Our primary science program is a larger group class designed to create interested, curious, and engaged scientific thinkers. Concepts are always organized from concrete to abstract understanding and around direct observation and hands-on exploration. The class is based on a three year cycle: During year one, the focus is on the physical world. Year two’s focus is on the earth around us. The end of the three-year cycle culminates in a study of life. Health is addressed during each year of the cycle and includes topics such as stranger awareness, poison and emergency awareness, and healthy relationships.
Our primary science program is designed to teach students to observe the world around them, classify items they see based on similar and dissimilar characteristics and properties, and ask questions about what they see and explore.
Exploration: At the beginning of each unit of study, students will begin the unit by exploring the topic to activate prior knowledge and to get students engaged and excited about the coming lessons. Activities include video clips, hands-on explorations, nature walks.
Experiments: Students learn about the world from hands-on exploration. Labs are used to reinforce learning and to provide a concrete foundation of the concepts addressed in class discussion and lectures. The purpose of the lab is to help students connect the classroom topics to the real world. At least one lab is completed for each unit.
Lectures and Class Discussions: Students receive direct instruction on the topic at hand. During lectures, students are expected to formulate questions for later class discussions. During class discussions, all students are expected to participate in the topic at hand. This includes posing questions, and appropriately responding to questions asked by others.
Note-Taking: Once students are ready, they take notes based on classroom lectures. Notes are scaffolded and are designed in a cloze-note format: students fill in important concepts and vocabulary based on the teacher’s lecture of key concepts.
Review: Students review the prior day’s concepts at the beginning of the lesson. At the end of every unit, at least one day is devoted to class review of the unit’s objectives before the assessment. Review is completed as a whole class through activities such as trivia games and whole class response questions.
Students are assessed throughout each unit of study using formative assessments, including hands-on activities and pencil and paper tasks. At the end of each unit of study, students are given a unit assessment. At the end of each term, students are assessed using a cumulative assessment of that term’s topics. Finally, at the end of the year, students are given a summative assessment on all of the year’s topics, highlighting the most important pieces of information students have learned.
Due to a wide variety of ages and abilities in the primary program, differentiation is built into our curriculum. For each unit, we have different versions of the assessment; while each assessment checks for the same understanding of unit objectives, the assessments allow students to answer with varying degrees of difficulty and in different modalities (for example, fill in the blank with word banks, multiple choice, matching). Students who master unit goals are provided with supplemental materials and activities to offer further exploration of the topic.