Children are natural scientists. They have been using the scientific method since they were babies: hypothesizing, experimenting, noting results – and repeating the experiment. It is the goal of the science program to keep this innate curiosity and skill alive through the elementary years and beyond. Classes held inside and outside encourage children to observe carefully, question deeply and make discoveries. With a hands-on, experiential approach, students build a strong foundation in the physical, life, earth and space sciences. Attitudes and dispositions of scientific inquiry are fostered, such as a drive to experiment, and a desire to challenge theories, identify problems and test solutions, and communicate new ideas.
All classes use the Science Room several times a week. The various displays, collections, and works-in-progress of the older students are seen and discussed and often result in “spin-offs” for the younger students. The Science Room is equipped with all sorts of tools, balance scales, magnifiers and microscopes in variety, metric measures (linear, volume, mass), thermometers, optical and electrical gear, art materials and collecting equipment. Outdoor investigations of our fourteen acres of woodlands, stream, garden, and fields provide many opportunities to observe scientific principles. Naturally keen observers and intrepid hunters, the children develop a deep awareness and respect for the environment, from sky to soil.
Science concepts are closely aligned with the social studies, language arts, music and art curricula. The integrated units allow children to make connections across disciplines. Field trips away from school are a large part of the science program as they excite students to question further and continue to develop their ideas.
It is hoped that the sum of the science years here will remain an inspiration to our graduates and help them become science-literate adults with a caring commitment to our planet and all its inhabitants.
The social studies theme of Folktales and Fables features stories with many animal characters, which are a natural interest of young children. This interest is fostered and extended throughout the science curriculum. The year’s themes include animal classification, animal survival, electricity and magnetism.
Through these units the children learn the difference between living and nonliving things, and they learn the concept of classification in the animal kingdom. They begin to differentiate between vertebrates and invertebrates and among mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, birds, arachnids and insects. The children learn about animal predation and defense. They are introduced to the concept of food chains and the interdependent relationships of plants and animals in their environment. Through nature walks, collection of animal visitors and use of the school garden, the children develop an understanding of how organisms grow and develop. The children learn that plants and animals have unique and diverse life cycles.
The children are introduced to electricity. They discover the effects of attraction and repulsion with static electricity and compare this to the attraction and repulsion of magnets. Kindergarteners are introduced to current electricity. They learn to identify and create a simple closed circuit. First-graders learn to identify open and closed circuits and build series and parallel circuits. They test materials for conductivity and used this knowledge to build a simple switch.
The second- and third-grade social studies curriculum, The Having of Wonderful Ideas, and its look at ancient civilizations gives way to a study of the sun, moon and sky – as ancient peoples used the messages in the sky to guide their daily lives. The year’s themes include space, planet Earth, plants and robotics.
Our year starts with a study of the Sun, the center of our solar system, and the reason for life on this planet. The children learn the cause of day and night, change of seasons and the definition of a year. The children experiment with shadows, gravity and centripetal force. The children learn about the Moon, its phases and about eclipses. They build model rockets and artificial satellites. They study the eight planets in our solar system, asteroids and stars. They learn about the outer reaches of the solar system including the Kuiper Belt, home to many of the dwarf planets and comets.
We examine our own planet, Earth, from its atmosphere to its molten core. The children learn about rocks minerals and landforms. We examine the different biomes on Earth and look at temperature and rainfall around the world. We focus on deserts, temperate forests and tropical rain forests and the animals in these ecosystems. The children conduct research about an animal and communicate their findings about habitat, adaptations and threats in a digital presentation. They learn about the important role of plants in our environment. They observe the lifecycle of plants, learn the vital role of each of its parts and nurture seeds in the garden.
In the spring, the second graders will build electromagnets and learn how motors and generators work. They learn the characteristics of a robot and the function of its components, such as sensors, motors, computer, and program. The second-grade children assemble their own robot from a custom kit and program it to navigate through an obstacle course of their design. Third-grade children will add a light sensor to their existing robots and program them to navigate along a black line.
The fourth and fifth grade Native American social studies curriculum gives way for an scientific exploration of our natural environment, local river system and watershed. The year’s science themes include freshwater ecology, deciduous forest biome and chemistry.
During several inter-disciplinary field trips to various sites along the Mianus River, the children explore different stream and river habitats from slow-running, muddy water to gravel-bed riffles. In addition to these aquatic homes, the students reexamine the temperate forest biome and the interdependency of the many species of birds, fish, amphibians, insects, and mammals that use rivers as their home. The students will test the acidity, temperature, nitrate, and dissolved oxygen levels of the water in the Mianus River. They also observe, collect, and identify macroinvertebrates on-site. They learn about the role of these tiny insects in freshwater food chains and their function as biological indicators of water quality. The students explore the human impact on water quality through various means, such as pesticides, fertilizers, and road salt. The students revisit the water cycle in greater detail. They learn about how and where water is stored on earth. They identify surface water in lakes and reservoirs. They make groundwater models to identify underground aquifers and the water table.
Come late winter, the children embark on a study of chemistry. They learn about the composition of matter at the atomic and molecular levels. They are introduced to the Periodic Table of the Elements. The students build models of molecular compounds and begin to decode chemical formulae. They learn about molecular activity and the states of matter. Through many hands-on activities, the children learn the difference between physical and chemical changes and about chemical reactions. They conduct several tests to identify the physical properties of various substances, including pH and oxidation. They create mixtures and solutions and experiment to separate them. The children work as part of a team to conduct chemical tests to identify several household substances.