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Middle School

Middle School Science

In the Middle School science curriculum, students learn to apply scientific concepts, principles and theories to understand the physical world and the living environment. Learning is achieved through investigations, which are enriched by appropriate use of technology as well as traditional laboratory apparatus. Students are challenged to think critically, use judgments, search for new answers, and creatively apply newly acquired knowledge to various related situations. Students are encouraged to make connections between classroom experiences and other academic disciplines, as well as to the world around them. Progressing from sixth to eighth grade, students become more independent and sophisticated in conducting their investigations, developing an understanding of what constitutes a good experiment.

In addition to specific units of study, students at every grade level have experiences with scientific skills and processes. Students are exposed to the nature of science through units in the scientific method, measurement, and safe and appropriate lab practices. This course of study, which is aligned with New York State learning standards for science, prepares students to explain, accurately and in appropriate depth, the most important ideas about our physical setting and our living environment.

Sixth Grade
Sixth grade students encounter a variety of experiences in the physical and biological sciences designed to spark their interests and develop the cognitive skills necessary in today's world. The program encourages student interaction and cooperation to solve problems, gain the scientific knowledge necessary to interpret natural phenomena, and use the technology available to them. The curriculum encourages students to develop and test ideas as they work to solve problems. Acquiring information and developing concepts through reading and listening are also important, as is communicating information clearly in writing and orally.
The Nature of Science
Observations made while testing proposed explanations, and then analyzed using conventional and invented methods, provide new insights into phenomena.
Learning outcomes include:
  • describing the characteristics of a scientist explain a scientist's use of his/her senses
  • distinguishing between qualitative and quantitative observations
  • making inferences
  • identifying the steps of the Scientific Method
  • writing a hypothesis correctly
  • identifying the characteristics of independent, dependent and controlled variables
  • writing a conclusion
  • participating in scientific research projects
Human decisions and activities have had a profound impact on the environment.
Learning outcomes include:
  • understanding and applying scientific concepts, principles, and theories pertaining to the physical setting and living environment 
  • describing how living things, including humans, depend upon the living and nonliving environment for their survival
  • describing the effects of environmental changes on humans and other populations
  • describing the flow of energy and matter through food chains and food webs
  • providing evidence that green plants make food and explain the significance of this process to other organisms
  • describing factors responsible for competition within species and the significance of that competition
  • developing an understanding of Earth as a set of closely coupled systems
  • comparing and contrasting characteristics of producers, consumers and decomposers
  • describing biotic and abiotic factors in an ecosystem
  • describing how biological clocks affect organisms
  • giving examples of ways in which biological clocks are linked to cycles in time
  • describing how ecosystems are changed by the process of succession
  • describing how plants and animals move from one area to another
  • discussing the reasons for the extinction of organisms 
  • describing some conservation measures aimed at saving wildlife and the importance of those measures
Scientific Measurements and Metric System
Learning outcomes include:
  • accurately measuring length, width and volume
  • using the metric system for scientific research
  • correctly using appropriate units of measurement
  • creating appropriate graphs to interpret data
  • accurately converting within the metric system
Energy and matter interact through forces that result in changes in motion.
Learning outcomes include:
  • describing the way objects move
  • observing, describing, and comparing effects of forces (gravity, electric current, and magnetism) on the motion of objects
  • defining force and providing examples of forces in nature
  • explaining Newton's law of gravity
  • describing how a spring scale is used to measure weight
  • identifying examples of friction and describing some ways to change friction
  • explaining how air resistance affects moving objects
  • explaining that an object is moving as it changes position relative to some object that is not moving
  • differentiating between speed, velocity and acceleration
  • defining and describing how to calculate momentum
  • describing Newton's three laws of motion
  • comparing potential and kinetic energy
  • identifying and describing the different forms of energy
  • identifying examples of energy changing form
Seventh Grade
Seventh grade students explore the many wonders of biology and the living environment. As the year progresses students explore the various forms of life that exist on this planet from the very basic, such as viruses, to the most complex -- the human body. The learning experience encompasses class discussions, cooperative group work, hands-on activities, labs, and technology research projects.

