The Middle School science program is designed to encourage wonder, teach scientific skills, and facilitate experiment-based inquiry and the engineering design process, while exploring a broad range of topics within earth, life, chemical, and physical sciences. In everything we do, material is presented in such a way to help students make meaningful connections between the material learned in class and the world around them.
In fifth grade science, students are encouraged to wonder about systems in the natural world, beginning with our universe and then gradually moving closer to home, ultimately finishing the year in our backyard garden. During our study of astronomy, we start with the vastness of the universe and then explore our own solar system. Further earth science topics allow for examination of the processes that make Earth a living planet. Environmental science is the focus of the second semester, beginning with a unit that examines life at the levels of organisms, populations, communities, ecosystems, and biomes. Environmental degradation and its effects on endangered species are also explored. Equipped with the knowledge and skills gained in each preceding unit, students complete the year with a garden project. Using the engineering design process, science joins with math and art to design and then create our own garden.
Sixth grade science explores the characteristics of life. Examination begins at the cellular level discussing the structure and function of both plant and animal cells and how they acquire energy to perform specific functions. Students gain an understanding of the specialization of cells which allows them to discover how systems work within an organism and ultimately how these systems interact with each other. By the end of the year, students can compare and contrast groups of organisms at each of these levels. Throughout the year, girls are immersed in a hands-on approach centered on the process skills of design, experimentation and analysis, with regular integration of age appropriate mathematics. In the lab, methods to measure proper functioning of systems, perform dissections, and explore insect development are among the many hands on learning opportunities in which students engage. As part of our departmental focus on engineering, students also learn about biomedical engineering as they design and create working models of body structures and systems.
As an introduction to physical science course, the seventh grade curriculum focuses on the concept of energy in all its forms within a framework of engineering design. At the same time that scientific principles are introduced, each unit of study includes presentation of a related problem requiring an innovative solution. Energy topics include motion, forces, thermal energy, light, sound, electricity, and magnetism. Engineering projects include study of pendulums, bridge building, efficient hot water heaters, electric toys, and opportunities for students to identify their own problem in need of a solution. We also explore the energy sources used by humans throughout the world, and look at how that landscape is changing over time. A unit on robotics using Lego EV3 products solidifies the engineering principles that we emphasize all year and supports the cross disciplinary programming initiatives within the middle school. Throughout the entire curriculum, opportunities abound for students to gain confidence in innovation and problem solving with our unique approach to combining fundamental scientific principles with engaging and relevant engineering designs.
Building on previous knowledge, experience, and an understanding of scientific concepts and the engineering design process, the eighth grade curriculum focuses on matter and how the very small can lead to big things. With an emphasis on experimental design, students will explore the properties of matter, atomic theory, and chemistry. Projects include designing a submarine based on the property of density, lab skills development by separating mixtures in a sludge project, spatial skills exploration through molecular geometry, and a research project based on neurochemistry as students observe chemistry in action. In addition, authentic computer programming experiences will be incorporated throughout the course as students apply their scientific understanding to real world issues. The curriculum allows for the teaching of collaboration, critical thinking, communication and empathy through project-based learning. This course not only prepares students for future science courses but promotes confidence in experimental design, a spirit of inquisitiveness, and a disciplined approach to inquiry and research.