Imagine a middle school chorus of ‘what if’ and ‘how come’ serving to shape the nature of science education. It is the use of this natural curiosity as a spring board to catapult learning into an intensely personal experience that hallmarks middle school science teaching at Manlius Pebble Hill School. This constructivist approach dovetails with the questioning, rapidly developing and vastly different intellect s of middle school students. A faculty celebrating this and building experiences to monopolize on it has been highlighted as strength of our program. Whether comparing chemical reaction rates, building solar ovens, or investigating nearby Butternut Creek students are consistently offered rich, hands on opportunities to question, challenge, and develop a refined sense of understanding based on each personal experience. Attention is also given to moving students’ thinking such that they intellectually allow an experience to teach them all that it can. That is, there may be significant learning occurring throughout and as a result of an experience that was not anticipated or the initial focus of the experience by the student. However, opening one’s mind to allow all this information to be considered is a skilled thought pattern one finds within all great scientific thinkers, past and present. This style of learning is exemplified not only by our daily approach to teaching the unique middle school student but is also extended to our Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Fair, student attendance at a Syracuse University lecture, and participation in Bristol – Meyers Squibb Summer Horizons Program. Students graduating from our middle school have a refined sense of the scientific method as well as the skills to write their thoughts within the structure of a laboratory report.
This introductory course in scientific inquiry covers a variety of scientific fields. The class is activity-oriented and acquaints students with science methodology. Scientific inquiry is made less mysterious by allowing students to understand the world through supervised experimentation. Students are involved with ecosystem comparisons, microscopic investigations, building solar powered mini cars, and basic experiments in chemistry and physics. As the year progresses students are given greater independence in determining both control and variable trials of each experiment and learn to make objective statements about their observations while writing increasingly complex lab reports. Progress is evaluated through the development of detailed, thoughtful, and descriptive writing. Independent work is also achieved through the design, development and execution of a STEM Fair project.
Science 7: Life Science
The focus for seventh grade Life Science is on human body systems: skeletal, muscular, integumentary, digestive, circulatory and nervous. Laboratory work is designed to give students hands-on experience, reinforce course content and develop an understanding of the scientific method. The material complements the 6th and 8th Grade science curricula, so that students are exposed to the fundamentals of the life and physical sciences before reaching the Upper School. In addition, students carry out a thorough preparation for the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math fair, which is designed to give them experience in selecting a question for research, designing and carrying out an appropriate experiment, analyzing results, and communicating with both adults and their peers.
Science 8: Earth Science
Like all other sciences, environmental science is a process of satisfying our curiosity about why things are the way they are and about how things happen the way they happen. During this course, students learn that we know so little about environmental interactions that it is difficult to predict long term effects. The course goals are to provide students with the scientific principles, concepts, and methodologies required to understand the interrelationships of the natural world, to identify and analyze environmental problems – both natural and human-made, to evaluate the relative risks associated with these problems, and to examine alternative solutions for resolving and/or preventing them. Throughout the course of the year student and teacher generated activities allow creative problem-solving and involvement in experimental design. The key themes include population, biodiversity, air and water pollution, biomes, farming practices, and habitat restoration.