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Upper School Science Curriculum


Year One

Year Two

Life Science

Physical Science

Earth Science

Life Science

Physical Science

Earth Science

5 & 6

Classification and Live Microbiology

Diversity of Life

Sound and Light

Levers and Pulleys


Solar Energy


You and Your Body

Food and Nutrition

Mixtures and Solutions
Exploring Space

7 & 8




Force and Motion

Earth History

Body Works
Micro Life

Our Genes, Our Selves

Matter and Change
Weather and Water

The science curriculum implemented for SBS Upper School was planned and developed in accordance with the Connecticut Core Science Framework published by the State Department of Education in the 2004-2005 school year. Our curriculum includes the major life, physical and earth science concepts that middle school aged students are expected to learn in order to grow into scientifically literate adults.  Scientific literacy requires that a person has an essential understanding of key science ideas, along with a fluency in the language and terms used to describe those ideas.  Our curriculum addresses these key ideas in developmentally appropriate ways.  Our students ask the questions of science and pursue the answer to those questions through hands-on, cooperative activities and labs.

Grades 5 & 6, Year One (Odd School Years)

Classification and Live Microbiology (Life)
Students study eight live microorganisms, comparing scale and structure. They study plant cells with microscopes and prepared slides, classify plants by leaf type, observe stomata on leaves, compare plant photosynthesis and respiration, design experiments using polysorb crystals to keep plants watered, test germination rate of seeds, and discover what yeast needs to grow. Animal experiments test habitat needs of pill bugs, earthworms, brine shrimp, fish, crickets, etc. Students compare and classify vertebrates and invertebrates in the animal lab. The unit includes over 35 plant and animal experiments that challenge students to consider variables during investigations.

Diversity of Life (Life)
The Diversity of Life unit emphasizes the use of knowledge and evidence to construct explanations for the structures and functions of living organisms. Students observe and maintain protists, plants, and animals in the classroom and study their characteristics. The study progresses from macroscopic to microscopic observation to discover the fundamental unit of life, the cell. Students then investigate organism subsystems and behaviors and consider the diversity of adaptive structures and strategies. The students consider characteristics that are common to all living organisms and develop an operational definition of life. They will become familiar with the microscope as a tool used by scientists to study organisms in detail. They will discover cells and begin to understand their importance as the basic units of life, and appreciate the diversity of cells that contribute to the diversity of life on Earth.

Color and Light (Physical)
Students use prisms to investigate the full range of colors in white light, called the visible spectrum. They experiment with subtractive color mixing and discover the significance of the primary pigments. Students separate pigments with paper chromatography and then combine colors by blending filtered light beams. Experiences with both subtractive and additive mixing help students understand the role of the eyes and brain in perceiving color. That understanding is extended as students identify the dot patterns in printed pictures and manipulate color filters to make colors disappear. Students also explore afterimages and phantom images, turn two-dimensional drawings into three-dimensional drawings, and demonstrate persistence of vision.

Levers and Pulleys (Physical)
The Levers and Pulleys unit consists of four investigations that involve students in fundamental concepts of simple machines. The students will gain experience with the concept of force and the application of force to do work. They will gain experience with lever and pulley systems and learn about the concept of advantage as it relates to simple machines. The students will analyze real-world tools and machines in terms of the simple machines that make them work, and will collect, record and analyze data. Through this series of investigations, the students will learn that humans are the only living creatures that have been able to put materials together to construct machines to do work. Our capacity to see and invent relationships between effort and work produced through simple machines has led us into a world that is becoming more technologically oriented. Knowledge of these relationships is necessary for understanding all mechanics.

