Middle school is a time of tremendous growth and change for students. They arrive at science class each day eager to share their thoughts, ideas, and questions—increasingly complex questions—about their lives, their communities, and their world. In Middle School science, we celebrate students’ deep curiosity and help them build independence as learners. The starting place is their wonderings, the questions that bubble up as new ideas are encountered.
Climate change, earthquakes, black holes, invasive species—these are big subjects that Middle School students naturally seek to understand and often relate to through drawing direct lines to their lives. They want to know how science can help them on their journey to answer questions about these topics. What do we know? What are the current limits to our understanding? How do I think about challenging issues facing our world? How could these ideas impact me?
As science teachers, we strive to build students’ understanding of, respect for, and facility with how we work to answer questions using the tools and skills of a scientist. Strengthening girls’ confidence and voice by diving deeper into their own big questions occurs through a scaffolded learning experience in fifth through eighth grade. We foster a classroom experience where students have the time and space to pause, reflect, ask questions, and construct knowledge together.
Over the course of their time in the Middle School, students take on increasing independence in designing and conducting science investigations. They learn in fifth grade to take their observations on the behavior of dry ice and develop investigable questions. They practice advanced data collection and analysis in consumer product testing in sixth grade. They apply conceptual knowledge of chemical interactions to manipulate variables in the making of bath bombs in seventh grade. They review scientific research before designing and conducting their own study of factors impacting bacterial growth in eighth grade.
A critical component of these experiences is reflecting on flaws in experimental design and problem-solving when, as inevitably can happen in the process of carrying out scientific inquiries, a well-conceived investigation doesn’t go the way one had anticipated. In Middle School science, we embrace the ever-evolving and dynamic nature of science, and the important role that Ellis girls can play as brave questioners who can take risks, respond productively to challenges, and move forward with the pursuit of understanding. By the end of Middle School, students have a foundation of knowledge and a set of skills to carry with them into advanced science classes. It is our conviction that as girls grow they can—and will— tirelessly pursue understanding in ever more complex ways, becoming citizens and future scientists who can tackle challenges with boldness and fierceness.