The primary goal of the science program at BB&N at all levels is to give students a systematic approach to scientific problem solving. This is accomplished through a laboratory-based discovery approach adopted with the belief that insights are best developed in an experimental setting. Laboratory skills emphasize the habit of objectivity in observation and accuracy in data gathering and recording. Identification and control of variables, manipulation and presentation of data, and evaluation of the validity of experiments are emphasized as appropriate to the grade level.
The department aims to instill in students an appreciation for science as an imaginative, often impassioned human endeavor. Students gain an understanding of the common atomic base yet the amazing diversity of both the natural and man-made environment. They also appreciate the principles that help to describe the interactions of matter and energy.
In the Middle School, the science program familiarizes students with laboratory science skills and emphasizes the importance of mastering the processes and vocabulary of science. Learning through hands-on experience, students develop their awareness and understanding of the basic concepts of science necessary to excel in higher-level science courses. With the teachers’ guidance, students learn to manage their own laboratory work, acquiring new lab skills and techniques while being exposed to new material. The Middle School program carefully prepares students to take on the challenges of the demanding Upper School courses.
Students in Science 7 explore various topics in physical science, with each exploration incorporating hands-on experiences, whereby students are able to investigate new topics as well as apply the skills and concepts learned. Throughout the year, skills that are emphasized and developed include safe and proper conduct in the lab, detailed observation, accuracy and precision in measurement and data collection, identification of variables and evaluating experimental results. Students typically work with partners or in teams in order to enhance cooperative learning and collaborative skills, and they regularly use computers to collect and analyze data, to prepare presentations, and to access online resources, including supplemental course materials via class websites.
The first unit serves as the foundation for the study of science in the Middle School. Students study measurements, the scientific method, graphing and data analysis. Following the format used in the first unit, students study topics in forces, motion and energy. Various activities introduce students to the concepts. For example, students may build and test pasta bridges while studying structural forces, build and launch straw rockets to test one aspect of rocket flight while studying Newton’s Laws of Motion, or build gravity-powered roller coasters while studying energy conservation and motion. Where appropriate, students will also be introduced to problem-solving using physical equations. Design challenges are incorporated into each unit to provide students with an opportunity for creative and collaborative problem-solving. The year culminates with each student designing and conducting an independent project further exploring concepts in forces, motion or energy.
Science 8 serves as an introduction to topics in chemistry: classification of matter, atomic structure, periodic table, chemical bonding, chemical reactions, and acids and bases. It is a lab-centered program in which the experiments are designed to further develop laboratory skills and techniques; more responsibility in lab management is given to the students, while at the same time providing evidence for the chemical nature of our world.
Accompanying each topic will be an investigation or series of activities designed to showcase an application of chemistry. Applications include materials science, forensics, color & pyrotechnics, poisons/toxins/venoms, art (dyeing and fabrics), food science, and climate changes. In the spring, students will study one of the application topics in greater depth and create a demonstration, model or hands-on activity that will be presented to parents and the BB&N community at Science Knight in April.
The culminating activity for Science 8 is the Qualitative Analysis activity. Using the skills and concepts acquired during the year, students work independently to differentiate sets of four or eight chemicals. They first create a flow chart to organize their approach to the problem and then execute their plan with chemical tests such as solubility, conductivity and acidity to determine the chemical identification.
In addition to science content, skills that are introduced and assessed throughout the year in science include: effective classroom engagement, thoughtful and thorough homework completion, processing and following directions, working independently and in group settings, quiz/test preparation, and thorough record keeping in notebooks, all of which are essential for student success. As in Science 7, various applications of technology are used throughout the year, and eighth graders will sit for a comprehensive exam in June.