Science

Overview

SCIENCE PHILOSOPHY

The aim of the Madison Public Schools Science Program is to give each student the opportunity to satiate their innate curiosity and open their eyes to the wonders of science all around them. Students will regularly engage in problem-solving through exploration, experimentation and collaboration by creating innovative design solutions to local and global issues. This is accomplished by a curriculum that intentionally spirals content and skills with the goal of increasing complexity and critical thinking to enable students to build upon prior experiences as they grow as learners.

DELIVERY METHODS

The role of the science teacher will be to spark excitement for science through phenomenon-based units, which will allow students to develop questions that will guide the investigative and experimental process, leading to deeper engagement with the content as they work to uncover the scientific basis of a phenomenon. Students will engage in practices that will not only allow them to act authentically as scientists, but also allow them to hone important life skills such as using evidence to support claims, engaging in thoughtful discourse, asking questions, and critically thinking about and analyzing current research and issues.

STANDARDS

Our instruction incorporates National Science Standards, the Vision of Madison Public Schools and the 21st Century Capacities. The Next Generation Science Standards emphasize learning through immersion in science and engineering practices. As a result, our curriculum targets three-dimensional learning, in which students learn content through inquiry and engage in the Engineering Design Process. Science instruction goes beyond lessons that focus on disparate, discrete pieces of knowledge to instruction that is designed to enlighten students through exploration and that honors the interwoven concepts and patterns on which all science relies. Students will be required to analyze complex issues from multiple perspectives and a variety of sources to draw sophisticated conclusions and consider future implications and consequences on a local and global scale. Our curriculum development is driven by the necessity of ensuring that the content and experiences in which students engage are meaningful and relevant, not only to students, but to the global society.

Science Transfer Goals

Students will be able to…

  1. Make observations and ask questions to define a problem based on prior knowledge and curiosity that stimulates further exploration, analysis, and discovery.
  2. Use the scientific process to generate evidence that addresses the original questions.
  3. Analyze qualitative and quantitative data to interpret patterns, draw conclusions, and/or make predictions.
  4. Create models to explore complex systems, show mastery of key science concepts, and/or develop solutions through creation of a product open to testing and redesign.
  5. Evaluate scientific claims and analyze issues to verify the credibility of the source, data, and/or approach.
  6. Communicate effectively based on purpose, task, and audience to promote collective understanding and/or recommend actions.

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Guiding Documents

Grade 1

UnitDescription

Unit 1The Earth, Sun and Moon

Students will engage in the Engineering Design Process through the lens of NASA rocket engineers to begin their unit on the Earth, Sun and Moon. They will learn how rocket science led to our ability to explore our solar system and that engineers had to test many different rocket designs to ensure they could make one that accomplished their task. Students will create, test and improve paper rockets.

Students will analyze data to understand that there are observable, predictable patterns that explain natural phenomena, such as the lunar cycle, and seasonal patterns of daylight. They will explore this concept through modeling the relative positions of the Earth, Moon, and Sun that cause the different lunar phases. Students will synthesize their learning using a model they created of the Earth, Sun, and Moon to demonstrate the lunar cycle and the orbits of the Earth and Moon.

21st Century capacities: Analyzing

Unit 2Forces and Motion

Students will explore forces and motion through a series of inquiry investigations that will help them visualize and experience the fundamentals of physics. Students will focus on inertia while experimenting with dominoes, marbles, and other toys and also creating several objects and designs that will demonstrate the laws of physics. Students will record the results of their investigations on a data table and use this data to explain their conclusions. The culminating project will require students to apply their understanding while they engage in the Engineering Design Process to improve the distance a "Boxcar" can travel by redesigning the car or track.

21st Century Capacities: Design, Collective Intelligence

Unit 3Sound and Light

Students will engage in several inquiry-based lessons that allow them to explore the properties of light and sound. Students will investigate how light can move and travel and how vibrations and sound are related. Students will apply their understanding of sound and light to explore how people and animals use sound and light to communicate. To conclude this unit, students will use their content knowledge and the Engineering Design Process to design and build a device that uses sound to communicate over a distance.

