I wanted to give you a quick update on some stuff we are working on in Science Class.
For the last week or so, students have been working on a “Bacterial Wanted Poster”. Students started by researching a specific species of bacteria; its transmission vectors, symptoms, cures, etc. After getting this information, students used it to create a fun wild-west style wanted poster. Each student was able to learn something new about science, while also showing off their artistic skill. Next week these posters are hanging outside the MS Science Lab, so come take a look!
I just wanted to write a quick blog post to thank our class parents for their support in getting our Christmas party off the ground. As I write this post, the students are playing a challenging game of Pictionary lead by Ms. Rachel. I just wanted to share some of the photos we took this morning with you to better put you in the Christmas spirit. I also wanted to thank you on behalf of the other middle school teachers for the thoughtful gifts we received on your behalf. We are lucky to have such a supportive and understanding group of families in MS.
I wanted to give you all a snapshot of what we are working on in middle school science in both grades 7 and 8. I try to work in one project like this into each unit, in addition to traditional quizzes, tests, and lab activities. Each project like this has a detailed rubric reviewing the exact goals and standards of the project. Let us take a look at the Grade 7 project first. At the bottom of this post, you can find photos from each project.
Wolf Pack Model Board Game:
In this project, G7 students worked in groups to model how different events change population size. We did this model by making a board game. First, we went over the scientific content related to population dynamics. Next, we reviewed the content specifically in terms of a wolf pack. After that, we reviewed different board games by playing them and reflecting on how they worked. Finally, we have spent the last month planning on building our game. FInally today all groups have finished their game! Take a look at it below.
Egg Drop Project
This Grade 8 project will take a lot less time to complete, but it should still be an interesting exercise! We spent the first part of the term learning about motion: Velocity, Force, and acceleration. We briefly covered Newton’s three laws as well. We are applying this scientific knowledge to an egg drop challenge between the two G8 students. The egg drop challenge also incorporates design challenge aspects to learning such as working with set criteria on a budget.
I hope this blog update gives you a more clear idea of what we are doing in MS science! As always, please reach out to me if you have any questions.
Last month I discussed our middle school math standards and discussed how they will prepare our students to excel in High school. I wanted to use this month’s blog post to review out Middle School science standards, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
The NGSS is a US-based, national-level science curriculum framework. Created in 2013 by the National Science Teacher’s Association, they represent an effort to connect three important domains of science learning: Content information, real-world science skills, and broad concepts that link together several scientific domains. In terms of NGSS, these domains are called Disciplinary Core Ideas, Science and Engineering Practices, and Cross-Cutting Concepts.
Each standard is addressed with language to speak to these three domains. Let’s examine a standard covered during Grade 7 science.
The Language in the standard provides for all three domains. Students will retain and internalize facts about cells such as their various organelles structure and function. (DCI) How they will gain this knowledge is by building a model. (Sci& Eng practices) While building this model they will understand that structures too small to be observed can be understood through a model. (Cross-Cutting Concepts)
Additionally, the standard provides several benchmarks by which the student can be judged to have met the standard, which are used to create rubrics to give grades and asses students.
The content in middle school science can be broken into two groups: Life Science and Physical Science. Life science topics include ecosystems, cells, and evolution. Physical Science topics include force, motion, energy, electricity, and chemistry. Earth and Space science topics are covered in Grade 6 science. This breakdown is different from elementary school, which would combine small sections of Life, Earth & Space, and Physical sciences into one year. We want to better reflect what science courses will be like in High School for Elementary students, so we believe that extended year-long courses in these topics are best for our middle school.
The textbook sets we use to teach these standards are the Science Fusion Textbooks. Details on the textbooks can be found here.
If you have any questions concerning what we are doing in science feel free to ask. Currently, grade 7 is working on modeling a wolfpack population by creating a board game. Grade 8, starting next week, will be working on an egg drop engineering challenge.
I wanted to start the year by giving you a breakdown of the math and science standards we use in middle school. My goal here is to give you a very clear picture of what we are doing in middle school math, why we are doing it, and how it will prepare them for high school and beyond.
Common Core was fully developed around 2011 and rolled out to almost every state in America with the goal being that every U.S. student would have the same math background from K-12. We use these standards and curriculum materials at TYIS across all grade levels. This means that our math curriculum builds on itself from one year to the next at a reasonable pace for the average student.
We can find an example of this verticle integration when looking at Grades 7 and 8. Let’s take a look at this grade 7 math standard related to a unit rate.
