Science

Science — the study of the natural world — is both useful and rewarding in its own right. It provides a sense of the order in the universe and is one of civilization’s major intellectual achievements. It is fueled by the same creativity required for art, music, or literature. It relies on curiosity, objectivity and healthy skepticism. Our K-12 science program seeks to transmit to students this view of science by the active involvement of students in their learning.

In 1996 the National Research Council published the National Science Education Standards. These are matched to our New York State Standards and core curriculum at each level. The National Science Teachers Association defined the goal of science education “as the development of scientifically and technologically literate individuals who understand how science, technology, and society influence one another and who use this understanding in their everyday decision making.” We support this goal in its generic sense. In keeping with this goal, our science curriculum is generally intended to help students:

  • Understand what science and technology are, and how they interact with one another and with society, and
  • Use this understanding to solve problems and make decisions at home, in school, in the neighborhood, and in the community.

One instructional emphasis is to teach science as investigation and research which leads to the understanding of real scientific/technological/societal problems that have relevance in students’ lives. Our science program provides foundational concepts and scientific reasoning skills which are common to all sciences and are necessary for individuals to function successfully in a complex technological society. The program provides experiences in the physical, biological, and earth sciences, as well as in the application of the knowledge of these sciences. The historical development of the sciences is another important aspect of our program. The scientifically literate student had (1) the background necessary for understanding our technological society and (2) the foundation tools for further study in science.

Students are involved directly in many learning processes; these relate not only to the inquiry and problem solving skills of science, but also to those integrated from the areas of language arts, math, and social studies. Teachers tailor learning opportunities to learning needs. They encourage collaboration, respect for diverse ideas, and other values that are consistent with scientific inquiry.

Science instruction is based on content, process skills, the nature of science and attitudes. The content is developmentally appropriate, aligned to the NYS Elementary Level and Middle Level Science Core Curricula. Science instruction emphasizes “big ideas” not discreet facts and builds on prior student knowledge.

In order to accomplish the ideas previously stated the following elements are essential:

  • The science program is a balance between content, skills and attitudes, all of which are necessary for effective problem solving.
  • The content, skills, and attitudes will spiral through each level of the program with increasing complexity.
  • Other areas of curriculum will be integrated with our science program.
  • Students will be actively involved in the learning process. Science concepts will be learned by hands-on activities which incorporate content, skills, and attitudes.
  • It is necessary to teach students how to learn, not just the large volume of facts that are known.
  • Teachers will be models for problem solving and open-ended inquiry. They will be guides to the process of learning.
  • Assess student understanding on an ongoing basis.

Through Guilderland’s K-12 science program, students will know how to solve problems, using their knowledge and creativity in mutually beneficial ways; will understand how science, technology, and society influence one another; and will use this understanding in their everyday decision making.

Elementary Science Program

The Guilderland Central School District offers an elementary science program called STC or Science and Technology for Children. The program builds on the New York State Mathematics, Science and Technology learning standards as well as the National Science Education Standards, published by the National Research Council. The standards call for a new vision of science literacy for all students.

The STC curriculum was developed by the National Science Resources Center (NSRC), a nonprofit organization jointly operated by the Smithsonian Institution and National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering and Institute of Medicine. The heart of the program is kits developed by teachers in collaboration with scientists. The curriculum is structured on the basis of scientific reasoning skills. The STC curriculum aligns with Guilderland’s philosophy that children learn science best when the content is developmentally appropriate.

The sequence begins in kindergarten and grade 1 where students focus on observing, measuring and identifying properties. By grade 2 they begin to recognize patterns and cycles. By grade 4, where the Grade 4 New York State science test is given, students are able to identify science concepts, cause-and-effect relationships and to integrate science process skills. Students are involved in rich hands-on activities with each kit. Classroom explorations are done in groups of two to four children. To reinforce learning, children reflect on their findings, record them in their science journals, and discuss them with their classmates. Finally, students apply their new learning to other areas of the curriculum.

Kits used:

  • Kindergarten: Solids and Liquids
  • Grade 1: Changes and Organisms
  • Grade 2: Soils and Butterflies and Balancing and Weighing
  • Grade 3: Plant Growth & Development and Rocks & Minerals
  • Grade 4: Chemical Tests and Electrical Circuits
  • Grade 5: Microworlds and Human Body

Teachers attend summer training on science content, teaching methods, and assessment. The curriculum allows teachers the flexibility to integrate a great deal of literature and writing. In the 21st century a person must be armed with a science overview to adapt to the extraordinary changes that will occur, to be employed by the new industries that will emerge, and to participate in the decisions that society will make. The key is education and programs such as STC to give every student science content and science process to develop scientific literacy.

