Dear Parents and Guardians:
If you are here looking for science activities to engage your child in over the summer, I highly recommend watching Paul Anderson's video "Teaching Science at Home: A Survival Guide for Parents." I do not recommend learning our topics of study in advance as it will spoil the process of discovery that is essential to the science middle school curriculum we will be continuing called IQWST (pronounced eye-quest), which stands for Investigating and Questioning our World through Science and Technology. The curriculum is based on the very latest research on how people learn, and how students learn science in particular. We know our students are going to be engaged in science and will learn a great deal, but the curriculum may not look like what you experienced in school.
Instead of reading about science and doing experiments from time to time, students will be engaging in many more hands-on activities in class, in which they are handling science materials and are experiencing phenomena first-hand. In every lesson, they will be reading about, writing about, talking about, and doing science. Discussion is central to this type of learning. Students will work individually, in pairs, in teams, and as a whole class to “make sense” of how things happen in the world around them or why things happen the way they do.
Readings will accompany many of our lessons, and will help students to understand the science more deeply. Always, the readings support students in understanding the language (vocabulary) used in science and how it compares to the ways in which we use words like mass or volume or property in our everyday speech. Activities require students to make predictions and record their data, but also to answer questions that support them in thinking about activities and connecting what they learned in previous lessons to new ideas. In their readings, everything that students do in class is also connected to their own experiences.
Students will be developing models, writing explanations, and supporting their ideas with evidence. They may talk about “scientific principles” or writing in a “claim-evidence-reasoning” format. The IQWST student book will be provided online as their only “textbook” for science----a new one for each of the 4 units we will study this year. There will however be other supplemental materials provided. Bascially, the course is designed to arrive at scientific principles over time rather than just being told what they are.
Please encourage your student to ask questions and not to be afraid to talk about ideas—wrong ideas lead to important learning in science! Ask your child about what they did in class and what they learned from it, or what new questions an activity made them think about. To follow up their reading, ask, “What’s the most interesting thing you read about?” Or, “What’s one thing you learned from that reading that you didn’t know before?”
If you wish to support your child by reading with him or her, always stop and answer the questions in the lesson reading together. When a question is used as a header, stop and think for just a moment about what the answer might be before continuing reading. The goal of this curriculum is not only to teach important science, and to prepare students for the next grade level, but also to ensure that students enjoy learning science. Research shows that elementary students are very interested in science, but middle schoolers’ interest in learning science declines tremendously. We want our CPS students to have opportunities and be encouraged to pursue STEM careers (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) in the future, if they choose to, because they are interested and motivated to learn, and they see themselves as able to be successful in science.
Each of the 4 units in each grade level will focus on an open-ended big question called a “Driving Question,” that is also the title of each unit. Students’ goal in each unit will be to provide a complete, scientific answer to that question, and to answer new questions that arise along the way. Students will be assessed through oral class discussion, written responses in their notebooks, and periodic more formal written responses that will provide a window on their developing skills understandings. Although we will have tests, students’ grades will also reflect class participation, performance-based work from the labs, and evidence that they have done the readings. Homework will be assigned as it makes sense with what is happening in the classroom.
As always, if you have questions regarding our curriculum or what is required of your student, please contact me through email.
Required Class Materials:
- 2 spiral graph notebooks
- pencils, correcting pen
- metric ruler