Solar Energy (Earth)
The Solar Energy unit consists of four investigations that allow students to experience solar energy firsthand and to investigate the variables that affect solar energy transfer. The students will become aware of the potential of solar energy, an inexhaustible source, as an energy source compared to fossil fuels, a nonrenewable source. They will observe the differences in size and position of shadows as a result of the relative positions of the Earth and the Sun. The students will use a compass to orient objects on Earth and become proficient in using a thermometer to monitor temperature change in a variety of materials. The students will observe solar energy transfer in a variety of situations and relate the rate and amount of temperature change to variables involved in energy transfer. Finally, the students will design solar water heaters and passive solar space heaters.

Oceans (Earth)
Students investigate our watery planet with a graphic model that compares water to land, salt water to fresh water, oceans to seas, and the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. Then, they get their hands wet investigating several ocean phenomena: saltiness, wave action, and currents. Students use ocean depth data to create a 3-D model of the ocean floor, make hydrometers to measure water density, and assemble a tidal dial to explore the ocean's rise and fall. Students model adaptive features of fish and marine mammals and use sea specimens to study an assortment of mollusks and other creatures of the intertidal zone.

Grades 7 & 8, Year One (Odd School Years)

Ecology (Life)
What happens when a new species is introduced into an ecosystem? Students begin to consider this issue as they model ecological relationships within an ecosystem; simulate the effect of competition, predation, and other factors on population size; and investigate local ecosystems. Students culture and investigate blackworms (small aquatic worms) as they differentiate between observation and inference. Students have the opportunity to further develop their research skills by completing a research project on the problems of introduced species.

Evolution (Life)
Students consider whether an extinct species should be brought back to life as they begin to explore evolution. Students examine fossils as they continue to distinguish between observation and inference. A role play presents the basic concept of evolution and the process of natural selection. Activities model the lines of evidence for evolution, natural selection, and the role of genetic mutations. Students evaluate the impact of humans on the extinction and evolution of species.

Earth History (Earth)
The Earth History unit emphasizes the use of knowledge and evidence to construct explanations about the processes and systems that have operated over geological time. Students investigate sedimentary rocks and fossils from the Grand Canyon to discover clues that reveal Earth’s history. They study the processes that create sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks, and organize their observations and inferences into the rock cycle. Students use the knowledge and data gained from observing rocks to make inferences about organisms, environments, and events that have occurred during Earth’s long history.

Newton’s Laws of Motion (Physical)
In Newton's Laws of Motion, students experiment freely with familiar toys and objects. As they explain their observations, they prove Newton's three laws of motion. The path of a tossed basketball, the flip of a grasshopper toy, and the endless swing of clackers reinforce the concepts of inertia, gravity, acceleration, mass, force, and momentum. Students engage in races, games, and challenges that emphasize the laws of motion that govern everyday tasks and cosmic interactions. The students view a video of real astronauts in space using some of the same toys. The video is used to compare the behavior of the toys on Earth with their behavior in a microgravity environment. By dealing with scaled-down applications, middle school students master these laws and the vocabulary of physics with confidence.

Electronics (Physical)
The Electronics unit emphasizes the use of knowledge and evidence to construct explanations for electric energy and its use in technology. Students learn fundamental electric circuitry and basic electronic principles. They make simple and complex circuits, quantify electric interactions and properties (current, voltage, resistance) using a digital multimeter, and discover how different components affect circuits (resistors, diodes, LEDs, capacitors, transistors). They make and read schematics and construct solid-state devices.

Grades 5 & 6, Year Two (Even School Years)

You and Your Body (Life)
Students explore the human body through fourteen hands-on activities. First the students will examine the skeletal system, identifying major bones and joints. Next they replicate the arm's muscle coordination and measure reaction time. They model the pumping action of the heart, calculate lung capacity, and investigate respiration. They find out why we have different types of teeth and how to keep them healthy. Skin is exposed as a versatile body part, not only for cooling and protecting us, but also for sensing our environment. Students discover how the five senses work to perceive and evaluate incoming information. Finally, because the body runs on fuel, students test foods for nutrient content and practice reading nutrition labels.
Food and Nutrition (Life)
The Food and Nutrition unit consists of four sequential investigations that help students understand what food is, what it is made of, and how several nutrient groups contribute to healthful nutrition. Students observe and investigate properties of foods and become aware of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and vitamins as components of food. Students also gain experience with indicators and use the indicators to test for acid, vitamin C, sugar, and fat in foods. They learn to relate the results of the investigations and experiments to the amount of chemicals in foods, and as a result, become aware of guides for healthy nutrition. This allows them to eventually become informed consumers, able to gather information about food products.