Middle School Science Program

The middle school science curriculum is closely aligned with the New York State Science Learning Standards. These standards call for a three-dimensional approach to science instruction.   The three-dimensional approach to Science instruction structures each unit of study to include: the disciplinary core ideas,  Science and Engineering Practices and  crosscutting concepts.

Crosscutting concepts help students explore connections across the four domains of science, including Physical Science, Life Science, Earth and Space Science, and Engineering Design. Science and Engineering Practices describe what scientists do to investigate the natural world and what engineers do to design and build systems.

The practices better explain and extend what is meant by “inquiry” in science and the range of cognitive, social, and physical practices that it requires. Students engage in practices to build, deepen, and apply their knowledge of core ideas and crosscutting concepts.

Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs) are the key ideas in science that have broad importance within or across multiple science or engineering disciplines. These core ideas build on each other as students progress through grade levels and are grouped into the following four domains: Physical Science, Life Science, Earth and Space Science, and Engineering.

At Farnsworth Middle School each grade level integrates and revisits key concepts in Science and Engineering.

In grade 6 instructional time will focus on four critical areas:

History of Earth

  • Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence from rock strata for how the geologic time scale is used to organize Earth’s 4.6-billion-year-old history
  • Construct an explanation based on evidence for how geoscience processes have changed Earth’s surface at varying temporal and spatial scales.
  • Analyze and interpret data on the distribution of fossils and rocks, continental shapes, and seafloor structures to provide evidence of the past plate motions.

Earth’s Systems

  • Develop a model to describe the cycling of Earth’s materials and the flow of energy that drives this process.
  • Develop a model to describe the cycling of water through Earth’s systems driven by energy from the Sun and the force of gravity.
  • Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how the uneven distributions of Earth’s mineral, energy, and groundwater resources are the result of past and current geologic processes.

Space Systems

  • Develop and use a model of the Earth-Sun-moon system to describe the cyclic patterns of lunar phases, eclipses of the Sun and moon, and seasons. [
  • Develop and use a model to describe the role of gravity in the motions within galaxies and the solar system.
  • Analyze and interpret data to determine scale properties of objects in the solar system.

Weather and Climate

  • Collect data to provide evidence for how the motions and complex interactions of air masses results in changes in weather conditions.
  • Develop and use a model to describe how unequal heating and rotation of Earth cause patterns of atmospheric and oceanic circulation that determine regional climates.
  • Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.

In Grade 7, instructional time will focus on five critical areas:

Structure and Properties of Matter

  • Develop models to describe the atomic composition of simple molecules and extended structures.
  • Gather and make sense of information to describe that synthetic materials come from natural resources and impact society.
  • Develop a model that predicts and describes changes in particle motion, temperature, and phase (state) of a substance when thermal energy is added or removed.
  • Use evidence to illustrate that density is a property that can be used to identify samples of matter.
  • Plan and conduct an investigation to demonstrate that mixtures are combinations of substances.

Chemical Reactions

  • Analyze and interpret data on the properties of substances before and after the substances interact to determine if a chemical reaction has occurred.
  • Develop and use a model to describe how the total number of atoms does not change in a chemical reaction and thus mass is conserved.
  • Undertake a design project to construct, test, and modify a device that either releases or absorbs thermal energy during a chemical and/or physical process.

Forces and Interactions

  • Apply Newton’s Third Law to design a solution to a problem involving the motion of two colliding objects.
  • Plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence that the change in an object’s motion depends on the sum of the forces on the object and the mass of the object
  • Ask questions about data to determine the factors that affect the strength of electric and magnetic forces.
  • Construct and present arguments using evidence to support the claim that gravitational interactions are attractive and depend on the masses of interacting objects and the distance between them.
  • Conduct an investigation and evaluate the experimental design to provide evidence that fields exist between objects exerting forces on each other even though the objects are not in contact.

Energy

  • Construct and interpret graphical displays of data to describe the relationships of kinetic energy to the mass of an object and to the speed of an object.
  • Develop a model to describe that when the arrangement of objects interacting at a distance changes, different amounts of potential energy are stored in the system.
  • Apply scientific principles to design, construct, and test a device that either minimizes or maximizes thermal energy transfer.
  • Plan and conduct an investigation to determine the relationships among the energy transferred, the type of matter, the mass, and the change in the temperature of the sample of matter.
  • Construct, use, and present an argument to support the claim that when work is done on or by a system, the energy of the system changes as energy is transferred to or from the system.
  • Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred by electric currents.

