Science concepts presented in the program are those referenced in the California State Science Framework; however, the sequence in which they are taught relates to the classroom teachers’ social studies themes. The science curriculum encourages student excitement for learning by incorporating stimulating hands-on activities that question or illustrate subject matter. Students learn to respect their abilities to become involved with scientific ideas by using both inquiry techniques and science thinking processes that encourage exploration and reflective thinking. These processes include the following: observing, communicating, comparing, ordering, categorizing, relating, inferring, and applying.
Children participate in units on the five senses, as well as an investigation of the anatomy and physiology of the human body. Other topics include nutrition, states of matter, and the properties of water. A special kindergarten project is the spring study of life cycles. We have hatched and grown chickens, ducks, trout, butterflies and tadpoles.
The first graders explore the earth’s beginning and the emergence and development of diverse life on earth (plants and animals) by performing various experiments. The students investigate the classification of animals and learn the common characteristics of each group. They observe and explore plant structure and function through the growth of Wisconsin Fast Plants.
Students study simple machines and their inventors to complement the classroom study of people who make a difference. They are introduced to Newton’s Laws of Motion and investigate the concepts of work, force and friction. In the spring the focus turns to a variety of ocean communities including the Santa Monica Bay. Throughout the year eighth grade science mentors teach five different lessons to the second grade students. Other topics include magnetism and direction, a study of air pressure, the water cycle and weather.
The third graders learn about various biomes across the continents and the general needs of the species found there. The students explore the food web and the interdependence of living things on earth. They look closely at Los Angeles and determine which habitats or biomes are found in our own backyards. This culminates in the students researching and building realistic animal habitats and enclosures. Rotation and revolution are presented in order to help with understanding days, nights and seasons. They take a journey through our solar system to learn about the planets. Various forms of renewable and nonrenewable forms of energy are explored.
The fourth grade camping trip provides the first scientific foray as the children learn about the biomes of canyon and beach, as well as the night sky. The trip enables first hand scientific exploration. The structure of the earth and its relationship to the universe are presented. Studies of geology and geography lead to more specific considerations of California geology and the Gold Rush. The fourth grade annual bio-system terrarium/ aquarium project is a highlight of the year as well as the making of claymation movies to help understand food chains. They are introduced to some physics concepts through the process of building marble roller coasters.
The fifth graders are presented with a formal introduction to the scientific method by conducting various experiments. Basic chemistry is explored through an understanding of the structure of the atom, and the interactions of atoms and molecules in physical and chemical changes. The students have an opportunity to walk in the shoes of a forensic scientist by helping to solve the “Felix Mystery.” They observe a crime scene, collect, record and categorize evidence, perform chemical and physical tests on certain pieces of the evidence, and then present closing arguments for the case. Finally they become immersed in a seven-week Lego Mindstorms unit. Working in groups, students are responsible for designing, building, and programming their robot, which culminates in a “Robotics Exhibition” to share their creations with the school community.