The Science Department provides students with a rich, challenging, and diverse understanding of science and its role in contemporary issues. Science allows individuals to understand the natural world and acquire important inquiry and analysis skills (course descriptions follow).
The program empowers students to participate directly in the process of science by learning to frame scientific questions, analyze data, and discuss and interpret results. Structured to encourage growth, the courses meet students where they are, providing the space and structure to mature academically and find meaning in scientific discovery. Experiences as emerging scientists challenge students to become responsible, active, and positive voices. The program provides students with the tools to creatively and intelligently shape a healthier and more sustainable world.
The Middle School program provides hands-on experiences in life science, environmental science, and physical science each year. These encounters include, but are not limited to:
- The nature of science—the scientific process, science as a community, habits of good science, and the strengths and limitations of science.
- Inquiry and lab skills—making valuable observations, fostering intellectual curiosity, setting up controlled experiments, and developing the ability to critically evaluate their own results and those of others.
- Analysis—recording and organizing data, creating visual and conceptual models of data; generating mathematical models from inquiry results; and using basic statistics to interpret this data.
- Application—recognizing the role that science plays in creating and solving problems, designing, prototyping, and testing technologies to solve problems.
This introductory year of science builds the foundation of the Middle School program. Through the process of inquiry, students explore the basic concepts of human growth and development, weather and climate, as well as the study of matter and its interactions. To set the stage for personal wellness, the course begins with a neuroscience-based unit that examines students’ preconceived notions of intelligence and ability. Students also develop their understanding of each individual’s role in the broader community of science. Through the use of a science notebook, students will focus on observations, data collection, and reflection. Students also learn foundational skills in data organization and analysis through the use of data tables, charts and plots.
The second science course builds on the growing readiness of students, beginning with a unit that challenges them to consider the impacts—both positive and negative—that science and technology can have on the environment and its people. The curriculum investigates the dynamic nature of Earth, examines energy, force and motion, and considers the diversity of the plant and animal kingdoms. Students build their understanding of science as a community by turning their inquiry processes outward to collaborate with peers around data collection and analysis. Students take on greater responsibility in enacting the scientific process as they begin to present hypotheses, data, and results in group presentations. In addition, students begin to model data with basic math equations, as well as evaluate different ways to represent data.
The final year of Middle School science broadens students’ understanding of the natural world by beginning with an introductory unit on the science of difference. Students gain an appreciation of the human experience through a scientific lens by looking at topics including gender, race, culture, and health. Students expand their understanding of the scope of science and its influence in national and global issues. They begin to hone their ability to recognize pseudoscience, prejudice, and dogma as it pertains to contemporary issues. The return to primary content areas allows students build on their content knowledge through complex issues-based simulation and modeling activities. Students will study the dynamics of ecosystems, the physical science of objects in space, as well as electricity, waves, and information transfer. Skills of data analysis become more sophisticated as various technologies are integrated into graphing and basic statistical methods are applied.