exploring the intricacies and importance of design-thinking and technology.