Middle School Science

The middle school science curriculum goes beyond textbooks to explore LEGO robotic vehicles, the iPhone accelerometer, potato cannons, musical instruments such as the class theater organ and student-initiated explorations. These kinds of apparatus convey the excitement of science – and our program respects the natural desire of middle school students to explore, take things apart and “see what’s inside.”

We take excellent advantage of technology resources, including our SmartBoards, while at the same time, ten feet from the classroom door is a circulating brook and pond, with small wetlands creatures and the excitement of sometimes getting wet!

6th Grade: Earth Science

We explore the science behind these and related issues in Issues and Earth Science, part of our three-year comprehensive SEPUP science series for the middle grades.  Like its companion courses, this program uses societal issues and problems as themes for the study of earth science. Standards-based and rich with activities, it features a nationally acclaimed assessment program and an embedded approach for supporting literacy in the science classroom.

Summary

  • How do earth features influence where people live?
  • What policies should guide our use of earth’s resources?
  • How should we dispose of nuclear wastes?
  • What kind of space exploration should we undertake in the future?

Description of Units

Studying Soils Scientifically: Students study the properties of different types of soils in the context of preparing a school garden. They investigate soil profiles, organic and inorganic components, use of fertilizers and soil mapping.

Rocks and Minerals: Students investigate properties of rocks and minerals as they consider questions related to use of our natural resources. Physical properties of individual specimens, such as luster, hardness, and color are investigated, as are main rock types — sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic—and how rocks change from one form to another in the rock cycle.

Erosion and Deposition: Students investigate the destructive forces of wind, wave and water on landforms as they decide where to build homes. Stream table models and topographic maps are used to study river action and deposition of sediments, and landform contours.

Plate Tectonics: Students explore the structure of the earth—the core, mantle and crust, and learn how the slow movements of large plates of the earth’s surface help shape its features, including continents and oceans. They investigate earthquakes and volcanoes as they examine plans to deposit radioactive wastes in areas of relative seismic stability.

Weather and Atmosphere: Students investigate local and extreme weather conditions, climate and rainfall patterns, wind, the water cycle and examine the root cause of weather and climate, namely the distribution of solar energy over the earth. Wind and the atmosphere are studied in depth.

The Earth in Space: Students study the earth’s rotation, the causes of the seasons, shadows, movement of the moon, actions and causes of the tides, and review several calendars developed over the years to mark the passage of time.

7th Grade: Life Science

Our Life Science is a standards-based, issues-oriented science course that emphasizes the life/health sciences. The course is part of our three year integrated science with Issues and Physical Science, the SEPUP physical science course and Issues and Earth Science, SEPUP’s Earth Science course.

Summary:

  • Scientific thinking
  • Personal and societal decision-making
  • Science and technology as professions
  • Science as a predictive activity

Description of Units:

Experimental Design: Studying People Scientifically: Student investigations address important ideas about the nature of science, the traditional scientific method and experimental design. At the end of the unit, they evaluate several proposed studies for the quality of their scientific design.

Body Works: Students explore the role of organ systems in providing nutrients and oxygen to the body and transporting and eliminating wastes (maintaining internal balance). The unit focuses in depth on the cardio-pulmonary system as students investigate heart disease, nutrition and exercise.

Cell Biology and Disease: Students study microbiology; cell size, structure, function and permeability; and systems of classification. They explore the function of the immune system and the growth of antibiotic-resistant organisms. A project on disease develops research skills.

Genetics: Students explore fundamental principles of Mendelian genetics in pea plants and humans. They study asexual and sexual reproduction, the process of cell division, and the role of nature and nurture in determining traits. Near the end, students model the use of DNA technologies to solve real problems.

Ecology: Students consider what happens when a new species is introduced into an ecosystem as they model ecological relationships within an ecosystem; simulate the effect of competition, predation and other factors on population size; and investigate local ecosystems.

Evolution: Students consider whether an extinct species should be brought back to life as they examine fossils, consider the lines of evidence for evolution, natural selection, and the role of genetic mutations. Students evaluate the impact of humans on the extinction/evolution of species.

8th Grade: Physical Science

Using the text Issues and Physical Science, students learn how to gather and interpret scientific evidence about issues of interest to them and their community. As a result, they begin to appreciate the power and also some of the limitations of science. They also begin to recognize that science is much more than a set of answers to be learned, but rather, a way of asking questions.

We examine issues in a societal context. We treat issues in a way that fosters and promotes the ability of young adolescents to think abstractly, and builds upon their need for peer interaction and support. It serves as the physical science component of our integrated, multi-year science program.

Description of Units:

Studying Materials Scientifically: Students investigate the properties of different materials. They identify unknown substances and to separate mixtures using a variety of chemical and physical properties, including density. As they learn about hazardous materials and the safety procedures used in handling them, students create similar safety guidelines for working with chemicals in the science classroom. In the culminating activity, students apply their understanding to evaluate the safety, effectiveness, storage and handling of cleaning products.

The Chemistry of Materials: Students explore the life cycles of a variety of common materials from the acquisition of raw materials through to the end of the product’s useful life. After learning about the basic building blocks of matter, elements and the periodic table, students model the structures of several common compounds. Moving from the atomic level to the material level, students investigate what conservation of matter means in light of the product life cycle and how this can affect manufacturing decisions. In the culminating set of investigations, students draw upon their understanding of the atomic nature and conservation of matter to determine a way to improve the life cycle of a computer circuit board.

Water: Students study the complex issues that surround a very basic necessity-drinking water as they investigate water quality issues in the fictional community of Willow Grove. The unit begins with students investigating drinking water quality and the issues of biological and chemical contamination. John Snow’s historic epidemiological work on the cause of cholera and more recent problems with microorganisms such as E. coli and Giardia provide examples of biological contamination. Industry and human use of chemicals and fossil fuels provide examples of chemical contamination. In the culminating activities of the unit, students apply what they have learned to make decisions about precipitation and neutralization as methods for treating industrial wastewater containing acid and heavy metals.

Energy: People use energy! How we use it will determine the quality of life on earth for future generations. To use energy in an informed way—in a way that maintains or improves environmental quality—we must first understand the nature and implications of our personal use of energy. In this part of Issues and Physical Science, students explore energy transfer and conservation in the context of household energy usage. The activities explore key energy concepts, including the variety of types of energy, energy transfers within and between systems, the energy chains involved when energy is transformed from one type to a more desired type and the methods used to quantify energy and determine the efficiency of energy transfers. Through their experiences in this part of the course, students become aware that energy is a quantifiable commodity that can be obtained, stored and used in various ways. They learn that as energy is transformed, some becomes unavailable. The focus on energy efficiency and the waste involved in energy transfers leads to the consideration of renewable and non-renewable energy sources and the trade-offs involved in each. This helps students develop their understanding of the environmental costs of all energy use and provides them with an approach to making decisions about energy. They apply this understanding in the culminating activity of the unit, in which they design an energy-efficient home.

Force and Motion: Students investigate concepts related to force and motion in the context of vehicle safety issues. The students program LEGO robotic vehicles to investigate speed, motion graphs and the impact of mass and speed on vehicle accidents. Students investigate force, acceleration, mass and friction and are introduced to Newton’s laws of motion. They apply these concepts to vehicle braking and stopping distances and investigate the stability of vehicles with different centers of mass. The unit ends with an investigation of types of car accidents and students’ recommendations for reducing the risks of vehicle collisions.