Scientific Inquiry
Learning outcomes include:
  • explaining the nature of scientific inquiry
  • describing the skills used by scientists in their work
  • describing the importance of hypotheses and controlled experiments
  • explaining the importance of laboratory safety
Learning outcomes include:
  • learning how to use a microscope when viewing microscopic organisms
  • learning how to accurately measure specimens
  • being able to estimate how big the size of a specimen is and then be able to calculate the specimen's actual size
Cells and Cell Processes
Living things are both similar to and different from each other and nonliving things.
Learning outcomes include:
  • comparing and contrasting the parts of plants, animals, and one-celled organisms
  • describing the structure and function of various cell parts especially cell membranes, genetic material, nuclei and cytoplasm
  • comparing and contrasting the parts of plant, animal and bacterial cells
  • observing and describing the variations in reproductive patterns of organisms, including asexual and sexual reproduction
  • observing and describing cell division at the microscopic level and its macroscopic effects
  • comparing mitosis and meiosis
  • describing cancer as a result of abnormal cell division
Organisms maintain a dynamic equilibrium that sustains life.
Learning outcomes include:
  • comparing the way a variety of living specimens carry out basic life functions and maintain dynamic equilibrium
  • understanding the importance of transport across the cell membrane
  • comparing the various methods that allow materials to travel across the cell membrane
  • identifying the characteristics of life that all organisms share
  • understanding that the level of organization for structure and function of a multicellular organism includes cells, tissues, organs and organ systems
  • describing the methods in which organisms obtain energy both aerobically and anaerobically
Organisms inherit genetic information in a variety of ways that result in continuity of structure and function between parents and offspring. The continuity of life is sustained through reproduction and development.
Learning outcomes include:
  • describing sexual and asexual mechanisms for passing genetic materials from generation to generation
  • distinguishing the difference between the genetic results from sexual and asexual reproduction
  • being able to use punnett squares successfully
  • analyzing pedigrees
  • understanding the basics of Mendelian genetics such as dominance and recessiveness
  • explaining how sex-linked traits are passed down from generation to generation
  • describing simple mechanisms related to the inheritance of some physical traits in offspring
  • identifying several genetic disorders and describing their genetic cause and general symptoms
  • describing several advances that have been made in the field of genetics such as genetic engineering and cloning
  • describing the process by which a cell produces proteins
  • observing and describing the variations in reproductive patterns of organisms, including asexual and sexual reproduction
  • explaining the role of sperm and egg cells in sexual reproduction
Individual organisms and species change over time.
Learning outcomes include:
  • describing sources of variation in organisms and their structures and relate the variations to survival
  • describing factors responsible for competition within species and the significance of that competition
  • describing the effects of environmental changes on humans and other populations
  • explaining the principle of natural selection
  • understanding the importance of fossils in learning about evolution
  • providing several examples of evolutionary changes that have occurred
Living things are classified by shared characteristics on the cellular and organism level. In classifying organisms, biologists consider details of internal and external structures.
Learning outcomes include:
  • learning how to use and analyze a dichotomous key when classifying organisms
  • understanding that living things are classified by shared characteristics on the cellular and organism level
  • describing the biological classification system as being arranged from general (kingdom) to species level
  • identifying the three main characteristics used to classify organisms into the six kingdoms of life
  • describing the main characteristics of each of the 6 kingdoms of life
  • understanding the principles of the scientific naming process
Members of the plant kingdom share certain unique characteristics.
Learning outcomes include:
  • providing evidence that green plants make food and explaining the significance of this process to other organisms
  • describing the structure and function of roots, stems, leaves and reproductive structures
  • explaining the process in which plants reproduce
  • comparing vascular and nonvascular plants
Human Body
The major human organ systems interact with one another to maintain life.
Learning outcomes include:
  • explaining the functioning of major human organ systems and their interactions
  • describing the importance of major nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in maintaining health and promoting growth and explain the need for a constant input of energy for living organisms
Eighth Grade
In eighth grade, students take part in Earth Science units that incorporate chemistry and sustainability activities. The idea behind this integration is to connect their studies with individual experiences (hands-on labs where students perform investigations and analysis themselves), and to help students appreciate the larger picture of applying sustainable practices to their community and to the world at large.
Introduction to Science
Students gather information and draw conclusions using quantitative and qualitative observations.
Learning outcomes include:
  • designing scientific investigations (observing, describing, and comparing; collecting samples; seeking more information, conducting a controlled experiment; discovering new objects or phenomena; making models)
  • designing a simple controlled experiment and choosing an appropriate number of trials
  • identifying independent variables (manipulated), dependent variables (responding), and constants in a simple controlled experiment
