Middle School Science
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.
In this course, students examine numerous phenomena using the scientific inquiry process: ask questions, plan and carry out investigations, analyze data to construct arguments based on evidence, research and communicate findings, and ask new questions. In making their own discoveries, 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, weaving in skills they use in their math, social science, and English classes. Additionally, this course actively incorporates both the Middle School Habits of the Heart and Mind and Habits of Learning.
The middle school science curriculum progressively weaves together physical, biological, Earth, and chemical sciences as students continue to build their skills. Units are classified by questions. Sixth grade scientists begin the year honing their scientific observation and inference skills with an array of discrepant events as they explore, “What does it mean to be a scientist? What are scientist stereotypes? Am I a scientist?” As they go through the inquiry process, they apply these skills to examining energy transfers and transformation in toys. Next, they explore heat: “What is heat? How does it behave?” Students take their understanding of heat transfer to engineer, budget, and build a structure to keep an ice cube, “the penguin,” from melting during climate change. After focusing on cause and effect, students zoom out and explore the carbon cycle with computer simulations, role-plays, and diagramming to uncover our human impact on the system during the Sustainability Unit. They then spend two weeks in Whitaker Lab building trellises for the school garden out of repurposed materials, using drills, saws, collaboration, and design to build a structure that brings awareness about climate change mitigation to their school community. Finally, students shift their focus to human body systems. They ask “How do systems collaborate to allow me to do the activities that bring me joy?” During this unit, students examine cells under the microscope, model the complex inputs and outputs of cell organelles using analogies, develop and run their own exercise physiology experiment, and dissect sheep hearts and lungs. By the end of the year, students have a notebook full of their discoveries, and are ready to take on more complex scientific challenges in seventh grade, and in the world around them.
In this course, students continue to hone the science fundamentals they developed in sixth grade. They deepen their understanding of the physical, biological, chemical, and engineering world while drawing on key concepts explored in the prior year. Students use scientific practices to generate hypotheses, design and conduct experiments, gather and analyze data, argue from evidence, 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 evolve. Next, students will use this knowledge to look into the debate and science surrounding global climate change and human impacts on natural ecosystems. Throughout the whole year, we weave in an overarching project that integrates a National Park of their choice. In each unit, they will apply their skills of asking questions, problem-solving, research, communication, data analysis, modeling, and engineering to their park.
Students will continually work towards becoming ambassadors of science. 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 and practice the skills of a scientist, we will also continually ask the question: “How does science affect me and the world around me?” 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 Earth and to each other.
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 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 the 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, mechanical and electromagnetic waves, 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. Throughout the course, students will also hone their skills as engineers. They will learn to empathize, ideate, and problem solve through the design thinking process as they create concert venues for their favorite artists or build impact proof contraptions for communities in need.