Middle School Course Descriptions
The Middle School Science Curriculum is designed to build a strong foundational understanding of important science concepts. The progression follows major science disciplines as outlined in the Next Generation Science Standards, covering Earth and Space Science, Life Science, and Physical Science. The Middle School Science Curriculum emphasizes hands-on projects that require innovators to apply concepts to real-life situations and to build scientific habits of mind.
In Grades 6-8, Innovators will:
- Foster a curiosity about the natural world and a love of science
- Formulate questions to understand problems better
- Plan, design, and carry out investigations
- Collect, analyze, and interpret data
- Observe and record physical phenomena
- Use models
- Communicate theories that are supported by evidence
- Learn core disciplinary concepts in earth and space science, life science, and physical science
- Learn from the research of others
- Move from concrete to more abstract thinking
- Better understand the relationship of structure and function in the world around them, systems and cycles, and the causes and effects of complex phenomena and systems
- Learn how to do science and think like scientists
Science is organized to introduce innovators to our program, help them understand themselves as learners, and gain perspective on our place in the universe. The year begins with a study of the differences between the scientific method and the human-centered design process. Innovators practice with both so they are able to evaluate when to use the correct tool to answer their questions. From here innovators begin to study how their own brain functions and complete a nervous system anatomy unit. They learn how memories work and use this information to better understand themselves. Next, they investigate the stars and the mysteries of our universe. To finish the year our focus will return to Earth to investigate weather, the climate, and our atmosphere.
Grade 7 Science curriculum is organized around Life Science. Innovators will be challenged to open their eyes and minds to the world around them through the study of Life Science. To start the year, we focus on our local community and ask the innovators to identify the parts of our ecosystem. We will spend time creating digital field guides for our campus, highlighting the diverse habitats we live in. Innovators will be collecting data year-round that will be used for long-term studies and help us monitor the health of our beautiful campus. Continuing our focus on living systems we turn to an anatomy and physiology unit to learn about the body. This unit will culminate in a comparative anatomy project that ties together principles of evolution. Innovators will finish the year looking at how our bodies create and support movement through a unit on sport science. This will introduce concepts of physics and focus on how our muscular and skeletal systems work together.
Grade 8 Science curriculum is organized around Physical Science. The year begins with a comprehensive look at the periodic table to provide our innovators with insight into the differences between different elements and how molecules are formed. This will give them a lens into material science as we experiment with the different properties of molecules and matter. From here innovators will investigate the relationship between temperature and molecular motion. This will guide us to a unit covering the principles of motion and force. Using Newton’s Laws as a jumping-off point innovators will investigate the relationships between speed, acceleration, and position. The year will end with a unit on the physics of flight where innovators will study thrust, drag, lift, and gravity’s influence on an object’s ability to fly.
Upper School Course Descriptions
The Grade 9 and 10 science curriculum is organized around topics. These topics come from real-world issues that our innovators will have to grapple with in the years to come. We have chosen to step away from the traditional model of a discipline-driven curriculum (Biology, Chemistry, Physics) confident that we can provide a wide breadth of entry points into these disciplines that allow innovators to chase passions, and foster creative solutions. This integrated approach to learning pushes our innovators to make unique connections with the content in ways that traditional classrooms can’t provide. Each unit that we introduce begins with an essential question that asks the innovators to look toward their own future. As preliminary thoughts are generated from this essential question the curriculum is expanded to provide the necessary background knowledge for solution development. This science curriculum is designed to train innovators to be forward-thinking problem solvers. We strive to connect the innovators to professionals working in the field through site visits, zoom calls, emails, and phone calls. At the end of each unit, the innovators create a portfolio of learning that includes the essential question, background knowledge, and projects that demonstrate their understanding.
Innovators begin the year with the study of energy, its different forms, and how they can be transformed. We will look at the relationship between kinetic energy and potential energy in systems and the different ways in which energy can be stored. Using Dr. Richard Smalley’s Terawatt Challenge as a point to consider we will look at the need for energy in the future and focus on battery technology. From here the class will shift its focus to disease. In this unit, innovators will take a close look at the body’s immune system response and different types of pathogens. We will look at historical case studies and our current pandemic to see how our treatments of disease have changed through time and to introduce us to the field of public health. We will read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks to learn about cancer, bioethics, and the developments of vaccines. We conclude the year with a focus on water. As the most unique and important molecule for life it is vital to understand its chemical composition. Innovators will also look at its distribution across the globe and how it influences evolution and settlement.
We begin the year with a unit on Climate Change. Our world is constantly changing and being able to understand why this is happening is vital for our ability to face the future. In this unit, our innovators are asked to analyze big data sources to create paleoclimate models. With this information, innovators will gain a better understanding of when our species stopped living within our environment and began to alter it. This unit is as much about learning how the human population is affecting the Earth as it is about the innovators learning to be responsible and proactive global citizens who can understand and extrapolate on data they are presented with. Next, we study transportation to understand what fossil fuel is and how it is processed to make the myriad of chemicals we rely on today. Innovators also look at alternative fuel sources and the difference between an engine and a motor. Innovators will also gain insight into urban planning as they consider redesign options for major cities. To finish the year innovators will talk about food. This will include a close look at the chemistry of digestion and the hormones that control metabolism. Building on these principles innovators will begin to analyze how the quality of the food we put into our bodies affects our bodies’ ability to create energy. Innovators will also look at our food systems to better understand how our globe’s changing climate will challenge what we can eat, while the increase of transportation networks will increase the availability of food worldwide.
Grade 11 Science is designed to teach innovators advanced research skills. Over the first half of this year, innovators will be guided in crafting their own essential questions stemming from previous studies, research, current events, or more traditional disciplines (Biology, Chemistry, Physics). Working closely with the teacher, innovators will learn how to craft essential questions, conduct targeted research, and design meaningful experiments to bring them to a conclusion. Examples of questions could include:
- How does the chemical structure of a material define its physical properties?
- How long does genetic mutation take to affect change in a population?
- How do synthetic chemicals interrupt our bodies’ chemical receptors?
Over the second half of the year, innovators are connected with scientists working in a scientific field of their choosing. After making introductions they are guided through interviews to help better understand the research or work they are doing currently. Innovators will be encouraged to visit labs in the area, and if they have demonstrated sufficient skills to gain first-hand experience working with local researchers in their labs. In class, innovators will learn how to evaluate experiment results using statistics and practice presenting their findings to other experts in the field.
Grade 12 Science is designed to give innovators choice in their studies. Courses will run either half-year or full-year and are constantly being redrafted to take advantage of teacher passions, the rich resources available between local industry, higher education connections, and current events.
Sample Electives include:
- Drugs, Medicine, and Vaccines
- Bringing DaVinci to Life
- Chemistry of Clean Living
- Mutations, Evolution, and Superheroes