The Middle School science curriculum is a guided-discovery, hands-on approach to learning. Students collect and analyze data to develop an understanding of the nature and processes of scientific inquiry. This also leads them to appreciate both the power and the limitations of science. Content is selected to lead students to a foundational knowledge of science concepts and to an understanding of real issues of interest to them and their community.
Approximately 60 to 80 percent of class time is spent on laboratory, field studies or individual projects. With all labs, time is devoted to analysis of data and small group and class discussion. Numerical relationships within data are studied extensively using graphs and analytical writing.
The focus of Science 6 starts with students learning to use the scientific method in order to find answers to questions. Significant class time is devoted to learning experimental techniques, experimental design, and basic laboratory skills. Students learn how to effectively communicate their findings by creating written laboratory reports that incorporate tables and graphs of their quantitative data. Through an interdisciplinary project with Global Connections using the novel, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, students learn how transforming the discovery and application of simple technology can sustain a community. Students are required to think like scientists as they solve problems with the creation of windmills for generation of electricity. These early explorations enable students to design and create an invention or innovation of their own. This results in an Invention Convention event where each student presents his/her invention. Science 6 then shifts to answer the question, “What is life?” Students develop an understanding of the organization of living things and the requirements for a macroscopic organism to live. Mastering the use of a compound microscope allows them to learn about plants and animals at the cellular level. The course also emphasizes the role of energy in the environment and its effect and movement through all living things. Various dissection activities enable students to better understand the function of cells, tissues, organs, etc. in a microscopic organism. Students also participate in a land management project. Given a specific plot of land, each student will be able to identify native and non-native plant species. They assess the condition of their plot and begin to make long-term plans for potential restoration.
This course has as its goals to: help students develop lifelong literacy in ecology; observe and foster nature’s patterns; create and foster diverse habitats; and recycle nutrients. This course will guide students to the realization that nature can heal itself at the local and global level. They will work to create habitats for all living things from bacteria to bees to humans. The container gardens developed by the students provide a source of food for the dining hall. There is also a cooking component for this course to demonstrate how to use the food grown in our gardens. Since it is important to preserve the web of life that humans rely on for survival, humans must allow nature’s nutrient cycling and move toward a zero waste lifestyle both as individuals and in communities; students will be engaged in activities that give them means to reach this end. This is a required course for all 6th grade students and meets once a rotation. It is a pass/fail class.
Science 7 focuses on the principles of physical science, which includes general studies in chemistry and physics. Students study physical and chemical properties, atoms, the periodic table, atomic bonding, forces and motion, machines, and energy. Within each topic, there are multiple laboratory experiments or activities that allow students to engage with the material being discussed. Labs are followed by analysis and class discussion. In addition to the labs, topics are presented using multiple methods, including graphic organizers, foldables, lectures, visuals, class discussions, guided notes, and hands-on models. This course will also focus on the continued learning of fundamental science skills and practices that were introduced in Science 6 and will be used in each grade throughout all science classes. Emphasis is on providing students with a better understanding of the physics and chemistry disciplines of science and how they can be used to explain the world around them.
In this lab-based course, students learn C++ in order to program microcontrollers that, in turn, control LEDs, motors, LCDs, joysticks, photosensors, ultrasonic sensors, temperature sensors, seven segment displays, and buzzers. Ultimately students combine these elements and construct their own student-centered invention, such as a robot, a game, a new product, a scientific device, or a work of art.
This is a required course for all 7th-grade students and meets once a rotation. It is a pass/fail class.
Science 8 examines the largest contexts of space and time. It is a course of big ideas that invite critical thinking about humanity’s place in creation. Using many laboratory experiments and other hands-on activities, students study physical processes that have enabled us to understand our universe. These studies include the ongoing continuation of the Big Bang, stellar nucleosynthesis of atoms that we are all composed of and that form all of our natural resources, solar system formation, geological processes, earth materials, weather, and climate. Special emphasis is given to the study of climate change with each student researching an aspect of current changes in climate, expected changes, options for energy alternatives, and how choices made today may affect realities within their lifetimes. The climate unit culminates with a round table discussion in which students share what they have learned. This course is well-suited for students who are already contemplating big questions in their lives and complements their studies in the Cultures and Governance course in the History curriculum.