21st Century capacities: Design, Product Creation

Grade 2

UnitDescription

Unit 1Plants and Animals

Through a variety of hands-on activities, students will explore the structure and function of plants and the interdependence of plants and animals within an ecosystem. Included in this unit is an interdisciplinary learning experience in math and science. This experience will build upon math skills developed in Grade 1 and emerging science content regarding plants and animals. After learning about the interactions between plants and animals through a visit to a local farm, the farmer will present students with a challenge about how to best grow plants indoors. Over the course of several weeks, students will plan and conduct an experiment, using math skills to take measurement data and share this data using a variety of mathematical representations. Students will create a bar graph, pictograph and line plot to communicate their findings and provide evidence-based suggestions for growing plants indoors. This information will be presented to the local farmer who originally presented the challenge.

21st Century capacities: Analyzing, Presentation

Unit 2Erosion

Students will experience the water cycle through a variety of hands-on investigations. Students will then apply their understanding of the water cycle to explore how water plays a role in changing the shape of land through the process of erosion. Students will see examples of how erosion has both created and destroyed landforms. This unit will culminate with a project in which students design a new town beach with prevention measures in place to prevent erosion.

21st Century Capacities: Synthesizing, Imagining

Unit 3Matter: Solids, Liquids, and Gases

In this unit, students will explore the states of matter through the analysis and classification of different materials. Through hands-on activities, students will develop an understanding of the effects of temperature on various substances and how that may cause reversible or irreversible changes. Students will be introduced to atoms and molecules and their relationship to all types of matter. As a culminating experience, Students will use their understanding of the properties of matter, phase changes and chemical/physical changes to create a new solid or liquid to present to the class.

21st Century capacities: Imagining, Presentation

Grade 4

UnitDescription

Unit 1Ecosystems and Adaptations

The theme of the fourth grade year is "How do our actions impact the world around us?" Students will tackle this question throughout the year, culminating in a final project that asks the students to propose a solution to a local issue by writing to a vested party.

Students will develop their understanding of ecosystems through the lens of our local wetlands as students explore the inhabitants and their adaptations for survival and the importance of wetlands to our town. Learning activities will include food webs, impact of invasive species, the function of wetlands and human impact. This unit will include a field trip to Hammonasset State Park in the fall and will be revisited during a trip to Circle Beach in the spring where students will participate in tagging horseshoe crabs in support of Project Limulus. The culminating project for this unit will require students to create a creature with structural adaptations that enable it to survive in a given habitat.

21st Century capacities: Analyzing, Presentation

Unit 2Energy

This unit will help students formulate answers to questions such as "What is energy?". Students will gain an understanding that energy is present whenever there are moving objects, sound, light or heat.

Students will investigate how:

  • Energy can be transferred from one object to another and the faster an object is moving, the more energy it possesses.
  • Energy and fuels that humans use are derived from natural sources, and their use affects the environment in multiple ways.
  • The expression "produce energy" refers to the conversion of stored energy into a desired form for practical use.
  • Some resources are renewable over time, and some are not.

As a culminating experience, students will use their knowledge of energy, energy transfer and renewable resources to design a windmill using the Engineering Design Process.

21st Century Capacities: Design, Perseverance

Unit 3The Power to Bring Change

This unit is the final content piece in a year-long study of the essential question: "How do our actions impact the world around us?". During this unit, students engage in a variety of activities that tie together the previous two units as they explore the impact of the forces of nature on our local resources. Students will use their knowledge of force and energy in concert with their understanding of the need for resources, such as wetlands, in protecting us from natural hazards such as hurricanes. Students will research and analyze environmental issues as they prepare for a final interdisciplinary assessment. This assessment is a learning experience that will be a culmination of explorations in three content areas and the demonstration of standards from ELA (Common Core), Social Studies (C3 Frameworks) and Science (NGSS). Fourth grade students will continually examine and reflect upon the essential question as they engage in experiences from September-April. The targeted capacities of Citizenship, Synthesizing, and Reflection are also practiced, developed and assessed in the sequence outlined in this plan.

