Science Curriculum Highlights


As part of our regular curricular review, this year our attention is turning to our science curricula, with an eye towards assessing and making adjustments based on  the Next Generation Science Standards. Next Generation Science aligns beautifully with the Park Day approach and works to increase communication, collaboration, inquiry, problem solving, and flexibility–in order to serve students and prepare them for future education and their professional lives. We will be analyzing and strengthening connections to math, engineering and the design process (already at the core of our curriculum). Our curricular review will examine the influence and intersection of both the new Bridges math program and a Maker-Centered Learning approach.

What are Park Day School scientists working on in the upper grades?

5th grade
Students recently constructed homemade solar ovens, exploring solar light reflection and collection with Ilya in the Innovation Workshop, and cooked s’mores using the sun’s heat! They made pizza box ovens as well as a parabolic oven to explore the concepts of concentration and reflection of thermal energy.

They are also collaborating with Learning Garden and Innovation Workshop  to explore phototropism, the bending of plants towards sunlight. In small groups, students built mazes inside shoe boxes, placed small fava plants inside, and stored the boxes in the windows of their classroom to study plant growth and photosynthesis. The experiment gives students the chance to see the amazing survival mechanisms of plants as they seek sunlight to photosynthesize.Stay tuned for more about an upcoming collaboration in 5th Grade between Art and the Design+Make+Engage program.

6th Grade
Our 6th graders just finished a unit on how traits are genetically inherited. They built 3D bugs to model how traits are passed on through chromosomes. Over the course of their unit they learned  important scientific, genetic vocabulary, such as heterozygous and homozygous, chromosome, and allele!

6th graders are now transitioning to learn about the carbon cycle and the human impact on the carbon cycle which causes climate change. This unit will culminate in exploring what the 6th graders can do to be changemakers in this arena! They will also connect about climate change  with their Kindergarten Pals since both grades are studying the topic at their own levels.

7th Grade
7th graders just completed their unit on the various parts of the brain and its functions. Throughout the unit students applied what they learned about the brain to debate whether screen time should be limited for the adolescent brain as well as whether they should do a specimen or virtual dissection to learn more about the parts of the brain.

As the culminating event of this unit, students dissected a sheep’s brain to help understand this organ better. Students engaged in discussion about their wonderings and discoveries with partners as well as the whole group, noting, for example, that the spinal cord had a different density than the rest of the brain tissue. This observation revealed how myelinated the cord is, and how many messages must get sent through the spinal cord to the rest of the body!

8th Grade
Students returned from the November break to explore Newton’s Laws of Motion. Students explored the first law – the law of inertia – the idea that an object in motion will stay in motion and an object at rest will stay at rest. The students experimented to see this law in action.  As we experimented, the students wondered whether they could stop the ruler in time for the stack to fall just on the ruler, and so we explored these as well as other questions that came up as they made observations.