The 7-8s’ science program focuses on the interconnectedness of living things and their environments. The cornerstone of this program is our trips to Central Park and the Urban Assembly Garden on 84th Street and Amsterdam, places where students are able to formally extend their scientific learning as well as informally make a close bond with the natural world. In the fall, we utilize the park to study the lives of trees. Each student chooses one tree to follow throughout the course of the season. We learn about trees’ different parts and the process through which their leaves change color and fall. We also look at the larger role a tree plays in its ecosystem by studying decomposition. In the classroom, students work with and care for various decomposers such as pill bugs, worms and millipedes. Outdoors, students hunt for fungi, search for insects in rotting logs and observe natural decay first hand.
At the Urban Assembly Garden, students take on the role of caretakers of the MCS garden plot. They learn about the characteristics of various seasonal crops, the conditions in which they best grow, and then choose which seeds they would like to plant. Following seed planting, the students rotate each week through different garden jobs that help maintain a thriving school garden while also directing their investigations in this natural space. For example, the class horticulturalists water and amend the MCS plot while also tracking seed propagation rates and plant growth. The class ornithologists use spring scales to weigh the garden bird feeders, refill it when necessary, and refer to field guides to identify and record the different birds that are observed each day.
In the winter, we explore human habitats through creating electrical circuits and learning about energy and its cycles and consumption. In the spring, we return to our studies of the natural world through investigations in Central Park and continued work in the Urban Assembly Garden. In preparation for the students’ spring farm trip, we compare and contrast these urban green spaces to what students may experience at the MCS Farm.