The RSS Middle School Science Program expands students knowledge of the world around them by understanding the principles of science. Students explore phenomena through testing, exploration, and observations. This is completed through in-class demonstrations, individual and group work, projects, and lab work. Students are encouraged to try out new ideas, make mistakes, and then learn from those mistakes. One of the core principles in exploring science is to be a resilient and reflective thinker, and that is the main goal of the RSS science program. As students enter middle school, the focus is on process and standards of scientific inquiry, slowly building from concrete to more abstract concepts. We move from simply showing how things work, to applying knowledge to new and different contexts. Each year students have a final project that they present at the annual STEM Expo. The projects are student driven and allow students to explore their individual interests. At the completion of 8th Grade, students leave Rodeph Sholom with a solid foundation for further study in science and yearning to learn more.
In 6th Grade science, students immerse themselves in the study of physics with a focus on engineering. This course lays the groundwork for further studies in physics, earth science, astronomy, and chemistry. The course is split into two parts, Electricity & Magnetism and Forces & Motion.
During their coursework, students conduct various tests independently to confirm scientific principles and formulae. Students begin with some initial instruction on a topic and then explore with materials to come to confirm their hypotheses.
The year begins with a study of the scientific process and the analysis of what comprises “good science” and “fair tests.” Students work through how to collect and graph their results, and discuss the difference between independent, dependent, and controlled variables.
The following unit examines the two fields of electricity, electrostatics, and electrodynamics. Much of the exploration of these topics includes observing phenomena and relating it back to the scientific principles and laws learned in class. Students are given their own programmable circuit kit where they learn the basics of making circuits. They start by making circuits using resistors, LEDs, and switches. By using Ohm’s law they are able to calculate the current in their circuits and choose appropriate resistors.
Once the basics of circuitry are mastered, students use an Arduino circuit board to make programmable circuits using block programming. Here they can control the circuits directly using “if/then” and “if/else” statements, and components like diodes, motors, ultrasonic sensors, thermistors, light sensitive resistors, and transistors can also be added. Students explore, build their own designs, are able to discuss electromagnetism, and design simple homopolar motors. Through these experiences, students have a solid foundation in circuits and programming.
In 6th Grade students also learn how gravity, friction, momentum, and forces affect the motion of an object. This is related with vectors and force diagrams on objects while students observe the motion of objects and relate it to scientific laws governing motion. All of these concepts lead to the STEM Expo project, where students design and build truss bridges using the science and engineering principles learned in class. The strength of each bridge’s structural engineering is tested before the entire Middle School at the annual STEM Expo. Students write a paper to examine the process of building the bridge, what they learned, and what they would do to improve their bridge.
Lastly, 6th Grade students examine mechanical waves and sound. In this portion students learn to turn a wave into a graph, and interpret the data found in graphs. Simple machines, like pulleys, and mechanical advantage are also studied in this final unit. As a final project, students work on a collaborative week-long problem-based-learning project in which students design a working Rube Goldberg machine using many of the principles used throughout the year.
Major Topics and Projects:
- Circuit and Arduino unit with block programming
- Force Labs
- STEM Expo Bridge Engineering Project
- Rube Goldberg Project