Lower School Science

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"The best way to learn anything is to discover it yourself." --George Polya

Lower School Science Program Overview:

At Catlin Gabel the science department is organized around one central, essential question:

What’s going on in the world, and how can I find out?

This broad question overlies all that we do, all that we investigate, and through it we hope to cultivate a sense of wonder and inquiry.  We strive to engender in your children an engaged curiosity, and we support tenacious creativity.  Our primary focus, always, is on the skills, behaviors and processes of science, essentials like cooperation and collaboration, estimation and measurement, logical reasoning and discovery, creativity and experimentation.

We continually ask and explore questions like these:

➢    What is science?
➢    How, and why, do you do it?
➢    What is the value of science?  To me, my community, the planet?
➢    How do we KNOW this?
➢    How can we PROVE that?
➢    What makes a good scientific question?
➢    How do I answer it?

    The Lower School science program is built upon hands-on explorations of basic science concepts using essential skills.  Topics taught are developed as part of a dynamic balance between "TPO2K" (or “things people ought to know,”) balanced with student interests and questions about the world around us.

    We especially strive to honor and celebrate different learning styles and developmental needs, adapting and accommodating lessons, and adjusting outputs to suit the needs of individual learners, partnerships, and teams of students.

    Long-range plans integrate with needs directly drawn from specific curricular topics in the homerooms, as we provide for program continuity.  Examples include such investigations as “Bugs” in 1st, community in 2nd, water and marine life in 3rd, land forms in 4th, and sustainability in farming in 5th.  As such, some topic choices change from year to year, as different factors weigh on the decision making process of what to include and what to leave out.
    There are also some threads that tie the curriculum together vertically over 5-years, such as energy.  We explore magnetism and sound in 1st, mechanics and simple machines in 2nd, direct current electricity in 3rd, heat and chemical energy in 4th, and light and solar energy in 5th.

Environmental education pervades the science program:  how to respect, protect, and care for living things, and how to manage our role in the environment, both here on campus and out into the larger world.  Children learn how, when, where, and why to use appropriate tools and units to measure various things.  Mathematical concepts and operations are used continually as an applied tool of science—recognizing that mathematics is as fundamentally integrated with science as are direct experiences, models, words, pictures, and graphics. 

     We focus on direct investigation, including learning how to plan, setup, conduct, revise, redo, discuss, and clean up an experiment or project.  Students learn to make predictions, identify and control variables, how to record data and results, and how to analyze and interpret this information.  As children mature, they learn to look for deeper, more complete meanings, going far beyond superficial or first impressions. Problem solving in science means learning to use logic and evidence to solve problems, and learning how to be imaginative and intuitive, as well as skeptical.

    Assessment in the classroom is an ongoing and interactive process, embedded in daily activities.  Observations of children focus on how they are doing the behaviors essential to science, using the process skills needed, and on their acquisition and application of the concepts we are investigating.  In most cases, “mastery” of skills and concepts is not expected, nor is it often developmentally appropriate.  Thus, a child's progress should be considered as part of a broad, growing continuum of behaviors and skills and knowledge that are all essentially "under construction."

    Finally, the science department as a whole is in the midst of a 2-year project to revise and align much of our curriculum to developmental studies and allied recommendations made by AAAS, the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, who have recently completed a landmark study and published documents called the Atlas of Science Literacy.  This has already, and will continue to influence our curricular decisions across the divisions in coming years.


You can read about things like fossils, maybe watch a movie, or even hold specimens in the lab, but there's no substitute for hiking in to find things for yourself!


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