Lower School Science
Our Preschool science curriculum follows the lead of our youngest students, who approach each day as a chance to discover the natural world and its wonders. Using our campus grounds as a second classroom, preschoolers engage in hands-on explorations of scientific units inspired by their everyday experiences of the world around them. Preschool students learn about seeds and plant growth, density, buoyancy, shadows and light, and insect lifecycles. The curriculum varies yearly, as students take an active role in shaping the class by suggesting topics of interest.
The members of the Pre-Kindergarten science classroom include our lower school science teacher, curious pre-k students, and…earthworms?! Pre-k students continue their exploration of the natural world by learning about environmental stewardship, including the importance of reducing our carbon footprint by composting. The class earthworms help out the class by turning organic waste into stable sources of plant nutrition, a process called Vermicomposting. In addition to learning about composting, students complete units on the human body, hibernation and animal tracks, simple machines, and soil composition.
Kindergarten students are increasingly able to make sophisticated connections between abstract theories and the world around them – but they aren’t the only ones transforming in the Science classroom! Students begin the year with a comprehensive study of Monarch butterflies, which they raise from eggs, to caterpillars, to fully-grown, adult butterflies. As the butterflies grow into their full form, kindergartners grow in their understanding of complex natural cycles and systems. Once the butterflies take flight, students move onto units on weather, states of matter, and rocks and fossils.
Our First Grade scientists are growing in their ability to understand the relationship between cause and effect, and they’re asking a lot of questions! Like: How does a seed grow into a tree? How does a tadpole grow into a frog? How do baby teeth get replaced by adult teeth? As their reasoning skills develop, first graders perform increasingly elaborate experiments to discover the answers to these questions. Students adopt a tree on our campus and observe its growth and changes in the course of the school year; they count, classify, and learn how to properly care for their baby and adult teeth; they learn about their place in the universe by exploring the solar system and Earth’s position within it. At the end of the year, students raise tadpoles in their classroom and learn exactly how they turn into frogs!
Second Grade Science partners with Social Studies to teach second graders all about ecology. With the school grounds as their laboratory, students observe the biodiversity and interconnectedness of plant and animal life. Students are encouraged to think about their own place in the ecosystem by considering the local and global effects of environmental threats. Second graders explore the effects of shifting natural processes and discover how living things adapt to changes in their environments. Following their study of ecology-related concepts, students observe the various local species and behaviors of birds in our school forests. Using birds as a model and inspiration, students end the year by exploring the physics of flight and building models to apply their understanding
Third graders have lots of energy – almost as much energy as the science class curriculum! Third grade scientists explore all types of energy: kinetic, potential, light, electrical, magnetic, and more. In partnership with their Social Studies class, third graders consider how our bodies make energy from food as they explore the human digestive system and experiment with food preservation techniques. At the end of the year, third graders study how plants obtain energy while planning, planting, and maintaining several of the school’s garden beds. Come visit in the Spring and taste a school lunch – chances are, third graders grew some of the ingredients!
Fourth grade Science gets down to earth. Most of the class curriculum is dedicated to Earth science on a local and global scales. Concentrating on the coal resources in our state, fourth graders learn about the environmental and economic importance of rocks and minerals. Our geologists then “shift” to studying the rocky effects of plate tectonics: volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and more. An embryology unit, in which fourth graders incubate and raise chickens, marks the end of the Lower School Science curriculum.
Middle School Science
Will they make it? The FSH community wonders and watches as our Fifth Grade scientists fasten their seat belts, secure their gear, and hold their breath. They’ve prepared for months, and now, finally, it’s time to go to Mars. During the simulated Mission to Mars voyage, fifth graders take up roles as engineers, navigators, medical technicians, robotic specialists, and – of course – astronauts, who must calculate, calibrate, troubleshoot, and work together in order to successfully travel through the solar system. In addition to extraterrestrial travel, fifth graders explore chemical movement by investigating chemical reactions and transformations. Students end the year by building a Rube Goldberg machine, filming the project in action, and learning about physical movement and the nuances of forces, work, and motion.
In Sixth Grade science class, students study systems and processes that are invisible to the naked eye. Our middle school scientists begin the year by delving into cell type and structure. In the process, students develop critical scientific methods skills, including how to manage a microscope, culture Petri dishes, run experiments, and write thorough lab reports. Next, our students ask some big questions: How, and why, do humans exist? These questions take students on a journey through genetics, natural selections, evolution, and yet more scientific methods, including data analysis and DNA extraction. Later, our student scientists investigate light and sound waves, examine the properties of light, sound, and human perception, and explore eye structure by dissecting a cow eye. The year concludes with a field research study: students study neotropical songbird migration patterns from Pennsylvania to Costa Rica, and their relationship to shade-grown, Costa Rican coffee.
Seventh Grade scientists ask, How are local and global ecologies interconnected? Seventh grade students concentrate on environmental sciences at local, regional, and global scales. Students begin the year by collecting and analyzing the macroinvertebrates living in a stream at neighboring Haverford College. With the help of the Stroud Water Research Center, students research population densities, learn what these results indicate about stream quality, and submit their findings to an international water quality database. Next, students explore the complexities of renewable and nonrenewable energy sources, with a focus on wind power, engineering, and blade efficiency. Finally, in preparation for their trip to Washington D.C., seventh graders investigate connections among climate change and various social, economic, and political conditions. By the time they lobby their Congressperson on climate change, our citizen-scientists are deeply informed on the relationship between environmental issues and governance.
By the time they reach Eighth Grade science, our students are ready for an overview of the sciences they will study in high school and beyond. From biology to geology, and from astronomy to physics, eighth graders embark on a comprehensive exploration of the forces that structure our planet (and our universe!). Eighth grade scientists dissect owl pellets, sheep hearts, and frogs; examine fossils, earth forces, and the geological timeline; investigate the solar system and explanations for the universe’s existence; and explore physical forces like tension, torsion, shear, and compression while building an arch bridge, and the Newtonian Laws of Motion while designing a Newton scooter. In addition to these class units, eighth grade scientists design independent studies, for which they develop experiments, collect data, and present their findings.