21st Century capacities: Synthesizing, Reflection, Citizenship

Grade 5

Unit 1: Light and Waves

In this unit, students will build a conceptual understanding of the properties of light, energy, and waves, through the development of models that can predict and explain seen and unseen phenomenon. These phenomena involve the use of lenses, mirrors, and prisms. This unit will culminate in a project that synthesizes learning as students design and engineer unique constructions that utilize solar energy and manipulate light.

21st Century capacities: Synthesizing, Design

Unit 1

Unit 2: Earth's Place in the Universe

In this unit, students will inquire about celestial patterns observed in our world and outer space. By developing models, students will be able to analyze patterns and data related to Earth's rotation and revolution, axial tilt, and distance to other celestial bodies to form conclusions. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the law of universal gravitation and predict patterns of moon phases by analyzing images and data. The unit will provide ample opportunities for students to synthesize knowledge from data collected during their solar cooker trials as they gain a better understanding of Earth's motion and how it affects the results of their design and testing conditions.

21st Century Capacities: Synthesizing, Design

Unit 2

Unit 3: Ecosystem Sustainability

In this unit, students will build upon their work with light and seasonal changes as they explore the necessary balance in ecosystems. At the start of the unit, students will be presented with a challenge to develop a sustainable agricultural technology. By the end of the unit, students will be able to demonstrate their understanding of the principles of ecology and incorporate their studies of light and seasons for possible food sustainability in Connecticut.

In grade 6 students will continue to explore related issues in Science and Social Studies as they engage in the complexities surrounding global climate change and food and water insecurity.

21st Century capacities: Synthesizing, Collective Intelligence

Unit 3

Grade 6

UnitDescription

Unit 1Properties of Matter

Students will participate in many hands-on activities exploring the properties of matter. Phase changes, density, molecular movement and relevant mathematical calculations will be emphasized. This unit will include a design component as students will create an object to perform in a specific manner by applying their understanding of the properties of matter. In the culminating experience, students will move through several lab stations as they analyze the behavior of different examples of matter and demonstrate their understanding by explaining the phenomenon using content-specific science terminology.

The concepts explored in this unit will support students in Unit 2 when they apply their understanding of molecular properties to weather and climate.

21st Century capacities: Synthesizing, Design

Unit 2Weather and Climate

In this unit, students will learn how weather forms as a result of the complex interactions between temperature, humidity, and air pressure. Through the study and creation of forecasts they will understand how other conditions play a role in weather. Additionally, students will learn how tools and technology are used to create forecasts and how these forecasts can be used both locally and globally. Working both independently and with their peers, students will practice real world skills in predicting and interpreting the weather. Students will apply their knowledge of weather, weather patterns and the cause and effect relationships of weather and weather systems to a culminating project investigating changes in Earth's climate. Students will be required to use graphs to interpret data and use this data to justify their claims regarding the future of Earth's climate, citing specific references to various locations around the world.

21st Century Capacities: Synthesizing, Engaging in Global Issues

Unit 3Human Body Movement

This unit was developed through a collaboration with Yale Professor of Biomechanical Engineering, Dr. Stuart Campbell, as part of a National Science Foundation grant. During this unit, students will investigate the muscular, skeletal and nervous systems from the cellular level through the organism level, by performing several inquiry-based lessons that will help students understand how the three systems work together to allow our bodies to move and function. Students will use Vernier sensors to graph and analyze heart rate and muscle strength and fatigue. As they navigate the content, they will have several experiences to design and build models to represent cells and body systems, culminating in the creation of a prosthesis that integrates all three systems.

21st Century capacities: Synthesizing, Design

Grade 7

UnitDescription

Unit 1Engineering PBL - Rube-Goldberg

Student will apply their understanding of the functionality of simple machines, that they gained during several inquiry-based experiments, to devise a Rube-Goldberg machine. The Engineering Design Process that students have utilized in prior grades will guide their planning and design through several iterations as they work to devise a machine that will complete a given task. At the conclusion of the unit, students will present their machine to the class and explain the physics behind each of the simple machines utilized in their design.

