As with all other subjects in Middle School, science is taught by subject-area specialists. Students continue to practice and expand analytical and critical thinking skills. They increase their facility with laboratory tools and equipment, and engage in focused investigations in biology, chemistry, earth, and physical sciences. Discussions range from procedural instruction to thoughtful connections between classroom content and real-life phenomena. A common thread in the Middle School science program is the issue of our responsibility to know about, and participate in, scientific developments in the world.
Sixth grade life science aims to engage and excite students about the living world around them, expose them to fundamental concepts in biology, and develop critical scientific, academic and personal skills. The course focuses on living systems from macro- and micro-levels and from multiple perspectives. Topics include the effects of stress on the human body, the essential role of genetics and the origin of life, cellular structures and human body systems, as well as social and contemporary issues related to the life sciences. Within these area of study, students gain experience with classification, data collection and documentation, and language for communicating about scientific subjects.
This course fosters students’ natural curiosity through a series of developmentally appropriate hands-on activities that allow them to practice laboratory skills and gain an appreciation for and working understanding of key energy concepts. Using qualitative and quantitative methods, students make observations, record data and write formal reports utilizing spreadsheets and graphing programs. During the fall study of meteorology, student research topics of their choosing, prepare responses ranging from models to Power Points, and make presentations to the class. They also investigate energy transformation and conservation by building generators powered by the wind, integrating engineering design and core science concepts. This same integration occurs again during other projects: investigating astronomy; building and programming robots; and designing and launching rockets to test aerodynamic principles and Newton’s laws of motion.
The eighth grade science course, Introductory Physical Science, emphasizes the development of basic laboratory skills, the process of controlled experimentation and an understanding of the principles of physical science, especially matter and its properties. Through a sequence of experiments, students learn appropriate ways to measure, describe and categorize matter. Specifically, the course covers the conservation of mass, characteristic properties (including density, melting and boiling points, solubility, crystal shape and spectra) atomic structure and the periodic chart. While students work on all labs as part of a team, each student keeps a lab notebook and writes lab reports. The analysis of class data is an important element of each investigation; graphing of data is often required and the use of computer software encouraged. Empirical evidence and concepts are then used to build a model of the atom as the basic unit of matter. The course includes a number of laboratory challenge assessments and culminates in the "sludge test," with each lab team devising and executing a multi-step procedure to identify the components of an unknown mixture.
This high school-level course is composed of three parts: ecology and comparative Anatomy (fall); cellular biology and biochemistry (winter); and evolution and genetics (spring). Lab and fieldwork are important aspects of this course, as students generate knowledge from direct observations of natural and experimental phenomena and learn to evaluate this knowledge for precision, accuracy and reliability. Throughout the fall, the West River and Long Island Sound serve as living laboratories. Students evaluate the watershed using topographic maps, Google Earth software and site visits. From their data, students assess potential and actual human impacts on water quality. In teams, they carry out physical, chemical and biological sampling in the river and harbor. The anatomy of an invertebrate (crayfish) and a vertebrate (perch) are examined through dissections, and comparisons to human biology are also explored. During the winter term, the focus is on the form and function of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. Representative cells and some organelles (chloroplasts, nuclei, cell walls) are observed directly using compound microscopes. Other samples are studied using electron photomicrographs and computer animation. The spring term is devoted to the study of evolution by natural selection and the principles of heredity. Mitosis, meiosis and classical genetics are studied in depth, and the structure and function of DNA is introduced.
The sixth grade Festival of the World caps a yearlong study of global cultures, religions and geography. Each student studies a different country, creating a range of informational and artistic projects, including a model of a famous landmark.
Assistant Head of School
Beth Mello oversees the school's curriculum development; diversity, inclusion and social justice initiatives; and faculty professional development.