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, discover and interpret. Through the study of the physical, biological and chemical world, they learn how to think like a scientist and develop a passion for science. Over the course of three years, students continually ask themselves, “How does science affect me in my own life?” 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 has an effect on the world.

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. Through a variety of labs and demonstrations, they make discoveries about pressure, heat, and moisture that explain why ears hurt when one dives deep underwater and the appearance of Bay Area fog. Next, they apply their newfound understanding of pressure to the human cardiovascular system. Students dissect sheep hearts, 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 Theory of Plate Tectonics. Before our Service Learning Week focusing on our grade level theme, Food Sustainability, students examine sustainable food practices on a global and local scale. We end the year with a genetics unit where students distinguish between heritable and acquired traits and come up with their own models to explain inheritance. The course consistently encourages students to investigate their own interests through special project assignments and iPad use. Students are also prompted to introduce and draw connections between their experiences and scientific current events at all times.

  • 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 own experiments. Students will apply these skills as we move into our first unit in ecology, where we will focus on understanding how different species interact with each other and how species-level interactions can shape whole ecosystems. Next, students will apply their knowledge of ecosystems to explore and model marine food webs and participate in a fieldtrip where we will learn about field science and data collection.  Then, students will use their data to examine biodiversity and we will engage in discussions and research about the importance of biodiversity across various realms of our lives. Then, we will move into exploring and understanding the difference between weather and climate and how both can be predicted. Next, students will use this knowledge to look into the debate and science surrounding global climate change and human impacts on natural ecosystems. Lastly, we will investigate neurology and electricity.  We will finish the year with a culminating project that integrates problem solving, research, and engineering.
    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.