Our Princeton Friends School science program puts a world of scientific inquiry, discovery, and delight into lessons that are relevant – and inspiring! 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.
Sixth and 7th graders dig deeper and grow as scientists as they learn about earth’s natural features, how they have changed through time, and the science and force of natural disasters. As part of this unit students investigate natural and human drivers of global climate change and its effects – from the historical to the present day – on the environment and earth’s resources. Classes delve into chemistry in a variety of ways, including a study of matter and chemical reactions, an examination of elements, minerals, and rocks, and an overview of mining and its environmental impacts. A unit in biology covers basic genetics through plant biology, cell cycles and the effects of disease, and local and global ecologies, animals, and adaptation. The Stony Brook and Institute Pond is a focal point as we conduct biological assessments during the fall, winter, and spring. While working through this material students learn about cartography and how it can be utilized to display scientific information, and they also design an ecology atlas for use by the greater PFS community.