Menlo School Faculty & Staff


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.