In the 3rd through 8th grades, students meet three periods per week for science – two of those periods scheduled back-to-back to allow for extended laboratory experiences. In general, lab periods involve an activity, model, or experiment to engage students in the “doing” of science, while the third class involves more content-oriented instruction designed to illuminate the topic currently under investigation.
Each year begins with a review of the principles guiding all scientific disciplines, after which the focus shifts to developmentally-appropriate units in life science, physical science, and earth science. Content within each unit follows specific recommendations of the National Science Education Standards, while each unit is also approached through the lens of the year’s Central Study theme. An inquiry-based approach allows students to develop problem solving skills as they formulate questions and hypotheses, plan experiments, systematically record observations, interpret and analyze data, draw conclusions, and communicate their results. Project-based and hands-on learning are part of this approach, as well as the integration of science, technology, engineering, art, and math education.
Mathematical application plays an important role as students determine the reasonableness of estimates and measurements using a variety of instruments. Class discussions invite students to raise questions about the world around them and to discover that science is not merely a collection of facts, but a process of thinking about and investigating the world in which we live.
The curriculum spans multiple branches of the natural sciences, including earth science, biology, physics, and astronomy. Studies within the earth sciences include earth’s cycles, local habitats, and the transfer of energy through ecosystems. Students become meteorologists as they learn to interpret weather patterns and maps, and trace chemical and physical atmospheric changes on our planet through time. In the field of biology, students study plant growth, structure, and reproduction by investigating local fauna and ecologies. Students will also look at different types of animals that live locally as well as those from around the world, including investigations of physical characteristics, evolution and adaptation, roles, and so forth. This connects to an ongoing field study of our woods ecology, which occurs throughout the school year and builds the students’ understanding of the unique and important natural environment in which our campus is situated. An introduction to physics includes work with simple and compound machines, Newton’s Laws of Motion (with an emphasis on rocket building), and electricity. Finally, students head to space during an astronomy unit, learning about the formation and development of the universe and the celestial bodies within, as well as recent developments in this evolving field.