Middle School Overview
Science education at the middle level focuses on the idea that science is for all students, and that students should have ample opportunities to attain high levels of scientific literacy. Observation, imagination, questioning, and reasoning about phenomena allow students to relate their everyday experiences and help organize information in ways that provide new insights. We believe that students learn through interaction with materials and with peers. They learn to work cooperatively with students who have different styles, personalities, and backgrounds. They should use all tools and materials available to attain their investigative goal. Science concepts are presented in an age-appropriate, hands-on, minds-on, inquiry-based way. This way, students can build on their prior knowledge and background to become successful in the current scientific and technological society.
Sixth Grade Science at Falk begins with inquiry lessons focusing on the scientific method. Students conduct investigations testing experimental variables in a controlled experiment and learn to write lab reports to synthesize their findings. In our cell biology unit, sixth graders master the concepts of structure and function of cells, diffusion, and osmosis depending on the type of cell as well as the tonicity of the solution. The year culminates with lessons on cell division and genetics with a focus on sexual reproduction.
Seventh grade science focuses on chemistry and environmental education (specifically soil analysis), using an inquiry teaching approach. One example of how the concepts are presented would be during the soil analysis work done by the seventh graders on the hillside of Falk. In addition to measuring the nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium levels of the soil, they also observe the life in the soil, specifically bacteriophage. The students prepare their soil samples using higher level lab techniques, thanks to assistance from the University of PIttsburgh’s Department of Biology. The students plate their samples on agar petri dishes, and then read the plates for any evidence of phage. With all of this data, they analyze it to determine the best place to plant a specific type of garden.
Eighth graders study physics and environmental education (specifically water analysis). They study various concepts throughout the year that include forces, motion, simple machines, mechanical advantage, and energy. As a culminating project, they construct a roller coaster with minimal size specifications and design requirements. After construction, they have to measure certain concepts like speed, acceleration, potential energy, and kinetic energy, just to name a few.