Middle School science focuses on an understanding of key concepts and processes in science, emphasizing the importance of science in everyday life. At all levels, we seek to challenge the mind of each girl, offering a wide variety of investigative science activities. The ability to communicate scientific methods and solutions is essential, making it a priority to teach each student to observe and report accurately. Experiences in the lab foster curiosity about the world around us. We impart in our students a lifelong understanding of how and why things work, and the skills and desire to discover the unknown.
The focus in the Middle School is to provide students with the opportunity to explore science while nurturing their interest and fostering their perceptions of science as relevant to their lives now and in the future. At the heart of the Middle School curriculum are the student experiences in the lab and in the field. Students are encouraged to conduct research projects, to be presented at our annual Science Fair, that stress the scientific method of inquiry. Many students are invited to participate in regional and statewide competitions because of the quality of their projects.
Fifth grade science focuses on the theme of scientific inquiry. An emphasis is placed on students classifying and asking questions about themselves and their world. The investigation begins with a study of the physical earth, and how it changes and progresses to the world of living things. An exploration of the six animal kingdoms deepens students' understanding of complex metabolic processes and the adaptation of an organism to its environment. A careful look at the human body, its systems and how they work together builds on previous concepts. A discovery-oriented approach encourages critical thinking, creative problem solving and the use of the scientific method to find solutions. Students are introduced to keeping a lab notebook to reflect upon their learning. A consumer testing unit guides students through the process of designing an experiment, using scientific equipment, collecting data and writing a conclusion. Fifth graders also test their engineering skills when they design and build earthquake resistant structures, participate in the egg drop contest at the Middle School Science and Engineering Fair and create Lego inventions in preparation for our class trip to Greenfield Village.
The sixth grade science curriculum is built on the framework of continuing the development of scientific skills and implementing those skills through hands-on experimentation. The Metric System, Matter, chemistry and astronomy are the subjects of exploration throughout the year. Each major topic encompasses many related areas of science. In addition, these topics relate and help the students to understand the scope and scale to the smallest amounts of matter on Earth, to the vastness of the Universe. Inquiry-based learning is encouraged through lab activities, experimentation, problem-solving challenges and individual and group projects. Sixth grade students are guided through a long-term research project of their choice, culminating in the Science Fair. Students also read a wide variety of science-oriented literature. Lab journals provide a place for observations, data collection, reflection, and creative science-based writing. Demonstrations of the Week #DOWs# are weekly experiments performed by the teacher that bring outside science into the classroom. The DOWs thus enable students to make inferences and connections to the scientific community.
Seventh grade science helps students make meaningful connections between science, their lives and the world around them. The year begins with a study of oceanography. Pivotal to this is a trip to Cape Cod, where students learn important principles and methods of ecological research. Each student collects data from various ecosystems on Cape Cod. Once back at school, they formulate questions, research topic ideas, organize the collected data in tables and graphs and then analyze it.
The seventh grade science course focuses on wetlands, physical and biological oceanography, water processes, meteorology and climate. Students may also design and carry out independent research projects that they exhibit at the Science Fair. The importance of water both on a local and global scale is emphasized.
The eighth grade science course serves as an introduction to physics and engineering. While concrete learning skills acquired in earlier grades are called upon on a regular basis, increasing emphasis is placed on abstract learning skills. Whenever possible, students master new material and concepts by using experimentation to find solutions to problems. A strong emphasis is placed on the skills of generating, recording, graphing and interpreting experimental data.
To prepare for an engineering project completed in January, the year begins with an emphasis on the ideas of force, motion, energy and simple machines. The class then shifts its focus to the principles of engineering and the engineering design cycle. In teams of three or four, students work together to design and build a gear-driven, motorized, battery-operated toy vehicle capable of completing a task of their choosing. The teams present their vehicles to a panel of engineer judges at Hathaway Brown's Science Fair, and each student writes an extensive report detailing what she has learned from the experience. For the remainder of the year, the content focus is on electricity, magnetism, light, color and alternative energy. Each student in the eighth grade also has the opportunity to design an independent science project for the Science Fair.