Science Lab

Middle School science at Saints Peter & Paul School consists of Earth Science in 7th grade and Physical Science in 8th grade.  Earth Science topics include the scientific method, mapping Earth, structure of Earth, properties of water, elements, minerals, rocks, plate tectonics, volcanoes, seasons and the solar system.  Physical Science topics include the scientific method, properties and changes of matter, the periodic table, ionic and covalent bonding, chemical reactions, fluids, Newton’s Laws, simple machines, energy, effects of alcohol on human body & brain and a grade-wide science fair.  Each class has 3-4 hands-on lab classes per month. Every topic in middle school science is presented first with an introduction to vocabulary. Next, students are encouraged to grapple with the material through an inquiry-based contemplation and discussion of a question. Or, students attempt to solve a presented problem before direct instruction begins, such as: “Design an experiment to determine if air is matter.”  Direct instruction involves interactive note-taking with integral sketches and graphic organizers as well as regular hands-on demonstrations. Kinesthetics and call-and-response interactions are also used for certain concepts. Where applicable, conceptual formulas are provided for the benefit of logical thinkers for whom math makes complete sense, while lots of descriptive terms and pictures are used for the more verbal and visual learners.  Nearly every topic is accompanied with a hands-on lab where students use laboratory equipment to carry out experiments, measure, analyze data, and communicate results.

Middle school science assessments include nightly homework and regular vocabulary and concept quizzes as well as unit tests, midterms, and finals. Labs are graded based on careful measurement, analysis of the data and communication of results.  Nearly every middle school science topic involves a creative project where the students produce a work of art, incorporating what was learned. Depending on the topic and assignment, this could be a model, a poem, a comic, or a presentation on a topic. Several times each year, students collaborate on projects to be presented to the class.  Seventh and 8th graders are required at times to teach younger students, their “buddies”, what they have learned about certain topics. Certain group and individual projects are assigned so that every student is required to meet the same requirements, but the difficulty of the topic is differentiated according to student ability.