Science in 6th Grade
In sixth grade, students take a laboratory-based survey of the general sciences. They learn concepts in biology, physics, chemistry, and Earth science. Sixth graders study cells, simple cellular reproduction, biological classification, and are also introduced to Mendelian genetics. In chemistry, students learn about the Periodic Table and the structure of an atom. Later, they study forms of energy, forces, and magnetism, and they finish the year learning about Earth’s natural resources and the oceans. Students participate in a weeklong Marine Sciences program on Catalina Island, where they put to use the knowledge and skills gained throughout the year. Engineering projects are integrated into the curriculum. Students leave the sixth grade science course with a rich foundation in various topics of science, knowledge of the scientists who led the way, and an understanding of how interconnected the world is.
Students develop strong habits of mind, and are therefore assessed on content knowledge during investigations, projects, formal assessment, and homework assignments, but also on persistence, diligence, organization, collaboration, communication, reflection, and intellectual risk-taking. Students also practice organizational and time management skills.
Science in 7th Grade
In seventh grade life science, students spend the year asking and answering more in-depth questions about the living world around them. Building on explorations from the sixth grade, they begin by observing what defines the living world, and how life began. They move quickly through reviewing the structure and function of cells, while adding the chemistry of cell membranes and cellular processes to their knowledge. They go on to study genetics, heredity and evolution. The second trimester focuses on plant biology, reproduction, and processes. Students finish the year with an in-depth look at each of the human body systems, including: structure and movement, nutrition and digestion, circulation, respiration, excretion, and reproduction.
The scientific skills of sixth grade are used as the basis for emphasis on designing and conducting scientifically sound experiments and articulating understanding. To that end, students keep a lab journal and create lab “logs” or summaries of every experiment, they design their own single variable experiments, they write one or two formal lab reports, and answer open-ended assessment questions. In addition, they practice defending their ideas orally through two Lincoln-Douglas style ethics debates, class presentations of labs and ideas, and daily participation. Student-driven exploration is encouraged through the lab design process and “Discovery Activity” projects accompanying some units, in which students select from a list of dynamic projects or create their own project. They might create a Morse code machine and learn to send Morse code messages, use plants to create a natural dye and explain their process, compose a short story in which density is used to uncover a fraud, or create a periodic table of a personal collection.
Science in 8th Grade
In eighth grade, students examine the world from a more chemical and physical perspective. They take an in-depth look at classification of matter, atomic structure, the periodic table, chemical bonds, chemical reactions, energy, light, waves, sound, and optics. Due to students’ strong background in life sciences, they connect the chemical and physical world to the biology of living things. From linking the molecular structure of sulfur to respiration in deep-sea vents, to connecting acid base explorations to digestion, to relating the physics of light to the human eye, students return to sixth and seventh grade topics.
Students design more experiments, complete three formal lab reports, and write progressively detailed analyses. As in the seventh grade, eighth grade scientists augment their weekly lab work with Discovery Activities and science ethics activities. Eighth grade scientists practice reading and analyzing various sources of scientific information, from the textbook to current science news articles to journal extracts.