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Science

5th Grade
We begin the year in fifth grade science with students inspecting objects, videos, and various phenomena to contrast the differences between making an observation and making an inference. They continue on their journey of exploring scientific practices by asking testable and non-testable questions and understanding how to create a fair test using variables to collect data. Students investigate matter and how properties change with our first driving question, “What happens to our garbage?” and they practice writing like a scientist by taking detailed observations and recording data in lab reports. 
 
In the second trimester, students work towards solidifying their understanding of scientific practices. We continue our investigation into matter to answer our question, “What happens to our garbage?” In addition to the continued application of previously learned skills, students practiced creating visual representations of scientific concepts. Modeling includes explanations and predictions that create meaningful discussions. Through analysis of our investigations and collaboration, students began articulating scientific arguments using observations and evidence. We finish this unit with students constructing detailed explanations to answer our driving question.
 
In the final trimester, students continuously apply their scientific practices in our unit that explores energy in organisms and ecosystems. Our driving question (“How does energy move through an ecosystem?”) allows students to access their prior knowledge about matter and ecosystems while encountering new, more challenging material. Students continue to investigate questions deeply, illustrate learning through models, and develop strong arguments and explanations. Students will finish the year by working through an engineering design challenge that has specific criteria and constraints. 
 
6th Grade
To begin their year, the sixth grade observe a series of severe hailstorms to spark their curiosity and elicit ideas on weather phenomena. They identify patterns in hailstones and hail frequency map data before evaluating and presenting hailstorm weather data to their peers. Students develop an understanding of weather, climate, and water cycling and investigate climate change's impact on New York City.
 
In addition to mastering specific content knowledge, students lay the foundation for year-long science skill development. They make observations and ask questions using Notice/Wonder charts; analyze and interpret a range of weather data; and explain weather-based phenomena through discussion, writing, and visual representations. They also create and revise their own scientific models and plan and execute their own investigations.
 
In the second trimester, sixth graders continue studying weather and climate. Through investigations, they determine the relationship between energy, temperature, and air density, and they track the motion and appearance of clouds to understand how they form and then produce different types of precipitation. Students end the unit by developing a diagram/model of cumulonimbus cloud formation and use claim-evidence-reasoning charts to explain our unit's big questions.
 
In our final trimester of the year, sixth graders turn their attention to the vastness and awesomeness of space. They use scientific notation and scale models to explore the sizes of and distances between objects in our solar system, and they identify and use criteria for classifying objects in and beyond our galaxy. For their final project, they are assigned to Galactic Resettlement Teams and tasked with using data to find suitable exoplanet homes for alien lifeforms in search of new planets.
 
7th/8th Grade
For seventh and eighth grade, MCS has a two-year rotating curriculum for English, science, and history. To begin their physical science year, the seventh and eighth grade explore the interaction between light and matter. Motivated by the unique properties of a one-way mirror, students learned how light behaves when it encounters materials with different structures at microscale. Students also investigate lenses to inform their understanding of how light interacts with the human eye.
 
In addition to mastering specific content knowledge, students lay the foundation for year-long science skill development. They create, revise, and test their own scientific models; make observations and ask questions using Notice/Wonder charts; analyze and interpret light meter data; explain light-based phenomena through discussion, writing, and visual representations; and plan and execute their first investigation. As the year progresses, they are able to apply these skills to increasingly complex ideas and phenomena, including forces and motion as well as atomic theory.
 
In the second trimester, seventh and eighth graders study forces and motion and gather information and evidence to support their final engineering task: developing a protective cell phone case. Students analyze different types of systems, learning how to identify and diagram force pairs in two-object systems as well as how to identify and diagram balanced and unbalanced forces in one-object systems. Students also investigate the relationship between force and mass and how cushioning can change the outcome of collisions. In addition to mastering specific content knowledge, students also work to hone their investigation planning skills, including identifying variables and constants, writing procedures, and using results/data to support their claims and conclusions.
 
In the final trimester of the year, seventh and eighth graders explore their world at the particulate level. Students use physical and chemical properties to distinguish between mystery substances and then create models to show how substances with different properties have different compositions. They also work in groups on inquiry-based activities that explore elements, compounds, and mixtures, including how to classify matter using symbols and diagrams. Students end the trimester by applying their understanding of the properties and types of matter to chemical reactions in their daily lives.
 
The second year of the seventh and eighth grade science course focuses on life science and biology. Through investigations into the systems that govern the natural world and life processes, students broaden their knowledge base while simultaneously developing their scientific inquiry skills. They design scientific experiments, collect and analyze the resultant data, and draw conclusions to broaden their knowledge.
 
Seventh and eighth graders begin the year with an investigation into living organisms by examining what it means to be alive and by examining life processes that include metabolism, photosynthesis, cell reproduction, DNA, heredity, and natural selection. Students also delve into the complex relationships between organisms in an ecosystem.
 
The next unit of study will explore cells, the “building blocks of life.” Students will use laboratory techniques including microscopes and biological stains to examine the organelles that compose cells and study cellular processes including cellular respiration, protein synthesis, mitosis, and meiosis. Subsequently, students will examine how DNA encodes the instructions to build cells and how heredity explains the passage of genetic traits from parents to offspring.
 
The culminating unit of the life science course will focus on evolution as the unifying theme in biology. Students will examine how natural selection, mutation, migration, genetic drift, and sexual selection drive evolutionary change. They will construct phylogenies to trace evolutionary history and understand how scientific classification reflects the genetic relationships between organisms.
 
Student learning will be reinforced through class discussions, presentations, group work, homework, independent study, research, and laboratory work. Students are expected to participate and ask questions as they realize that they are scientists in their everyday lives. 
 
Eighth grade students also have an additional science seminar course. Science seminar gives eighth graders an opportunity to explore scientific concepts and pursue individual interests. The focus of the science seminar is shaped by collaboration between students and the teacher. Past topics have included Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM)-based projects, examining identity and equity in the scientific community, using data to explore environmental justice issues, and robotics and coding.
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