  • recording observations and measurements (lab notes, digital media) to help assess the explanation
  • using appropriate safety procedures
  • conducting a scientific investigation
  • collecting quantitative and qualitative data
  • performing analysis (extrapolation and interpolation) and creating appropriate graphs from their data
  • determining the density of liquids, and regular and irregular-shaped solids
  • determining the volume of a regular and irregular-shaped solid, using water displacement
  • using all of the above to generate a lab report
  • generating and interpreting field maps including topographic
Earth's Ingredients (Elements to Rocks)
This unit is designed to take students from the unseen to the visible.
Learning outcomes include:
  • observing and describing properties of materials, such as density, conductivity, and solubility
  • distinguishing between chemical and physical changes
  • developing models to explain common chemical reactions and changes in states of matter
  • observing and describing energy changes as related to chemical reactions
  • understanding that rocks are composed of minerals
  • identifying minerals on the basis of physical properties such as streak, hardness, and reaction to acid
  • classifying rocks according to their method of formation
  • understanding that the rock cycle model shows how rock material may be transformed from one type of rock to another
  • appreciating that more than 100 elements combine in a multitude of ways to produce compounds that account for all living and nonliving substances
Geologic Resources and History
Students explore Earth's history through the record in the rocks.
Learning outcomes include:
  • understanding that many thousands of layers of sedimentary rock provide evidence for the long history of Earth and the changing life forms whose remains are found in the rocks
  • understanding that continents fit together like puzzle parts, and that fossil correlations provided initial evidence that continents were once together
  • understanding that fossil fuels contain stored solar energy and are considered nonrenewable resources
  • identifying solar energy, wind, moving water, and biomass as some examples of renewable energy resources
  • designing solutions to real-world problems related to home, school, and community using scientific experiments to inform the solution, and applying mathematical concepts and reasoning to assist in developing a solution
Shaping the Land
An investigation focusing on surface processes.
Learning outcomes include:
  • explaining how atmosphere (air), hydrosphere (water), and lithosphere (land) interact, evolve, and change and how the dynamic processes that wear away Earth's surface include weathering and erosion.
  • understanding that the process of weathering breaks down rocks to form sediment
Shaping the Earth
An investigation focusing on the sub-surface processes.
Learning outcomes include:
  • understanding that heat flow and movement of material within Earth cause sections of Earth's crust to move, which may result in earthquakes, volcanic eruption, and the creation of mountains and ocean basins
  • analyzing earthquake wave data (vibrational disturbances) and concluding that there are layers within Earth
  • comparing the properties of the crust, mantle, outer core, and inner core
  • understanding that folded, tilted, faulted, and displaced rock layers suggest past crustal movement
  • understanding that the Theory of Plate Tectonics explains how the seemingly solid lithosphere consists of a series of plates that “float” on the partially molten section of the mantle, and that convection cells within the mantle may be the driving force for the movement of the plates
  • understanding that plates may collide, move apart, or slide past each other, and that most volcanic activity and mountain building occur at the boundaries of these plates, often resulting in earthquakes
Meteorology and Oceans
Students study the relationship between the atmosphere and hydrosphere.
Learning outcomes include:
  • describing atmospheric conditions at a given location for a short period of time
  • understanding that climate is the characteristic weather that prevails from season to season and year to year, and that the uneven heating of Earth's surface is the cause of weather
  • discovering that air masses form when air remains nearly stationary over a large section of Earth's surface and take on the conditions of temperature and humidity from that location
  • understanding that weather conditions at a location are determined primarily by temperature, humidity, and pressure of air masses over that location
  • predicting local weather condition changes caused by movement of air masses, and understanding that movement of air masses is determined by prevailing winds and upper air currents
  • understanding that fronts are boundaries between air masses, and that precipitation is likely to occur at these boundaries
  • understanding that high-pressure systems generally bring fair weather, and low-pressure systems usually bring cloudy, unstable conditions
  • describing hazardous weather conditions such as thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, ice storms, and blizzards
  • identifying substances that enter the atmosphere naturally and from human activity, including dust from volcanic eruptions and greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapor, and understand that these substances can affect weather, climate, and living things
  • graphing and predicting that as altitude increases, air pressure decreases
  • understanding that most of the lithosphere is covered by a relatively thin layer of water called the hydrosphere
  • evaluating and following how water circulates through the atmosphere, lithosphere, and hydrosphere in what is known as the water cycle
Students will extend their study outside of Earth to the Earth/Sun/Moon System.
Learning outcomes include:
  • explaining daily, monthly, and seasonal changes on Earth
  • describing different patterns of motion of celestial and tidal objects
  • creating models, drawings, or demonstrations describing the arrangement, interaction, and movement of the Earth, Moon, and Sun
  • describing current models related to the formation of the universe