21st Century capacities: Imagining, Design

Unit 2 Ecology and Human Impact

This unit will focus on ecosystem dynamics as students investigate how changes to an ecosystem can have far-reaching effects. The unit will begin with an environmental phenomenon that students will work to decipher through their content investigations. Students will develop a model of an ecosystem, investigate the interdependence of the biotic and abiotic factors, and recognize how just one change can alter the balance of an environment. Students will further investigate ecosystem dynamics by performing an experiment on the effect of certain chemicals on aquatic environments. In doing so, students will be able to quantify how different concentrations of widely used pollutants can damage our local aquatic ecosystems and use this data to support their explanation for the environmental phenomenon that launched this unit. Students will engage in a debate or Socratic seminar as they navigate the intricacies of competing interests and plans for use of local resources. The culminating experience will ask students to develop and promote a pollution mitigation plan to help decrease water pollution in Madison, using scientifically-based justifications for their claims.

21st Century Capacities: Citizenship, Synthesizing

Unit 3Forces and Motion

By performing several investigations that demonstrate the laws of physics, students will develop an understanding of the forces that are at work everyday in their lives. Students will begin the unit investigating the forces at work as our local Olympians fly through the air as aerial skiers. As students engage in hands-on, inquiry-based experiences they will uncover not only how these athletes use the laws of physics in their performance, but also how our world operates according to these laws. In order to engage in and quantify how Newton's Laws impact the world around us, students will apply their understanding of math and graphical analysis to solve physics problems and communicate experimental results. Students will demonstrate their understanding of forces and motion when they develop a testable hypothesis and procedure to test a race car and track that they have designed using the Engineering Design Process. At the end of the unit, students will tie together all of the concepts they have investigated as they create an original roller coaster design that requires them to employ this content explored during the unit to allow marbles to safely travel through the course.

21st Century capacities: Collective Intelligence, Design

Unit 4Human Body Performance

Using Usain Bolt's sprinting abilities as an anchoring phenomenon for the unit, students will develop a deep understanding about the interdependence of the circulatory, respiratory, and excretory systems. Students will perform laboratory investigations that explore homeostasis by measuring heart and breathing rate and will apply graphing skills to quantify their results to demonstrate cause and effect relationships that maintain homeostasis. As students explore the body systems, they will develop their own model of the three systems working together. This model will be revisited and revised throughout the unit as new learning is uncovered. Students will also have the opportunity during this unit to use medical equipment that is utilized by healthcare professionals to assess health. Ultimately, students will demonstrate their understanding of the interconnection of the body systems by analyzing and applying their knowledge to case studies of human ailments and producing a final scientific model of the systems working together.

21st Century capacities: Product Creation, Synthesizing

Unit 5Geologic Processes

This unit will begin with a "fossil mystery" in which students will need to apply their understanding of geologic processes to propose an answer to this mystery and justify their solution with scientific evidence. Throughout this unit, students will be exploring various geologic processes such as continental drift, plate tectonics, earthquakes and volcanoes and apply their understanding of the processes to natural phenomena and recent geologic events. Students will also discover the process of how a scientific theory evolves and becomes accepted by examining the history of geologic discoveries and how these understandings helped us to recognize patterns that allow us to predict future geologic events. Students will use maps and data to provide evidence for their claims as they explain how geologic processes shape the Earth, ultimately making a prediction, based on data and calculations, of how the Earth will look in the future. Additionally, students will share their expertise by creating a children's book about a local geologic phenomenon of their choosing, that will be shared with our Grade 3 students as they also study this geologic history of Connecticut.

This unit has been divided into four learning arcs which, when taken together, create a picture of the geologic evolution of our planet.

Learning Arcs:

1. Continental Drift

2. Layers of the Earth

3. Why is Earth an "active planet"?

4. How does water shape the Earth?

21st Century capacities: Analyzing, Product Creation

Unit 6

Engineering Bridges PBL (Extension Unit)

After observing different types of bridges around the world, students will make predictions about how bridge structure relates to function as they prepare to build their own bridge. Students will investigate their predictions with computer simulations of the various forces that act on bridges and through practice builds. Ultimately, student will use the Engineering Design Process to create a bridge that can withstand a variety of applied forces.

21st Century capacities: Design, Perseverance