Science In Grade VIII

(Four 50-minute periods per week)
Discovery Lab: Physics by Design lets students use their creativity in projects and experiments, introducing them to physics while giving them a chance to explore the dynamic fields of robotics, programming, and engineering. Like scientists, students are problem solvers, designing their own experiments to answer questions. For example: Which is a more effective way of cooling a hot liquid, stirring it or blowing on it? Like engineers, the students are designers, combining imagination and technical knowledge to complete projects. For example: Can you now use what you’ve learned about heating and cooling to design an effective cocoa cooler? Like both scientists and engineers, the students use technology to enhance their understanding. For example: Build a sensor-controlled robotic puppy and explore different algorithms for making it follow you. Data log the sensor so that you can analyze the puppy’s behavior on a graph. In this class, the students investigate motion, forces, fluids, and energy. They build LEGO robots and learn how to program them, and they use everyday materials to test a variety of physics concepts. The science content and the robotics projects reinforce one another: the students develop a deeper understanding of the physics concepts by applying them in their designs. Eighth Graders also learn how to communicate their ideas effectively in a variety of ways, including data analysis, engineering design sketches, presentations, and formal lab reports.

Discovery Lab: Earth and Stars is a course designed to introduce students to the exciting world of earth science, both at the lab bench and in the world around them. This discovery-based course moves from Earth to sky, starting with the atoms that form rocks, and moving through the layers of the atmosphere to an exploration of starlight bent by gravity. To really understand geology, it is helpful to know how elements bond together to form minerals, which can then come together to make rocks. The processes that shaped the Earth have been occurring for a very long time and have left their marks in rocks. Model streams show changing landscapes, and students will practice making and interpreting charts, cross sections, and maps to expand their ways of thinking about those changes. Astronomers engineer devices to test conceptual ideas of space and time. Eighth Graders in this class will mimic those scientists, whose main language is higher math, by using concrete ideas to construct conceptual frameworks. They will observe the moon to predict its motions and participate in an engineering project that asks them to design and build simple time-keeping devices. The students also learn how to communicate their ideas effectively in a variety of ways, including data analysis, presentations, and formal lab reports. The intention of the course is to bridge the gaps that can often exist between concrete and abstract thinking, while building study skills that allow the young scientist to approach future courses with an open, curious and informed mind.

Discovery Lab: Chemistry is a course designed to introduce students to the exciting world of chemistry, both at the lab bench and in the world around them. This discovery-based course focuses on topics of matter and energy, grounded in practice and building towards theory. The course emphasizes experimental design and challenges students to think deeply about the kinds of questions that can be answered experimentally. For each concept explored in lab, we also explore applications in the real world, from the science of handwarmers to the dangers of quicksand. In addition to this conceptual strand, students develop laboratory skills, including a range of techniques useful in the separation and identification of types of matter. With these skills, students embark on several formative assessments, including both laboratory and engineering challenges. Students learn how to use a variety of measurement tools, as well as how to apply the rules of significant digits in reporting and calculating with measurements. Students analyze and interpret data, maintain a lab journal, make histograms and line graphs, and complete a variety of creative projects. The students also learn how to communicate their ideas effectively in different formats. They develop skills in crafting data-driven arguments both in writing (formal lab reports) and in oral, multimedia presentations (scientific symposia).
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