Waves and Electromagnetic Radiation

  • Develop a model and use mathematical representations to describe waves that includes frequency, wavelength, and how the amplitude of a wave is related to the energy in a wave.
  • Develop and use a model to describe that waves are reflected, absorbed, or transmitted through various materials.
  • Integrate qualitative scientific and technical information to support the claim that digitized signals are a more reliable way to encode and transmit information than analog signals.

In Grade 8, instructional time will focus on six critical areas:

Structure, Function and Information Processing

  • Plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence that living things are made of cells; either one cell or many different numbers and types of cells.
  • Develop and use a model to describe the function of a cell as a whole and ways parts of cells contribute to the function.
  • Construct an explanation supported by evidence for how the body is composed of interacting systems consisting of cells, tissues, and organs working together to maintain homeostasis.
  • Gather and synthesize information that sensory receptors respond to stimuli, resulting in immediate behavior and/or storage as memories.

Growth Development and Reproduction of Organisms

  • Use argument based on empirical evidence and scientific reasoning to support an explanation for how characteristic animal behaviors and specialized plant structures affect the probability of successful reproduction of animals and plants, respectively.
  • Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how environmental and genetic factors influence the growth of organisms.
  • Develop and use a model to explain why structural changes to genes (mutations) located on chromosomes may affect proteins and may result in harmful, beneficial, or neutral effects to the structure and function of the organism.
  • Develop and use a model to describe how asexual reproduction results in offspring with identical genetic information and sexual reproduction results in offspring with genetic variation.
  • Gather and synthesize information about the technologies that have changed the way humans influence the inheritance of desired traits in organisms.

Natural Selection and Adaptations

  • Analyze and interpret data for patterns in the fossil record that document the existence, diversity, extinction, and change of life forms throughout the history of life on Earth under the assumption that natural laws operate today as in the past.
  • Apply scientific ideas to construct an explanation for the anatomical similarities and differences among modern organisms and between modern and fossil organisms to infer evolutionary relationships.
  • Analyze displays of pictorial data to compare patterns of similarities in the embryological development across multiple species to identify relationships not evident in the fully formed anatomy.
  • Construct an explanation based on evidence that describes how genetic variations of traits in a population increase some individuals’ probability of surviving and reproducing in a specific environment.
  • Use mathematical representations to support explanations of how natural selection may lead to increases and decreases of specific traits in populations over time.

Matter and Energy in Organisms and Ecosystems

  • Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for the role of photosynthesis in the cycling of matter and flow of energy into and out of organisms.
  • Develop a model to describe how food molecules are rearranged through chemical reactions to release energy during cellular respiration and/or form new molecules that support growth as this matter moves through an organism.
  • Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.
  • Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem.
  • Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.

Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems

  • Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms in a variety of ecosystems.
  • Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and protecting ecosystem stability.

Human Impacts

  • Analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the development of technologies to mitigate their effects.
  • Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
  • Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems.

Students selected for grade 8 Accelerated Science participate in High School level Regents Living Environment Curriculum (Biology).

The units of study include:

1. Scientific Inquiry and Laboratory Skills

Microscopes
Lab Safety
Scientific Method
Interpreting Graphs

2. Organization of Life
Characteristics of life
Biochemistry
Cell Structure
Cells and their Environment
Single and Multi-cellular organisms

3. Reproduction and Development
Types of Reproduction
Cell Division
Biotechnology

4. Genetics
Heredity
Structure of DNA/RNA
How a Gene becomes a Protein
Genetic Engineering

5. Evolution
Theory of Evolution
Mechanisms of Evolution
Patterns of Evolution

6. Ecology
Biodiversity
Organisms in their Environment
Structure of Ecosystems
Energy flow in Ecosystems

7. Human Impact on the Environment
Positive effects of Humans on the Environment
Negative effects of Human on the Environment

8. Homeostasis
Feedback Human Body Systems
Disease Human Reproduction

Laboratory Requirements: Critical to understanding science concepts is the use of scientific inquiry to develop explanations of natural phenomena. Therefore, as a prerequisite for admission to the Regents examination in the Living Environment, students must have successfully completed 1200 minutes of laboratory experience with satisfactory written reports for each laboratory investigation. It is expected that laboratory experiences will provide the opportunity for students to develop the scientific inquiry techniques.

High School Science Program

Faculty in the math, science and technology departments believe that every student can and will be successful in our courses. Completing assignments on time, seeking help when having difficulty and asking questions in class are the minimum expectations we have of our students.

The key to a student’s success is effort and working with their teacher to learn this challenging material.

If at any time you would like to contact the math/science/technology department supervisor, call 518-861-8591, ext. 1041 or e-mail
piscitellim@guilderlandschools.org.

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