Compute unit rates associated with ratios of fractions, including ratios of lengths, areas and other quantities measured in like or different units.
To sum it up, this standard introduces students to the concept of unit rate and asks them to compute it using skills they learned in grade 6. Now let’s take a look at its corresponding Grade 8 standards
Graph proportional relationships, interpreting the unit rate as the slope of the graph. Compare two different proportional relationships represented in different ways. For example, compare a distance-time graph to a distance-time equation to determine which of two moving objects has greater speed.
This standard builds on what students understand about unit rates and asks them to apply it in a real-world scenario. It also introduces the concept of slope which will feature heavily in Grade 9 Algebra.
So with all our curriculum-aligned top to bottom, what exactly do they learn in Grade 7 and 8? Here is a highlight of the most important things a Grade 7 student should be able to do by June:
-Add, subtract, multiply, and divide negative numbers
-Find percents, including discounts and markups
-Graph and write simple equations
-Find the Area and Circumference of a circle
-Model the probability of random events happening
For Grade 8:
-Solve exponent problems
-Write and graph linear equations with two steps
-Recognize a function
-Move a 2-D shape around a coordinate plane
-Demonstrate a basic understanding of the Pythagorean theorem.
If you want to know more about Common Core, I encourage you to check out their website here.
As always, we are open to any questions or suggestions you might have for our growing middle school level.
Congratulations on finding your way to my blog! I plan on using this space over the next 10 months to communicate not only curriculum matters related to math and science but also to highlight upcoming projects and to clarify our grading systems.
First, however, I want to share a bit about myself. My preferred name is Tony Serpico, however, the students can call me Mr. Serpico or Mr. S. I have just completed my 5th year in Japan. My first two were spent in Saga prefecture on the JET Program teaching English. Since 2016 I have been working at TYIS developing the middle school program here. I love working at TYIS because each member of the staff in all instances, has put the wellbeing and best interests of the students above everything else.
I received my Bachelor’s degree from St. Xavier University(Chicago, IL), with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and an Illinois state 6-12 teaching license. I enjoy weightlifting, and my goal for the next three months is to get back into Karate. When I have free time at home, I like to read books and play video games. I went to Fuji Rock for the first time this summer (pictured here) I have one sister and zero pets.
Thank you! Looking forward to getting to know you all as well.
As we close out our science lessons on Cells and Heredity, we will be completing the unit with a DNA modeling project. This project is a great opportunity for students to model how the structure of DNA relates to its function. We will be completing this project in class during the week, however, students are responsible for bringing their own materials. There are several options for materials here, from things as simple to use as clay, to more unique methods like candy.
Please talk to your child about what he or she would like to build their model out of, and set a date and time to gather the materials.
I wanted to speak to you briefly about reading books at home. It is important that every student should leave TYIS with a love of reading books. We try to encourage this with our A.R. program with you should be familiar with by now. We also are constantly updating our library, including a tripling of middle school level books in the last three years. We also provide a half hour per week of dedicated reading time. However, we still would like to see our middle school students reading more at home. I make an effort to give as little homework as possible to the Grade 8 students, but there is an expectation that they complete at least 3 books per month at home.
To encourage this, I have set up a new bonus point in my class, where depending on the A.R. score students receive, they will get either one or two bonus points to use on any quiz in math and science. Because this will be a new classroom routine, I am open to suggestions and support from students and family.
Thank you very much for your support, and feel free to send any questions,
As we jump into the new year, I wanted to remind everyone that this year’s spelling bee will be coming up on February 1st. Remember that TYIS participates in the all Japan spelling bee, with our winner going on to attend the national competition. This is a great chance for your child to not only practice their spelling but also to expand their vocabulary.
Parents are of course invited to attend the spelling bee, and we encourage you to practice with your child at home. If you would like to see our official word list, please check this website on our member’s site.
Thank you very much,
Dear Middle School Parents,
Your children are already getting very excited for Christmas, so by popular request, we we hold a secret Santa this year. Each of the students picked a name of a Middle Schooler (or one of their two teachers) and will buy a present for that one person. We will be holding the gift exchange on the last day before break, December 14th.
We were thinking of spending no more than 1000 yen on each present, but of course, your children can spend less.
Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.
We are also planning on holding a Christmas Breakfast that day. Feel free to bring any juices, fruits, or sweets thta are breakfast related. We will transition into the talent show after the breakfast and gift exchange, with the understanding that the only class we hold that day will be PE.
Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.