Mixtures and Solutions (Physical)
Chemistry is the study of the structure of matter and the changes or transformations that take place in it. Learning about the makeup of substances gives us knowledge about how things go together and how they can be taken apart. Learning about changes in substances is important for several reasons: changes can be controlled to produce new materials; changes can be used to give off energy to run machines. The Mixtures and Solutions unit has four investigations that introduce students to these fundamental ideas in chemistry. Students gain experience with the concepts of mixture and solution, concentration and saturation, and chemical reactions. Students are introduced to the concept that all matter is made of very small particles called atoms and that atoms combine to form molecules.

Exploring Space (Earth)
Students experiment with gravity and orbits, use a star clock to study constellations at night, test variables in a rocket launch, and compare stars by temperature, magnitude, distance, size, etc. Students compare planets by diameter, distance from Sun, rings and moons. Students experiment with toys and hypothesize how they will react differently in space without gravity. Students apply math skills during activities to build understanding of the science content, including; making and reading graphs and charts, measuring and counting.
Grades 7 & 8, Year Two (Even School Years)

Our Genes, Our Selves (Life)
Students consider whether to be tested for a hereditary condition as they explore fundamental principles of Mendelian genetics. Laboratory activities and simulations allow students to examine the inheritance of traits through generations. Students investigate heredity among imaginary "critters," pea plants, and humans. Other activities focus on the difference between asexual and sexual reproduction, the process of cell division, and the role of nature and nurture in determining traits. Near the end of the unit, students model the use of DNA technologies to solve real-world problems.
Body Works (Life)
Students investigate concepts and issues related to sustaining personal health. A major goal of this unit is to provide a foundation for evidence-based decision-making about health issues such as the use of medication, nutrition and exercise, and heart disease. The unit focuses on the role of organ systems in providing nutrients and oxygen to the body and transporting and eliminating wastes (maintaining internal balance). Students investigate the heart and circulatory system in depth, with an emphasis on the relationship between structure and function.

Micro Life (Life)
By exploring how infectious diseases affect people, students study microbiology; cell size, structure, function, and permeability; and systems of classification. They learn how to use a microscope to gather data and they continue to build on their ability to conduct experiments. Through laboratory activities and simulations, students also explore the function of the immune system and the growth of antibiotic-resistant organisms. A research project on disease provides students with an opportunity to develop research skills.

Weather and Water (Earth)
The Weather and Water Course focuses on Earth’s atmosphere, weather, and water. A good understanding of meteorology as an earth science isn’t complete without an introduction to the physics and chemistry that drive weather. Understanding weather takes more than reading a thermometer and recording air-pressure measurements. Students first learn about atoms and molecules, changes of state, and heat transfer. Then they investigate the water cycle, air masses, fronts winds and severe weather.

Matter and Change (Physical)
Activity sheets become lab reports as young chemists hypothesize, test, record, and draw conclusions about the nature of matter. In this chemistry primer, students calculate liquid densities and apply filtration and evaporation to suspensions and solutions. They measure gas volumes and pressures to demonstrate Boyle's law. They investigate atomic structure and learn to read the Periodic Table. With three–dimensional models and corresponding chemical equations, students explore the covalent and ionic molecular bonds of compounds, including double bonds of fats. Then, they conduct three experiments: a neutralization reaction between bases and acids, an oxidation reaction that produces rust, and a double replacement reaction to form a precipitate.